Arctic Explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson Met Calvin Coolidge

Stefansson Met Calvin Coolidge

My late brother, Alan Cooke, was Stefannson’s secretary at Dartmouth College in the Stefansson Collection housed in Baker Library in the late 1950s. I remember when I first visited him there. There was the hide or pelt of a seal on the wall; as we went down some stairs, Alan ran his fingers through the short fur. He introduced me to the explorer who was seated behind a desk. The large room was decorated with many items relating to Eskimos and the Arctic.

One time, Stefansson was to be interviewed on Chanel 11 at UNH in Durham, New Hampshire. I’m thinking this was in 1959. It is incredible to contemplate but I believe Alan drove Stef from Hanover to Durham.  There, with my first and former wife and mother of our children we lived on lower Main Street. After brief socializing, Stefansson retired to nap in our bed; he got up refreshed and went off to his interview. My nephew, Stefan,  is named for Stefansson. Stefan created this elegant website; his good wife, Resa Blatman, is responsible for the art.
Discovery, the Autobiography of Vilhjalmur Stefansson was published in 1964; therein he recalls this meeting with Massachusetts’ Governor Calvin Coolidge in 1919 . . .

“After the Philadelphia award I set out on a lecture tour of one-night stands that carried me from Boston, Los Angles, San Francisco, and Seattle. I have both a pleasant and an unpleasant reason for remembering the Boston lecture. Calvin Coolidge was Governor of Massachusetts at the time, very much in the public eye as a result of the Boston police strike. He was invited to be present at Tremont Temple. Unfortunately, both he and I were told to be on hand an hour too early. We both arrived at the appointed time but, there being no member of the committee present, had a hard time getting in the stage anteroom where we could sit down and wait. The Governor may have been displeased. He was certainly uncommunicative at the outset. Since I associated him—rather vaguely, I admit—with the police strike, I began to question him about it. This apparently, was the right approach. From that moment until the committee members began to arrive, I could not get a word in edgewise. Later, when I heard Coolidge, as President, referred to as “Silent Cal,” I supposed the appellation was the result of the same quirk of human nature that impels men to call a fat man “Slim” or a tall man “Shorty.” My talk with Coolidge was a pleasant send-off for my lecture.

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