Thirtieth President Calvin Coolidge is not remembered for much, nor is his wife, Grace. This bucolic presidential couple is notable for one thing: They owned many pets.
Calvin Coolidge, who served as America’s commander-in-chief from 1924 to 1928, was a quiet, moody man. He was also a retiring personality during a flamboyant time– the “Roaring Twenties.” Therefore, he is not one of the more famous presidents. His first lady, Grace, although popular in her day, is not well known, either. One thing the Coolidges were known for, however, was their unique assortment of pets. In addition to several dogs, the Vermont-born Coolidges were the proud owners of exotic birds and a rambunctious raccoon. These pets were just as, if not more so, recognizable to Americans as the president and first lady themselves.
The Coolidge’s Dogs
Great animal lovers, Grace and Calvin Coolidge especially adored dogs. Their most famous canine family member was Rob Roy, a white collie. Rob Roy is the subject of a portrait by Howard Chandler Christy that now hangs in the White House’s Red Room. Calvin and Grace eventually adopted Prudence Prim, a female white collie, who became Rob Roy’s companion. Prudence Prim ate breakfast cereal with the president every morning. In addition, First Lady Grace had a Chow Chow named Tiny Tim, who was very attached to his “mother.”
First Lady Grace Coolidge’s Birds
Grace also loved birds. While she was First Lady, she usually kept cages that were full of canaries in the White House. The Coolidges had more exotic feathered friends as well. For example, the most amusing “first pet” was Do-Funny, a South American troupial. Do-Funny liked to sit on President Coolidge’s shoulder and peck his ear.
White House Pet Raccoon
Next to Rob Roy, Rebecca, the Raccoon, was the most well-known of the Coolidges’ animal friends. In fact, Rebecca was almost as famous and recognizable to the American public as the First Lady herself was. Rather, Rebecca was the most infamous. Rebecca was kept chained when she was outside, but while inside the Executive Mansion, she always had the free run. As a result, Rebecca was hated and feared by most members of the White House staff.
For instance, Rebecca would tear women’s stockings and rip clothing. Still, she was treated as a member of the family and even ate lavish (by raccoon standards) meals with them. She loved to dine on chicken, persimmons, and cream and eggs and indulged in them frequently. Rebecca ultimately became too much for even the Coolidges to handle. She was donated to a zoo and spent the remainder of her life there.
- Harris, Bill. The First Ladies Fact Book, p. 458. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc., 2005.