Presidential Pilfering


President Calvin Coolidge
President Calvin Coolidge

The young man tried to be quiet as he rifled through the contents of the dresser drawer. Driven to desperation to be able to pay his hotel bill and to have money for transportation back to college, he broke into an occupied room of the Willard Hotel and searched for something of value while its occupant slept.

Suddenly he heard a quiet voice. “I wish you wouldn’t take that,” said the voice, referring to the charm the would-be thief held in his hand.

Startled, he looked down and saw the words inscribed on the charm: “Presented to Calvin Coolidge, Speaker of the House, by the Massachusetts General Court.”

It was then that the young man realized that the room he had chosen to burgle was occupied by the President of the United States. Coolidge, just a few days into his presidency, was staying at the Willard Hotel while Florence Harding, widow of President Warren Harding, prepared to vacate the White House.

“If you want money, let’s talk,” said the President to the young man. He ended up giving him $32, which he classified as “a loan,” and helped him depart in a way that avoided contact with the Secret Service.

Coolidge’s notes later recorded that the loan was paid back in full.

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