Coolidge’s Battle with the Bald and the Brilliant


Calvin Coolidge John Quincy Adams portrait shiny

No one could doubt the brilliance of President John Quincy Adams. His remarkable mind and rich life experiences qualified him to speak knowingly on almost any subject.

You might be surprised to learn that his twentieth century successor, Calvin Coolidge, resented Adams’ brilliance. It wasn’t the intellectual brilliance that was an issue, however; Coolidge’s problem was with the brightness that reflected off of Adams’ bald head.

Adams’ portrait was prominently displayed in the State Dining Room of the White House, and in the evenings the sun had a tendency to reflect from his ample bald head in a way that annoyed the testy Coolidge. One evening Coolidge had too much of the distraction, and summoned a servant to bring him a stepladder. Coolidge rubbed some ashes into a rag and then climbed the ladder to dim the brilliance a tad.

With that irritation taken care of, Coolidge was then free to dine in peace with his silent — and less shiny — predecessor.

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