Skip to main content
Month Day
August 03

Calvin Coolidge takes oath of office after Warren G. Harding’s death

On August 3, 1923, Calvin Coolidge is sworn in as the 30th president of the United States, hours after the death of President Warren G. Harding.

Born July 4, 1872, in Plymouth, Vermont, Coolidge was the son of a village storekeeper. He graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts and worked his way up in the political ranks in that state as a Republican, from city councilman in Northampton in 1898 to governor in 1918. Coolidge made it onto the Republican ticket in 1920 as Harding’s running mate, and they won a decisive victory over a Democratic pairing of James Cox and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In 1923, Harding’s administration was tainted by the emergence of corruption scandals involving Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty and other high government officials, a group known as the Ohio Gang. A distraught Harding sought refuge from Washington during a summer vacation but died suddenly in San Francisco late on August 2, after suffering a heart attack or stroke. Coolidge got the news of Harding’s death early the next morning, while visiting family in Vermont. He took the oath of office by the light of a kerosene lamp; his father, a notary public, administered it using the family’s Bible.

Coolidge immediately began working to rehabilitate the tarnished image of the government’s executive branch, projecting an image of old-fashioned New England values and Puritan austerity that reassured a troubled public. A man of few words—he was known as “Silent Cal”—Coolidge became an extremely popular president, winning more than 54 percent of the popular vote when he was elected in 1924. His time in the White House coincided with an era of unprecedented material prosperity and technological advances, with consumers snapping up widely available new products such as automobiles, radios and household appliances like vacuum cleaners and washing machines.

Strongly conservative, Coolidge believed the government should do little to interfere with business and industry, whether it was to check the growing power of big corporations or to aid struggling industries such as agriculture. He supported tax cuts for businesses and high tariffs to protect U.S. goods, but vetoed aid to farmers as well as a plan to produce electric power cheaply on the Tennessee River. Taking office just five years after the First World War ended, Coolidge favored isolationism in foreign policy, and opposed American membership in the League of Nations.

Though he almost certainly would have won reelection in 1928, Coolidge decided not to run, retiring from politics before the stock market disaster of November 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression that crippled the country. He died of a heart attack in January 1933. Though remembered fondly for restoring dignity to the White House, the Coolidge era also went down in history as a time of governmental complacency in the face of impending economic disaster.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.


Boeing 707 crashes into a mountain near Agadir, Morocco

On August 3, 1975, a chartered Boeing 707 jetliner crashes in the Atlas Mountains near Agadir, a coastal city in Morocco. All 188 people aboard the plane were killed, in the fourth worst air disaster to that date. Owned by the Jordanian airline Alia and chartered to Royal Air more

“The Macarena” begins its reign atop the U.S. pop charts

If pop songs, like hurricanes, were rated on an objective scale according to their ability to devastate the pop-cultural landscape, then the song that reached the top of the American pop charts on August 3, 1996 was a Category 5 monster. It first made landfall in Florida as a more

Sir Roger Casement hanged

Sir Roger David Casement, an Irish-born diplomat who in 1911 was knighted by King George V, is executed for his role in Ireland’s Easter Rising. Casement was an Irish Protestant who served as a British diplomat during the early part of the 20th century. He won international more

Columbus sets sail

From the Spanish port of Palos, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sets sail in command of three ships—the Santa Maria, the Pinta and the Nina—on a journey to find a western sea route to China, India and the fabled gold and spice islands of Asia. On October 12, the expedition more

Nautilus submarine travels under North Pole

On August 3, 1958, the U.S. nuclear submarine Nautilus accomplishes the first undersea voyage to the geographic North Pole. The world’s first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus dived at Point Barrow, Alaska, and traveled nearly 1,000 miles under the Arctic ice cap to reach the top more

TV news shows Marines burning village

CBS-TV news shows pictures of men from the First Battalion, Ninth Marines setting fire to huts in the village of Cam Na, six miles west of Da Nang, despite reports that the Viet Cong had already fled the area. The film report sparked indignation and condemnation of the U.S. more

NBA is born

On August 3, 1949, after a damaging three-year battle to win both players and fans, the rival Basketball Association of America (BAA) and National Basketball League (NBL) merge to form the National Basketball Association (NBA). The BAA incorporated in 1946, challenging the more

Donner Party encounters first delay

An ominous sign of the troubles to come, the Donner Party finds a note warning the emigrants that their expected route through the mountains ahead is nearly impassable. The Donner Party had left Springfield, Illinois, three months earlier. Led by two wealthy brothers, Jacob and more

Multimillion-dollar baby photos published

On August 3, 2008, the first published photos of former couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s newborn twins, Vivienne Marcheline and Knox Leon, go up on People magazine’s website. A 19-page photo spread followed in the magazine’s August 18, 2008, issue. People won the rights to more

Sodomy arrest sparks controversy

Michael Hardwick is arrested for "sodomy" after a police officer observes him having sex with another man in his own bedroom in Georgia. Although the district attorney eventually dropped the charges, Hardwick decided to challenge the constitutionality of Georgia’s law. “John and more

Chambers accuses Hiss of being a communist spy

In hearings before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), Whittaker Chambers accuses former State Department official Alger Hiss of being a communist and a spy for the Soviet Union. The accusation set into motion a series of events that eventually resulted in the more

“The Spy Who Loved Me” released in theaters

On August 3, 1977, “The Spy Who Loved Me,” starring Roger Moore as the suave superspy James Bond, known for his love of fast cars and dangerous women, is released in theaters across America. The film features one of the most memorable Bond cars of all time–a sleek, powerful Lotus more

Germany and France declare war on each other

On the afternoon of August 3, 1914, two days after declaring war on Russia, Germany declares war on France, moving ahead with a long-held strategy, conceived by the former chief of staff of the German army, Alfred von Schlieffen, for a two-front war against France and Russia. more