Radio and an open hour
at C.I. bathing.
Just heard on radio that
Presidents son died at 10:30
tonight. My sympathy goes
forth to the Presidents family
Papa likely heard about the death of President Coolidge's son when the Democratic Convention, as heard on WEAF's broadcast, adjourned early that night out of respect for the President's family. (Calvin, Jr. died of septicemia after a tennis-related blister on his heel became infected.)
It's worth pointing out how odd it must have been for Americans like Papa, who weren't yet accustomed to live radio news, to learn of such an event as it happened. Papa was by all accounts an extraordinarily compassionate person, but I wonder if he would have written "my sympathy goes forth to the President's family" in his private journal had he merely read the news in the morning papers. (Then again, he was still profoundly affected by his own father's death, so perhaps he would have responded the same way to the President's loss no matter how he heard about it.)
We should also note that the Democratic Convention had reached an interesting point before its early adjournment.
Balloting had been deadlocked for a week. The frontrunner, William McAdoo, had unsuccessfully proposed a rules change that would have allowed him to take the nomination with a simple majority of delegates as opposed to the traditional two-thirds. New York Governor Al Smith, who controlled a blocking minority, had led a push to get all candidates to release their delegates, but McAdoo had refused.
Into the fray waded James M. Cox, the newspaper publisher, former Governor of Ohio and 1920 Democratic Presidential candidate. The negotiations Cox held upon his arrival in New York seemed to trigger some movement at the convention. McAdoo's delegates started to drift toward other candidates, effectively ending his bid. Smith gained a few votes, but seasoned political observers knew he had no chance, either. The race was wide open again.
I've been party to a conversational ice-breaker where someone asks everyone in the room whether they'd rather visit the past or the future. I usually say the future, but I must say it would be hard to resist a chance to witness the stunning levels of deal-making, cigar-smoking, hallway-sprinting and door-knocking that lit up convention headquarters at the Waldorf-Astoria that night. If the rules permitted, though, I'd probably sneak out, hop a subway to the Lower East Side, and knock on Papa's door. I don't know what I'd say when he answered. Maybe I'd just ask him how the waves were at Coney Island.
References from the New York Times:
- PRESIDENT'S SON, CALVIN JR., 16, DIES AS PARENTS WATCH; End Comes at 10:30 P.M. in Walter Reed Hospital After Gallant Struggle. - (This article mentions how most Americans learned of the Calvin Jr.'s death through the Democratic Convention broadcast.)
- COX ARRIVES HERE FOR HARMONY MOVE; Begins Conferences at Once to Concentrate Upon a Candidate and Procedure.
- SMITH FORGES TO THE FRONT; He Holds His Own in Voting While Delegates Quit McAdoo.
- M'ADOO BLOC IS MELTING; Floating Away, Piece by Piece, Like Ice Jam in a Thaw.
- Coolidge Thanks Democrats For Message of Sympathy
- SCIENCE OF RADIO ADDS 5,000 NEW WORDS TO ENGLISH LANGUAGE; Biblical Student Claims Radio an Old Word Used in Bible to Describe Lightning -- Radiocasting Is the Newest Term. - (This article cites the efforts of the Associated Manufacturers of Electrical Supplies to discourage use of the term "broadcasting" in favor of "radiocasting.")
- Definition of septicemia from Medline