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When a quote is not (exactly) a quote: The Business of America is Business Edition

John Calvin Coolidge Jr. (1872-1933). (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2017) 1918

Many people have likely heard a quote attributed to President Calvin Coolidge,  “The business of America is business,” but this is a misquote. The real quote is a little bit different and the context in which it was said is not likely what most would expect.

The actual quote wasn’t necessarily a simple, catchy line. It wasn’t in a Big Business Speech or an answer to a business related question.  It was spoken during an address President Calvin Coolidge gave to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington, D.C. on January 17, 1925. Given that the speech was before a news trade group, Coolidge was talking about the role of the press in a modern, democratic America and included warnings about the evils of propaganda.  But  more specifically, he was talking the role of the press in free-market America. After speaking for a bit he eventually said:

After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.

While the quotes themselves may differ, for many, the sentiment behind both may not differ all that much.

The next day, Washington’s Evening Star ran a short piece on Coolidge’s speech and even included a transcript (the American Presidency Project also has a transcript). If you want to find out more about Calvin Coolidge, the Library has developed a guide with a number of resources.

One Comment

  1. Michael Wrenn
    July 3, 2020 at 6:27 pm

    Trade is the builder and destroyer of civilizations. Capitalism is the way business is done in a country of, by, and for the people. The concept of fair business practices is the commercial version of the golden rule. It preserves freedom-to-choose. To the extent it is practiced, is the extent of the life of a civilization.

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