A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 01, 2009
“Weaned on a pickle”

Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884-1980), the eldest child of Theodore Roosevelt, allegedly commented in 1924 the U.S. President Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) was so sour-looking that “Coolidge was weaned on a pickle.” The expression “weaned on a pickle” caused an immediate sensation in the press. The pickle expression “a poor, miserable, dyspeptic, weaned-on-a-pickle curmudgeon” had been used in a newspaper from 1864.

“EXPLAINING CAL’S SMILE. ‘His mother must have weaned him on a pickle’ is the explanation of President Coolidge’s steadfast facial expression accredited to one of the most vivacious Republican leaders in Washington society” was printed in the Trenton Evening Times and Sunday Times-Advertiser (Trenton, NJ) on May 16, 1924. Alice Roosevelt Longworth was not named, but she qualified as “one of the most vivacious Republican leaders in Washington society.” Longworth was identified with the remark in newspapers from August 13, 21, and 22, 1924.

Longworth later denied having said it. “She went to her dentist one day and he told her what the previous patient had said of Coolidge—how he looked as if he had been weaned on a pickle. She repeated the story later, with much glee, always prefacing it by mentioning its origin” was printed in the San Francisco (CA) Examiner on November 18, 1933. “Alice’s latest appearance in print was to deny that she ever said Calvin Coolidge was weaned on a pickle” was printed in the Boston (MA) Globe on March 3, 1924.

[This entry was assisted by research from a subsequent article by the Quote Investigator.]


Wikipedia: Alice Roosevelt Longworth
Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth (February 12, 1884 – February 20, 1980) was the oldest child of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. She was the only child of Roosevelt and his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee.

Alice led an unconventional and controversial life. Despite her love for her legendary father, she proved to be almost nothing like him. Her marriage to Representative Nicholas Longworth (Republican-Ohio), a party leader, was shaky, and the couple’s only child was a result of her affair with Senator William Borah of Idaho. In the late 1960s, she considered becoming “an honorary homosexual”. She temporarily became a Democrat during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and proudly boasted in a 60 Minutes interview with Eric Sevareid broadcast February 17, 1974, that she was a “hedonist”.

Wikipedia: Calvin Coolidge
John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. (July 4, 1872 – January 5, 1933) was the 30th President of the United States (1923–1929). A Republican lawyer from Vermont, Coolidge worked his way up the ladder of Massachusetts state politics, eventually becoming governor of that state. His actions during the Boston Police Strike of 1919 thrust him into the national spotlight. Soon after, he was elected as the 29th Vice President in 1920 and succeeded to the Presidency upon the death of Warren G. Harding. Elected in his own right in 1924, he gained a reputation as a small-government conservative.

Coolidge restored public confidence in the White House after the scandals of his predecessor’s administration, and left office with considerable popularity. As his biographer later put it, “he embodied the spirit and hopes of the middle class, could interpret their longings and express their opinions. That he did represent the genius of the average is the most convincing proof of his strength.” Many later criticized Coolidge as part of a general criticism of laissez-faire government. His reputation underwent a renaissance during the Ronald Reagan Administration, but the ultimate assessment of his presidency is still divided between those who approve of his reduction of the size of government and those who believe the federal government should be more involved in regulating and controlling the economy.

8 March 1864, Walton’s Morning Journal (Montpelier, VT), “‘That COmical Brown,’” pg. 2, col. 1:
... Mr. Brown has taken the largest Hall in Montpelier, it will undoubtedly be crowded with as happy a congregation of mortals as ever assembled within its walls, for if any man can make a poor, miserable, dyspeptic, weaned-on-a-pickle curmudgeon laugh till his sides ache, Brown is the man.

16 May 1924, Trenton Evening Times and Sunday Times-Advertiser (Trenton, NJ), pg. 6, col. 1:
EXPLAINING CAL’S SMILE.
“His mother must have weaned him on a pickle” is the explanation of President Coolidge’s steadfast facial expression accredited to one of the most vivacious Republican leaders in Washington society.

17 May 1924, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, “Assails Coolidge for Bonus Veto,” pg. 3, col. 1:
Dr. Murray H. Kirkpatrick today submitted to the Times a statement expressing his disapproval of President Coolidge’s veto of the service men’s bonus. The message follows:
(...)
“May our nation survive the ravage of this pestilent germ and endure through the ages a government of the people, by the people, for the people until time shall have blurred the ineffable stain left on the high office of President of the United States by this man, who was suckled on a sour pickle, weaned on misanthropy and matured on penurious pessimism.”

13 June 1924, San Francisco (CA) Examiner, “Coolidge Named In Stampede,” pg. 2, col. 5:
Marion L. Burton was president of Smith College years ago, and Smith College is in Northampton, where Calvin Coolidge was also a citizen. Burton knows the President. He admires him. To him Coolidge is not the cold figure “weaned on a pickle,” nor is he the man who is silent because he lacks positive opinions.

13 August 1924, Buffalo (NY) Enquirer, “Sparing a Lady,” pg. 4, col. 1:
Among the famous women was the wife of one famous politician and the daughter of another, distinguished herself for tartness of tongue. To this woman, according to one of his stories, was addressed the question “What do you think of Coolidge?” This was the answer. “Coolidge! Oh, he’s all right. The only trouble with Coolidge is that he was weaned on a pickle.”

21 August 1924, Columbus (NE) Daily Telegram, “Truth and Other Things,” pg. 2, col. 1:
Raymond Lonergan, that prince of Washington newspaper writers, gives an illustration of the Teddy-like speech of Mrs. Longworth. He says some one recently asked her what she thought of Coolidge, to which she replied: “There is nothing wrong with Coolidge, except he was weaned on a pickle.”

22 August 1924, Kansas Trade Unionist (Topeka, KS), pg. 3, col. 4:
WEANED ON A PICKLE.
Mrs. Alice Longworth, daughter of the redoubtable “Teddy” Roosevelt, is reported as showing a good bit of the spirit of her father in the terse manner in which she describes persons, places and things. For instance:

She was asked what she thought of President Coolidge.

“He is a very nice fellow,” she replied, “only he was weaned on a pickle.”

30 August 1924, Marshall (MI) Evening Chronicle, “Hunt’s Daily Letter” by Harry B. Hunt (NEA Service Writer), pg. 1, col. 5:
A NEW Coolidge story has bobbed in Washington. How it will affect the campaign, if at all, is not yet determined.

Apropos of the president’s rather sour visage, one of the younger and less reverent members of the official family is said to have remarked: “Coolidge was weaned on a pickle.”

By those who have had occasion to test the rather acid quality of the president’s sarcasm, this phrase has been dubbed a stroke of genius.

8 September 1924, Robesonian (Lumberton, NC), pg. 5, col. 7:
Weaned on a Pickle
Mrs. Alice Longworth, nee Roosevelt, has inherited something of her distinguished father’s phrase-making ability. Her remark that President Coolidge must have been weaned on a pickle is the only really good thing that the present campaign has brought to light.—Greensboro Daily News.

Google Books
Power
By Arthur Stringer
Toronto: McClelland and Stewart
1925
Pg. 246:
“They don’t face the world as though they’d been weaned on a dill pickle!”

Time magazine
Education: Libel
Monday, Mar. 12, 1928
Political epithets, accustomed as they are to being taken with a counter-epithet or with a laugh, seldom provoke a libel suit. When a senator or a mayor calls a man a stool pigeon, a snooper, a boodler, a buffoon, a scoundrel, a scalawag or a person weaned on a pickle, he apparently considers himself safe from libel proceedings. And, in legislative chambers, he is. But in a mayor’s chair he is not.

Google Books
May 1933, The American Mercury, “The SIren” by Jack Conroy, pg. 77:
“You look like you been weaned on a sour pickle. Don’t git outdoors when it’s cold an’ let that face freeze on you. If you do, I want it next Spring t’ scare the crows outen my corn patch.”

18 November 1933, San Francisco (CA) Examiner, “A Number of Things” by Charles Hanson Towne, pg. 15, col. 4:
She (Alice Roosevelt Longworth—ed.) tells how certain rumors concerning her gained credence and explains many of them away. For instance, she went to her dentist one day and he told her what the previous patient had said of Coolidge—how he looked as if he had been weaned on a pickle. She repeated the story later, with much glee, always prefacing it by mentioning its origin; but it was attributed to her, and she could not escape the consequences.

3 March 1934, Boston (MA) Globe, “Those Were The Days! with Frank P. Sibley’s Comment” edited by Frederick Lewis Allen, pg. 12, col. 1 photo caption:
SHE DIDN’T SAY COOLIDGE WAS WEANED ON A PICKLE
(Col. 4.—ed.)
Alice’s latest appearance in print was to deny that she ever said Calvin Coolidge was weaned on a pickle. Perhaps there was a little wistfulness in the admission; almost anybody would have liked to have said it first.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Sunday, November 01, 2009 • Permalink