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March 15, 1926 - President Coolidge and the Wild Flower Man of Yosemite
A Real History Story about people as the world changes.
“THE SECRETARY OF
March 22, 1926
My Dear Mr. Pillsbury:
The Washington Star said that -
“Nothing has stood out more distinctly than the dinner given by Dr. Work a week ago at the Willard. The guests numbered about 70, and the dinner being followed by colored pictures showing the life of a flower from its first seeding until it bloomed into full-grown beauty and then dropped its petals.”
Mrs. Coolidge was profoundly impressed with the Pictures.
Please allow me to express my personal appreciation of your courtesy in this connection.
With assurance of personal regards, I remain,
Very truly yours,
March 18, 1926.
Dear Mr. Pillsbury:
Secretary Work has received so much commendation of your picture shown at his dinner for the President that he is now very anxious to have you repeat this showing at his formal dinner for the British Ambassador on April 7 and has asked me to get in touch with you and see if you could be in Washington for this date.
(Signed) STEPHEN T. MATHER,
First Lady, Grace Coolidge
President Calvin Coolidge
The dinner and program were by invitation only. Seventy people were present for the event at the Willard Hotel, located at 1401 Pennsylvania Ave, just down the street from the White House.
The term “lobbyist” was coined in the Willard's lobby by Ulysses S. Grant.
Secretary of the Interior, Dr. Hubert A. Work gave the dinner and, looking for something special, followed a suggestion from Stephen Mather, then returned from another one of his emotional breakdowns, and carrying on, as usual, as Director of the new National Parks Service.
Mather had suggested his best choice for something not to be forgotten was to engage Arthur C. Pillsbury to give a lecture and show show his films. Pillsbury was also the Official Photographer for Yosemite and had been granted a long term concession in the
Park because his speaking tours had been of enormous assistance to Mather in making the Parks profitable. Pillsbury had done the same for the Sierra Club, along with photographing their High Trips for twenty years.
One detail which escaped history is whether or not Mather, himself, was at the event.
But those attending went away with heads reeling. Grace Coolidge was quoted as saying, “she was profoundly impressed with the Pictures.”
Looking back it is hard to imagine the impact on how you view the world when you suddenly see something you think you understand, differently.
Willard Hotel, Washington D. C.
And although Pillsbury was known as the Wild Flower man, his lectures touched on every part of the natural world.
For the 1926 – 1927 Season these Reels were available for his presentations.
1. Scenic reel of Yosemite and the High Sierras
2. Wild flowers growing and opening
3. Trees—their life story, moss and ferns.
4. The biology of the Flowers showing many
5. Bird and animal life.
Because of the timing we know Pillsbury had already built his microscopic motion picture camera. We also know he had recorded the Lapse-Time stories of 500 of the 1,500 species of wild flowers which were found in Yosemite.
So on Monday, March 15th the guests gathered at the Willard. They were electrified and Secretary Work called Mather to ask him to see if Pillsbury was available to give the same presentation in April to the British Ambassador.
We know some of this because the Pillsbury's Speakers Agency, The Players of Boston, made up a brochure soon afterward with quotes from guests and the letters written by Secretary Work and Stephen Mather, which you see above.
It is regrettable, for many reasons, that President Coolidge's father, John C. Coolidge, died three days later, on March 18th.
Stay Tuned for the next Real History Snippet, which will connect Pillsbury to the man Calvin Coolidge replaced as President, Warren G. Harding.
Aerial photo taken by Pillsbury of Half Dome, looking toward the back of the plane. The tail appears in the picture
A clip from a Pillsbury Motion Picture - El Capitan in the mist
A clip - A flower about to bloom
Another clip - About to bloom