51 pages 1 hour read

Bill Bryson

One Summer: America, 1927

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2013

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Part 3Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 3: “July: The President”

Chapters 14-15 Summary

Part 3 opens with discussions of President Warren G. Harding and President Calvin Coolidge, who assumed the presidency after Harding’s death in 1923. Harding was popular during his lifetime, but by 1927, Americans hated him. Bryson explains, “Few people have undergone a more rapid and comprehensively negative reappraisal than America’s twenty-ninth president” (189). This shift in public perception was due to the exposure of Harding’s corruption and infidelity. He had partaken in such illicit activities in the White House, and a woman with whom he had an illegitimate daughter—the woman was named Nan Britton—wrote a tell-all book about his scandals.

Partly because Harding had initially been well-liked, Coolidge was not. Though he grew in popularity while he was in power, Bryson explains that his strategy was “doing as little as possible” (192). Indeed, the president does not do much of consequence in this section of the book, which Bryson named for him. He spent most of the summer of 1927 operating the executive office from a vacation spot in South Dakota, where he regularly dressed like a cowboy. The reader sees how idiosyncratic and incompetent the men who held the top political office in the country were in the 1920s.