Saint Patrick and the Wearing of the Green

In honor of the great Irish patriot and religious leader, Saint Patrick, I have dedicated this paper. Through my research I have educated myself on Saint Patrick’s life and work, along with the meaning of the holiday that bears his name. I also have featured in this piece a small biography of five famous Irish-Americans, who were all exceptionally well-regarded in their time, and helped shape the early 20th Century image of Irish-American culture through politics, patriotism, religion, and theater.

Saint Patrick was said to have been born Maewyn Succat at Banna Venta Berniae in Britain. Calpornius. His father was a church deacon and his grandfather Potitus a priest. His life and deeds are generally unproven and again nothing has been recorded about his connection to any established church in that region of Eire. But in the 8th Century with his passionate missionary work, he became known as Ireland’s Patron Saint.

He was a Roman Britain-born Christian missionary and is revered as the patron saint of Ireland along with Brigid of Kildare and Columba. As a young man, he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland, and many believe he was taken to live in Mount Slemish in County Antrim. It is more likely that he was held in County Mayo near Killala. During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian. (It is also believed that Patrick first began to dream of converting the Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.) It is said that Patrick recounted that he had a dream sometime after returning home. In the dream he saw a man coming, he believed from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he gave Patrick a document, maybe a letter. Patrick reads the heading: “The Voice of the Irish,” and imagined in that moment that he heard a voice; “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”

This voice told him that he would soon go home, and that his ship was ready. He freed himself and traveled to a port, two hundred miles away it is said, where he found a ship and, after various adventures, returned home to his family in Britain in his early 20’s. While in Britain he became a believer in Christianity and eventually heard a calling to the church.

Also, it is reported that Patrick said that he experienced a second revelation; an angel in a dream tells him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, Patrick began religious training, and a course of study that lasted more than fifteen years. After finally accepting his vows as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a mission to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish. Eventually he made his way back to Ireland as a missionary in the north and west of the “emerald isle.”

No one is really sure of the exact dates of his time and work in Ireland, but it there is some evidence that he was active in Ireland during the second half of the fifth century. There is scant evidence about his work and mission, but at least two fragmentary letters do exist. Though much of the stories about his work cannot  be certified as authentic, the Annals of Ulster seem to indicate that he lived from the mid 300’s to somewhere in the mid 400’s. These two Latin letters which survive are generally thought to have been authored by Patrick. These are the Declaration and the Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus. The Declaration is the more historically critical of the two because it is the biographical account of Patrick’s life.

Much of the Declaration revolves around charges made against Patrick by other Christians at a trial. What these charges were, are not clearly articulated, but he does write about the returning of gifts for payment of priestly actions. It is therefore perceived that he was being accused of some financial misdeeds. With this is mind, evidence of Patrick’s mission is made clearer. He writes of the baptism of many, many people. He selected new priests and converted  women and the kings of the clans that populated Northern Ireland in that period.

The second piece of evidence which comes from Patrick’s life is the Letter to Coroticus or Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus. In this, Patrick writes an open letter announcing that he has excommunicated certain Brythonic warriors of Coroticus who raided in Ireland, along with Picts and Irishmen, taking some of Patrick’s converts into slavery.

Of course all of these accounts are vague and not exactly historical. Saint Patrick acquired a Gaelic second name of Daorbae meaning – “He was formerly a slave!” Therefore he came to be known as Patricius Daorbae, during those years in Northern Ireland. His life and deeds are generally unproven and again nothing has been recorded about his connection to any established church in those that region of Eire, in the 8th Century. But most probably, it was the oral history of his passionate missionary work, which helped him become known as Ireland’s Patron Saint.

According to the the most modern interpretation of the old Irish historiography, Patrick died in AD 461, a date accepted by some of our later historians. Before the 1940s it was believed not with complete assuredly that he died in 420 CE. An essay written in 1942, entitled “The Two Patricks,” by historian T. F. O’Rahilly, caused enormous controversy by proposing that there had actually been two “Patricks;” Palladius and Patrick, and that what we now know of Saint Patrick was in fact in part of a conscious effort to meld the two into one personality.  O’Rahilly’s premise was that a priest named Palladius came from Gaul to Ireland along with other early clerics named Auxilius, Iserninus, Secundinus who were sent from Rome. There were also other clerics, like Germanus of Auxerre who visited Ireland at that period of time and they brought some evidence of the existence of a “Patrick” ministering in Northern Ireland. An early document to Pope Boniface IV which doesn’t refer to Patrick is in the writings of Columbanus. In or around 613 CE, Columbanus states, that Ireland’s Christianity “was first provided to us by you, the successors of the holy apostles,” apparently referring to Palladius, and ignoring Patrick.

Writing on the Easter controversy in, or about 632, Cummian, who is the Cummian associated with Clonfert or Cumméne of Iona— does refer to Patrick, calling him our papa, that “holy father.”

Saint Patrick is said to be buried at Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down, alongside Saint Brigid and Saint Columba, although this has never been proven. The Battle for the Body of St. Patrick demonstrates the importance of his role as a spiritual leader and his body as an object of veneration, in early Christian Ireland. The Saint Patrick Visitor Center is a modern exhibition complex and is a permanent interpretative exhibition centre featuring interactive displays on the life and story of Saint Patrick. It provides the only permanent exhibition centre in the world devoted to Saint Patrick.

Both 17th century chroniclers of Patrick, Tirechan and Patricii talk of Patrick in their writings that were based on an earlier work, the Book of Ultan, now lost. The Patrick portrayed by Tírechán and Muirchu could be considered a strong, if not military figure, who confronts the Druids, and exposes the meaninglessness of their pagan idols. Some controversy and contradiction arises with their depiction of Patrick as accepting gifts from wealthy female converts. Patrick also worked with the slaves and the poor, encouraging them to accept a vow of a monastic existence.

As to the Pious legend crediting Patrick with banishing snakes from the island, all evidence suggests that post-glacial Ireland never had snakes. Even though there were no snakes in Ireland according to all modern biological research and knowledge, one thought was that the snakes referred to the Druids and their representation of the symbolic serpent. Another legend also credits Patrick with preaching to the Irish about the concept of the Trinity by using the shamrock, a 3-leaf clover, to highlight the Christian belief of “three divine persons in the one God.”

As one of the earliest Christian missionaries traveling abroad to spread the Christian faith, Saint Patrick is important, because he serves as a testament to the overall missionary legacy of the Church. His example afforded later Christian missionaries the opportunity to assess the best methods to employ when confronting pagan groups abroad. Perhaps, the most significant aspect of Saint Patrick’s missionary efforts in Ireland was that he transcended the boundary between Church hierarchy and prominent Church Fathers in terms of the viability of missionary pursuits. Saint Patrick proved that any Christian could live out the Scriptural commandment to spread the word of God while “exalting and confessing his wonders before all the nations that are under the heavens.” Patrick’s example would inspire later missionaries to undertake great missions to evangelize abroad in the years ahead.

Surely, Saint Patrick preached openly the gospel of Christianity while among the Picts and Irish peoples, but that method does not alone account for the success of Christianity. In sheer terms of numbers, Patrick himself suggested that he baptized and converted “many thousands,” to the faith. It is true that Patrick had some success converting the sons and daughters of Irish Kings to Christianity, but the real numbers of converts among the entirety of the Irish population remain unknown. There is no solid mention of his teaching the catechism of the Church to new believers, so there is little evidence to suggest that the new converts maintained the Christian faith without a foundation in doctrinal teachings. It was quite possible that converts reverted back to their traditional pagan beliefs, especially without any clear support from Church leaders on the European mainland.

March 17th, became popularly known as Saint Patrick’s Day, because it is believed to be the date of his death. Later this day was affixed as a feast day in the Roman church due to the influence of the Waterford-born Franciscan scholar Luke Wadding. And it is a holy day of obligation for Roman Catholics in Ireland. The feast day usually falls during Lent; if it falls on a Friday of Lent (unless it is Good Friday), the obligation to abstain from eating meat can be lifted by the local bishop. The date of the feast is occasionally, yet controversially, moved by church authorities when March 17th falls during Holy Week; this happened in 1940 when Saint Patrick’s Day was observed on April 3rd in order to avoid it coinciding with Palm Sunday, and happened again in 2008, having been observed on  March 15th.

The first civic and public celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day took place in Boston, Massachusetts in 1737. During this first celebration The Charitable Irish Society of Boston organized what was the first Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in the colonies on March 17, 1737. The first celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day in New York City was held at the Crown and Thistle Tavern in 1756, and New York’s first Saint Patrick’s Day Parade was held on March 17 1762, by Irish soldiers in the British Army. On March 17, 1776, British forces under General Sir William Howe evacuated Boston during the American Revolutionary War Because of the coincidence of the event, the code-name for withdrawal at the Continental Army headquarters was “Saint Patrick.” Today the withdrawal of British troops is celebrated as Evacuation Day, and it is an official holiday in Suffolk County, Massachusetts. In 1780, General George Washington, who commanded soldiers of Irish descent in the Continental Army, allowed his troops a holiday on March 17th “as an act of solidarity with the Irish in their fight for independence.”

William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe, KB, PC (10 August 172912 July 1814) was a British General who was Commander-in-Chief of British forces during the American Revolutionary War, one of the three Howe brothers. He was knighted after his successes in 1775 and was henceforth Sir William, inheriting the viscountcy only upon his brother Richard‘s death in 1799. Howe’s record in the war was marked by the costly assault on Breed’s Hill known as the Battle of Bunker Hill and the successful capture of New York City and Philadelphia – the latter of which would have significant strategic implications.

Since that first recorded parade in New York City, which began on March 17, 1762, when Irish soldiers in the English military paraded and marched throughout Manhattan, the tradition and parade became an annual event. The New York parade is by far the largest with at least 100,000 participants and crowds approaching 1-2 million along 5th Avenue, where the a green line is painted in the middle of the street. As the parade marches up 5th Avenue in Manhattan it is always led by the U.S. 69th Infantry Regiment, along with politicians and political aspirants.  Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch once proclaimed himself “Ed O’Koch” for the day, and marched wearing an Irish sweater.

Edward Irving “Ed” Koch (born December 12, 1924; was a United States Congressman from 1969 to 1977 and the Mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989. He still remains quite active today!

The parade is organized and run by the Ancient Order of Hibernians. For many years the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade was the primary public function of the organization. In the past the Hibernian Order has at times appointed controversial Irish republican figures to be the Grand Marshal. Even at times the New York parade has been moved to the previous Saturday in years where March 17th falls on a Sunday. The event also has been moved on the rare occasions when Easter fell on March 17th.

 

The Ancient Order of Hibernians is an Irish-Catholic fraternal organization. Members must be Catholic and either Irish born or of Irish descent. Its largest membership is now in the United States, where it was founded in New York City in 1836. Its name was adopted by groups of Irish immigrants in the United States its purpose to act as guards to protect Catholic Churches from anti-Catholic forces in the mid 19th Century, and to assist Irish Catholic immigrants, especially those who faced discrimination or harsh coal mining working conditions.

Ireland’s cities all have their own version of the parade and their unique festivals, including Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Derry, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, and Waterford, along with the small towns and villages. The Saint Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin is part of a five-day festival; over 450,000 people attended the 2005 parade.

Meanwhile, one hundred years earlier in 1905, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Anna Eleanor Roosevelt were married on March 17th, Saint Patrick’s Day. The couple was married by FDR’s old Groton Headmaster, Endicott Peabody. It was at the 76th Street home of Eleanor’s grandmother, Mary Livingston Ludlow Hall. There 200 guests could be accommodated, because they were able to open up two interconnecting drawing rooms of the neighboring house owned by a cousin. President Theodore Roosevelt, who marched in the Saint Patrick’s Parade, gave away the bride, his favorite niece, and always signed correspondence to Franklin as “your affectionate uncle.”  “Uncle Ted was in fact Eleanor’s uncle and FDR’s 5th cousin. 

The Rev. Endicott Peabody (30 May 185717 November 1944) was the American Episcopal priest who founded Groton School for Boys (known today simply as Groton School), (in Groton, Massachusetts), in 1884. Peabody served as headmaster at Groton School from 1884 until 1940, and also served as a trustee at Lawrence Academy at Groton. In 1926 Peabody also founded Brooks School, which was named for 19th-century clergyman Phillips Brooks, a well-known preacher and resident of North Andover. Peabody was Franklin Delano Roosevelt‘s headmaster at Groton, and he officiated at FDR’s marriage to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Theodore Roosevelt October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919), also known as T.R., and to the public (but never to friends and intimates) as Teddy, was the 26th President of the United States. A leader of the Republican Party and of the Progressive Party, he was a Governor of New York and a professional historian, naturalist, explorer, hunter, author, and soldier. He is most famous for his personality: his energy, his vast range of interests and achievements, his model of masculinity, and his “cowboy” image.

The color green was not always the color of Saint Patrick. Historically blue was associated with St. Patrick, and not green. The color green, representing Ireland, the Irish people, and St. Patrick’s Day in modern times, may have gained its prominence through the phrase “the wearing of the green” meaning to wear a shamrock on one’s clothing. Many times in Irish history, the “wearing of green” was seen as a sign of Irish nationalism or loyalty to Catholicism. To reiterate the oft told legend, Saint Patrick may have used the shamrock, a three-leaf clover, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish. The wearing of and display of shamrocks and shamrock-inspired designs have become a prominent symbol of the holiday. Many believe that this change from blue to green came about in the 1750’s as a sign of the emergence of Irish nationalism.

Christian leaders in Ireland have expressed concern about the secularization of Saint Patrick’s Day. Writing in the Word magazine (March 2007), Fr. Vincent Twomey stated, “It is time to reclaim St Patrick’s Day as a church festival.” He questioned the need for “mindless alcohol-fuelled revelry” and concluded, “It is time to bring the piety and the fun together. The first Saint Patrick’s Festival was held in Ireland on March 17, 1996. In 1997, it became a three-day event, and by 2000 it was a four-day event. By 2006, the festival was five days long.

In Canada, the longest-running Saint Patrick’s Day parade occurs each year in the basically French-speaking city of Montreal, Quebec. The parades first started in 1824; but Saint. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in Montreal as far back as 1759 by once again Irish soldiers in the British Army based in Montreal after the collapse of French rule.

In the City of Toronto during the early and mid 1920’s, the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey team was known as the Toronto Saint Patricks, and they wore green jerseys. In 1999 when the Leafs played on Hockey Night in Canada on St. Patrick’s Day, the Leafs wore the early green St. Patrick’s jersey. The city’s downtown also hosts a large parade that attracts thousands of spectators.

In Great Britain, the late Queen Mother used to present shamrocks brought specifically over from Ireland to members of the British Irish Guard regiment.  Many Irish-Americans celebrate the holiday by wearing green clothing. Other people, regardless of their ethnic background also wear green-colored clothing and items. Traditionally, those who are caught not wearing green are pinched.

The longest-running Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations in the U.S. are:

As we approach the Saint Patrick’s Day festivities, there is an annual celebration at Dudley’s Parkview restaurant, right off Hudson Park in New Rochelle. It is hosted by the legendary William O’Shaughnessy, who runs WVOX Radio, where my show is broadcast. Bill invites the whole world of Westchester to join the fun.

President & CEO, Whitney Radio, parent company of Westchester community station WVOX…and WRTN, the upscale regional station In the New York area. The power of William O’Shaughnessy’s personality has propelled his wvox (am)-wrtn (fm) well beyond their market of record, New Rochelle, N.Y. And O’Shaughnessy has used their proximity to New York City to fashion himself into an East Coast power broker.

Located in Westchester County, the stations are in “the heart of the Eastern establishment,” O’Shaughnessy says. While he claims “no talent as a broadcaster, really,” O’Shaughnessy’s stations do get the establishment’s ear. “Sooner or later, everyone on the make … they come through Westchester. Westchester is where the money and the influence is.”

As part of my piece on Saint Patrick and his day, I chose to write about five Irish-American individuals; a political rogue,  a great musical comedy star, a famous and priest and a war hero,  a legendary political mastermind, and the last a great governor and national political leader. Interestingly, these individuals not only influenced our country and culture in the first half of the 20th century, but were connected in a number of ways.

Probably the first really famous Irish-American to be remembered is the one and only George Michael Cohan. He was an individual who became the stuff theatrical legends are made of, and he himself made up some of the legends himself! George M. Cohan was not the oldest of the five that I have selected, but he probably made the earliest impact.

Cohan’s baptismal certificate — which is his only written birth record — verifies that he was born in Providence, Rhode Island on July 3rd, 1878. However, Cohan’s family unfailingly insisted that George and his country shared birthdays on the 4th. Although noted for their honesty and knowledge of the calendar, the Cohans were traveling actors and had to make connections all of the time, but certainly found it hard to resist the publicity value of a performer (their son) being born on the Fourth of July. 

George was the second child of Jeremiah and Helen Costigan Cohan, better known as Jerry and Nellie. These Irish New Englanders interrupted their endless tour of the variety circuit so Nellie could give birth in her hometown of Providence – just as she had done when her daughter Josephine was born two years earlier. Many of my generation, and those who are older, are quite familiar with the story of Cohan told through the celluloid frames of the famous academy award winning film, Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Jerry and Nellie took their young children on their musical tours. Although George was exposed too little formal education, his later successes proved that he developed a more than passing mastery of reading, writing and arithmetic. When he was eleven, he and his older sister Josie joined his parents in the family business of vaudevillians. 

In those days of the Gay Nineties, there were hundreds of family acts in vaudeville, but few as close knit and clever as The Four Cohans. They often toiled on the well-regarded but physically demanding Keith circuit, sweating through a regimen of often more than four performances a day. Frankly they never really had any time off, except in the summer when many theaters closed.

As a creature of the theater, he took advantage of his father’s easy nature and became a kind of theater brat. Despite many incidents and pronouncements that adults did not appreciate his behavior, George generally went by the beat of his own drum and frequently got into trouble and had the reputation of being a tough backstage operator. He certainly had problems when he starred as the lead in Peck’s Bad Boy in 1891 and was attacked by local boys.

Even though Jerry Cohan regarded their act as a “road act,” and avoided the big-time of New York City, young George insisted that they had to make it in on Broadway.

He attempted to run away to the “Big Apple,” and when brought back, his forgiving father, said “they will all run away to NYC, and try their best to make it.” When the Four Cohans debuted with the Keith Circuit at the Union Theater, they were asked to split up, and they generally failed. Young George was put in the despised opening act and failed every night, but his sister succeeded with her lovely voice and style.

George eventually learned his lesson about the big-time Broadway theater and critics and his own temper, and basically for the rest of his career kept it in check. This “run” where he had the lead act marked a turning point for George. As Josie became the toast of New York, George was unable to find real work, and he took up song writing. In his extra idle hours he wrote tune after tune. He made good with his first published tune, “Why Did Nellie Leave Her Home?” in 1893 and was able to compose a number of other minor hits on his way up and down Tin Pan Alley.

Eventually after his successes generated from May Irwin’s interest in his song, Hot Tamale Alley, his reputation started to soar. Along with his ability to write interesting and fresh skits, performers, always in need of new material, were after George to continue to write for them. Around 1895 his father Jerry decided to put young George in charge of their flagging act.

George was only seventeen, but his songs, skits and skillful handling of the act quickly brought The Four Cohans greater notoriety and success. They became the most highly paid four person-act in vaudeville, eventually earning over $1000 per week. Vaudeville impresarios, the Keith management family, saw their new rise to prominence and realized that a genuinely devoted familial appeal was irresistible, and he now booked them into his top theaters. When audiences demanded more curtain calls, George responded with a one-line closing speech that became Cohan’s lifelong trademark –

“Ladies and gentlemen, my mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you, and I thank you!”

Cohan’s first Broadway musical, The Governor’s Son (1901), was a near miss. It was an expanded version of one of his vaudeville sketches, involving the comic misadventures of several guests at a country resort – a woman (Josie) in search of her runaway husband, two older battling newlyweds (Jerry and Nellie), and a vivacious girl (Ethel) competing with a widow for the attentions of a Governor’s son (George — of course).

Disappointing Broadway reviews sent The Governor’s Son packing after an unimpressive 32 performances. However, provincial audiences delighted in this show’s simple, wholesome humor. The Cohans played it around the country for two profitable years. Running for Office (1903) also failed in New York before turning a profit on the road — again starring the Cohans. Then George was introduced to Sam Harris, a gambler and boxing promoter, who combined a solid business sense with a passion for the theater. Cohan and Harris formed a partnership that became something of a Broadway legend in its own right.

With its patriotic yet sentimental story of an American jockey who is falsely accused of throwing the English Darby, Little Johnny Jones (1904) was the breakout hit George had long hoped to achieve. Yankee honesty eventually wins out as the jockey wins vindication – as well as the heart of the all-American girl he loves. George wrote the script and the songs, produced, directed, and starred in the title role. As usual he dominated the show and that production is featured heavily in the later film Yankee Doodle Dandy.

 The following song became a classic American standard:

I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
A Yankee Doodle do or die,
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam’s,
Born on the Fourth of July.
I’ve got a Yankee Doodle sweetheart.
She’s my Yankee Doodle joy.
Yankee doodle came to London
Just to ride the ponies.
I am a Yankee Doodle Boy.

In Give My Regards to Broadway, the disgraced Johnny, forced to remain in England and defend his reputation, asks his friends boarding an ocean liner bound for home to –

Give my regards to Broadway.
Remember me to Herald Square.
Tell all the gang at Forty-Second Street
That I will soon be there.
Whisper of how I’m yearning
To mingle with the old-time throng.
Give my regards to old Broadway
And tell them I’ll be there ‘ere long.

Cohan changed the definition of a Broadway leading man. He danced with a style and grace that defied Newton’s Laws, while maintaining that leading man look! In a way he created a unique look that had never been seen before or since. Cohan’s dance routines covered the whole stage, even sending him climbing up the side of a wall into a back flip.

There was no other performer, songwriter or playwright like Cohan at that time. Before the emergence of Al Jolson, one could have easily called him the “world’s greatest entertainer. Most veterans of the theater and critics were not sure how to react to his overwhelmingly sincere combination of flag-waving and sentiment bordering on mawkishness and showmanship. Audiences adored him. Little Johnny Jones made two return engagements on the Broadway’s Great White Way during its wildly successful year-long tour. George M. Cohan was finally recognized as one of the theater’s major stars, a distinction he relished privately for the rest of his life.

Al Jolson (May 26, 1886  – October 23, 1950), born in Lithuania, Russian Empire, was a highly acclaimed American singer, comedian, and actor, and, according to PBS, the “first openly Jewish man to become an entertainment star in America.” His career lasted from 1911 until his death in 1950, during which time he was commonly dubbed “the world’s greatest entertainer.” Numerous well-known singers were influenced by his music, including Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Judy Garland. By 1920, he was America’s most famous and highest paid entertainer. Between 1911 and 1928, Jolson had nine sell-out Winter Garden shows in a row, more than 80 hit records, and 16 national and international tours. Yet he’s best remembered today for his leading role in the world’s first talking picture, The Jazz Singer, released in 1927.

Cohan was asked by a producer to write a show for musical comedy star Fay Templeton. The result was 45 Minutes From Broadway (1906), in which a suburban young housemaid gives up an inheritance so she won’t lose the big city smart-aleck she loves. Templeton co-starred with newcomer Victor Moore, who began his long reign as one of Broadway’s favorite comic actors. Cohan’s wisecrack-rich dialogue still resonated time and time again throughout his years in vaudeville.

Victor Moore (1876-1962), who was a star of stage and screen, appeared in over 58 films and 21 Broadway shows. He became best known for starring in Gershwin’s award-winning political satires Of Thee I Sing (1931) with William Gaxton, Let ‘Em Eat Cake (1933).

His leading lady, Fay Templeton was born in San Francisco (1865-1939) was an established star long before Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway. Fay introduced the hit songs “So Long Mary” and “Mary Is a Grand Old Name.” A few months later, she married a Pittsburgh industrialist William Patterson, co-founder of Heyl & Patterson Inc., and announced her retirement from the stage; she and Patterson also had no children.

For it is Mary, Mary,
Plain as any name can be.
But with propriety
Society will say “Marie.”
But it was Mary, Mary,
Long before the fashions came.
And there is something there
That sounds so square.
It’s a grand old name.

George M. Cohan was now at the top of his profession, a position he held and relished for years to come. Years before the era of mass media, he was the first superstar of American show business, his name familiar from coast to coast. Cohan had triumphed as an actor, singer, dancer, songwriter, playwright, director and producer. No one else in the American performing arts has worn so many hats so successfully. Actor and longtime friend William Collier put it this way –

“George is not the best actor or author or composer or dancer or playwright. But he can dance better than any author, compose better than any manager, and manage better than any playwright. And that makes him a very great man.”
– As quoted in John McCabe’s George M. Cohan: The Man Who Owned Broadway. (New York: Doubleday& Co., 1973), pp. xi-xii.

Cohan’s professional habits became the stuff of legend –

  • He rarely let a promising idea die quietly. When his autobiographical drama Popularity (1906) failed, he turned it into a musical shamelessly entitled The Man Who Owns Broadway (1909) — and this time around, it became a hit. 
  • Cohan directed all his productions to run at a quick pace, never giving an audience the chance to feel bored. He once defined his approach this way — “Speed! Speed, and lots of it; that’s my idea of the thing. Perpetual motion.”
  • He was a popular show doctor, turning other people’s flops into hits – a process he referred to as “Cohanizing.” Because he rarely took credit, no one is sure how many plays and musicals profited from this treatment.
  • Cohan was so accustomed to touring that he didn’t have a fulltime home during the early 1900s. When pressed, he listed the Knickerbocker Hotel (which used to stand at 142 West 42nd Street) as his residence.

Best known for patriotic fervor, Cohan’s “flag waving,” was only one of the noteworthy elements in his body of work. Many of his songs and plays also reflected his Irish heritage. Theatre historian John Bush Jones writes –

“For Cohan, the spirit of Ireland thrived in the large Irish-American communities of New York, Boston and his native Providence. To be Irish in America was, for him, to be an American with a proud ancestral heritage. Accordingly, he wrote numbers like “Mary’s a Grand Old Name” from Forty Five Minutes From Broadway, “Harrigan” from Fifty Miles From Boston and “Nelly Kelly, I Love You” from Cohan’s postwar Little Nelly Kelly. These numbers’ lyrics extolled the Irishness of the title characters, while the melodies fused an Irish lilt with American flair, trading on popular song-forms of the day, such as the “waltz clog” rhythm for “Nellie Kelly” . . .
Our Musicals, Ourselves: A Social History of the American Musical Theatre. (Lebanon, NH: Brandeis University Press, 2003), p. 22.

Cohan was keenly aware of his own talents and attributes, and some considered him an egocentric, but he just saw himself as being correct and always on the mark. Cohan biographer John McCabe offers this view –

“Cohan was also noted for his professionalism and private generosity. His abrasive, demanding style covered a tremendous empathy for anyone else who shared the theatrical profession. No one cared more about theater people, and no one was as willing as Cohan to help out a performer or stage hand suffering from hard times or poor health. Unlike most Broadway producers, Cohan and Harris were unfailingly fair to actors and authors. Such qualities made it hard to hate Cohan. He was so popular with his fellow actors that they made him the “abbot” of the Friar’s Club for two terms — a unique honor.”

In those days, the Ziegfeld’s Follies made revues a popular trend on Broadway. At first, these essentially plot-less shows always imposed some semblance of a plot. Cohan spoofed this trend in his first revue, Hello Broadway (1914). Between songs and sketches, the cast searched for an elusive box containing the plot. When eventually found, it turned out to be empty. Audiences enjoyed the joke, and Broadway revues thereafter did away with the forced pretense of a plotline.

The Ziegfeld Follies were a series of elaborate theatrical productions on Broadway in New York City from 1907 through 1931. The Follies were lavish revues, something between later Broadway shows and a more elaborate high class Vaudeville variety show. Many of the top entertainers of the era (including Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, Ann Pennington, Bert Williams, Will Rogers, Ruth Etting, Ray Bolger, Helen Morgan, Marilyn Miller, W.C. Fields, Ed Wynn, Gilda Gray, Nora Bayes, The Tiller Girls, and others) appeared in the shows. The Ziegfeld Follies were also famous for many beautiful chorus girls.

There were competing Broadway revues to Ziegfield and the most famous were the George White’s Scandals that ran from 1919-1939.. The “Scandals” launched the careers of many entertainers, including W.C. Fields, the Three Stooges, Ray Bolger, Helen Morgan, Ethel Merman, Ann Miller, Bert Lahr, and Rudy Vallée. Louise Brooks and Eleanor Powell got their show business start as lavishly dressed (or underdressed) chorus girls strutting to the “Scandal Walk”. Much of George Gershwin‘s early work appeared in the 1920-24 editions of Scandals.

Also Earl Carroll produced and directed numerous Broadway musicals, including eleven editions of Earl Carroll’s Vanities, Earl Carroll’s Sketch Book, and Murder at the Vanities, which was also made into a film starring Jack Oakie.

Known as “the troubadour of the nude,” Carroll was famous for his productions featuring the most lightly clad showgirls on Broadway. In 1922 he built the first Earl Carroll Theatre in New York, which was demolished and rebuilt on a grander scale in 1931. He built a second theatre on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, California in 1938.

Unfortunately Cohan’s sister Josie unexpectedly died of heart failure in 1916, and his beloved father Jerry faced the same fate a year later. Emotionally devastated, George found comfort in his work. Still one of America’s top songwriters, he owned his own music publishing firm, guaranteeing the fullest possible profit from every song. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Cohan’s stirring “Over There” captured the nation’s sentiments –

So prepare, say a prayer,
Send the word, send the word to beware.
We’ll be over, we’re coming over,
And we won’t come back
Till it’s over over there.

At the end of the war, Cohan was in an enviable position. One of the best known men in America, he owned a number of Broadway houses, had touring companies that were performing all across the country, and saw his operetta parody Royal Vagabond (1919) score to great acclaim. The book’s dialogue still had a vaudevillian edge to it, but with its sophisticated style it reflected a modern contemporaneousness.  In the 1920s, Cohan wrote and produced several successes, but it was clear that popular tastes were changing. In the cynical postwar Jazz Age, Cohan’s flag-waving and idealistic patriotism was seen as old fashioned, out of step and antiquated. He continued to threaten his “retirement” now and again, but there was always another treatment that would catch his eye, and stimulate his artistic and competitive juices.

Cohan loved to perform: it was in his blood. In 1933, he ignored his decades old innate fear of the movies to go to Hollywood just long enough to star in his only musical film. The Phantom President (1933) was the story of a small time entertainer who agrees to campaign in place of a dull presidential candidate to whom he bears a remarkable resemblance. Cohan stars as both the vaudeville hoofer and the candidate. Despite a score by the famed Rodgers and Hart team and a decent cast that included Jimmy Durante and Claudette Colbert, The Phantom President was basically a failure. It did provide a lasting celluloid image of what Cohan could do and it is still available to see. One sees him in action with his great dancing and unique singing style.

Once back on Broadway, Cohan portrayed another president when he starred as President Franklin Roosevelt in the musical I’d Rather Be Right (1937). His former partner Sam Harris produced it with a script by playwright Moss Hart and songs again by Rodgers and Hart — who grudgingly accepted the project after their earlier unhappy association with Cohan in Hollywood.

Moss Hart  (24 October 1904 – 20 December 1961) was an American playwright and director of plays and musical theater.and was married to the famed Kitty Carlisle, the grand doyenne of theater and art in New York who outlived him by 46 years. Kitty Carlisle, who was born Catherine Conn in New Orleans, was originally a musical comedy star, and television personality in the years after Hart’s death in 1961.

 

Kitty Carlisle (also billed as Kitty Carlisle Hart; 3 September 191017 April 2007 was an American singer, actress and spokeswoman for the arts. She is best remembered as a regular panelist on the television game show To Tell the Truth. She served 20 years on the New York State Council on the Arts. In 1991, she received the National Medal of Arts.

This time around, Cohan treated Rodgers and Hart with open contempt, even though their score included “Have You Met Miss Jones?” and the Cohan showstopper “Off the Record.” He was equally annoyed with Moss Hart’s book, which had more contemporary satirical bite than any Cohan script ever. Cohan, of whom it was said, openly disliked FDR, played him not as wheelchair-bound but with an all-out song and dance performance. No one had ever depicted a living president in a book musical before, so I’d Rather Be Right opened amid extraordinary press hoopla. Critics raved, Roosevelt (a longtime fan of the Four Cohans) expressed his approval, and the show became the hottest ticket on Broadway. After a profitable New York run, Cohan went out on a grueling national tour — no small feat for a man in his sixties.

As to Rodgers and Hart, the great and enigmatic musical composing team, they were an American songwriting partnership consisting of the composer Richard Rodgers (1902 – 1979) and the lyricist Lorenz Hart (1895 – 1943). They worked together on about thirty musicals from 1919 until Hart’s death in 1943. Their breakthrough came in 1925 with The Garrick Gaieties, which featured the hit song “Manhattan.”

Their many other hits include “Here In My Arms,” “Mountain Greenery,” “The Blue Room,” “My Heart Stood Still,” “You Took Advantage of Me,” “Ten Cents a Dance,” “Dancing on the Ceiling,” “Spring is Here,” “Lover,” “Mimi,” “Isn’t It Romantic?” “Blue Moon,” “It’s Easy To Remember” “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World,” “My Romance,” “Little Girl Blue,” “There’s a Small Hotel,” “I Wish I Were in Love Again,” “Where Or When,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Johnny One Note,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “Have You Met Miss Jones?,” “This Can’t Be Love,” “Falling In Love With Love,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” “I Could Write a Book,” and “Wait Till You See Her.”

Hollywood wanted to do a film version of Cohan’s life and he readily approved the choice of former vaudevillian James Cagney as his cinematic alter ego and was delighted when longtime friend (and vaudeville veteran) Walter Huston was cast as Jerry Cohan. While Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) goes to great lengths to ignore certain aspects of Cohan’s life, it remains a magnificent showcase for several of his finest songs — and a wildly entertaining film overall. Cagney’s brilliant performance is his own creation, not an imitation. However, he did have one of Cohan’s old dance assistants on hand to make sure that his dancing and stage mannerisms invoked something of George’s unique style. Cagney, like Kitty Carlisle Hart, was an admirer of FDR, and played the role of Cohan in a more sympathetic way towards the president. Like all Hollywood movies, there is always poetic license. Cohan’s personal life was simplified, and his early and unsuccessful marriage was never mentioned. His difficult and diffident relationship with his children was ignored and the deaths of his sister and mother were breezed over. Also his critical partnership with Sam Harris was romanticized. But, all in all, it was a great award-winning and highly entertaining film.

James Cagney was able to replicate his style better than anyone in the later film biography of his life.James Francis Cagney, Jr. (July 17, 1899 – March 30, 1986) was an American film star. Although he won acclaim and major awards for a wide variety of roles he is best remembered for playing “tough guy”s. He won the Academy Award in1942 for his portrayal of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Cagney retired for 20 years in 1961, spending time on his farm before returning for a part in Ragtime mainly to aid his recovery from a stroke. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him eighth among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time. His father was Irish and his mother was part Irish and Norwegian.

Cohan saw Yankee Doodle Dandy become a phenomenal success. Against doctor’s orders, he snuck out of his Fifth Avenue apartment in a wheelchair to catch screenings of the film at the Hollywood Theater, later the Mark Hellinger. After hearing the wartime audience cheer for his old songs, George M. Cohan had his nurse take him home.

Cohan defied his painful condition to the last, insisting he would somehow recover and make another comeback on Broadway. He was even working on a new musical for himself entitled The Musical Comedy Man.

Despite the pain, and his wife’s ongoing health problems, George’s spirits remained high. When Ward Morehouse asked how Cohan felt looking back on his life in the theater, the old trouper grinned and characteristically said, “No complaints, kid. No complaints.” He died quietly on the morning of November 5, 1942.

In the early 1960s, a statue of George M. Cohan was erected in the center of Times Square, at the intersection of Broadway and 47th Street. Crowds pass the base of that statue every day, and most pay little if any attention to it. But the visage of the man who once “owned Broadway” still gazes down the street ro which he dedicated his life. In a neighborhood caught in an ongoing vortex of upheaval, Cohan’s monument provides a much-needed visible link with the past. George M. Cohan became and remained the consummate Irish-American entertainer of his day. He was patriotic and was the embodiment of assimilation from the old world to the new.

I move from one of our greatest entertainers to the sometime Honorable James Michael Curley, who probably represented the theater of politics more than any other individual before or since. Ironically George M. Cohan’s last critical Broadway performance was in I’d Rather be Right, about Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Curley was intimately connected with FDR in the early days of his presidential career. Even though it was reported historically that Cohan did not like FDR, he graciously accepted a medal from FDR, and in the movie, Yankee Doodle Dandy, there was no reference to Cohan’s political feelings or preferences. In the Massachusetts Presidential Primary of 1932, Curley did not have permission to plaster his name with that of FDR’s on every sign post, broadside and button, in an attempt to win the primary for the gubernatorial designation for himself. Without realizing that Al Smith would enter the race against FDR, Curley wound up picking the wrong candidate to back. Smith, who was extremely popular with Irish-Catholic Democrats, defeated FDR. Curley, because he was on a “so-called” ticket with Smith’s opponent, also lost. FDR never forgot Curley’s attempted power-play and refused to endorse him in subsequent years.

James Michael Curley (November 20, 1874-November 12, 1958) was an American politician who served in the United States House of Representatives, as the mayor of Boston, Massachusetts, and as Governor of Massachusetts. He was a larger than life figure who inspired thousands of his followers with his dynamic style and personality.

Curley was born to Michael Curley and Sarah Clancy, immigrants from County Galway, Ireland and they settled in Roxbury, MA in 1864. Curley served in various municipal positions  and a single term in the Massachusetts House of Representatives (1902-1903). He was elected to the Board of Aldermen in 1904 while serving in prison, having been convicted of fraud. Curley took the civil service exam in place of two men in his district to help them get the jobs with the government. Though the incident gave him the proverbial “black eye” within some communities, it aided his image with the laboring poor, because they saw him as a man willing to fight the system and help out.

In 1910, while serving as Aldermen, representing the City of Boston, Curley decided to run for the 10th District Congressional seat then occupied by Congressman Joe F. O’Connell who had won a narrow election over his Republican foe. In a three way race Curley won the Democratic primary and then won the general election handily.

Curley ran for Governor of Massachusetts in 1934, and this time he won, having lost ten years earlier. In his flamboyant style, Curley’s extravagant personal spending and expensive vacations showed that he had lost touch with his constituents.

A series of scandals rocked his administration, including the involvement of his state limousine in several traffic accidents, the alleged sale of pardons to state convicts, and the appointment of scores of poorly qualified individuals to public offices.

In the late 1930s Curley’s political fortunes began to ebb. Denied Franklin Delano Roosevelt‘s endorsement in the 1936 senatorial election, he lost against a moderate Republican Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. In 1937 and 1940 one of Curley’s former political confidants, Maurice J. Tobin, twice defeated him for the Boston mayoralty, and in 1938 the famous Boston Brahmin Leverett Saltonstall turned back Curley’s attempt to recapture the Massachusetts governorship. After leaving the office of governor, he squandered a substantial sum of money in unsuccessful investments in Nevada gold mines; then he lost a civil suit brought by the Suffolk County prosecutor. He was forced  to forfeit to the city of Boston the amount of money he received from General Equipment Company for “fixing” a damage claim settlement.

Leverett A. Saltonstall (September 1, 1892June 17, 1979) was an American Republican politician who served as Governor of Massachusetts (1939–1945) and as a United States Senator (1945–1967). He was born in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. His son, Brooks Saltonstall killed in action on Guam on August 13, 1944. Part of the Boston Brahmin Saltonstall family, he was able to trace his ancestral roots to the Mayflower, the Pilgrims and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Saltonstall was the tenth generation in direct descent to graduate from Harvard and the great-grandson of a U.S. Congressman of the same name.

In 1942, however, Curley managed to revive his faltering career by returning to Congress, serving from 1943 to 1947, this time in the 11th district. In defeating Thomas H. Eliot, a former New Deal attorney with an exemplary voting record on behalf of the Roosevelt administration, Curley based his campaign on appeals to ethnic and religious prejudice. Once back in Congress, he compiled a voting record that matched his former opponent’s in support of the Roosevelt administration’s social agenda.

Curley’s popularity within Boston remained high – despite a felony indictment in 1943 for influence peddling, which stemmed from his involvement with a consulting firm seeking to secure defense contracts. Using the slogan “Curley Gets Things Done” he won an unprecedented fourth term as mayor of Boston in 1945. A federal jury then found him guilty of the felony charges, but he remained mayor even after he entered a federal penitentiary in 1947, serving until 1949.

In 1947, during his last mayoral term, he was convicted for a second time on federal charges of official misconduct, including mail fraud. He spent five months in jail during this term, but still retained a considerable degree of popularity with the working classes. Out of political expediency and because of pressure from the Massachusetts congressional delegation, President Harry Truman pardoned him, enabling his release.

The city clerk, John Hynes, ran the city during his incarceration, and intentionally held many large items in limbo until Curley was released from prison so the mayor could handle them himself.

Upon his release Curley told the manager he was grateful for what he had done, but then told the media that he had accomplished more in his first day back as mayor than the manager had over the previous several months. Livid, Hynes felt betrayed, and this anger fueled Hynes’ successful run for mayor in 1949.Curley’s failed mayoral bid in 1951 marked the end of his serious political career, although he continued to support other candidates and remained active within the Democratic Party, and even ran for mayor one last time in 1955. That was his 10th time running for the position of Boston’s mayor. His death in Boston led to one of the largest funerals in the city’s history.

Curley’s last campaign inspired The Last Hurrah, a 1956 novel written by Edwin O’Connor. It is considered the most popular of O’Connor’s works, partly because of a significant 1958 movie adaptation directed by John Ford and starring Spencer Tracy. The novel when published was immediately a bestseller in the United States and stayed so for 20 weeks and on bestseller lists for the year it was published. The Last Hurrah, which won the Atlantic Prize, was also highlighted by the Book-of-the-Month Club and Reader’s Digest.

The1958 film The Last Hurrah, was certainly enhanced by the direction and the first class acting of two famous Irish Americans, John Ford and Spencer Tracy. Both of them certainly softened the edges on the old Boston political warhorse, James Michael Curley.

Spencer Tracy (April 5, 1900–June 10, 1967) was a two-time Academy Award winning actor of stage and screen, who appeared in 74 films from 1930 to 1967. He is generally regarded as one of the finest actors in motion picture history. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Tracy among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time, ranking 9th on the list of 100. He was nominated for nine Academy Awards for Best Actor.

John Ford (February 1, 1894August 31, 1973)] was an American film director of Irish heritage famous for both his westerns such as Stagecoach and The Searchers and adaptations of such 20th-century American novels as The Grapes of Wrath. His four Best Director Academy Awards (1935, 1940, 1941, 1952) is a record, although only one of those films, How Green Was My Valley, won Best Picture.

Curley had an unusually tragic personal life. He outlived his first wife and seven of his nine children. Two twins died shortly after birth. One of his two daughters died while a teenager. His namesake, James Jr., who was groomed as Curley’s political heir, died in his early adulthood. Another son who had a drinking problem died while Curley ran for mayor in 1945. Ironically, his remaining daughter and another son both died of strokes on the same day in 1950. Both were in the same room of Curley’s house talking on the same phone when they had their two strokes. Two other sons outlived Curley. One son, Francis, became a Jesuit.

Curley is honored with not one, but two statues at Faneuil Hall, which stands in front of the old Quincy Market and across from Boston’s new City Hall. One shows him seated on a park bench, the other shows him upright, as if he were giving a stump speech, and a campaign button on his lapel. A few feet away is a bar named for one of his symbols, The Purple Shamrock. Curley’s house, known in his time as “the house with the shamrock shutters,” located at 350 The Jamaicaway, is now a city historical site.

 

Of course one could also go a few doors down and drop into the Union Oyster House, the oldest continually eatery In 1826 the new owners installed the fabled semi-circular Oyster Bar — where the greats of Boston paused for refreshment. It was at the Oyster Bar that Daniel Webster, a constant customer, daily drank his tall tumbler of brandy and water with each half-dozen oysters, seldom having less than six plates. The toothpick was first used there! To promote his new business he hired Harvard boys to dine at the Union Oyster House and ask for toothpicks. Another great Irish family, the Kennedy’s have patronized the Union Oyster House for years. J.F.K. loved to feast in privacy in the upstairs dining room. His favorite booth “The Kennedy Booth” has since been dedicated in his memory

The youngest of these five famous Americans was Jim Farley, one of the greatest political operators of all time. He was not only associated with FDR’s early days as Governor, but was closely to connected the rivalries that FDR had to deal with. Farley was fully aware of the liability that Boston’s Curley posed to the president and never forgot the damage Curley afflicted on FDR in the Massachusetts Presidential Primary of 1932.

James Aloysius “Jim” Farley (May 30, 1888June 9, 1976) was an American politician, business executive, and dignitary who served as head of the Democratic National Committee and as Postmaster General. Farley was the campaign manager for New York State politicians Alfred E. Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s gubernatorial campaigns as well as FDR’s Presidential campaigns in 1932 and 1936. Farley predicted large landslides in both, and revolutionized the use of polling, and polling data. Farley was responsible for pulling together the New Deal Coalition of Catholics, labor unions, blacks, and farmers for FDR. Farley, and the administration’s patronage machine he presided over, helped to fuel the social and infrastructure programs of the New Deal. Farley opposed Franklin Roosevelt breaking the two term tradition of the Presidency, and broke with Roosevelt on that issue in 1940.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945), often referred to by his initials FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States. He was a central figure of the 20th century during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war. Elected to four terms in office, he served from 1933 to 1945 and is the only U.S. president to have served more than two terms. He was voted Time Magazine’s Man of the 20th Century, and despite controversy and revisionism, he is still regarded as one of the greatest men who have ever lived.

Farley was born in Grassy Point, New York, one of five sons whose grandparents were Irish Catholic immigrants. His father was involved in the brick-making industry, first as a laborer and later as a part owner of three small schooners engaged in the brick-carrying trade.

Farley always had his heart set on a political career. In 1911, he officially began his service as a politician when he was elected town clerk of Grassy Point. He was elected chairman of the Rockland County Democratic Party in 1918 and secured the upstate vote for Alderman Alfred E. Smith, north of the Bronx line, when he ran for governor the same year. The Democrats could not win north of the Bronx line before Farley organized the Upstate New York Democratic organization. By cultivating the neglected Upstate Democrats, Farley became a force in New York State Politics. After helping Alfred E. Smith become Governor of New York State, Farley was awarded the post of Port Warden of New York City. Farley was appointed to the New York State Athletic Commission at the suggestion of Jimmy Walker in 1923. Farley served as a delegate at the 1924 Democratic National Convention, where he became friendly with a young Franklin D. Roosevelt, who would give his famous “Happy Warrior” speech about Al Smith.

Farley later became Boxing Commissioner of New York State, where he would acquire his first taste of national and global attention for his role in fighting for equal rights for African-Americans. In 1926,

Farley threatened to resign his post as Athletic Commissioner if the boxing champion Jack Dempsey did not fight the mandatory challenger, an African-American fighter named Harry Wills.

Jack “Manassa Mauler” Dempsey (June 24, 1895 – May 31, 1983) was an American boxer who held the world heavyweight title from 1919 to 1926. Dempsey’s aggressive style and punching power made him one of the most popular boxers in history. Many of his fights set financial and attendance records. Jack’s father was Irish with a touch of Choctaw Indian, and his mother was English with a bit of Cherokee. They both became Mormons.

James Joseph “Gene” Tunney (May 25, 1897 – November 7, 1978) was the heavyweight boxing champion from 1926-1928 who defeated Jack Dempsey twice, first in 1926 and then in 1927. Tunney’s successful title defense against Dempsey is one of the most famous bouts in boxing history and is known as The Long Count Fight. Tunney retired as a undefeated heavyweight after his victory over Tom Heeney in 1928. Tunney was from Irish people who immigrated from Kiltimagh, Ireland and his son John V. Tunney served as a United States senator from California.

Farley banned Dempsey from fighting Gene Tunney and publicly threatened to revoke Tex Rickard‘s Madison Square Garden license if he ignored the ruling of the commission. This public stand for African-American rights would prove to be a valuable asset to the Democratic Party for generations.

After some convincing from Farley and long time FDR confidant Louis Howe, Roosevelt asked Farley to run his 1928 campaign for the New York governorship. Farley orchestrated FDR’s narrow victory in the 1928 gubernatorial election and for that work was named secretary of the New York State Democratic Committee and orchestrated FDR’s reelection in 1930. Farley was named Chairman of the New York State Democratic Committee, a post he would hold until his resignation in 1944. Farley brought to Roosevelt’s camp the powerful newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst and helped FDR win the 1932 presidential nomination and election. This was due to the Farley’s ability to gather the Catholics, Unions, and big city machines (while maintaining the Solid South) into the New Deal Coalition. Farley repeated this process in 1936 and correctly predicted the states Roosevelt would carry. His oft-repeated adage “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont” summed up the campaign. This prediction secured Farley’s reputation as the “political prophet” of his time.

Louis McHenry Howe (1871- April 18, 1936 was an intimate friend and political advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He, along with Eleanor Roosevelt and Marguerite Missy LeHand, was one of the few close associates who supported FDR throughout the most difficult stages of his personal and political recuperation after being afflicted by paralytic illness.

Howe is most known for his fierce, astute, and lifelong devotion to the political career of Franklin D. Roosevelt who publicly credited him (along with James Farley) for his initial election in 1932. Howe was also referred to as “the man behind Roosevelt” and Eleanor Roosevelt frankly credited him for his influence on her political development as well.

After FDR’s victory in 1932, and in accordance with political tradition, the president appointed Farley to the cabinet post of Postmaster General, a post traditionally given to the campaign manager or an influential supporter. He also took the unusual step of naming Farley Chairman of the Democratic National Committee in addition to the cabinet post in 1933. Farley was constantly harassed by FDR’s opposition for refusing to resign one of his these posts. Farley worked hard to keep the Post Office solvent through the Depression and, through his expert stewardship the once unprofitable Post Office Department finally began turning a profit.

Farley was instrumental in revolutionizing transcontinental airmail service, and reorganized the Post Office’s Airmail carriers. Farley worked in concert with the Pan American World Airways‘ (Pan Am) president Juan Trippe to see that the mail was delivered safely and cost effectively. This was after a brief period whereby the Army carryied the mail, with service men killed flying in bad weather. Farley oversaw and was responsible for the flight of the first Pan American China Clipper.

Juan Terry Trippe (June 27, 1899 – April 3, 1981) was a U.S. airline entrepreneur and pioneer, and the founder of Pan American World Airways. Born in Sea Bright, New Jersey Trippe graduated from The Hill School in 1917, and then Yale in 1921. He began working on Wall Street, but soon became bored. After receiving an inheritance he started working with New York Airways, an air-taxi service for the rich and powerful.

Farley is remembered among stamp collectors for two things. One is a series of souvenir sheets that were issued at commemorative events which bore his name as the creator. The other twenty controversial stamps were known as “Farley’s Follies.”

These were reprints, mostly imperforated issues of stamps of the period that were given to President Roosevelt and Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, both collectors, (Farley himself did not collect stamps.) When ordinary stamp collectors learned of this they complained, and in 1935 many more stamps were reprinted for them. Today the souvenir sheets are not particularly scarce. The original sheets were autographed to distinguish them from the reprints, and fifteen of them are scheduled to be displayed in an exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum in June 2009.

Farley controlled federal patronage in the new administration and was very influential within Roosevelt’s Brain Trust and the Democratic Party throughout the United States. Farley used his control of patronage to see that Roosevelt’s first 100 days of New Deal legislation was passed. Farley was conservative in private, yet politically liberal and masterfully used his influence to line up support for the New Deal‘s far reaching programs. He helped to bring about the end of Prohibition and the defeat of the Ludlow Amendment, a 1939 attempt by isolationists to limit the foreign affairs powers of the president by requiring a referendum for a declaration of war without an attack. Farley’s close relationship with FDR lasted until the issue of FDR’s 3rd term caused a political fissure.

Farley began seeking support for a Presidential bid of his own after FDR. refused to publicly seek a third term, only indicating that he could not decline the nomination if his supporters drafted him at the 1940 Convention. As chairman of the Democratic National Committee, this left Farley without a legitimate candidate. Roosevelt would publicly hint at support for Cordell Hull after privately telling Farley and others they could seek the nomination.

Farley also opposed the so-called “packing” of the Supreme Court, yet in all instances, was continuously loyal and supportive of FDR’s policies. Farley was asked by FDR to seek the Governorship of New York multiple times during his tenure in the Administration. He refused on every occasion.

In 1940, Farley resigned as Postmaster General and Party Chairman after placing second in the delegate count at the 1940 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where Roosevelt was “drafted” for a third term.

Farley was the third Irish-American Roman Catholic to be nominated for the Presidency and was the first Irish-American Roman Catholic to achieve national success when FDR appointed Farley to his Cabinet as Postmaster General and Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Eleanor Roosevelt flew to the convention to try to repair the damage in the Roosevelt-Farley relationship, and although Farley remained close to ER and Jimmy Roosevelt, he felt betrayed by FDR and refused to join FDR’s 1940 campaign team.

In 1938, Farley wrote his autobiography, Behind the Ballots. After leaving the administration in 1940, Farley was named Chairman of the Board of the Coca-Cola Export Corporation, a post he held until his retirement in 1973. Farley also wrote his biography, Jim Farley’s Story, the Roosevelt Years in 1948. Farley, ever the loyalist, was very complimentary to his late patron, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Farley, who was well-known for his political savvy and charm, knew not to bite “the hand that fed him.” When it came to the public he graciously would sign his autograph with his well-known green ink (for the Irish) for anyone who asked.

Farley would remain a prominent national figure and confidant to pope’s, dignitaries, and sitting Presidents until his death in 1976. Remembered as one of America’s greatest campaign managers, politicians, business minds, and political bosses, Farley remained active in state and national politics until his death at age 88 on June 9, 1976, in New York City. At his death, Farley was the last surviving member of FDR’s Cabinet. He is interred at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.

Father Duffy, as he was known to almost all New Yorkers in the first quarter of the 20th Century, was the oldest of our group. He, of course, was connected to both FDR and Al Smith through General William “Wild Bill” Donovan, who was a law school classmate of Franklin Roosevelt, and ran for Lt. Governor of NY against Al Smith in 1922. Father Duffy and George M. Cohan also share the distinction of having their statues in Broadway’s theater district. Interestingly James Cagney had a leading role in both film treatments about Duffy and Cohan.

Francis Duffy (1871-1932) was born in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada and immigrated to New York City, where he taught for a time at the College of St. Francis Xavier and where he was awarded a Master’s degree (the school survives as Xavier High School). He became a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, being ordained in 1896. He attended The Catholic University of America, where he earned a doctorate.

After ordination, Duffy served on the faculty of St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, Yonkers, NY, which trains priests for the Archdiocese of New York. He was professor of Philosophical Psychology (a course more related to the Philosophy of the Human Person, than to Clinical Psychology, in today’s terms), functioned as a mentor to numerous students, and was editor of the New York Review — at the time, this publication was the most scholarly and progressive Catholic theological publication in America. Extremely popular with students, Duffy was part of a group of members of the Dunwoodie faculty who attempted to introduce ground-breaking innovations in seminary curriculum, putting the institution in the forefront of clerical education.

When authors in the New York Review fell under suspicion of the heresy of Modernism, Archbishop Michael Augustine Corrigan, of NY, broke up the faculty and reassigned them to other work.

The New York Review itself never published an article that was suspect, but it did print papers by leading Catholic biblical experts who were part of the newly-emerging schools of biblical criticism, and several of these authors’ other works (which would be uncontroversial today) raised eyebrows in Rome. Duffy himself wrote few signed items in the journal (though he did author parts of it) but was responsible as editor for the entire publication.

Duffy’s new assignment was creating the parish of Our Savior in the Bronx, New York. There, he organized the parish and built a physical structure that combined parish school and the church, one of several innovations he introduced. Throughout this period,

Duffy was active in both the Catholic Summer School, a sort of adult summer camp and continuing education system that foreshadowed the explosion in Catholic higher education for the laity today, and in the military — he was regimental chaplain to the 69th New York National Guard Regiment which was federalized for a time during the Spanish-American War.

Already famous in theological circles, Duffy gained wider fame for his involvement as a military chaplain during World War I when the 69th New York (The Fighting 69th) was federalized again and re-designated the 165th U.S. Infantry Regiment. When the unit moved up to the front in France, Duffy accompanied the litter bearers in recovering the wounded and was always seen in the thick of battle.

Lt. Col. William “Wild Bill” Donovan (who would go on to create the OSS in World War II), used Father Duffy’s influence with the men as a key element regarding morale. Duffy went far beyond the actions of a normal cleric. The regiment was composed primarily of New York Irish immigrants and the sons of Irish immigrants, and many wrote later of Duffy’s inspirational leadership. Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur, the commander of his division, admitted later that Duffy was very briefly considered for the post of regimental commander. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal, the Conspicuous Service Cross (New York State), the Légion d’honneur (France), and the Croix de guerre. Father Duffy is the most highly decorated cleric in the history of the U.S. Army.

Major General William Joseph Donovan, USA, KBE, (January 1, 1883 – February 8, 1959) was an American soldier, lawyer and intelligence officer, best remembered as wartime head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). He is also widely known as the “father” of today’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). During World War I, Donovan organized and led a battalion of the United States Army, designated the 165th Regiment of the 42nd Division, the federalized designation of the famed 69th New York Volunteers, (the “Fighting 69th“). In France one of his charges was poet Joyce Kilmer. For his service near Landres-et-St. Georges, France, on 14 and 15 October 1918, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. By the end of the war he received a promotion to colonel, the Distinguished Service Cross and three Purple Hearts.

In the wonderful World War I action film, The Fighting 69th (1940), Father Duffy was played by Pat O’Brien. It starred James Cagney and George Brent and the plot is based upon the actual exploits of New York‘s 69th Infantry Regiment during the First World War. The regiment was first given that nickname by opposing General Robert E. Lee during the Civil War. O’Brien, who plays Father Duffy, a military chaplain, attempts to reform the character played by Cagney. “Wild Bill” Donovan, played by Brent, is the regimental commander, who ultimately orders Cagney’s character (Jerry Plunkett) to be court-martialed. One of the characters portrayed in this film is Sgt. Joyce Kilmer, the poet. Alan Hale, Sr. plays Sgt. Wynn, who loses both his brothers due to Cagney’s blunders.

Sergeant Kilmer, who was killed in action, was a great poet, no less a great soldier, wrote the famous poem, “Trees.” Kilmer’s companions wrote: “He was worshipped by the men about him. I have heard them speak with awe of his coolness and his nerve in scouting patrols in No Man’s Land.” This coolness and his habit of choosing, with typical enthusiasm, the most dangerous and difficult missions, led to his death.”

Kilmer, who was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for valor, was buried in the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial, near Fere-en-Tardenois, Aisne, Picardy, France. Although Kilmer is buried in France in an American military cemetery, a cenotaph is located on the Kilmer family plot in Elmwood Cemetery, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. A memorial service was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.

The text stated below is the original written by Kilmer.

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

Following the war, he wrote of his exploits in Father Duffy’s Story ( published by George H. Doran Company, New York 1919), a book that grew out of a manuscript originally started by Joyce Kilmer, the poet and convert to Catholicism, who had joined the regiment and had become a close friend to Duffy. When Kilmer was killed in France, he was working on a history of the regiment’s involvement in the war, which Duffy intended to continue, but Duffy was prevailed upon to include his own reminiscences of the war.

He then served as a pastor of Holy Cross Church in Hell’s Kitchen, a block from Times Square, until his death. While there he had one last opportunity to make a contribution to Catholic thought: in 1927, during Al Smith‘s campaign for president, the Atlantic Monthly published a letter by Charles Marshall, a Protestant lawyer, which questioned whether a Catholic could serve as a loyal president who would put the nation and the Constitution before his allegiance to the pope (a common thread in American anti-Catholicism). Smith was given a chance to reply: his article, a classic statement of the intellectual ideas behind American Catholic patriotism, hinted at notions of religious freedom and freedom of conscience which would not be spelled out by the Church itself until the Second Vatican Council‘s Declaration on Religious Freedom in the 1960s. In fact, Al Smith had gone to Father Duffy and asked him to ghostwrite the piece and he did.

The last of our great Irish-Americans was the legendary Al Smith, who was known to everyone in his time. Jim Farley first worked for Smith in his NY State Governor’s campaigns. Smith was associated with FDR from the days that FDR entered the New York State Senate in 1911 and became his great rival and sometime critic. Smith was a political opponent of WWI hero William J. Donovan, whose friendship with Father Duffy was legendary. Later of course, Donovan became an intimate of FDR, worked secretly with him regarding early war-time spying and became the head of the war-time OSS, the Office of Strategic Services, which was the forerunner of the CIA. 

Alfred Emanuel Smith, Jr. (December 30, 1873–October 4, 1944), known in private and public life as Al Smith, was an American politician who was elected Governor of New York four times, and was the Democratic  presidential candidate in 1928. He was the first Roman Catholic and Irish-American to run for President as a major party nominee. He lost the election to Herbert Hoover in a campaign that featured many anti-Catholic references, He then became president of the Empire State, Inc. and was instrumental in getting the Empire State Building built at the onset of the Great Depression.

Smith was born to Alfred Emanuel Smith and Catherine Mulvihill, and initially grew up in the multiethnic Lower East Side of Manhattan, on Oliver Street, within sight of the Brooklyn Bridge, then under construction. His four grandparents were Irish, German, Italian and English, but Smith identified with the Irish American community and became its leading spokesman in the 1920s.

He was thirteen when his father who was a Civil War veteran and who owned a small trucking firm died. At fourteen he had to drop out of St. James School in Manhattan to help support the rest of his family. He never attended high school or college, and claimed that he learned about people by studying them at the Fulton Fish Market, a job for which he was paid $12 per week. An accomplished amateur actor, he became a notable speaker. On May 6, 1900, Alfred Smith married Catherine A. Dunn, with whom he had five children.

In his political career, he traded on his working-class beginnings, identified himself with immigrants, and campaigned as a man of the people. Although indebted to the Tammany Hall political machine, particularly to its boss, “Silent” Charlie Murphy, he remained untarnished by corruption and worked for the passage of progressive legislation. Smith’s first political job was as a clerk in the office of the Commissioner of Jurors in 1895. In 1903 he was elected to the New York State Assembly. He served as vice chairman of the commission appointed to investigate factory conditions after a hundred workers died in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Smith crusaded against dangerous and unhealthy workplace conditions and championed corrective legislation. Smith was always a familiar character with his tradition brown derby hat, and his ever-present clenched cigar in his mouth. His theme song was the Sidewalks of New York, written by Charles Lawlor and James Blake, which would be used extensively in his later campaign for president in 1928.

Down in front of Casey’s
Old brown wooden stoop,
On a summer’s evening,
We formed a merry group;
Boys and girls together,
We would sing and waltz,
While the “ginnie” played the organ
On the Sidewalks of New York.
East side, west side,
All around the town,
The tots sang “Ring-a-Rosie,”
“London Bridge is Falling Down.”
Boys and girls together,
Me and Mamie O’Rourke,
Tripped the light fantastic,
On the sidewalks of New York.

 

In 1911, the Democrats obtained a majority of seats in the NY State Assembly, and Smith became the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. In 1912, following the loss of the majority, he became the minority leader. When the Democrats reclaimed the majority in the next election, he was elected Speaker for the 1913 session. He became minority leader again in 1914 when the Republicans won the majority again, and remained in that position until his election as sheriff of New York County in 1915. By now he was a leader of the Progressive movement in New York City and state. His campaign manager and top aide was Belle Lindner Moskowitz, daughter of Prussian-Jewish immigrants.

Belle Lindner Moskowitz was born in Harlem in New York City, to Isidor Lindner, a watchmaker; and Esther Freyer. Both parents were immigrants from East Prussia in Germany. She was the sixth born of seven children. She attended the Horace Mann School of Columbia University and in 1894 she attended Teachers College, Columbia University, but only stayed for one year.

In 1900 she became a social worker at the Educational Alliance. She was appointed its educational director while still a student at Columbia. In 1911 she met Henry Moskowitz, a physician, while working with him on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire Commission. They married in 1914. In 1918, she supported Al Smith for Governor of New York. Moskowitz became one of Smith’s most intimate advisers. Referring to her as “Mrs. M”, he kept her close at hand throughout his tenure as governor. Tammany Hall sachems referred to her derisively as “Moskie,” coveting her influence.

When Smith became the Democratic Party candidate for President in 1928, Moskowitz worked as his campaign manager. She worked as his press agent during his attempt for renomination in 1932. On December 8, 1932 she fell down the front steps of her house at 147 West Ninety-fourth Street and, while recovering from the broken bones, died of an embolism on January 2, 1933 at age 55.

After serving in the patronage-rich job of sheriff of New York County beginning in 1916, Smith was elected governor of New York in 1918 with the help of Tammany Boss Charles F. Murphy and James A. Farley, who brought Smith the upstate vote. Smith is sometimes claimed as the first Irish-American to be elected governor of a state. But historically there had been many, Catholics elected earlier in other states, e.g. Edward Kavanagh of Maine. Previous Catholic governors of New York included Lord Thomas Dongan in the 1680s and Martin H. Glynn, who served 1913-1914 after Governor William Sulzer was impeached.

In 1919, Smith gave a famous speech criticizing William Randolph Hearst. Newspaperman Hearst, known for his notoriously sensationalist and largely (except on some economic matters) right-wing newspaper empire, was the leader of the populist wing of the Democratic Party in the city, and had combined with Tammany Hall in electing the local administration. Hearst had attacked Smith for “starving children” by not reducing the cost of milk.

William Randolph Hearst I (April 29, 1863 – August 14, 1951) was an American newspaper magnate and leading newspaper publisher. The son of self-made millionaire George Hearst, he became aware that his father received a northern California newspaper, The San Francisco Examiner, as payment of a gambling debt. He was twice elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, but was defeated in 1906 in a race for governor of New York. Nonetheless, through his newspapers and magazines, he exercised enormous political influence, most notably in creating public frenzy which pushed the U.S. into war with Spain in 1898. Although Hearst shared Al Smith’s opposition to Prohibition he swung his papers behind Herbert Hoover in the 1928 presidential election. Hearst’s support for Franklin D. Roosevelt at the 1932 Democratic National Convention, via his allies William Gibbs McAdoo and John Nance Garner, can also be seen as part of his vendetta against Smith, who was an opponent of Roosevelt’s at that convention. His life story was a source of inspiration for the lead character in Orson Welles‘ classic film, Citizen Kane, which was one of the most influential films of all time.

Orson Welles‘ 1941 film Citizen Kane, which was loosely based on Hearst’s life  Welles and co-writer Herman J. Mankiewicz added bits and pieces from the lives of other rich men of the time, among them Harold McCormick, Samuel Insull and Howard Hughes into Kane. Hearst used all his resources and influence in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the film’s release. Welles and the studio, RKO, resisted the pressure, but Hearst and his Hollywood friends succeeded in getting theater chains to limit bookings of Kane, resulting in mediocre box-office numbers and harming Welles’ profits.

Smith lost his bid for re-election in 1920 to Nathan Miller, but was reelected as governor in 1922, 1924 and 1926 with James A. Farley serving as his campaign manager. As Governor, Smith became known nationally as a progressive who sought to make government more efficient and more effective in meeting social needs. Meanwhile, his young assistant Robert Moses constructed the nation’s first state park system and reformed the civil service system, later gaining appointment as Secretary of State of New York.

Robert Moses (December 18, 1888July 29, 1981) was the “master builder” of mid-20th century New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County, New York. As the shaper of a modern city, he is sometimes compared to Baron Haussmann of Second Empire Paris, and is one of the most polarizing figures in the history of urban planning in the United States. Although he never held elected office, Moses was arguably the most powerful person in New York state government from the 1930s to the 1950s. He changed shorelines, built roadways in the sky, and transformed neighborhoods forever. His decisions favoring highways over public transit helped create the modern suburbs of Long Island and influenced a generation of engineers, architects, and urban planners who spread his philosophies across the nation.

During Smith’s term as governor of New York, he strengthened laws governing workers’ compensation, women’s pensions, and child and women’s labor with the help of Frances Perkins, soon to be President Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s Labor Secretary. At the 1924 Democratic National Convention, Smith unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for president, advancing the cause of civil liberty by decrying lynching and racial violence. Roosevelt made the nominating speech in which he saluted Smith as “the Happy Warrior of the political battlefield.” It was reporter Frederick William Wile who made the oft-repeated observation that Smith was defeated by “the three P’s: Prohibition, Prejudice and Prosperity.”

The Republican Party was still benefiting from the economic boom of the 1920s, which their presidential candidate Herbert Hoover pledged to continue. Historians agree that the prosperity along with anti-Catholic sentiment made Hoover’s election inevitable, although he had never run for office. He defeated Smith by a landslide in the 1928 election.

Smith was the first Catholic to win a major-party presidential nomination. Smith’s Catholic beliefs played a key role in his loss of the election of 1928. Many feared that he would answer to the pope and not the constitution. The people also criticized him for being a drunkard because of the stereotypes placed on Irish Catholics of the day. Another major controversial issue was the continuation of Prohibition. Smith was personally in favor of relaxation or repeal of Prohibition laws, despite its status as part of the nation’s Constitution, but the Democratic Party split north and south on the issue. During the campaign Smith tried to duck the issue with noncommittal statements.

Smith was an articulate exponent of good government and efficiency, as was Hoover. Smith swept the entire Catholic vote, which had been split in 1920 and 1924, and brought millions of Catholics to the polls for the first time, especially women. He lost important Democratic constituencies in the rural north and in southern cities and suburbs.

He did carry most of the Deep South, thanks in part to his running mate, Senator Joseph Robinson from Arkansas, and he carried the ten most populous cities in the United States. Some of Smith’s losses can be attributed to fear that as president, Smith would answer to the pope rather than to the Constitution, to fears of the power of New York City, to distaste for the long history of corruption associated with Tammany Hall, as well as to Smith’s own mediocre campaigning. Smith’s campaign theme song, The Sidewalks of New York was not likely to appeal to rural folks, and his city accent on the “raddio” seemed slightly foreign.

Although Smith lost New York State, his fellow Democrat Roosevelt was elected to replace him as governor of New York. James A. Farley had moved from Smith’s camp to run Franklin D. Roosevelt’s successful campaign for Governor, and later Roosevelt’s successful campaigns for the Presidency in 1932 and 1936.

Joseph Taylor Robinson (August 26, 1872July 14, 1937) was an American politician from Arkansas, of the Democratic Party. He was a state representative, a U.S. Representative, Governor of Arkansas, U.S. Senator, and Senate Majority Leader, and he was a candidate for Vice President in the 1928 U.S. presidential election. Robinson was the Majority Leader at the time of FDR’s court reorganization plan, and died suddenly while trying to direct the Bill through the Senate. Without his support the plan failed.

In historical perspective Al Smith started real voter realignment. He helped launch the end of classless politics that ushered in the New Deal coalition of Franklin D. Roosevelt. As one political scientist explains, “…not until 1928, with the nomination of Al Smith, a northeastern reformer, did Democrats make gains among the urban, blue-collar, and Catholic voters.”

These voters were later to become core components of the New Deal coalition and broke the pattern of minimal class polarization that had characterized our electoral system.  Smith often is underestimated as a symbol of the changing nature of American politics in the first half of the last century. He represented the rising ambitions of urban, industrial America at a time when the hegemony of rural, agrarian America was in decline. He was connected to the hopes and aspirations of immigrants, especially Catholics and Jews. Smith was a devout Catholic, but his struggles against religious bigotry were often misinterpreted when he fought the religiously inspired Protestant morality imposed by prohibitionists.

After the 1928 election, he became the president of Empire State, Inc., the corporation which built and operated the Empire State Building. Construction for the building was commenced symbolically on March 17, 1930, per Smith’s instructions, as president of the corporation. Smith’s grandchildren cut the ribbon when the world’s tallest skyscraper opened on May 1, 1931–May Day–built in only 13 months. As with the Brooklyn Bridge, which Smith witnessed being built from his Lower East Side boyhood home, the Empire State Building was a vision and an achievement constructed by combining the interests of all rather than being divided by interests of a few.

Smith felt slighted by Roosevelt during the latter’s governorship. Smith naively thought FDR would spend most of his time in Warm Springs, Georgia and would leave the every day operations of the state to Smith’s chief of staff, Belle Moskowitz and Robert Moses. But FDR had no intention of becoming an absentee governor, with Al Smith’s hand-picked people pulling the strings. Belle Moskowitz was forced out quickly, following the advice and council of his wife Eleanor, and Robert Moses continued his focus on the parks and other state-wide work. This certainly lessened Smith’s impact on state affairs.

Later in his second term, FDR had attempted reconciliation with him on November 17, 1931, when he invited him to lunch. But it was not a success.

In December, Smith confessed to the publisher of the Atlantic Constitution, that though Roosevelt had always been considerate of him, he had never once asked for his advice, “on one damned thing.” They became rivals for the 1932 Democratic presidential nomination. At the convention, Smith’s animosity toward Roosevelt was so great that he put aside longstanding rivalries and managed to work with William McAdoo and William Randolph Hearst to block FDR’s nomination for several ballots.

This unlikely coalition fell apart when Smith refused to work on finding a compromise candidate, and instead maneuvered to make himself the nominee. After losing the nomination, Smith begrudgingly campaigned for Roosevelt in 1932. When President Roosevelt began pursuing the liberal policies of his New Deal, Smith began to work with the opposition.

Smith believed the New Deal was a betrayal of good-government Progressive ideals and ran counter to the goal of close cooperation with business. Along with other prominent conservative Democrats, in 1934 he became a leader of the American Liberty League, the focus of political opposition to Roosevelt’s New Deal. Smith supported the Republican presidential candidates Alfred M. Landon in the 1936 election and Wendell Willkie in the 1940 election.

Although personal resentment was a motivating factor in Smith’s break with Roosevelt and the New Deal, Smith was consistent in his beliefs and politics. Smith always believed in social mobility, economic opportunity, religious tolerance, and individualism. Strangely enough, Smith and Eleanor Roosevelt always remained close. In 1936, while Smith was in Washington making a vehement radio attack on the President, she invited him to stay at the White House. To avoid embarrassing the Roosevelt’s, he declined. In1939 he was appointed a Papal Gentleman, one of the highest honors the Papacy bestows on a layman. Smith, like most New York City businessmen, enthusiastically supported World War II, but was not asked by Roosevelt to play any role in the war effort. Smith died at the Rockefeller Institute Hospital on October 4, 1944, of a heart attack, at the age of 70, broken-hearted over the death of his wife from cancer five months earlier.

After Smith’s death, FDR evoked his memory. He recalled that in 1928 when he was running to succeed Smith as Governor of New York, Smith said, “You don’t have to be an acrobat.” He described Smith graciously as “frank and warm-hearted.”

There were many other famous Irish-Americans who made their name in the first half of the 20th Century who I could have included. I briefly mentioned William Donovan, a great hero of both World Wars. Joseph P. Kennedy, Thomas Corcoran of New Deal fame, Mayor Jimmy Walker, and Eugene O’Neill come to mind. But the above five were closely identified with the Irish Community and on St. Patrick’s Day they seemed to stand out most vividly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Henry Littlefield- Scholar,Soldier, Coach and Educator, 1933-2000 1-15-15

Henry Littlefield- Scholar, Soldier, Coach and Educator

1933-2000

Richard J. Garfunkel

January 15, 2015

I met Henry in 1961, as a 16 year old, high school student, at AB Davis High School in Mount Vernon, NY. Henry was an exceptional history teacher and history was one of my intellectual interests then, and now. (By the way, he was always voted as the best teacher in the high school.) But, I was also an athlete and Henry was emerging as one of the finest scholastic wrestling coaches in America. He had been a great competitor at Columbia University, was a Lieutenant in the US Marine Corp, where he wrestled and earned a black belt in Judo

fter his discharge from the service, he competed in the American amateur wrestling world of Olympic freestyle, Greco-Roman, and Partire. Henry competed for the NY Athletic Club and was a member of a number of National AAU winning teams. At 6’5″ and 250 lbs he was quite a mountain of a man. John Irving, the novelist and a enthusiastic amateur wrestler and coach described Henry in his memoir “Trying to Save Piggy Sneed” affectionately and he stated in an interview with “Salon” magazine, that he had two sets of friends, the literary types and the athletes- and they were mutually exclusive. Littlefield would have been one of the few friends of his that bridged the gap between his literary and athletic sides.

Henry grew up without a father, went to Trinity Prep, lived in Manhasset, LI, taught the legendary football great, Jimmy Brown how to wrestle in the “Y” pool, went to Columbia University, wrestled and played football for the class of 1954. He met Madeline Smith from Long Island, on a blind date, fell in love, and they were married in 1956.  Madeline grew up in Baldwin, Long Island. She attended the Grier School for girls in Tyrone, Pennsylvania, then earned her BA at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, majoring in music. She studied organ and sacred music at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and then earned her MA in Education at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. By the way, Henry later earned his MA and PhD from his alma mater, Columbia University.

When Henry went into the Marine Corps, he met the legendary General Lewis “Chesty” Puller at Camp Lejeune, was part of the 10th anniversary, re-enactment of the famous Marine landings on Okinawa, that last great and brutal battle of 1945. After his discharge, he started to teach in Mount Vernon in 1958. He founded a wrestling club in 1960 with Mount Vernon teachers and coaches; Sully Mott and the great Bill Sywetz, He became the coach of Mount Vernon’s first official team in 1961.

When we first met, in the fall of 1961, I told Henry that I had spent one year at Horace Mann and came in contact with Gus Petersen, who was the trainer there. Petersen was a famous “turn of the century” wrestler, and an equally famous coach at Columbia where Henry met him as Petersen’s coaching career was winding down. We both liked history and Henry asked me to help him with the wrestling team. From that day on we were rarely out of communication with each other for almost 40 years. Henry loved science fiction, baseball, mysticism (especially Edgar Cayce) and the ironies of history. When I met him, in my junior year at Davis, I was already regarded as one of the top history students. I had read practically every book on WWII in the MV public library by the time I was twelve, and Henry and I talked WWII history constantly. We hardly talked about wrestling and I rarely gave him my opinion on the sport until years later. I helped him run the practices at Edison Tech, and he turned over almost everything to me that involved management. I handled the ordering of the uniforms, the wrestling shoes, not sneakers, the headpieces, the kneepads and even the tape. I organized everything with complete fiat from the Coach. We had huge teams and he had to make order out of the chaos that could have developed. The high point of the practices was the wrestle-offs. I would time and score the wrestle offs. Quite often I would let the clock run and run to make sure a real decision was rendered. But no one ever questioned me. In fact, over those five years and the ensuing 10 or so, no one ever questioned me about anything. Just the fact that I had a “special” relationship with the “Man” gave me a lifetime pass. Both Randy and Jimmy always treated me like a “brother” and we got along famously until the end of the run in 1977. I was 32 years old and had seen hundreds of matches, scores of tournaments, and G-d knows how many matches. I knew almost all the Section I greats from 1961 until 1977. Who I did not know, Randy or Henry told me about. But after Jimmy Lee’s departure, I never saw Mount Vernon wrestle again.

I always regarded Henry’s record as second to none in Section I and maybe anywhere else. He had no worlds left to conquer. In six regular seasons he coached, his teams won five straight Section I titles 1963-4-5-6-7, three Division titles and a second. MV won two holiday titles along with two 3rds in the prestigious Calhoun HS tournament. (I shall take credit for one of those Division titles. The official scorers didn’t count one of our high placing’s, a 2nd or 3rd , in one of the weight classes, and just before the trophy was about to be given over to another coach and school, I ran over to Coach Littlefield, whispered in his ear, and gave him the new count. He went to Bob Litchard the Coach of Henry Hudson HS and it was resolved. It was our closest call.) MVHS was undefeated in Section I competition for those five years, won the unofficial State Section title in 1966-7 and produced in five years over 25 Section I Champions. In fact, in two back-to-back years, MVHS had eighteen wrestlers in the finals and came away with nine champions. Counting the holiday tournament, the division, Sections and the States, Henry produced over 60 champions. Henry accomplished this unparalleled record without the benefit of a junior high school program and with the limitation of a three-year high school. Many of his great champions; Jimmy Lee, Howie Wilson, Ricky O’Daniel, Alex Cunningham, Doug Garr, Jim Hardy, Mitchell Gurdus, John Carlucci, Mike Viggiano, Ray Johnson, Mario Criscione and Bob Panoff had barely two or three years of competitive wrestling. He was a master of drilling, isometrics, technique, and adaptability. He was always the great teacher. After our only loss in the 1962-3, season to Freeport, he realized that his team had been beaten by the up-to-that date, un-experienced chicken-wing/ half-nelson hold. No one had ever been taught the counter to that move! No MVHS team ever suffered from that hold again. Those years were truly marvelous and never to be forgotten. He was able to turn a group of poor kids from the two high schools, Davis and Edison, into a cohesive and caring group. Never once in the years that I witnessed his coaching, did I ever see him lose his temper, raise his voice or experience back talk or grousing from his men. Never once, did I see him lose his “cool” around the mat. Never once, did I ever see him “bait” a referee. The officials loved and respected him and his judgment. They all knew that he was the “master”. His opponents, coaches and wrestlers flocked to him for guidance and words of wisdom. Our wrestling room was always open to alumni from MVHS and the rest of Section I.

I saw many, many former opponents listening with rapt attention at the foot of the “master”. He treated them as men, as competitors and as worthy foe. It wasn’t long before they became his “grapplers”.

When I flew up to Niagara University for the State Championships of 1967, I experienced a similar type of comradery. Here I was included as almost a member of that great team. Here was Jimmy Davis, on top of the wrestling world (he’s still talked about today), the late great Alex Cunningham, Doug Garr and Mario Criscione all winners, and scoring members of that championship team. Here is the great Henry Littlefield in the center of the action and adulation, along with Randy Forrest one of the greatest competitors of our time and me! Here I come along from Boston University, flying in from Providence, Hartford and Syracuse and landing in a snowstorm. Here I am with not a bed to sleep in, nor literally a “pot to piss in,” and Henry says, “Richie get in the picture, you belong as much as anyone!” Wow! Top of the scholastic wrestling world, and even I did not know that this was his last match. The saga ended there and that night.

I was there with him when we walked out of the door of the White Plains HS on that cool March night of 1962, and he put his big arm around my shoulder. In our first official year as a team, Henry was telling me how he had made the mistake of wrestling Bobby Danetz at 183 instead of Howie Wilson, who wrestled up at heavyweight. He told me that he would never again let his heart outweigh his brain when it came to who should wrestle where. I was always at his side during the Divisions and Sections the next five championship years. In fact, at age 18 he had me run the Sections at MVHS and I ran it the next two years. What a great five years they were. We were undefeated in Section I dual meets, won some of the Holiday tourneys and four of five of the Divisions and all of the Sections. We broke all the scoring records, and re-wrote the history book of Section I!

When Mount Vernon won its State Section title in 1967, I witnessed a rare event in sports. Virtually all of the other champions and near champions flocked to his side. They wanted to be in the pictures with the great Littlefield and his team of stars; including the great and unparalleled Jimmy Davis and the lightweights; Alex Cunningham, Doug Garr, and Mario Criscione. To me it was a magic moment burned in my mind’s eye. Who knew that that night would be the end of his fabulous run? Of course, the dynasty continued for a number of years with the successes of his marvelous protégés Randy Forrest and Jimmy Lee. As much as I admired them both, it was never quite the same. Henry’s big shadow always remained omnipresent and his twelve league boots could never really be filled. Thankfully, Henry ran wrestling clinics in Westchester for a number of years while he was at Amherst. He always brought in some of the finest coaches on the East Coast and the clinics were always fully attended with hundreds of “grapplers” from all over Section I, which in those days was made up of schools from Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess Counties.

I knew and loved that great man for 40 years until his untimely death at age 66. He left Mount Vernon High School for Northampton, Ma, and eventually Amherst College in 1967 as I had graduated college. He came to my wedding; my wife Linda and I visited him and his wife and daughters in his home on Massasoit Street in Northampton Ma. He taught history at Amherst, was Dean of Men, was their outstanding wrestling coach, and by the way, he lived in Calvin Coolidge’s old home! Henry wrote some great pieces on Cool Cal as our 30th president was known. During those years, I raised a family, ran a business, and we both talked on the phone and wrote often to each other. In fact, I estimate about 5000 letters, emails and calls were exchanged from September 1963 when I left for college and the spring of 2000 when he left us.

Henry went out to Monterrey, California after nine years at Amherst. He was such a great legendary figure in the Amherst wrestling room, that when he left, the team refused to have another coach. Henry settled eventually in Pacific Grove, ran the York School as Headmaster, taught and lectured at the Stevenson School on the Monterrey Peninsular and created a whole new world for himself. He acted, he preached Church sermons, wrote poetry and was a counselor to many. When Henry died of colon cancer, I traveled out there with of Henry’s protégé, a wonderful former wrestler and his successor, Coach Randy Forrest. Even though we flew to San Francisco together and drove down and back to Monterrey it was a lonely journey. Neither of us, both married with grown children and at ages 55 and 61, had ever been to California. It was a brave, sad, new world for both of us. Randy, a giant of a black man from neighboring New Rochelle, was a legendary figure to a nicely well-off Jewish kid from Mount Vernon. We came from two different worlds when we met in 1961. We were two different and distinct types of worshippers at the feet of this great and wonderful man. Even though he was only 11 years older than me and 5 years older than Randy, Henry was our leader bar none. We talked all the way to Monterrey and back. Once there, we were part of an incredible throng of 1000 or more people that came to his memorial service. Of those people, few even knew he had wrestled or had been one of the great coaches in America. If he had lived in the East for that extra 24 years, maybe 10,000 would have come out! It really closed a great and marvelous chapter of my life. It was a tearful farewell to his wonderful wife Madeline and their now grown children. I remembered when their second child Mary was born when I was a sophomore in high school. Now both little girls were grown women. So Randy and I traveled back after three long days together. We had not talked much in the last number of years, but we were totally immersed with each other. Can you imagine two men married about 70 years combined, traveling without our wives for the first time, and re-hashing wrestling bouts competed 35 years earlier? Strange! That was the last time I saw Randy. He moved to Virginia to be near his wife’s family and left New York, Westchester County and New Rochelle behind after 60 years. It was fitting. I met him because of Henry, and over the intervening 40 years we always talked about Henry, and now that Henry was gone maybe our time was gone too.

I remember so well Henry’s constant interest in the “Wizard of Oz.” He loved that story, and he loved mysticism. He always talked about Baum and what he was trying to say. In fact, one of Henry’s great legacies is his famous “Oz” 1964 parable, http://thewizardofoz.info/faq02.html, on the historical meanings of that legendary story. Henry always was searching for the real meaning of life. He was always wondering about those elusive answers. There was no one like him, and all who knew him will miss him forever.

Here are some thoughts on Henry by some who knew him best!

Doug Garr, one of Mount Vernon’s top wrestler, a close friend of Henry’s told of their meeting!

When my older brother Andy was a freshman at Lehigh he became hooked on amateur wrestling.  He took me to the NYAC to watch Henry wrestle, and encouraged me to write him a letter.  I was in 8th grade. I asked Henry for “tips on training” because I wanted to become a wrestler.  He never replied.  But after watching one Lehigh match in the Snake Pit (Grace Hall), packed to the rafters, I was hooked, too.

My career speaks for itself:  I was probably in the top 10 or at least 15 of MVHS grapplers based on my second place finish in the states in 1967, capping a 20-2-1 senior year.  My 73-win career total is probably in the top five or so.  Section I champion, three-time All-County, three-time division (or league) champion and Outstanding Wrestler in 1967. As a D-1 scholarship athlete at Syracuse, I fell short. Life got in the way.

Much of my success was due to Henry’s coaching and leadership.  I had a mediocre talent at best, and because of my dedication and sacrifice, it was left to the coach to mold me into something resembling a champion.

Henry himself was humble about all this, I’m sure.  He always felt that the better athletes needed little input from people like him.  This is one of the few things he was wrong about.  I’ve always felt that leadership qualities are largely unquantifiable.  You either have it or you don’t.  Henry, of course, had it.  And one indication is that he had to coach an incredibly heterogeneous group of athletes, racially and demographically.  North side of town, south side. Well off and poor, black and white.  I was always proud of the fact that we had Jews, Italians, and you name it on the varsity, unlike most successful teams we competed with.

That Henry saved that first letter I wrote to him and sent it back to me when I was 24 years old and on my own speaks volumes.  To this day, I wonder, how did he know…..?

Mitchell Gurdus, a Section I Champion in 1965, and a collegiate wrestler at Toledo University, wrote the following: It seems to me that anyone who’s known Henry Littlefield has been impressed by the experience.  Among other things, a Littlefield image that’s been permanently etched into my memory is his squint.

HML’s non-verbal messaging: I never was lucky enough to have Henry Littlefield as a classroom teacher.  I did, though, have a morning, cafeteria study-hall hour that he monitored. He’d usually be busy, head down, correcting or reading papers.  Whenever there was a table of kids getting too noisy, HML would only have to look over with a certain look that could correct the situation.  It was not an angry or threatening look, but more a look of measured disappointment. He’d show an exaggerated squinting of his eyes, mouth closed with a wide grimace-like expression. It’s amazing how much was communicated without his saying a word.

Early one morning during school time, Dr Panitz, who was then an Assistant Principal, while showing some visitors the school, popped into the wrestling room. I was in the wrestling room, in full sweat gear, trying to sweat off a number of pounds.  It was obviously clear to him that I was skipping class.

A short while later, Panitz marched me tin to see Henry who was in his classroom with class.  Henry was not happy to see me.  Without saying a single word, he unleashed what may have been the full power of that Littlefield squint. It was a You-know-that-I-know-that you-know look of disappointed irritation. I got the message, and so did Dr. Panitz.  It was a wordless 4 or 5 second Littlefield squint, after which, Dr. Panitz said, “Go to class.”

Mount Vernon vs its two arch rivalries:

White Plains                New Rochelle

1962-3             36-6                             28-17

1963-4             36-16                           42-5

1964-5             43-2                             51-2

1965-6             36-13                           50-0

1966-7             23-22                           44-5

Totals              174-59                         215-29

Hitchcock, “The Dark Side of Genius, ” a Perspective 1-25-2015 Richard J. Garfunkel

Hitchcock, “The Dark Side of Genius,” by Donald Ploto

A Perspective

By

Richard J. Garfunkel

1-25-2015

I just re-read, after a period of many, many years, Donald Spoto’s excellent and unprecedented biography of Alfred Hitchcock, one of the greatest film directors of the 20th Century.

I had always been interested in Hitchcock, and from my young days, in the middle 1950s my parents took me to the movies and I saw many of Hitchcock’s films as they came to the big screen. They were avid fans of his works, and we all watched weekly his television series. He didn’t have much to do with its creativity, but, the themes of each show were always inspired by his vision and droll sense of irony. The special treats were his introductory remarks and his moralistic concluding statement on what had happened. Most of the time, they were the highlight of the production.

As I grew a bit older, I caught up with all of his early works from the Lodger to WWII and then on to Strangers on a Train, which spanned a period from the early 30s to the early 1950s. Hitchcock had a flair for suspense and in his visit to the Center of Advanced Studies at the American Film Institute in Beverly Hills, CA, he discussed at length the difference between the classic “whodunit,” or the difference between mystery and suspense.

I took this direct quotation from one of the last chapters of Spoto’s biography.

There is a great confusion between the words, “mystery” and “suspense.” The two things are absolutely miles apart. Mystery is an intellectual process, like in a “whodunit.” But suspense is essentially an emotional process. You can only get the suspense element going by giving the audience information. I daresay you have seen many films which have mysterious goings-on. You don’t know what is going on, why the man is doing this or that. You are about a third of the way through the film before your realize what it is all about. To me that is absolutely wasted footage, because there is no emotion to it…There is no emotion from the audience… the mystery form has no particular appeal to me, because it is merely a fact of mystifying an audience, which I don’t think is enough.

Hitchcock, unlike other directors, was able to eventually control his “product” and “process” with great originality and uniqueness. This talent and ingenuity harked back to the early days of cinema, when silent film producers and creators like DW Griffith, Charlie Chaplin and a few others were able to control every aspect of their work, from selecting the material, finding the players, writing and re-writing the script, finding the money, of course, and directing the film in the direction and with the message they wanted. As the studio system evolved in the middle to late 1920s, much of this was controlled by the studio heads (Louis B. Mayer, Harry Cohn, Adolph Zukor, and the Warner Brothers) who had actors, writers and technicians under contract, or could borrow or rent contract players from others, buy material, assign producers to guide the business end of the process and hire, and also fire, directors, if they were dissatisfied by the work in progress. As one can learn by this thorough biography, Hitchcock was able to grow dramatically in power and influence when he left London in 1939, for his future career in Hollywood. He was able to sell his name and talent to various producers starting with David O. Selznick, and his success foreshadowed the decline of the Hollywood studios and the rise of the independent producer/director.

Of course, time becomes the great judge and determinate of what lasts. The faddish tastes of the moment often whither as more retrospective is given to any subject or work of art.  What thrilled audiences 75 years ago may have zero impact today? All one has to do is look at the three makings of King Kong or the two versions of Ben Hur, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Manchurian Candidate or even Psycho and see the advances in technology, the short cuts or the differences in casting, style editing and direction.

Interestingly, Hitchcock, like many others, did change. But that change was well within his early notions of the average man/woman caught in often an intractable bind. That bind often was one caused by the legal system, the government, or others who were trying to achieve some goal with the innocent victim in the way.

Aside from the struggle of the average man against injustice, Hitchcock liked to put people in awkward circumstances. Two of the films that come to mind, was his highly rated picture Vertigo and his more controversial WWII film, Lifeboat. In both cases, which are incredibly different individuals have to deal with. In Vertigo, Jimmy Stewart aka Scottie Ferguson has his fear and physical problems with high places exploited. This exploitation leads to murder and retribution. In Lifeboat, a number of survivors of a U-Boat attack are forced to cope with being at sea in a drifting lifeboat, without adequate provisions, and with the prospect of being lost. Hitchcock loved to create suspense with stress.  The survivors must learn how to deal we each other and with the reality that their future depends on a Nazi within their midst.

In Rebecca, Notorious and Suspicion individual relationships are at the heart of ongoing stress, fear, and hyper-anxiety. These films, which take place in the mid-1940s and all create difficulties for the women with their lovers/husbands. In both Rebecca and Suspicion the audience is never sure until the end of the film what will happen to the suffering wife. In both films, Hitchcock is forced to compromise the original author’s intent, and soften the conclusions. In Notorious, we are led into a tangled web of love, marriage, alienation, spying and international politics. In this treatment, the heroine, Ingrid Bergman/Alicia Huberman is basically forced to marry and spy on a man she does not love. Her safety and well-being becomes almost immediately compromised and her real lover, Cary Grant/TR Devlin must decide where his loyalties lie, with her or her mission.

Of course, Hitchcock liked to deal with intrigue and The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Foreign Correspondent, North by Northwest, The Saboteur and Sabotage all deal with intrigue, spies, espionage and intrigue. In each one, other than Sabotage, the victim is a man or a women, who must convince their casual acquaintance of their sanity and innocence. In each situation, not only is their mental well-being questioned but, their “strange” tale must also be eventually accepted. Aside from that problem, there is always greater threat to life and limb which has to be confronted and eliminated.

Hitchcock, who is married to Alma Reville, a woman he met in his early days as a film maker, has long indulged in fantasy world revolving around many of his leading ladies from; Madeline Carroll, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Fontaine, Doris Day, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, to Tippi Hedren. This so-called obsession, seen as a pseudo-sexual longing, often strained their long marriage and working relationship. How profound it really was, is never really understood or even articulated. For sure, Hitchcock himself always seem to believe that eating and often gluttony, was a wonderful counter balance to the lack of sexual activity and experimentation.

After a long, unique and incredible career, Hitchcock, who goes through many psychological changes, reaches his peak of success with Psycho, the suspense thriller dealing with split-personality and misogynist violence. This film, which was released in 1960, seemed to mark a strong artistic and financial rebound for Hitchcock. But, over the last twenty years of his life, he would fail to reach the success of Psycho, no less his earlier work.  The Birds, Torn Curtain, Marnie, Frenzy, Topaz and others, never were able to resonate strongly with more modern audiences, but to the end of his life, Hitchcock was always seeking that new blockbuster. In the movie bio-pic, with Anthony Hopkins, one gets the impression that Hitchcock risked all for the making of Psycho, but in reality he was quite rich from his decades of successful work, and despite his luxurious tastes, his investments were incredibly successful. At his death, in 1980, he left a considerable fortune of over $20 millions.

The New Deal and Infrastructure

The amount of infrastructure projects of the WPA included 40,000 new and 85,000 improved buildings. These new buildings included 5,900 new schools; 9,300 new auditoriums, gyms, and recreational buildings; 1,000 new libraries; 7,000 new dormitories; and 900 new armories. In addition, infrastructure projects included 2,302 stadiums, grandstands, and bleachers; 52 fairgrounds and rodeo grounds; 1,686 parks covering 75,152 acres; 3,085 playgrounds; 3,026 athletic fields; 805 swimming pools; 1,817 handball courts; 10,070 tennis courts; 2,261 horseshoe pits; 1,101 ice-skating areas; 138 outdoor theatres; 254 golf courses; and 65 ski jumps. Total expenditures on WPA projects through June 1941, totaled approximately $11.4 billion. Over $4 billion was spent on highway, road, and street projects; more than $1 billion on public buildings.

The PWA epitomized the progressive notion of “priming the pump” to encourage economic recovery. Between July 1933 and March 1939 the PWA funded and administered the construction of more than 34,000 projects including airports, large electricity-generating dams, major warships for the Navy, and bridges, as well as 70% of the new schools and one-third of the hospitals built between 1933–1939.

Streets and highways were the most common PWA projects, as 11,428 road projects, or 33% of all PWA projects, accounted for over 15% of its total budget. School buildings, 7,488 in all, came in second at 14% of spending. PWA functioned chiefly by making allotments to the various Federal agencies; making loans and grants to state and other public bodies; and making loans without grants (for a brief time) to the railroads. For example it provided funds for the Indian Division of the CCC to build roads, bridges and other public works on and near Indian reservations.
The PWA became, with its “multiplier-effect” and first two-year budget of $3.3 billion (compared to the entire GDP of $60 billion), the driving force of America’s biggest construction effort up to that date.

By June 1934 the agency had distributed its entire fund to 13,266 federal projects and 2,407 non-federal projects. For every worker on a PWA project, almost two additional workers were employed indirectly. The PWA accomplished the electrification of rural America, the building of canals, tunnels, bridges, highways, streets, sewage systems, and housing areas, as well as hospitals, schools, and universities; every year it consumed roughly half of the concrete and a third of the steel of the entire nation.

Some of the most famous PWA projects are the Triborough Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City, the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington state, the longest continuous sidewalk in the world along 6½ miles of Bayshore Blvd. in Tampa, Florida, and the Overseas Highway connecting Key West, Florida, to the mainland. The PWA also electrified the Pennsylvania Railroad between New York and Washington, DC. At the local level it built courthouses, schools, hospitals and other public facilities that remain in use in the 21st century.

FDR and the Jews!

FDR and His Family and Friends:

Franklin Roosevelt grew up in a home with people who were products of the mid-19th century, but neither his father James, who was born in 1828, nor his mother Sara who was born in 1854, (1854-1941) exhibited any overt racial or religious prejudice. The senior Mr. James Roosevelt (1828-1900) dealt with Jews through his business interests and Jews were welcomed in his home. In 1933 Sara Roosevelt asked her friend New York Judge Benjamin Greenspan (famous for ruling in favor of the publication of the book G-d’s Little Acre) if she could attend an Orthodox Jewish service with his four children. She went and was “so thrilled and talked and talked about it, and the sincere piety shown by his children.” (Sara and Eleanor, page 288.) When some of her old acquaintances criticized her “for the type of people” she knew, her answer was “Oh, dear, I suppose I should change my ways and learn to be a snob.” (Sara and Eleanor, page 304.)

“In April of 1938 Sara humbly accepted the Einstein Medal for Humanitarianism, given by the Jewish Forum in honor of her broad sympathy and activities in alleviating the conditions of all people throughout the world who suffer from poverty, oppression and hatred” (Sara and Eleanor page 309.) Later in October of 1938, Sara Roosevelt became active in the effort to save German Jews and was in direct contract with the Women of the League for the Honor of Israel, regarding getting more orphaned Jews into the United States.

In 1940 for the second year in a row, Sara attended the large mother-daughter Hadassah tea for the purpose of aiding Palestine projects, including the resettlement off Jews escaping from Germany and Poland. Hadassah planted 700 trees in the Sara Delano Roosevelt Grove with monies from the previous event. Hadassah was able to resettle over 250,000 Jews and created orphanages to care for 9000 children. Among the many people attending the tea were her biographer and confidant Rita Kleeman, a Jewish woman, several members of the Warburg family and the mother of George Gershwin. She gave money to many organizations including the National Jewish Hospital. She was guest of honor at a dinner in 1940 of Youth Aliyah, which supported the transport of Jewish children to Palestine, and then at age 85 she traveled to Ontario to address the Toronto Hadassah meeting. (Sara and Eleanor, Jan Pottker) Right up until her death in 1941 she was concerned about the problems of refugee Jews in Europe.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s activities had a great influence on FDR. Though the Roosevelt’s did not usually socialize with people outside of their class, they started to understand at first hand the inequities of society. Interestingly when one reads their early letters, it is Eleanor who expresses her disdain regarding the materialism of many of the nouveau riches Jews of the period. Throughout her life she would shy away from the symbols and trappings of the upper classes. In a sense, she had inherited from her Uncle, and not from her drunken loutish father, the sense of the “rugged life.” In her early letters she specifically did not like Bernard Baruch and Felix Frankfurter, who were early associates of her husband.

FDR was never quoted in any way, shape or form in a prejudicial manner. Did he have prejudices, of course! But in all of his writings (which we know were always carefully written with careful considerations) FDR never lowered himself to the level that others of his time often did. FDR had few if any friends his whole lifetime. He wasn’t bred to have friends, and for sure, after his affliction with polio, the few he had from his earlier days were either gone, dead or forgotten.

But amongst the few he may have had, he always called Henry Morgenthau his friend. Of course, in truth, Morgenthau knew FDR quite well, and knew that he depended on no one for friendship. People were associated with FDR, no one controlled his views, and he was highly influenced by Theodore Roosevelt, Al Smith and Woodrow Wilson in that order. Later on, he became very dependent on many inside advisors, of which many, were Jews and many, had an excellent working relationship with him. But in fact, his inside circle was small; Louis Howe, (Livingston “Livy” Davis, before his Presidency), Missy LeHand, and Harry Hopkins. They were his only (Livingston Davis a friend from Harvard) four intimates and the four never talked or wrote about anything regarding FDR before their deaths. So stating for the record, FDR was not a prejudicial man! In fact, in 1944, FDR went on the record with his calling for Palestine to be the location of a Jewish Homeland.

In those early days there is no evidence of FDR’s antipathy towards Jews or any other group. True, at Harvard as an undergraduate, there is no evidence that he came in contact with any Jews. He was active in campus politics and spent an extra year there to edit the Harvard Crimson. Later, after graduation, he attended Columbia Law School and had a number of Jews in his class. One Jewish fellow student commented that he did not like Roosevelt, but there seems to be scant evidence that they had much contact, since FDR missed a great many classes in the two years he was there.

FDR and Zionism:

FDR steadfastly supported Zionism throughout most of his career. In those tumultuous eight years that culminated with our entry in to World War I, FDR became active in both national and international politics. After the war, he attended the Versailles Peace Conference in Paris and became familiar with the problem of Palestine, the ensuing Mandate, and the cause of Zionism. Here he met Benjamin V. Cohen who was the counsel for the American Zionist movement (1919-21). Later, Cohen would come to Washington D.C. and work for FDR and the New Deal. Cohen and his famous partner, the lawyer Thomas Corcoran would author all of the early Securities Laws that were the cornerstone of the famous “First 100 Days” of legislation.

Roosevelt became a supporter of the Zionist Movement from that period through the rest of his life. Cohen would be an unofficial advisor to FDR on the issue of Zionism throughout their relationship in Washington.

American Zionists led by Stephen Wise, Abba Hillel Silver, (1893-1963 US Rabbi, Zionist Leader, chief spokesman in front of the UN on the Palestine Hearings, 1947) Julian W. Mack (1866-1943, American jurist and Zionist leader) and behind the scenes Louis D. Brandeis, (1856-1941, Supreme Court Justice 1916-1939, Zionist advocate) for the most part considered FDR a friend to their cause. During World War II meetings with the British (The Bermuda Refugee Conference of 1943) they insisted that Palestine not be even on the agenda. In the last few months of his life, and after the Yalta Conference in the Crimea, he met with King Ibn Sa’ud, who impressed on him the Arab hostility towards Zionism. In his report to Congress on March 1, 1945; Roosevelt declared that he had learned “more about the ‘Moslem problem,’ with a Jewish state, by talking with Ibn Sa’ud for five minutes” than he had ever known before. (Franklin D. Roosevelt his Life and Times, edited by Otis Graham Jr. and Meghan Robinson Wander, GK Hall & Co., 1985.) Basically, what he was saying, that for the first time he really learned the abject hostility of the Arabs towards Jews. Most histories ignore Sa’ud’s real words about Jews!

Of course, in the last few months of his life, FDR did assure both the Zionists in America of his continued support and the British and the Arabs that he would not unilaterally force a Zionist state on them without their consent. This dualism is not easily answered. In a sense FDR was continuing his balancing act with his British Allies. He understood their deep reliance on both India and their long relationship with the Arabs. Certainly he wanted not to threaten their unity with extraneous issues not related to winning the war in both Europe and Japan. He was unaware that the Atomic Bomb would be successfully tested in the coming months, and therefore he looked forward to a long bitter and bloody struggle to subdue and conquer Japan. Roosevelt was also exhausted by his 12,000+ mile trip back and forth to Yalta. FDR, by that time he had been quite sick for almost a year, and the stress regarding his campaign for re-election in 1944, along with the pressures of the war, were taking a great toll on him. In a sense, he was trying to focus on the continued effort leading to victory and he would let nothing else interfere with that goal.

FDR, Jewish Appointments and his Relationships with Jews:

Turning first to his economic advisors called the Brain Trust, FDR closed the Banks, restructured their debt, and started on what is called today the “100 Days.” As part of this activity he called upon Felix Frankfurter, of the Harvard Law School to start sending young lawyers down to Washington to staff the emerging New Deal. Roosevelt used many of the young Jewish lawyers, labor leaders and intellectuals to turn our society around. People like Herbert Wechsler, David Reisman, Robert Stern, Paul Freund, Milton Katz, Milton Freeman, Charles Kaufman, Arthur Goldschmidt, Wilbur Cohen, Edward Bernstein, Abe Fortas, Dorothy Rosenmen, Jerome Frank, David Lilienthal, Isador Lubin, Nathan Margold, Lee Pressman and Paul Herzog among many others became famous as Felix’s hotdogs.

FDR also leaned on his strong relationship with Jews throughout his whole political life: Bernard Baruch, Henry Morgenthau, his Secretary of Treasury, David Niles, Anna Rosenberg, Herbert Lehman, Governor of New York, later US Senator, and the aforementioned Frankfurter, Ben Cohen, and Judge Rosenman. With regard to his associations with Jews, they were novel and advanced for the period. Again, he had an “open” friendship with Henry Morgenthau who served in his cabinet for 12 years. Eleanor Roosevelt was also quite close to Elinor Morgenthau, the Secretary of Treasury’s wife.

Henry Morgenthau Jr., suffered, in the cabinet from being a Jew and a confidant of FDR. Many of his contemporaries felt they could not deal with him and FDR on an even footing.  FDR appointed many, many Jews to high office, and had a comfortable, but distant relationship with most of his contemporaries. FDR was a secretive man, who always said, “I never let the right hand know what the left hand is doing.” He had a small circle of intimates who loyally worked for him. Almost all were paragons of discretion. He trusted Jews and one of his most famous statements came when he was asked about whether Truman would be acceptable as a vice-presidential running mate. He said “Clear it with Sidney!” (Sidney “Simcha” Hillman, president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, a labor advisor to FDR, and director of the CIO-Pac.)

Jews made up 3% of the population in the 1930’s but the New Deal, called the “Jew Deal” by anti-Semites, who often referred to FDR as that Jew “Rosenfelt,” but made up 15% of his administration. (FDR was elected with approximately 70% of the Jewish vote in 1932, and by 1944 he received over 93% of that vote.) FDR appointed, cumulatively, more Jews to office than all the previous 31 administrations and all that followed until the Clinton Administration!

FDR’s willingness to work closely with Jews and even had them routinely staying with him at the White House or Hyde Park seemed to puzzle his most admiring neighbors. One of them did his earnest best to explain this phenomenon to his son- “It just goes to show you how smart FDR is to have all those smart Jews working for him!”

With regard to foreign policy, as it related to Jews, Roosevelt quite often leaned upon his personal relationship with Rabbi Stephen Wise. Wise brought up the subject of Jewish immigration with FDR as early as 1933 and the unfilled immigration quotas. But immigration was an extremely sensitive issue in the United States during the Depression Years. As Hitler consolidated his power in Germany more and more anti-Semitic legislation was drafted and passed in Germany. This intense climate of persecution started to cause Jewish emigration out of Germany. By the start of World War II almost 80% of all German Jews had left.

The Divided Jewish Community and the Goldberg Report:

In America there was great opposition to any type of immigration during the Depression, because of welfare, unemployment, and the opposition of the labor unions. There also has been an ongoing controversy over how much the American Jewish community did for European Jewry before the war. In 1984, a commission, Chaired by former UN Ambassador and Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, (1908-1990, Secretary of Labor 1961, Supreme Court Justice 1962-65, UN Ambassador 1965-8) came to the stark conclusion that American Jewish groups did not do enough. Though there was controversy over the harshness of the report, the final report, approved by the commission and written by Professor Seymour Finger (1915-1990, Head of International Studies at CCNY 1972-81, former diplomat, Senior Fellow at the Ralph Bunche Institute, author of American Jewry in the Holocaust, 1984) of the Graduate School of the City University, concluded that the failure of Jewish organizations was a result of disunity, under-financing, and lack of political influence. Moreover their leaders were afraid of stirring up anti-Semitism in the United States and impeding the Allied war effort. Ambassador Goldberg said, “That the failure to act forcefully hurt most in the years between Hitler’s ascent to power and America’s entry into WWII.” Again this was a consequence that resulted from a “divided” Jewish community. Some were like all Americans; they did not want more hungry-mouthed immigrants. Others, feeling the sting of American anti-Semitism, feared an escalation of hatred coming from xenophobic anti-Semitic nativist groups. There were also some, but very few, who were prejudiced against Eastern European Jews.

The Bombing of Auschwitz:

According to Martin Gilbert, (1936- ) the renowned British historian, and greatest living expert on the Holocaust, even though the Allies knew that Jews were being killed and that there were “death camps’ that were facilitating that effort, the location of the main terminus at Auschwitz-Birkenau was never identified until mid-1944. After an incredible effort, staged by volunteers of the Jewish Agency to penetrate the transportation cattle cars, evidence reached the World Jewish Congress. With this evidence, the Jewish Congress was able to warn the Allies about the Nazi’s intentions to deport the 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz. This was the last large remaining group of Jews to be deported. Warnings went out by President Roosevelt and with simultaneous and coincidental bombings of Budapest and many of their public buildings; the Hungarian Fascist government did attempt to slow down the deportation. But, later on, after a hiatus of a few months, and under pressure from the German authorities, and the overthrow of the Hungarian Regent Admiral Horthy (1868-1957, Regent of Hungary until 1944), deportations began with earnest.

With regard to the issue of possible Allied bombing of “death camps,” in retrospect, there is no evidence that either the bombing of Auschwitz would have ended the killing or even retarded it. Mainstream Jewish opinion was against the bombing of those facilities even after they were identified as “death camps’ rather than as “work camps.”  Only President Roosevelt or General Eisenhower could have ordered the bombing and there is no record of any kind that indicates that either one was ever asked to issue such an order, even though Jewish leaders of all persuasion had clear access to them both. In a similar vein, the bombing raids on the IG Farben/Monowitz production plants succeeded in hitting only 2.2% of the targeted buildings. Martin Gilbert points out that the details and the secret nature of Auschwitz and even its name were not confirmed until the escape of two prisoners in April 1944, two years after the murderous process had begun. It would be folly to believe that FDR was besieged by Jewish leaders, led by Secretary Morgenthau, urging him to bomb Auschwitz. In fact, no mainstream Jewish leader or organization made that request. On August 9, 1944, the first such request came to John McCloy, (1895-1989) the Assistant Secretary of War (1941-5), regarding the bombing of Auschwitz, by Leon Kubowitzki, head of the Rescue Committee of the World Jewish Congress, in which he forwarded, without endorsement, a request from Mr. Ernest Frischer of the Czechoslovak State Council (in London exile.) Ironically Mr. Kubowitzki argued against the bombing of Auschwitz because “the first victims will be Jews.” With regard to whether John McCloy ever actually asked FDR about the bombing, there is no evidence of any meeting and no evidence in any of his extensive interviews or in his personal papers that the subject was brought up. But, in a book, “The Conquerors,” by Michael Beschloss, he asserts that John McCloy had told Henry Morgenthau III, that he had asked FDR about bombing the camps.

“By early June, when over one-third of the remaining Hungarian Jewish community had been deported to Auschwitz, Jacob Rosenheim, a leader of the world’s orthodox Jews, and others wrote Morgenthau, the War Department and Joseph Pehle of the War Refugee Board imploring them to bomb the railway lines from Hungary to the death camp at Auschwitz.” Joseph Pehle, who was a great advocate for the Jews, wrote McCloy expressing his doubts about the about bombing of Auschwitz. The War Refugee Board determined that the bombing of the tracks would do little to stop the killing, because they would be swiftly repaired. Later McCloy used about the same language and rationale to veto any further requests to bomb Auschwitz itself. (The Conquerors, by Michael Beschloss, page 64.)

For decades after World War II, McCloy insisted that he had never talked to the President on that subject. He told Washington Post reporter Morton Mintz in 1983 that he never talked with FDR about the subject.  Even David Wyman, in his 1984 book, The “Abandonment of the Jews,” wrote that the bombing requests “almost certainly” did not reach Roosevelt. Later McCloy, in an interview in 1986, three years before his death, had an unpublished exchange with Henry Morgenthau III, who was researching his book, Mostly Morganthaus, claimed that he had spoken to FDR about the bombing of Auschwitz, Supposedly FDR “made it very clear” to him that the bombing would do no good, and “we would have been accused of destroying Auschwitz by bombing these innocent people.” Of course McCloy was telling this to Morgenthau’s son, decades after his father, Henry Jr. had referred to him as an “oppressor of the Jews.” Maybe McCloy’s true feelings were exposed when he also stated to Morganthau’s son, “I didn’t want to bomb Auschwitz…It seemed to be a bunch of fanatic Jews who deemed that if you didn’t bomb, it was an indication of lack of venom against Hitler…” (The Conquerors, Michael Beschloss, page 65-7.)

David Ben-Guriun, (1886-1973, Prime Minister of Israel 1949-63) the Chairman of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem, and later the first Prime Minister of Israel, in June of 1944, responded to a proposal that the Allies be asked to bomb the extermination camps. At a meeting presided over by Ben-Gurion, the Jewish Agency voted eleven to one against the bombing proposal.

There is no doubt that according to intelligent reports, “It is clear from this analysis that nothing was known by those (Allied Combined Intelligence Unit who prepared a Top Secret report on the principal sites of German synthetic oil production. At Auschwitz-Monowitz. It was clear, ‘progress has been made with the construction’ of the Buna plant.”) of the purpose, or role of Birkenau and its sidings.” (Auschwitz and the Allies, by Martin Gilbert, Henry Holt, 1981, page 331.)

In other words there were many air reconnaissance photos taken over the area that included Auschwitz, and there were also numerous raids, late in 1944, directed at the various known industrial plants in the near vicinity, like the synthetic oil production plant at Monowitz. But unfortunately when Allied long-range bombers were able to make flights from our airbase in Foggia, Italy, with log-range fighter support, they were unaware of what was going on down below in the “death camps.” Could they then have bombed the marshalling yards at Birkenau? Yes, they could have, but by that time all activity had really ceased and the Germans by November 29, 1944 were dismantling the crematoria at Auschwitz, and making efforts to re-locate, or kill the balance of the Jews that remained. By the December 27th roll call, 18,751 Jews remained. In fact during some of those late December days when the crematoria was being dismantled, errant bombs dropped by Allied raiders did hit Auschwitz, killing some German guards.

Also, with regard to the bombing of railroad tracks, leading to any of the known “death camps,” no Axis trains were able to run during daylight, for fear of destruction from the air. Tracks were virtually impossible to hit from high-level strategic bombing. Even when individual tracks were hit and destroyed they were almost immediately repaired. Low-level medium bomber and fighters had a greater effect on rail lines but they did not have the range to hit rail targets in Poland. Most of the important railroad destruction came with massive continual strategic daylight bombing of marshaling yards near railroad stations. The effect on this type of bombing was worthwhile, but German work crews, numbering thousands, would spend the nights repairing these yards. Remember, as Martin Gilbert points out, “the details and even the name of Auschwitz were not confirmed until the escape of two prisoners in April, 1944.” The Nazis treated the Auschwitz, like every other extermination camp, as a top-secret project.

The Morgenthau Plan:

Franklin Roosevelt was a confirmed “German-hater.” He told the NY Times in August 1944, “If I had my way, I would keep Germany on a breadline for 25 years!” He wrote Cordell Hull, (1871-1955, US Secretary of State 1933-44) “Every person in Germany should realize that this time Germany is a defeated nation… and that the whole nation has been engaged in a lawless conspiracy against the decency of modern civilization.” It was FDR who advocated, against the wishes of Winston Churchill (1874-1965) the policy of “unconditional surrender” and a tough peace. He said that Germany should be dismembered and their leaders punished. Roosevelt never rejected the “Morgenthau Plan” that called for the economic destruction of post-war Germany, authored by Henry M. Morgenthau. Even when Secretary of War Stimson (1867-1950, US Secretary of War 1940-45) took a softer line and complained about its brutality to the President, he found FDR unwavering in its support, for the concept of a destroyed industrial state, surviving only on agriculture. Whether the plan was sensible or not, or whether the plan was even viable, Truman scrapped the plan and accused Morgenthau of Jewish vindictiveness. Both Truman and Stimson agreed that no Jews, especially Morgenthau, should be at any peace conference determining the fate of Germany

The Holocaust was the fault and creation of the Nazis, and with the prevailing anti-Semitic opinions of Europeans of that era, and their relatives in the United States, any ability to prevent it, short of world war, was impossible. Ironically, with all that Hitlerism stood for, a large majority of Jews escaped or were chased out of pre-WWII Germany. The thought that a war of extermination against the Jews would ensue once hostilities existed was beyond anyone’s thinking. In fact, until the Wansee Conference, January 20, 1942, there was no established plan regarding the “Final Solution.” Yes, the Nazis had murdered many Jews in Poland, the Baltic States and through their rampage into the Soviet Union, but it wasn’t until millions of Jews became under their control that their plans for Jewish annihilation was set. Therefore, again, who knew their plans in 1937, though the invasion of Poland and onward?

FDR allowed Secretary of Treasury Morgenthau to attend the Quebec Conference with Winston Churchill, and to promote his idea, the Morgenthau Plan, for the dismantling and dismemberment of Germany and turning it into a collection of agricultural states. Of course, whether that really would have happened is pure conjecture. FDR did listen to Morgenthau and his ideas on Germany. FDR literally forced a reluctant Churchill to sign off on the Morgenthau Plan.

FDR was the sole author and original advocate of the “Unconditional Surrender” edict, against Churchill’s wishes. When the news of the Quebec Conference was revealed to the world, Joseph Goebbels, (1897-1945) the Propaganda Minister of Nazi Germany, exploited the news from Quebec and the revelation of the Morgenthau Plan and Churchill’s endorsement. No matter how it was accomplished, Churchill initialed the Morgenthau Plan for post-war Germany. Goebbels claimed, “Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to the Jewish murder plan.” German radio announced that Roosevelt’s “bosom” friend Henry Morgenthau, the “spokesman of world Judaism” was singing the same song as the Jews in the Kremlin,”- dismember Germany, destroy its industry and “exterminate forty-three million Germans.” (The Conquerors, by Michael Beschloss, page 144.)

FDR and the Subject of the Murdering of Jews:

With regards to the claim that FDR did not identify Jews specifically in the repeated Allied war warnings that the Nazis, collectively and individually, would be held accountable for their barbaric crimes, that is not true. There was a time earlier in the war when it was thought best not to identify the Jews specifically in the reporting of Nazi crimes. Interestingly, it was Churchill who started this practice of not drawing attention to the Jews, for fear it would be seen as special pleading and would fuel Nazi propaganda.

“In 1942 FDR made it clear through governmental statements and messages to the mass rallies organized in those years that Nazis would be held collectively and individually accountable for their crimes against the Jews.” Even with this strong statement, Rabbi Stephen Wise, head of the American Jewish Congress, prevailed upon Felix Frankfurter to visit with FDR in September of 1942 and to remonstrate with the President. According to Frankfurter the President had assured him that most of the deportations of Jews was for forced labor. The decision to exterminate every Jew in Europe, and millions of others was only taken at Wannsee in January 1942, when almost all doors had been closed… (Franklin D. Roosevelt, Champion of Freedom, Conrad Black, page 815). (I have no idea over the veracity of this account. FDR certainly knew this was not true as indicated by his June 1942 statement, and by the various news reports. Also Frankfurter knew it was not true that there were mostly deportations for the purpose of forced labor.)

In 1944, FDR, in his statement to the people of the United States and of Europe, on March 24th, said, “In one of the blackest crimes of all history—begun by the Nazis in the days of peace and multiplied by them a hundred times in time of war- the wholesale systematic murder of the Jews of Europe goes unabated every hour…it is therefore fitting that we should proclaim our determination that none who participate in these acts of savagery shall go unpunished…That warning applies not only to the leaders but also to their functionaries and subordinates in Germany and in the satellite countries. All who knowingly take part in the deportation of Jews to their death in Poland or Norwegians and French to their death in Germany are equally guilty with the executioner. All who share the guilt shall share the punishment.” (Comments on Michael Beschloss’ “The Conquerors,” by William vanden Heuval.

In summation, with all we know today, could the Holocaust been avoided? Could many more Jews have been saved? Who bears responsibility for this chain of events that destroyed not only 6 million Jews, but also 61 million others? Was the West partially at fault?

Only the early destruction of Hitler and his Nazi brigands could have prevented most, if not the entire Holocaust. How that could have been accomplished will be debated forever. Could the West have saved more Jews? Yes! Could the West have saved more of the Eastern European Jewish community? In most cases very little of the eastern European Jewish community could have been saved. Would massive bombing of the “death camps” saved Jews? In retrospect the destruction of Auschwitz would have backed up the timetable of death quite a bit. Would that have helped? Probably so! But, all in all, Lucy Dawidowicz, the author and an imminent expert on the Holocaust wrote that “killing the Jews” was a war aim of the Nazis and nothing but destroying the Nazis would have put a halt to that effort. Certainly once the war was begun, and Europe was overrun little could be done. But French complicity in the hunting down, and deportation of Jews is a great stain on the West. Also the fact that the French hid behind their so-called vaunted Maginot Line, when Germany attacked Poland contributed to the success of Germany and sealed the fate of Europe’s Jews.

In retrospect, there some obvious conclusions that can be drawn regarding the above questions. More Jews could have been rescued by a greater effort by the United States. Every extra Jew saved would have been a “blessing,” but attitudes in America, from all quarters, were against immigration, certainly not pro-Jewish and certainly against a unilateral effort by the President to get us into the war, especially on behalf of the Jews. Divided Jewish thinking in this country also hindered the effort to change public opinion to force a greater and more overt effort to rescue Jews. Could more Jews have been rescued by an easing of immigration laws from Eastern Europe? Probably not! They had no access to freedom, they were overrun quickly in Poland, and they had little help from unfriendly fascist allied governments in the neighboring countries. In the Soviet Union they had no thoughts or ability to leave Russia or the Ukraine even if they wanted to.

Immigration; a Secret Conspiracy to Keep the Jews out of the US:

Was the President complicit in a “secret” conspiracy to keep Jews out of the United States? Assuredly no! FDR was again much more focused on the problem of keeping England in the war against Germany. All of his efforts were to keep the Congress and the military supplying Britain with the “tools of war.” He knew that he must make America “The Arsenal of Democracy” first.

Were the Jews a victim of domestic American politics? There is no doubt that FDR, under the pressure from the America First xenophobes, who were loosely aligned with the Liberty Lobby, and other anti-interventionist groups, understood the problem facing the future of the United States. He also knew that to make an issue out of Jewish immigration, or to be seen as leaning over to help non-English speaking foreigners was political suicide. He felt that he needed to be able to build an argument based on American self-interest. Would an effort by him to ease Jewish or other refugee immigration restrictions hurt his re-election bid in 1940? Probably yes! Even later in the war when the effort was made to bring Jewish children into the country on a humanitarian basis, the Congress balked. On the other hand, the Congress never balked when it came to British children. Roosevelt only ran for a third term with the idea of being the only one who could eventually save this country from eventually falling under the “boot” of fascist oppression. In retrospect, none of the contenders for the nomination of the presidency in 1940 had shown any proclivity, in their careers, to be pro-Jewish or certainly pro-interventionist. Whether his successor would have been Taft, Willkie, Garner, Farley, or someone else, there was no indication that anyone of them would have even continued support for Britain, no less worked to ease immigration quotas. Roosevelt took great risks opposing the “neutrality” laws, backing “Lend-Lease,” arming our freighters and sending out our fleet into the Atlantic to fight an undeclared naval war against Germany. But until Pearl Harbor, the America public stood wholeheartedly against going to war, no matter how great the potential threat. After Pearl Harbor all things changed. The United States, under the inspirational leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt was able to mobilize and unite the country into a mighty force.

Immigration and the US Attitudes:

As early as 1924 there were very strict immigration laws regarding National Origin. In 1930, because of the severity of the economic depression, President Herbert Hoover ordered the State Department, whose Consular Division issued entry visas to applicants, to be quite strict in enforcing restrictions against persons “likely to be become a public charge.” Unfortunately when it came to Jews these actions were taken with unusual severity. Under FDR, Breckinridge Long, (1881-1958) who headed that division of the State Department, and who had wide spread Congressional support, exercised tremendous prejudice against Jews when it came to visa applications. He did not believe that there was a “universal right of anyone to enter the United States.” The Roosevelt Administration admitted over 90,000 German Jews, about 18 percent of the Jewish prewar German population. Long disliked and resented Jewish and Catholic leaders and felt they all hated him. In the summer of 1940 he wrote a memo to James Dunn and Adolph Berle (1895-1971, former member of the “Brain Trust”, asst. Secretary of State 1938-44) that he advised our counselor people overseas to “put every obstacle in the away of and to require additional evidence and to resort to various administrative devices which would postpone, and postpone the granting of visas.” (Franklin Roosevelt, Champion of Freedom, Conrad Black, page 815.) Author Conrad Black believes that FDR must have been aware of Long’s actions. But of course there is no proof of that. But even though the Wannsee Meeting wasn’t to be held until 16 months later there was a profound amount of Nazi murders of Jews, and there was an opportunity during that period to get more Jews out of Europe.

Only when Secretary Morgenthau became aware of Long’s actions did he come straight to the President. With that knowledge at hand, FDR created by Executive Order the War Refugee Board. In January of 1944, this Board was to facilitate and attempt to rescue any and all refugees that could be reached. Again it is hard to believe that FDR was really aware of Long’s actions, and by that time (1942-3) there would be no real purpose for him to support those actions.

Immigration, the Quotas, the Cellar and Wagner Bills:

With respect to America’s xenophobia regarding the Jews, immigration and our entrance into World War II short of being attacked, in 1937 two out of five Americans voiced anti-Jewish sentiment. In March of 1938, 41% of Americans believed that Jews had too much power, and 50% believed that they were to blame for their own persecution. After the German invasion of Austria and the resulting Anschluss, FDR asked for a greater expansion of the German immigration quota, Congress rebuffed him. Regarding this effort, when Congressmen Emmanuel Cellar of NY, and Adolph Sabath (1866-1952, Member of Congress for 44 years) of Ill., introduced a bill to increase the quota, they were told by their southern colleagues, that if they continued their efforts, the quota would be removed by Congress. Their bill was withdrawn. Ironically when there was talk of opening the quotas or increasing them, almost all of the European countries demanded an “equal” opportunity to deport their “Jews” to the United States. In a sense it spread the virus of “Judenrein” which the Nazis had originally authored. When Senator Robert F. Wagner, Sr., (1877-1953, US Senator from NY 1927-49) proposed a bill, with Congresswoman Edith Rogers, to bring German refugee children into the United States (20,000 who were understood to be almost all Jewish), the bill was forced to be withdrawn for lack of support. Later a bill to allow English children to come to the United States sailed through without opposition. A poll of Southern Democratic Representatives and Senators regarding the Wagner-Rogers Bill, reflected their opposition to by 0-223. When it came to Lend Lease, these same Congressman favored it 223-0.

Americans were so opposed to intervening on behalf of Britain that in the last Gallup Poll taken in November, 1941, before the attack on Pearl Harbor, 90% of the public said that American should not physically help Britain even it meant their invasion and collapse! Actually between 1933 and 1937 only 40,000 Jews came legally to the United States, of course many had left Germany for other countries, never expecting their lives to be threatened outside of Hitler’s grasp. Also, please note, that in the early years of the FDR Administration; 1933, 4, 5, and before the enactment of the restrictive German racial laws, requests for visas from German Jews were much less and the quotas were not filled.  One national poll in 1938, reflected that over 77% of the American population did not want one more German Jew allowed into the country.

Most Jews never anticipated a world war and they surely never expected to be victims of the “Final Solution.” After Kristallnacht, almost all Jews filled the American national origin quota and over 110,000 Jews legally immigrated to the United States. In fact during those years over half of the immigrants to the United States were Jewish. There was also much illegal immigration and the administration did not make an effort to prevent it from happening.

From a political perspective Roosevelt was being attacked from all quarters on his international positions. Knowing the American people were against any type of immigration he urged the British to allow more Jews into Palestine. In that regard FDR attempted to bring worldwide attention to the need to find places of refuge for Jewish immigrants. In 1938, President Roosevelt proposed a major conference to discuss aiding refugees, and the United States invited twenty-nine nations to meet that summer at Evian-les-Baines, France. But nothing of value came from the meeting. Of course there was no war going on, so there was no concept of an immediate threat to the life and limb of European Jewry. The book, co-authored by Richard Breitman, “Refugees and Rescue, the Diary and Papers of James G. McDonald, 1935-1945,” goes a long way to explain FDR’s secret and behind the scenes efforts to save Jews in the period before the start of WWII,” I suggest many read it! Subsequently Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman, in their book, “FDR and the Jews,” discusses many of these same issue

The Saint Louis and Cuba: 

The German ship, “St. Louis” was one of three ships that brought passengers, including Jews, to Cuba at that time. Cuba, because of the influence of local Nazis, put onerous restrictions on Jewish immigration. Already 6000 Jewish immigrants were living in Cuba, most without legal documentation. Also a house-to-house check was being made for all German refugees and there was great fear from the Joint Distribution Committee in the United States that a pogrom was being planned if more Jews were granted asylum. When a $500 cash bond was put up for each passenger, amounting to $500,000, the Cubans refused. There were definitive conflicts between Batista and Manuel Benitez, who was receiving bribes for each illegal alien allowed into Cuba. Strongman Colonel Fulgencio Bastista wanted his “cut” or would end the practice. Two other ships had already just arrived, the British ship “Orduna” and the French ship, “Flanders.”  Within a twenty-four hour period more than 1200 refugees had arrived from three European ports. The Cubans had just passed a law limiting to 1500 the number of immigrants that could be yearly allowed to land. Eventually, after a collapse in negotiations, the ship left port and while off Florida, on June 4, the figurehead President Bru relented and said that they could land for $650 per head. The Joint Committee refused to pay the extra dollars. They thought there would be more ships and the price would continue to escalate. The “St. Louis,” amidst all of the negotiation with Cuban and the American officials, who were trying to get around our strict immigration laws, turned seaward to Germany. The JDC was besieged with criticism from the American Jewish community and its friends, but felt they were being blackmailed by the Cubans. It has been erroneously reported that the passengers were “returned to Germany and certain death for all abroad.”  Of the 936 Jews on board who had left Hamburg, 29 disembarked in Havana, 907 sailed back to Europe; 288 disembarked in England and lived through the Holocaust. The remaining 619 went to France, Belgium and Holland. The 392 of 619 who had disembarked at Antwerp, survived the war. The remaining 227 were murdered by the Nazis. The US Holocaust Museum estimates more than two-thirds of the passengers survived the war. Also, in June of 1939, it certainly was not yet the Holocaust. War had not been declared, over 75% of the Jews living in Germany, at the time of Hitler’s ascendancy to power, had either left Germany or had been forced out. German policy was “Judenrein” not extermination. Up until Kristalnacht, under 1000 Jews had been killed in Germany from 1933 until late 1938. Even up until the war, which started on September 3, 1939, relatively a small percentage of the remaining Jews from the 1930 population of 500,000 had been killed. In June of 1939, few in Europe really believed there would be a”real” war, no less World War. Few Jews, outside of Germany, thought their lives were eminently at risk, and the Low Countries and France were not invaded until the spring of 1940. Most Jews believed that Germany only was interested in ridding itself of Jews. But, it is true, that many Jews wished fervently to get out of Europe. These are incontrovertible facts reported in numerous histories of that era.

Was FDR Jewish or part Jewish?

When the question was brought up about his ancestry, he stated, “In the dim distant past my ancestors may have been Jews, Catholics or Protestants, but what I am more interested in is whether they were good citizens and believed in G-D. I hope they were both. (His Dutch progenitor was one Claes von Rosenvelt.) It seems both anti-Semites and the some Jews claim FDR was Jewish. Some Jews, out of some strange sense of ownership and or pride, want to claim that he was Jewish! FDR’s ancestor, Nicholas Martens, the son of Martin, had a charge of slander brought against him by Philip Teyler at the Council of New Netherlands in 1638. Whatever Martens had said against Teyler has not been recorded. The charge was dismissed. Nicholas Martens held his tongue for 11 years and over that period of time it is not recorded where he had been. He came back to New Amsterdam in 1649, bought a farm from one Lambert van Valkenburgh, and had a wife Jannetje. It would have been located between present day 4th Avenue (in 1942) and 29th Street in NYC. The farm was known as Rose Hill-maybe it was known also as the Field of Roses from Zeeland where he was born. This Nicholas Martens or as he was variously known as Claes, was also known as the “The Little One” because he was so big and strapping. The legend about him said that he was the son of Martin and Anna of the village of Het Rosen Velt (Field of Roses) on the island of Tholen, near Zeeland.

Therefore, from all evidence available, his name was taken, either in New Amsterdam (New York) or Holland, from the Dutch translation of a hill or field of roses, not a Jewish sounding derivative name like Rosenvelt. The Martens were Dutch Protestants in New Amsterdam from the 1640’s. There is no evidence that he or his forbearers were Jewish in Holland. FDR was certainly a believer in G-d, was somewhat influenced by the Reverend Endicott Peabody’s (headmaster at Groton) concept of Protestantism but did not have a consistent history of attending church services. As a young man he did tend to agree with his illustrious cousin Theodore Roosevelt that G-D looked favorably upon the United States, but nowhere does history seem to indicate that he had any sort of messianic complex. According to Conrad Black, in his book Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Champion of Freedom, he states, “Franklin D. Roosevelt’s G-d was indulgent but exacting, fair and condign and ultimately forgiving. Beyond this, his exact ecclesiastical views, like most of his inner thoughts, are indiscernible.”

As for Sara Delano, one ancestor of Sara was Richard Warren from London. He was a religious man, and was not a member of the Church of Leyden when he sailed on the Mayflower. He was a signer of the Compact. Another passenger on the Mayflower and a descendent of FDR was one Degory Priest, who had married Isaac Allerton’s sister Sarah. He died in the first winter and his widow married again and one of her daughters married a Frenchman named John Coombs. Among some of the other people that felt oppressed and settled in Leyden was a family of French origin named de la Noye. A son of that family; Philippe, eventually, after going from Leyden to England and then to the New World on the ship “Fortune,” married an English girl named Hester Dewsbury from Duxbury, Ma. After establishing himself in Duxbury, he answered the call by the Connecticut General Court to fight the Pequot Indians along with some 90 others and several hundred warriors from the Narragansett tribe. Under the influence of the English colonists with who he associated, his name soon lost its French spelling, and became Delano.

Basically, in conclusion, there is no evidence that his earliest recorded paternal ancestor, Claes Martens was Jewish or that his maternal descendants, Richard Warren or Phillipe de la Noye were Jewish either.

The Truman Myth:

In fact, Harry S Truman, a man revered by many Jews as a great friend of the Jewish people and the one who recognized the State of Israel, was from a virulently anti-Semitic background. Even though he had a Jewish partner in the haberdashery business, named Eddie Jacobson, he was never far from his anti-Semitic roots, as his letters attest. Even Truman, when told of the vast, but stilled generally hidden evidence of the massive killing machines of the “death camps,” initially stated, that “the Jews brought it upon themselves!” (Recently quoted from an article by William Safire in the summer of 2003.)

Truman’s partner Eddie Jacobson (who my grandfather knew quite well) owned a men’s clothing business in the early 1920s. I think he was always embarrassed by the constant reference to his former partnership. Also, remember their business went bankrupt Truman prided himself in making sure all of his creditors were paid back! I have no real idea whether Jacobson helped with that effort. I am sure Truman took a great deal of heat for that relationship from his family, in-laws and friends. With regards to Eddie Jacobson, (1891-1955), as his letters attest, Truman   had only a “cordial relationship with Jacobson- but (later) needed Jews for the 1948 nomination.” (Harry Truman and the Crisis Presidency, Bert Cochran, Harper & Row, 1973, page 96). The head of Truman’s financial team in the Midwest was a leading Zionist from Kansas City.

It was and is well known that his family, and that of his wife Bess, was at times, virulent anti-Semites. Truman was quite flattered, but not personally changed by all of the attention paid to him by the Jewish community. The Jews in the Democratic Party and the intellectual and labor circles certainly supported him. What else could they do, and where else could they go? He recognized Israel reluctantly against the advice of George Marshall and others. He hated the pressure that Jacobson brought on him and he berated him about using an emotional appeal. For years after Israel was recognized, Truman never spoke or saw Jacobson until they got together a few years before Jacobson’s death. I am sure that Truman felt that Jacobson had been paid back sufficiently and their relationship was closed. I watched interviews with HST very closely from the last years of his life. I waited in vain for any remark that favored Israel or reflected his support for the Jewish people or against anti-Semitism. I never remember any support or statement, made by him, in that vein. He had ample opportunity to capitalize on the adulation the Jewish community had given to him. He had ample opportunity to thank or compliment the Jewish community. He was quite silent on those subjects. He was too honest and non- hypocritical to send a “beau geste” to the Jews. Personally I believe he never really liked Jews, saw them as courtiers and sycophants or individuals with hidden agendas. He regarded himself as a very crafty experienced individual. His reputation was made in the Senate as the thrusting sword of the Truman Committee that spent its time investigating war profiteering and wartime government waste. (He may have come in contact with some Jews in that regard!)

I do know that some foolish Jews started to believe that FDR was anti-Semitic and that HST was their true liberal hero. Nothing could be further than the truth. FDR shunned his traditional class anti-Semitism that was rife at the time. His mother initially and Eleanor were not friendly towards Jews, but both came around to his thinking. FDR was never quoted in any way, shape or form in a prejudicial manor. Did he have prejudices, of course! But in all of his writings (which we know were always carefully written with the highest considerations) FDR never lowered himself to the level that Truman did constantly. In fact, in 1944 FDR went on the record with his calling for Palestine to be the location of a Jewish Homeland. Unfortunately Truman’s remarks regarding the fate of the Jews, at the hands of the Nazis, reflected his primitive stereotypical view of the average Jew.

Truman, when President, was told of the vast, but still generally hidden evidence of the massive killing machines of the “death camps,” initially stated, that “the Jews brought it upon themselves!” (Recently quoted from an article by William Safire, in The NY Times in the summer of 2003.)

Of course Truman also said “The Jews claim G-d Almighty picked ‘em out for special privilege. Well I’m sure he had better judgment. Fact is I never thought G-d picked any favorites.” (Off the Record- The Private Papers of Harry S. Truman, edited by Robert Ferrell- Penguin Books, 1980, page 41.)

“Miami is nothing but hotels, filling stations, Hebrews and cabins.” (Truman, by David McCullough, Simon and Shuster, 1992, page 286)

Bluma Jacobson, Eddie’s wife said “Eddie and I were never at the Truman’s house.” (Plain Speaking, by Merle Miller, GP Putnam, 1973)

Conclusions: 

Were the Jews a victim of domestic American politics? There is no doubt that FDR, under the pressure from the America First xenophobes, who were loosely aligned with the Liberty Lobby, and other anti-interventionist groups, understood the problem facing the future of the United States. He also knew that to make an issue out of Jewish immigration, or to be seen as leaning over to help non-English speaking foreigners was political suicide. He felt that he needed to be able to build an argument based on American self-interest. Would an effort by him to ease Jewish or other refugee immigration restrictions hurt his re-election bid in 1940? Probably yes! Even later in the war when the effort was made to bring Jewish children into the country on a humanitarian basis, the Congress balked. On the other hand, the Congress never balked when it came to British children. Roosevelt only ran for a third term with the idea of being the only one who could eventually save this country from eventually falling under the “boot” of fascist oppression. In retrospect none of the contenders for the nomination of the presidency in 1940 had shown any proclivity, in their careers, to be pro-Jewish or certainly pro-interventionist. Whether his successor would have been Taft, Willkie, Garner, Farley, or someone else, there was no indication that anyone of them would have even continued support for Britain, no less worked to ease immigration quotas. Roosevelt took great risks opposing the “neutrality” laws, backing “Lend-Lease,” arming our freighters and sending out our fleet into the Atlantic to fight an undeclared naval war against Germany. But, until Pearl Harbor, the America public stood wholeheartedly against going to war, no matter how great the potential threat. After Pearl Harbor all things changed. The United States, under the inspirational leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt was able to mobilize and unite the country into a mighty force. But until Pearl Harbor the America public stood wholeheartedly against going to war, no matter how great the potential threat. After Pearl Harbor all things changed. The United States, under the inspirational leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt was able to mobilize and unite the country into a mighty force.

FDR, the Soldier of Freedom, the author of the Atlantic Charter, the creator of the Arsenal of Democracy, the initiator of Lend-Lease, and the architect of world-wide victory over the forces of darkness and evil was the key player and force in producing the effort that saved all of our lives here today. Without his leadership and immense effort, the war would probably have been lost. No Jew would have been safe in the new or the old world. Israel would have never existed and the western culture as we know it would have been snuffed out as a new Dark Age emerged.

 

 

 

 

The Roosevelts and the 20th Century

The PBS series on “The Roosevelts” should be watched by all Americans. It reflected the commitment of three definitively different individuals to the call to public service, personal ideals and the commonweal. It also reflected how these remarkable persons overcame personal and physical challenges to compete in the public arena of ideas, action, and public policy.

America has always been well-served by individuals were willing to move forward, sacrifice, and lead. The Roosevelts, in their own way and time, were at the forefront of the American Saga from the turn of the 19th Century to the Space Age. Over those 60+ years, their impact and vision moved America forward into the position of preeminence regarding world leadership. The Roosevelts were practical idealists, who in their own time sought to improve the lot of the average American and fight against the forces of darkness, bigotry, and ignorance. We are all better for their unparalleled legacy.

The Teapublicans and their Place in History!

One thing I learned is that most Teapublicans are either, racist or stupid or both. If they were just racists I could understand their positions a bit better. Being a racist is not as historically old as being just stupid. Stupidity was around a lot longer than racism. In fact, stupidity and venality seemed to have been present even in the Garden of Eden and all through the Bible. But racism is sort of a more modern concept as travel brought people into new contact with formerly unknown civilizations

But one continuing theme I see in the insipid minds of the average Tea Bagger is protecting the Constitution and recovering their lost rights and freedoms. I say where were they lost? Maybe we can get Sherlock Holmes, Hercules Poirot or even Nero Wolfe to find them. If they were recently lost, I am sure these top notch sleuths could find them quite quickly. But many believe that they have been eroding since the days of FDR. Maybe it was the right of the banks and Wall Street to swindle their money that was lost. Maybe it was the right of the polluters to foul our water or air? Maybe it was Saint Valentine who polluted “Love” Canal? So there is a mystery on our hands. Some of these intellectual wannabees believe that it was the left-wing press like the NY Times, the Tri-Lateral Commission and the Rockefellers who stole their rights.

I often wonder whether it was really lost when way back in time John Hancock and Sam Adams were out in Boston Harbor throwing tea into the murky waters. Maybe during the night, without a great deal of illumination, the original Tea Party patriots misplaced some of the rights of others; the rights of English capitalists to sell tea to thirsty colonists?

Talking about losing one’s rights, how about having the right to organize, the right to have clean air and water, and the right to have pure food and drugs? Maybe they lost their right to prevent women from voting. How about their right to inflict poll taxes and literacy tests on others? How about their right to own slaves and destroy families? Maybe they were unhappy about their right to segregate the schools, or teach scientology? Maybe they were unhappy that they now had bank insurance, or that their brokers had to reveal their formerly hidden fees? Maybe they were unhappy about the loss of the right to monopolize when the Sherman and Clayton Anti-Trust laws were passed. Maybe they were unhappy that they lost the right to hire child labor or lock the doors to their sewing factory

It seems like the Tea Bag Brigade’s Platform calls for lowering taxes on the rich and shrinking the social safety net. I assume they believe that women will be forced to stay home with their aging and infirm parents when their money runs out for long-term care and there is no Medicaid to pick up the tab. Therefore with all those women back in the home and the kitchen, jobs will open up for the unemployed!

Conservatism and Where it Stands 1-20-2014

It’s great to listen to the dumbest of dumb curse out liberalism and the Progressive Era. What did the progressives give us? Well, clean water, clean air, the Pure Food and Drug Act, clean healthy meats via Ida Tarbel and Upton Sinclair. But what did our conservative friends give us: monopolies, inter locking directives, rigging, price fixing, rancid food, pollution of our lakes and rivers (acid rain and PCBs), and strip mining. What did the plutocratic Gilded Age give us regarding the work place: horrible conditions (The Triangle Shirtwaist fire and hundreds and hundreds of other tragedies,) child labor, abuse of women, toxic, long work weeks (60-72 hours), no breaks, no sick leave, no vacations and sexual harassment. But , what of the horrible, commie liberals and what they worked for: safe work conditions, the right to collectively bargain, wages and hours, the minimum wage, the ban on child labor, defined holidays, pregnancy leave, sick leave, bereavement leave, job protection for drafted soldiers and regulations on work place conditions: clean bathrooms, first aid equipment and ventilation. Oh how terrible these union, social rats are! They helped the workers, what a sin!

How about voting? Let us see what our “enlightened” conservative friends brought us: grandfather clauses, poll taxes, white property owner’s qualifications, intimidation at the polls, phony robo-calls, disinformation, photo IDs, among many other restrictions. But, what about the commie liberals, woman’s suffrage, the Hatch Act, 18 year old voting, overseas voting for soldiers, the end of Jim Crow laws on voting, the right of recall (Wisconsin progressives), the right to have referendums, and the secret ballot. Are these democratic policies or commie, fascist ones? Only dopes on the right can argue against those gains and reforms.

But let’s talk about the business world and anti-trust! The “liberal, so-called commies” supported the Sherman and Clayton Anti-Trust Acts, which the conservatives opposed. The liberals and the Democrats created the Federal Reserve System which regulated monetary policy, brought order to the markets and stabilized interest rates. The conservatives love caveat emptor, (let the buyer beware), support deregulation of the banks and have no concern about collusion between the banks and business (the Savings & Loan disaster of the 1980s). But, what of the stock markets, the series of severe recessions from the Depression of 1907, to the Great Depression of 1929? If the right wing could read, they should open up “The Crisis of the Old Order,” and really learned what caused the stock market boom and bust of 1929.They opposed all sorts of regulation and it took four years of Depression, after the Crash, to bring on the New Deal. What did the New Deal bring: the SEC, Glass-Steagall and reforms of the market place, and the banks, along with the Security Laws of 1933, 1934, and 1940? It’s the FDIC that protects your bank account wherein from 1929 thru 1933, 5000 banks failed with the loss of nine million private bank savings accounts. Blame that on the Liberals, the progressives and the Democrats!

Who opposed these regulations? The conservatives, who else? But, did this limit growth and prosperity? In deed, the first four years of the New Deal saw huge increases in growth and by the beginning of WWII, America had recovered enough to be the Arsenal of Democracy. The size of the economic cataclysm is almost hard to perceive. Even though the Department of Commerce listed unemployment at 25% many estimates believe it ranged as high as 36% and the most likely number is probably a bit above 30%. The amount of new capital financing had declined 95% since 1929. The amount of new building contracts had declined by at least 75% in those same years. The Dow Jones Average was off 90% since its high in late 1929, and there were 5000 bank closings since the crash, which eliminated nine million, pre FDIC uninsured accounts. US Steel, which had almost a quarter of a million full-time employees in 1929, now employed no one but executives. Schools in major cities and some states virtually shut down for lack of money. In the first half of 1933, 250,000 homes were taken over by the banks, and over 1000 families per day were cast homeless into the streets. This is what Franklin Roosevelt inherited on March 4, 1933.

By 1933, business failures had risen almost 50% from the end of 1928 (109 to 154 per hundred thousand). From 1933 to 1935, only two years they dropped to almost 40% from the 1928 levels (62 to 109 per thousand). Unemployment rose from 3% in 1929 to 25% in 1933. From 1933 through 1937 unemployment dropped 44% to 14%. This figure did not include over 2 million workers employed by the WPA. As to the Gross National Product, by 1933 it had dropped from $103.6 billion in 1929 to $56.4 billion in 1933. This represented a loss of 44% of the total goods and services of the country in 3 years. In FDR’s first administration it rose approximately 64% to $92 billion. By 1940, with defense spending still only 22 % of the federal budget (from 1928 through1932, defense spending represented an average of 38% of the US Budget), and 2% of the GNP, the GNP had risen to $101.4 billion or 4% higher than 1928!  Because of the New Deal, hourly wages which had dropped from 58 cents per hour in 1928 to 49 cents for hour in 1933 (a drop of approximately 25%) rose 74 cents per hour in 1940. This represented a strong recovery of 28% from 1928. These figures are undeniable.

Did we have a recession after the war? No! The regulations that were put in place enabled America to have its greatest growth until the oil embargoes of the 1970’s. Despite three severe recessions in the Eisenhower Years, America grew steadily under Democratic presidents and a basically Democratic Congress. They gave us Medicare for seniors, Medicaid for the aged and the poor, Civil Rights, voting rights and women’s rights in the market place and in their bedrooms. What did the GOP and the conservative puppet masters give us? More Jim Crow, more Bull Connors, more insider trading, more phony stock deals, more restrictions on Choice, opposition to birth control, more censorship and a litany of other regressive efforts for the few versus the many. In other words, who are they for?

The right wing stands for nothing. It celebrates phony patriots. It wraps itself in the flag, the last refuge for scoundrels; it’s backward, inward and self-serving. Their sites are forums for racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, bigotry and misogyny. It is closed –minded, it exclusionary and devoid of new ideas. It is the opposite of open, free-thinking, innovative and creative. It has opposed the expansion of understanding, the acceptance of new culture and ideas and it notoriously backward.

But the conservatism has an even more backward side to it. This side is known as the “lunatic fringe,” which rejects science, Darwin and toleration. It believes in myth, conspiracy and its hates everything it isn’t. It blames government, it hates other races and religion and it justifies its strange existence through arcane Biblical metaphor. Therefore, it celebrates faith over reason, rumor over fact and their view of the universe rejects science. If the liberal says white, they say black. They defend so-called individualism over working for the community, the greater good, or the commonwealth. They accuse every one who is not in lock step with their mantra as being communist stooges. In other words they are the “lunatic fringe.” Name it, they oppose it. Talk about safety nets, they claim people are lazy; working together they claim socialism, supporting public art, museums, libraries, parks, they say you are a commie! But take away their benefits, their federal aid and the roads and infrastructure government must do, they are the first to yell, “foul!”

 

 

 

The Middle Class and the Republicans 1-13-2012

All over the right-wing sites, I read two themes constantly repeated: President Obama and the Democrats are socialists, and take back the country to the people. Of course, the idea that this country is socialist is economically incorrect, unrealistic and a misunderstanding of history. For over a century, since Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive movement there have been efforts to provide safety nets for the workers, public education, and job safety. Because of people like Ida Tarbel, Upton Sinclair, Frances Perkins and others, the meat packing industry, the drug industry and the issue of clean water were addressed. There has been a century old evolution of reform, including; women’s suffrage, the end of the poll tax and the literacy test, the passing of wages and hours legislation, Social Security, child labor laws, sweat shop regulation, safety in the work force, Medicare , Medicaid and the end to Jim Crow Laws. These are just the major elements, but there are many other reforms that were basically addressed to the middle class and the working poor. There is nothing socialist in any of these efforts.

As to government controlling the means of production, setting wages and price controls, and restricting one’s ability to seek employment, none of that exists in America. We have all sorts of markets and exchanges from the NY Stock Exchange, to the NASDAQ, to the every type of commodity exchange from coffee to sugar to cotton. In other words, one can invest where they want, freely work where they wish to and to “organize” for their own benefit, as is done in the sports leagues, American industry and in civil service. The right to organize goes back to the 19th Century and the founding of the American Labor Movement to the New Deal and the Wagner Act in 1935. This right is as American as apple pie. Why shouldn’t there be a counter balance to capital through organized labor.

As to which party represents the Middle Class, the Republicans or the Democrats, why don’t we look at the record. The Republicans have been on the record against Social Security and Medicare for generations. GW Bush worked for six years to privatize Social Security. In a sense that is why his popularity crashed and the Republicans lost Congress in 2006. Currently Rep, Paul Ryan wants to privatize Medicare and have every senior buy into a private plan for $6,000 or more dollars. Will that cost be stable? Who knows? Is there any evidence that private health insurance is stable? Well it isn’t. In the last two years private health care insurance plans have skyrocketed in cost. Most people who not in a group cannot get insurance, pre-existing conditions are more prevalent then ever, and the cost for a private plan, if one can get one, is prohibitive. The average employee is paying a co-premium of $4000 with a $1,000 deductible. That means, with a plan provided through an employer, the average worker is behind $5000 before a dollar is reimbursed. How does this help the Middle Class or the working poor? The current tax plan put forth by the GOP frontrunner, Mitt Romney calls for a 1% tax cut for the lowest brackets and a 38% cut for the most highly compensated workers. Another tax plan calls for a 20% flat tax for all earners, zero capital gains tax and a zero corporate tax rate. Is the revenue neutral? No! Is that fair for the average worker? Are you kidding? The average upper income taxpayer is paying a lower affective rate than when President Reagan pushed through his two tiered tax rate of 15 and 28%. In terms of the economy, since Harry Truman, the presidency has been in controlled by Republicans for 36 years and the Democrats 28 years. Over that period of time, the Democratic Administrations have created 2 million jobs per year as opposed to the Republicans. Those are the facts. With regards to government jobs, there are 4.43 million federal workers and that number has been stable for years. There are 18.8 million state and local workers and that number, reflective of the Bush Recession, has shrunk by a few hundred thousand workers. With regards to federal expenditures, less than 20% of all government workers are paid by your withholding tax, and over 50% of those federal workers are members of the Armed Forces. So the argument framed here about “big” is with the states, much more than with the federal government.

With regards to the argument that 47% of the public does not pay taxes well that is patently false. Every worker is paying a payroll tax of a maximum of 8% up to $106,000 in income. In fact, every America worker is paying down weekly, through the payroll tax, our greatest, future liabilities we face: the entitlements Social Security and Medicare. In fact, as a worker earns more than $106,000, their percentage of reducing the entitlement deficit is reduced. Who benefits from Social Security and Medicare? It is the Middle Class and the working poor. In fact, most Americans who pay zero taxes should probably pay a minimum tax. But, would another $500 or $1000 per low income family equal raising the top bracket from 36.5 to 39.5%? It would not. Today, with a capital gains tax rate of 15% on dividends and venture capital income, the rich are very, very well off. Of the 400 richest Americans, only 200 are employed and therefore, they for sure do not create jobs. In fact, of the remaining 200, are they creating jobs? Many of these individuals make their huge incomes in the financial sector and do not create jobs or new businesses. There are $375,000 Americans making over $1 million per year. They are paying the lowest taxes since the Crash of 1929. But even when the Constitutional Amendment creating the income tax was passed in 1914, there was always a very high bracket, of at least 90%, for the richest of all Americans. Why would a return to the Clinton Era top tax rate of 39.5% and a graduated capital gains tax hurt these folks? I believe it will not. The Middle Class would be better served by an increase in the payroll tax to $212,000, which would save Social Security and Medicare for generations, and would not affect any one of you! In reality an increase in the top bracket to 39.5% would affect almost no one in the middle class!

 

Letters regarding “Roosevelt’s Centurions” September, 2013

Dear Mr. Garfunkel,

   I cannot overstate what it meant to me to get your letter and the copy of your cogent review of Roosevelt’s Centurions. Most gratifying to me is that your commentary captured perfectly what I was trying to say in writing the book. Your own writing style and gift of expression are not surprising given your long run program on WVOX. I too regret that I never had the opportunity to appear on the show. And I further appreciate the added coverage your review will enjoy by your posting it on your site and on Facebook.

`    The stamps you affixed to the letter’s envelope are an added bonus, and

you may be sure that both the review and the stamps will find their way into the scrapbook my daughter always assembles for each of my books.

Again, thank you so much.

Joe Persico

Dear Mr. Persico,

I just read your most gracious response to my letter and essay. I am quite gratified that you enjoyed my perspective on your well-constructed history of that time. As I may have described in my letter, I have been a student of the life and times of FDR since I was a youngster, and by the time I was twelve, I had read a great many of the books in the Mount Vernon Public Library ( a Federal Depository library and the 6th largest in NY at the time) on WWII. That interest has never left me in the intervening 56 years. Today, I have over 1000 books on WWII, the contemporary history of that period leading up to the war, and on FDR. I have been a member of the Roosevelt Institute and can call Bill vanden Heuval a friend.

FDR, the emergence of America as a modern world-wide society and the triumph of democracy are forever intertwined. His leadership, was not perfect, as we all know, and even though he was known as the “Irreplaceable Man,” the graveyards are littered with irreplaceables. As to his judgment, where you scored a grand slam, was on his ability to choose the right people. Henry L.Stimson, a veteran of government from the days of Taft through Hoover, thought his management style was atrocious, but others thought it was remarkable. Maybe those conflicting reviews summed up the essence of the man. He was the Sphinx and kept his cards very close to his vest. He liked his subordinates to argue out solutions. He often delegated overlapping responsibilities and liked to keep people guessing on his motives and his ultimate decisions. In that sense, all those attributes caused frustration, vexation and criticism. But, all in all, that made him one of the most engaging and interesting men of all time. He still possesses the most famous name in the world, and to a degree with his illustrious 5th cousin, who he called the greatest man he knew, and his remarkable wife, that name will last far into the future, when his critics are long forgotten.

No one can be right all the time, and if one hits .300 for a lifetime, they often get into the Hall of Fame. FDR’s batting average, from my perspective was as high as one could get. Even his mistakes, which both you and I both know, could be rationalized at the time. I have written extensively about FDR and understand fully the problems and criticism of the Court Reorganization, the Japanese Internment, the Mid Term Election Purge and his caution on Civil Rights and Immigration. FDR cogently remarked about the failure of leadership. He said, and I paraphrase, that when a leader looks back over his shoulder and cannot see his followers, he has gotten too far ahead of his constituents and fails to lead. FDR understood vividly the pulse of his not only his constituency, but the fever pitch of the Nation.

Fighting for lost causes or expending political capital in fighting windmills, may enhance one’s standing with their ideological brethren, but it usually bodes failure of an executive. Interest in FDR seems never to flag, and here it is 68 years after his unfortunate passing, and he is still the most important figure in American history. William Leuchtenburg, in his great work, “In the Shadow of FDR,” summed it up when he so intelligently observed that all FDR’s predecessors were affected by his tenure in office.They all know when they are sworn in, what indelible model FDR constructed.

Again, thank you. I have added a piece on Mark Clark, who was also a talented, controversial and interesting personage of that era. I hope you enjoy it.

Richard

<Northern Italy and the End of Hostilities II 7-16-04.doc>