Monday, October 20, 2008

Alfred E. Smith Slide Show

Many images from his statue in the park on Catherine Street.
Alfred E. Smith Park, located at the junction of Catherine Slip, Madison, and South Streets, was dedicated on June 1, 1950. The park features a memorial to Governor Smith, who was also known as "The Happy Warrior," "The King of Oliver Street," and "The First Citizen." Charles Keck designed the nine-foot bronze figure of the Governor and this bas-relief of children at play. The relief represents "The Sidewalks of New York," a song always played at Al Smith's campaign rallies. Paul Manship created the flagpole base decorated with animals native to New York before colonial settlement.

Music: The Bowery Medley from the Gas House Gang
Smith was in the news due to the publicity surrounding the Smith Foundation Dinner. Many of us KVers were taught to believe in the greatness of Smith, i.e. his support for the working class via legislation opposing sweatshops and unsafe working conditions, his fight against discrimination in his bid for the White House. However, I do know that in his later years he was not a strong supporter of Roosevelt and LaGuardia and the New Deal. He was also an isolationist in response to the rise of Fascism. So was he hero or not? Some excerpts from an email exchange between two NYC History buffs from a list serve
A: So who would you vote for in the 1928 election, Smith or Hoover?
B: Smith, of course
A: I think my choice would have been neither. Smith was a political Houdini. He had become an expeditious progressive. He was more attuned to political positions, not beliefs. This was a child of the 4th/7th wards and cousin of the 6th ward, Fulton Street and Tammany. Above all his loyalty was to Tammany. At that time Jews were not welcomed. Even today his Foundation's web-site doesn't mention Jews...
"Born on December 30, 1873, Alfred Emanuel Smith was destined to become a "man for the people." His childhood playground, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, taught him much about diversity inasmuch as its population combined the immigrant cultures of the Irish, Germans, French, Polish, Italians, and Spaniards - to name but a few."
John Rockefeller, Hoover, Tammany, Al Smith etc., etc. were of a zero-sum mindset. It was all about power and influence, who controlled it and how it was controlled. Exclusions were more prominent than inclusions and the betterment of all. Hoover and Smith represented the extremes of this power grab. No leadership. When leadership finally showed up, the extremes were eliminated. FDR and LaGuardia (nationally and locally) did that job. Gone was Hoover and Smith. That election was representing the past not the future. FDR was a "Blue Blood", from a "Blue State" that understood the politics of "Red, White & Blue". What a novel idea, the best of both worlds. Look at the crisis we are facing right now. Amazing how history repeats itself. Total lack of leadership. Main St. (Struggles that take place on the ground) are the struggles of Wall St. (Board rooms) and vice versa. The bailout bill should have gone down. It doesn't reflect the needs of majority of Americans.


Anonymous said...


Cathy K. said...

The location of the park and statue would be on Catherine Street between Monroe and Cherry Streets. It is inland from Catherine Slip by a good half a block, and a block past Madison Street. There actually is no junction of Catherine Slip, South and Madison Streets. I climbed that statue often as a child; it was and still is a rite of passage of sorts down here. And yes, he attended St. James School, which is still located where it was when he attended it.