49 Facts About Al Smith


Alfred Emanuel Al Smith was an American politician who served four terms as Governor of New York and was the Democratic Party's candidate for president in 1928.

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Son of an Irish-American mother and a Civil War–veteran Italian-American father, Al Smith was raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan near the Brooklyn Bridge.

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Al Smith served in the New York State Assembly from 1904 to 1915 and held the position of Speaker of the Assembly in 1913.

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Al Smith served as sheriff of New York County from 1916 to 1917.

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Al Smith was the foremost urban leader of the Efficiency Movement in the United States and was noted for achieving a wide range of reforms as New York governor in the 1920s.

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Al Smith was the first Roman Catholic to be nominated for president of the United States by a major party.

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Al Smith was a committed "wet", which was a term used for opponents of Prohibition; as New York governor, he had repealed the state's prohibition law.

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Al Smith then entered business in New York City, became involved in the construction and promotion of the Empire State Building, and became an increasingly vocal opponent of Roosevelt's New Deal.

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Al Smith was born at 174 South Street and raised in the Fourth Ward on the Lower East Side of Manhattan; he resided there for his entire life.

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Al Smith's father, baptised Joseph Alfred Smith in 1839, was the son of Emanuel Smith, an Italian marinaro.

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Al Smith served with the 11th New York Fire Zouaves in the opening months of the Civil War.

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Al Smith grew up with his family struggling financially in the Gilded Age; New York City matured and completed major infrastructure projects.

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Al Smith never attended high school or college, and claimed he learned about people by studying them at the Fulton Fish Market, where he worked for $12 per week.

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Al Smith's acting skills made him a success on the amateur theater circuit.

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Al Smith became widely known, and developed the smooth oratorical style that characterized his political career.

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Al Smith served as vice chairman of the state commission appointed to investigate factory conditions after 146 workers died in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

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Together with Perkins and Robert F Wagner, Smith crusaded against dangerous and unhealthy workplace conditions and championed corrective legislation.

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In 1911, the Democrats obtained a majority of seats in the State Assembly, and Al Smith became Majority Leader and Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means.

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In 1919, Al Smith gave the famous speech "A man as low and mean as I can picture", making a drastic break with publisher William Randolph Hearst.

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Al Smith had combined with Tammany Hall in electing the local administration, and had attacked Smith for starving children by not reducing the cost of milk.

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Al Smith offered alcohol to guests at the Executive Mansion in Albany, and repealed the state's Prohibition enforcement statute, the Mullan-Gage law.

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In 1924, Al Smith unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for president, advancing the cause of civil liberty by decrying lynching and racial violence.

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Undeterred, Al Smith returned to fight a determined campaign for the party's nomination in 1928.

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Reporter Frederick William Wile made the oft-repeated observation that Al Smith was defeated by "the three P's: Prohibition, Prejudice and Prosperity".

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Al Smith'storians agree that prosperity, along with widespread anti-Catholic sentiment against Smith, made Hoover's election inevitable.

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Al Smith defeated Smith by a landslide in the 1928 election, carrying five Southern states in crossover voting by conservative white Democrats.

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Fact that Al Smith was Catholic and the descendant of Catholic immigrants was instrumental in his loss of the election of 1928.

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Al Smith was personally in favor of the relaxation or repeal of Prohibition laws, because they had given rise to more criminality.

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Al Smith was an articulate proponent of good government and efficiency, as was Hoover.

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Al Smith swept the entire Catholic vote, which had been split in 1920 and 1924 between the parties; he attracted millions of Catholics, generally ethnic whites, to the polls for the first time, especially women, who were first allowed to vote in 1920.

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Al Smith lost important Democratic constituencies in the rural North as well as in Southern cities and suburbs.

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Al Smith carried the ten most populous cities in the United States, an indication of the rising power of the urban areas and their new demographics.

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Al Smith narrowly lost New York State, whose electors were biased in favor of rural upstate and largely Protestant districts.

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Finan says Al Smith is an underestimated symbol of the changing nature of American politics in the first half of the last century.

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Al Smith represented the rising ambitions of urban, industrial America at a time when the hegemony of rural, agrarian America was in decline, although many states had legislatures and congressional delegations biased toward rural areas because of lack of redistricting after censuses.

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Al Smith was connected to the hopes and aspirations of immigrants, especially Catholics and Jews from eastern and southern Europe.

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Al 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.

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That coalition fell apart when Al Smith refused to work on finding a compromise candidate; instead, he maneuvered to become the nominee.

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Al Smith became highly critical of Roosevelt's New Deal policies, which he deemed a betrayal of good-government progressive ideals and ran counter to the goal of close cooperation with business.

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Al Smith joined the American Liberty League, an organization founded by conservative Democrats who disapproved of Roosevelt's New Deal measures and tried to rally public opinion against the New Deal.

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In 1936, while Al Smith was in Washington making a vehement radio attack on the President, she invited him to stay at the White House.

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Al Smith continued to promote the Empire State Building, which was derided as the "Empty State Building" due to a lack of tenants, in the years following its construction.

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In 1929, Al Smith was awarded the Laetare Medal by the University of Notre Dame, considered the most prestigious award for American Catholics.

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In 1929 Al Smith was elected President of the Board of Trustees of the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University.

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Al Smith was an early and vocal critic of the Nazi regime in Germany.

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Al Smith supported the Anti-Nazi boycott of 1933 and addressed a mass-meeting at Madison Square Garden against Nazism that March.

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Al Smith's speech was included in the 1934 anthology Nazism: An Assault on Civilization.

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In 1938, Al Smith took to the airwaves to denounce Nazi brutality in the wake of Kristallnacht.

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In 1939 Al Smith was appointed a Papal Chamberlain of the Sword and Cape, one of the highest honors which the Papacy bestowed on a layman.

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