Alfred E. Smith

Smith, Alfred Emanuel

Alfred Emanuel Smith, 1873–1944, American political leader, b. New York City. Reared in poor surroundings, he had no formal education beyond grade school and took various jobs—including work in the Fulton fish market—to help support his family. In 1895, through the help of a Tammany district leader, he was appointed a clerk in the office of the county commissioner of jurors. As a member (1904–15) of the New York state assembly, he took a prominent role in state Democratic politics, became (1913) speaker of the assembly, and gained a reputation for progressive policies. He was (1915–17) sheriff of New York co. and then was elected (1917) president of the New York City Board of Aldermen, the predecessor of the City Council.

In 1918, Smith was elected governor of New York. He was defeated for reelection in 1920 but regained the office in 1922 and was reelected twice again (1924, 1926). He proved a forceful and well-liked governor and achieved a much-needed overhauling of the state bureaucracy and passage of much reform legislation. In 1928, Smith, helped by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, won the Democratic nomination for president, the first Roman Catholic to receive this recognition. An ugly campaign ensued in which virulent anti-Catholic prejudice played a major part.

After his defeat by Herbert Hoover, Smith retired to private life, becoming (1929) president of the firm that owned and operated the Empire State Building in New York City. He also served (1932–34) as editor of the magazine New Outlook. He became a bitter opponent of President F. D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies and supported the Republican presidential candidates in 1936 and 1940. Smith was the author of Up to Now (1929).

See biographies by F. Graham (1945), E. S. Warner (1956), O. Handlin (1958, repr. 1987), M. Josephson (1969), R. O'Connor (1970), R. A. Slayton (2001), and C. M. Finan (2002); F. D. Roosevelt, The Happy Warrior (1928).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Alfred E. Smith: Selected full-text books and articles

Alfred E. Smith: A Critical Study
Henry F. Pringle.
Macy-Masius, 1927
Alfred E. Smith, an American Career
Henry Moskowitz.
T. Seltzer, 1924
Progressive Democracy: Addresses & State Papers
Alfred E. Smith; Henry Moskowitz.
Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1928
A Catholic Runs for President: The Campaign of 1928
Edmund A. Moore.
Ronald Press Co., 1956
Labor Politics in a Democratic Republic: Moderation, Division, and Disruption in the Presidential Election of 1928
Vaughn Davis Bornet.
Spartan Books, 1964
Southern Liberal Journalists and the Issue of Race, 1920-1944
John T. Kneebone.
University of North Carolina Press, 1985
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Al Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and the Solid South"
Presidential Campaigns
Paul F. Boller Jr.
Oxford University Press, 1996 (Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Thirty-Six "Hoover, Smith and the Catholic Issue"
27 Masters of Politics: In a Personal Perspective
Raymond Moley.
Funk & Wagnalls Co., 1949
Librarian’s tip: "Sidewalk Statesmanship: Alfred E. Smith" begins on p. 17
After Wilson: The Struggle for the Democratic Party, 1920-1934
Douglas B. Craig.
University of North Carolina Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "The Problem of Al Smith" and Chap. 8 "'Wall Street Likes Al Smith': The Election of 1928"
A Source Book of American Political Theory
Benjamin Fletcher Wright Jr.
The Macmillan Company, 1929
Librarian’s tip: "Church and State in America" by Alfred. E. Smith begins on p. 629
Nazism: An Assault on Civilization
Alfred E. Smith; Dorothy Thompson; Ludwig Lore; Max Winkler; John Haynes Holmes; Bernard S. Deutsch; Albert Brandt; William Green; Ludwig Lewisohn; Werner Hegemann; Emil Lengyel; Stanley High; Stephen S. Wise; Alice Hamilton; Miriam Beard; I. A. Hirschmann; Samuel Guy Inman; Charles H. Tuttle; Pierre Van Paassen; James Waterman Wise.
Harrison Smith and Robert Haas, 1934
Librarian’s tip: "The Challenge to America" by Alfred E. Smith begins on p. 306
The American Irish: A Political and Social Portrait
William V. Shannon.
University of Massachusetts Press, 1989 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Ten "The Education of Al Smith"
Dynamics of the Party System: Alignment and Realignment of Political Parties in the United States
James L. Sundquist.
Brookings Institution, 1983 (Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: "The 'Al Smith Revolution' in the East" begins on p. 191
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