6 ⋆ LaGuardia, La Follette, and Progressivism, 1922-1924

THOSE who saw the United States in the 1920's as a place of well-being and contentment may well have been perplexed by the staccato bursts of progressive activity in the early twenties, which culminated in the almost religious fervor of the La Follette movement of 1924. To Fiorello LaGuardia, however, walking the streets of his new district and observing the day-to-day living of his constituents, rebelliousness seemed a natural reaction.

The Twentieth Congressional District had been created in 1911 by the redistricting operation of a Republican legislature.1 It encompassed an area known as East Harlem on the upper East Side of New York, extending from Fifth Avenue to the East River and from 99th to 120th Streets. Except for a fringe of plush apartment houses and hotels along Madison and Fifth Avenues near Central Park, it was an overwhelmingly working-class district.

Ethnically the area's composition reflected that peculiar process by which immigrants, landing on the lower tip of Manhattan, worked their way north decade by decade, from the lower end of the island to the uptown areas, bypassing the well-to-do mid-town residential sections. Some Jews had moved into East Harlem from their original first-arrival habitats on the lower East Side, and even more Italians did the same, making the easy transition

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1
Peter Kenneth Ewald, "Congressional Apportionment and New York State" (Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1954), 168.

-67-

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