ALFRED E. SMITH' HERO OF THE CITIES: A Political Portrait Drawing on the Papers of Frances Perkins by Matthew & Hannah Josephson
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ALFRED E. SMITH' HERO OF THE CITIES: A Political Portrait Drawing on the Papers of Frances Perkins

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Josephsons, both authors in their own right (Matthew of The Robber Barrons), were invited to complete the unfinished biography of Smith that Frances Perkins left behind at her death in 1965. Finding only a rather bare start, they ended up writing it ""90%"" themselves, but the origins of the book remain evident in Miss Perkins' frequent appearances as subject and as observer and in the stress given to Smith's role as a reformer battling for social welfare legislation in the state Assembly and from the Governor's mansion. The sections on Smith's early years provide a delightful picture of the Old East Side and a thriving Tammany Hall. A minor coup is the discovery (thanks to Miss Perkins' assault on city records) of Smith's actual ethnic background: ""a fine mixture of Italian, German, English, and Irish strains."" The book is longer and more complete than Oscar Handlin's Al Smith and His America (1958), and it also emphasizes the positive side of everything including even his 1928 defeat for the Presidency, which Handlin treated as a tragedy. of bigotry. The authors do not, however, neglect to show the hurt inside the Happy Warrior in his last years--the disenchantment engendered by his election encounter with intolerance, his resentment towards his too successful protege Franklin Roosevelt, and his bitter attacks on the New Deal that disappointed many old admirers. A happily executed portrait of an eminent and engaging American.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1969
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin