The Politics and Power of Building New York City in the Twentieth Century
Author: Benjamin Flowers
Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press
Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2010 Nowhere in the world is there a greater concentration of significant skyscrapers than in New York City. And though this iconographic American building style has roots in Chicago, New York is where it has grown into such a powerful reflection of American commerce and culture. In Skyscraper: The Politics and Power of Building New York City in the Twentieth Century, Benjamin Flowers explores the role of culture and ideology in shaping the construction of skyscrapers and the way wealth and power have operated to reshape the urban landscape. Flowers narrates this modern tale by closely examining the creation and reception of three significant sites: the Empire State Building, the Seagram Building, and the World Trade Center. He demonstrates how architects and their clients employed a diverse range of modernist styles to engage with and influence broader cultural themes in American society: immigration, the Cold War, and the rise of American global capitalism. Skyscraper explores the various wider meanings associated with this architectural form as well as contemporary reactions to it across the critical spectrum. Employing a broad array of archival sources, such as corporate records, architects' papers, newspaper ads, and political cartoons, Flowers examines the personal, political, cultural, and economic agendas that motivate architects and their clients to build ever higher. He depicts the American saga of commerce, wealth, and power in the twentieth century through their most visible symbol, the skyscraper.
Al Smith, American Progressivism, and the Coming of the New Deal
Author: Robert Chiles
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Category: Biography & Autobiography
The Revolution of ’28 explores the career of New York governor and 1928 Democratic presidential nominee Alfred E. Smith. Robert Chiles peers into Smith’s work and uncovers a distinctive strain of American progressivism that resonated among urban, ethnic, working-class Americans in the early twentieth century. The book charts the rise of that idiomatic progressivism during Smith’s early years as a state legislator through his time as governor of the Empire State in the 1920s, before proceeding to a revisionist narrative of the 1928 presidential campaign, exploring the ways in which Smith’s gubernatorial progressivism was presented to a national audience. As Chiles points out, new-stock voters responded enthusiastically to Smith's candidacy on both economic and cultural levels. Chiles offers a historical argument that describes the impact of this coalition on the new liberal formation that was to come with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, demonstrating the broad practical consequences of Smith’s political career. In particular, Chiles notes how Smith’s progressive agenda became Democratic partisan dogma and a rallying point for policy formation and electoral success at the state and national levels. Chiles sets the record straight in The Revolution of ’28 by paying close attention to how Smith identified and activated his emergent coalition and put it to use in his campaign of 1928, before quickly losing control over it after his failed presidential bid.
In 1919, the United States made its boldest attempt at social reform: Prohibition. This "noble experiment" was aggressively promoted, and spectacularly unsuccessful, in New York City. In the first major work on Prohibition in a quarter century, and the only full history of Prohibition in the era's most vibrant city, Lerner describes a battle between competing visions of the United States that encompassed much more than the freedom to drink.
“Golway’s revisionist take is a useful reminder of the unmatched ingenuity of American politics.”—Wall Street Journal History casts Tammany Hall as shorthand for the worst of urban politics: graft and patronage personified by notoriously crooked characters. In his groundbreaking work Machine Made, journalist and historian Terry Golway dismantles these stereotypes, focusing on the many benefits of machine politics for marginalized immigrants. As thousands sought refuge from Ireland’s potato famine, the very question of who would be included under the protection of American democracy was at stake. Tammany’s transactional politics were at the heart of crucial social reforms—such as child labor laws, workers’ compensation, and minimum wages— and Golway demonstrates that American political history cannot be understood without Tammany’s profound contribution. Culminating in FDR’s New Deal, Machine Made reveals how Tammany Hall “changed the role of government—for the better to millions of disenfranchised recent American arrivals” (New York Observer).
Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America's First Superhighway
Author: Steven Hart
Publisher: The New Press
At the dawn of America’s love affair with the automobile, cars and trucks leaving the nation’s largest city were unceremoniously dumped out of the western end of the Holland Tunnel onto local roads wending their way through the New Jersey Meadowlands. Jersey City mayor Frank Hague—dictator of the Hudson County political machine and a national political player—was a prime mover behind the building of the country’s first “superhighway,” designed to connect the hub of New York City to the United States of America. Hague’s nemesis in this undertaking was union boss Teddy Brandle, and construction of the last three miles of Route 25, later dubbed the Pulaski Skyway, marked an epic battle between big labor and big politics, culminating in a murder and the creation of a motorway so flawed it soon became known as “Death Avenue” —now appropriately featured in the opening sequence of the hit HBO series The Sopranos. A book in the tradition of Robert Caro’s The Power Broker and Henry Petroski’s Engineers of Dreams, The Last Three Miles brings to vivid life the riveting and bloodstained back story of a fascinating chapter in the heroic age of public works.
In Hollywood Left and Right, Steven J. Ross tells a story that has escaped public attention: the emergence of Hollywood as a vital center of political life and the important role that movie stars have played in shaping the course of American politics. Ever since the film industry relocated to Hollywood early in the twentieth century, it has had an outsized influence on American politics. Through compelling larger-than-life figures in American cinema--Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, Edward G. Robinson, George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, Harry Belafonte, Jane Fonda, Charlton Heston, Warren Beatty, and Arnold Schwarzenegger--Hollywood Left and Right reveals how the film industry's engagement in politics has been longer, deeper, and more varied than most people would imagine. As shown in alternating chapters, the Left and the Right each gained ascendancy in Tinseltown at different times. From Chaplin, whose movies almost always displayed his leftist convictions, to Schwarzenegger's nearly seamless transition from action blockbusters to the California governor's mansion, Steven J. Ross traces the intersection of Hollywood and political activism from the early twentieth century to the present. Hollywood Left and Right challenges the commonly held belief that Hollywood has always been a bastion of liberalism. The real story, as Ross shows in this passionate and entertaining work, is far more complicated. First, Hollywood has a longer history of conservatism than liberalism. Second, and most surprising, while the Hollywood Left was usually more vocal and visible, the Right had a greater impact on American political life, capturing a senate seat (Murphy), a governorship (Schwarzenegger), and the ultimate achievement, the Presidency (Reagan).