Alfred E. Smith (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Smith was a leading figure in the Democratic Party during the Progressive Era and the 1920’s. He represented the urban, immigrant Roman Catholic, and relatively liberal interests of the party at a time when it was deeply divided along regional, cultural, and ideological lines.
Alfred Emanuel Smith was born the first of two children to a poor but not impoverished Irish-American family on the Lower East Side of New York City, in 1873. His sister Mary was born two years later. Smith’s father, also named Alfred Emanuel Smith, was a “truckman” (driver of a horse-drawn wagon); he and Smith’s mother, Catherine Mulvehill Smith, were the New York-born children of Irish immigrants.
Smith grew up in a mixed though primarily Irish and German neighborhood in the Battery section of New York, on the banks of the East River. His early youth was a happy one, although never without money worries, revolving around his close and warm family and the Roman Catholic Church. Smith served as an altar boy throughout his adolescence and was educated at the local parish school. His parents, particularly his mother, worked hard at rearing a “respectable” boy who was immune to the bad influences common in their kind of neighborhood.
Smith was not a particularly strong student; books would never play an important role in his life. He did like elocution, however, a not unusual interest...
(The entire section is 1955 words.)
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