I seem to be a footnote


One of the unanticipated kicks to be gotten from authorship is seeing your work cited in other books.

I’ve already found my book The Last Three Miles (and some of the titles I used for research) cited extensively in this Wikipedia entry on the Pulaski Skyway. Last week I was reading Joseph Bilby’s recent book Sea Girt, New Jersey: A Brief History, and found myself cited a few times in the chapter “Center of a Political Universe.” The reason shows why Hague, who was officially nothing more than the mayor of Jersey City from 1917 to 1947, is actually one of the most influential and least understood figures in 20th century American politics.

Hague’s control over the Democratic voters of densely populated Hudson County gave him the ability to pick New Jersey governors — Edward I. Edwards, George Silzer and A. Harry Moore were all Hague men, and Morgan Larson and Charles Edison couldn’t have reached Drumthwacket without Hague’s help — made him the go-to guy for any Democratic presidential contender who wanted New Jersey’s support.

Hague was a close friend of Al Smith, a Tammany Hall man and fellow Democrat nicknamed “the Happy Warrior.” When Smith became the nation’s first Irish-Catholic presidential candidate in 1928, Hague (his friend and co-religionist) was one of his loudest supporters, and he organized a massive rally for Smith at Sea Girt, which was the site of the “Little White House” where Woodrow Wilson had planned his own successful presidential campaign. Smith lost to Herbert Hoover, but he decided to try for the nomination again when the onset of the Depression doomed Hoover’s chances at a second term. Hague once again pushed for Smith, but the nomination went instead to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whom Hague had slagged mercilessly at the party’s national convention in Chicago. The prospect of seeing the Big White House occupied by a Democrat who despised Hague was grim indeed, and Hague made amends by offering to stage an even grander rally for FDR if he chose Sea Girt as the launching spot for his presidential campaign. FDR agreed, and Hague came through with a gathering of well over 100,000 people.

FDR won the presidency, of course, and out of a mix of gratitude and fear he allowed Hague to treat WPA jobs in Hudson County as patronage positions, providing a financial lifeline for the Hudson County machine. Morgan Larson, a tractable Republican who won the GOP nomination with the help of Hague’s “one-day Republicans” in Hudson County, was unfairly tagged as a Hoover puppet. He was swept out of power to be replaced by A. Harry Moore. In other words, a semi-Hague man was replaced by a full Hague man.

You see what I mean about political influence?

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One thought on “I seem to be a footnote

  1. Scott Stiefel says:

    Nah, not Drumthwacket, and apparently not Morven either.

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