Tuesday, November 06, 2012
Obscurity of the Day, Election Day Edition: Political Life of Al Smith
There was a day when we weren't so worried about all-but-nonexistent fraud by ineligible voters. No, we were inundated with the real kind -- ballot box stuffing, vote suppression, vote buying, and corpse-voting sponsored by rapacious politicians. Which brings us (finally) to today's obscurity, a bio-strip about Al Smith.
Smith came out of the incredibly corrupt Tammany Hall political machine of New York City, which was expert at every brand of voter fraud you can think of, and undoubtedly some you can't. Although he was an expert at not getting his own hands dirty, Smith was forever tainted by his association with the Tammany tiger. He was elected to increasingly important offices in New York, culminating with four terms as governor in the 1910s-20s. However, when he was made the Democrat candidate for president in 1928, the Tammany taint, combined with his Catholicism, were the prime factors in losing the election. That doomed the country to four years of the do-nothing administration of Herbert "a chicken in every pot" Hoover and the Great Depression. But, on the other hand, we narrowly averted letting Tammany get a toe-hold in the Oval Office. So pick your poison.
Oh, you wanted to know about the comic strip? Sorry. Political Life of Al Smith ran for eighteen episodes, or three weeks, of daily strips. It was written by a fellow named Barry Meglaughlin and drawn by Paul Frehm. Frehm is best known for his long run drawing Believe It or Not (1949-77). The strip was distributed to papers right before the 1928 election, but we don't know for sure who did the distributing. My bet is that it was a freebie sent out to papers by the Democrats. Cole Johnson (who supplied the samples) thinks it was likely produced and syndicated by the folks at the New York Evening Graphic.