The Wild West’s Own New York

What place did New York occupy in the American imagination in 1922?

This piece by Anne O’Hara McCormick acknowledged it was the highest-population city and the country’s cultural capital, but noted that in a nation so geographically large (and still expanding), it couldn’t dominate the nation as some European countries’ political and/or cultural capitals did.

We read New York papers. We flock to New York shows. We wear New York clothes. We tremble over New York tickers in our business hours and shake to New York jazz in our hours of ease.

New York has not, it may be, the charm to evoke emotion in the provinces as do older national metropolises. We do not love New York as the English love London. We are not proud of it as the French are proud of Paris. We do not thrill to it as the Italians thrill to Rome.We do not weep over it as the Austrians weep over Vienna.

Her article also predicted that New York state was perhaps losing its stronghold in that another metric: producing U.S. presidents. Although there was a period where three out of five consecutive presidents counted New York as their political home state — Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, and Theodore Roosevelt — by 1922:

We watch the political spectacle in New York and Philadelphia and Boston and rejoice in our emancipation from the corrupt and stupid civic slavery of the east. We used to resent it, but since we have abandoned the east to its sins, since we have chosen four out of the last five presidents of the United States from small towns and three from Ohio, since we have enthroned the small town in the Senate and in the White House, and have given Congress over to the west.

She was wrong: New York’s own Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected 10 years later. As for Ohio, it actually hasn’t produced a president since the incumbent in 1922: Warren G. Harding.

As for the last five presidents, they’ve really hailed from all over the map: Arkansas, Texas, Illinois, New York, and Delaware.

The Wild West’s Own New York

Published: Sunday, March 5, 1922

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