Thursday, March 23, 2006


Mayor LaGuardia banned Organ Grinders in NY, to Stamp out Italian Stereotypes 70 years ago




Fiorello (Little Flower) LaGuardia was one of the best Mayors New York ever had. He was Half Italian and Half Jewish. If you can't be ALL Italian, being Half Jewish isn't bad:)  See LaGuardia's Bio at end.


Fiorello was revered in the Italian Community, and he in turn tried to be their protector and champion, which was no mean feat, with the amount of outright  disdain and hostility from both the Anglo Protestant Establishment, AND also surprisingly the newly politically potent Irish (who were fellow despised new immigrants and fellow Catholics).   






Daily News

By Jotham Sederstrom

March 23, 2006

Mayor LaGuardia banned them 70 years ago, but organ grinders will return to Coney Island next month - and maybe bring their monkeys, too.

To kick off the amusement mecca's opening day April 9, dozens of the once-prominent street musicians plan to crank out old-time hits such as "The Sidewalks of New York" on their automatic music machines.

"It's a lot of great music," said Coney Island USA chairman Todd Robbins.

Among those expected to crank out tunes are Joe Bush and his 19-year-old monkey, George Bush. The New Jersey native is believed to be one of only four or five remaining organ grinders, a title given only to those with monkeys.

"The guy in New York is gone now, Bob Candido," said Bush, recalling former colleagues who had either died or retired from the business.

The machines, some more than 100 years old, were once hugely popular in New York, especially in neighborhoods such as Little Italy and the lower East Side, where Italian immigrants settled.

But in a bid to stamp out Italian stereotypes, LaGuardia banned the instruments from the streets.

"This was cranked up by every Italian immigrant who came to the United States, until it became so noisy that Fiorello LaGuardia had to shut 'em down," said Aldo Mancusi of the Molinari organs that were made in southwest Brooklyn.





Fiorello Enrico LaGuardia  (December 11,1882- September 20, 1947)  was the Mayor of New York from 1934 to 1945.. He was popularly known as "the Little Flower," the translation of his Italian first name, also perhaps a reference to his short stature of just 5 feet. According to modern historians, LaGuardia is considered one of New York City's greatest mayors because of his role in leading New York during the Great Depression.

LaGuardia was born in  The Bronx to an Italian lapsed-Catholic father and a Hungarian mother of Jewish origin from Trieste, and he was raised anEpiscopalian. He spent most of his childhood in Prescott Arizona. The family moved to his mother's hometown of  Treiste, Italy, after his father served as bandmaster in the US Army in 1898. LaGuardia served in U.S. consulates in Budapest, Trieste, and Fiume (1901-1906). Fiorello returned to the U.S. to continue his education at New York University, and during this time he worked for NY Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Children, and as a translator for the U.S. Immigration Service at Ellis Island (1907-1910).

He became the Deputy Attorney General of New York in 1914. In 1916 he was elected to the US House of Representatives where he developed a reputation as a fiery and devoted reformer. In Congress, LaGuardia represented then-ItalianEast Harlem.

La Guardia briefly (1917 - 1919) served in the armed forces, commanding a unit of the  US Army Air Service on the Italian/Austrian front in WWI, rising to the rank of major.

In 1921 his wife died of tuberculosis,LaGuardia having nursed her through the 17 month ordeal grew depressed, and turned to the bottle. He recovered and became a teetotaler.

LaGuardia ran for, and won, a seat in Congress again in 1922. Extending his record as a reformer, LaGuardia sponsored labor legislation and railed against immigration quotas. In 1932, Rep. LaGuardia co sponsored the Norris-LaGuardia Act..

LaGuardia was elected mayor of NYC in 1934 on an anti-corruption "fusion" ticket during the Great Depression, which united him in an uneasy alliance with New York's Jews and liberal bluebloods (Wasps).

LaGuardia was hardly an orthodox Republican, being very progressive. He also ran as the nominee of the American Labor Party, a union-dominated anti-Tammany grouping that also ran FDR for President from 1936 onward. LaGuardia also supported Roosevelt. (a former Republican)

LaGuardia was the city's firstItalian-American mayor, but LaGuardia was far from being a typical Italian New Yorker. After all, he was a Republican, Episcopalian, who had grown up in Arizona, and had an Istrian (Irredenta) Jewish mother and a Roman Catholic -turned-atheist Italian father. He reportedly spoke seven languages, including Italian, Hebrew, Hungarian, and Yiddish.

LaGuardia is famous for, among other things, restoring the economic lifeblood of  NYC during and after the Great Depression. His massive public works programs employed thousands of unemployed New Yorkers and his constant lobbying for federal government funds allowed New York to establish the foundation for its economic infrastructure. He was also well known for reading the comics to the kids on the radio during a newspaper strike, and pushing to have a commercial airport (Floyd Bennett Field), and now LaGuardia Airport, within city limits. He was also a very outspoken and early critic of Hitler and the Nazi regime.

LaGuardia was the director general for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) in 1946.

LaGuardia loved music and conducting, and was famous for spontaneously conducting professional and student orchestras that he visited. He once said that the "most hopeful accomplishment" of his long administration as mayor was the creation of the High School of Music & Art in 1936, now the  Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. In addition to LaGuardia High School, a number of other institutions are also named for him, including LaGuardia Community College. He was also the subject of the Pulitzer Prize -winning Broadway musical Fiorello! . He died inNYC of pancreatic cancer at the age of 64, on 20th September, 1947.

His autobiography, "Making of an Insurgent", was published posthumously in 1948

Fiorello La Guardia, speech (
12th November, 1918)

The awakening of the progressive spirit throughout the country means nothing else than the arousing of a united protest against conditions which have become intolerable. There is nothing about this movement that is complicated or difficult of being explained. Exploitation, the result of favored legislation, poverty, the result of the greed of monopolies, dissatisfaction, the result of privileged government, have resulted in the alliance between farmers, industrial producers, the believers in democracy, and the true lovers of America. That is all there is to it.


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