Al Smith

Al Smith, c. 1920s-1930s, Harris & Ewing collection at the Library of Congress

Birth Name: Alfred Emanuel Smith

Date of Birth: December 30, 1873

Place of Birth: Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S.

Date of Death: October 4, 1944

Place of Death: Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S.

*25% Italian
*25% German
*50% Irish

Al Smith was an American politician and statesman. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the 8th President of the New York City Board of Aldermen, from January 1, 1917 to December 31, 1918, and the 42nd Governor of New York, from January 1, 1919 to December 31, 1920, and again from January 1, 1923 to December 31, 1928.

He was the Democratic Party’s nominee for President of the United States in 1928. He was also a candidate for the Democratic Party’s 1920, 1924, and 1932 presidential nominations.

Al was the son of Catherine (Mulvihill) and Alfrede Emanuele Ferraro, who changed his name to Alfred E. Smith. The name Ferraro means “blacksmith” or “smith” in Italian. His father was of Italian and German descent. His mother was of Irish ancestry. Al was a prominent spokesperson for the Irish-American community.

Al was the first, and is one of three Roman Catholics nominated for President of the United States by a major American political party. John F. Kennedy, in 1960, and John Kerry, in 2004, are the others. All were/are Democrats.

He was married to Catherine Ann Dunn, with whom he had five children.

Al’s paternal grandfather was named Emanuel Ferraro. Emanuel was born in Genova, Italy.

Al’s paternal grandmother was named Magdalena/Magdaline Kolbe/Colby. Magdalena was German.

Al’s maternal grandparents were Thomas Mulvihill and Maria Marsh. Thomas and Maria were from County Westmeath, Ireland.

Al was the first person of significant Italian heritage to win a caucus, primary, and/or nominating ballot for a major American party’s Presidential nomination. The other winners of significant Italian heritage are:
*Michael DiSalle (1960; Democratic; won 1 state, Ohio)
*Rick Santorum (Republican; ran in 2012 and 2016: in 2012, he won 11 contests; Santorum is of three quarters Italian descent)
*Ted Cruz (2016; Republican; won 11 contests; Cruz’s maternal great-grandfather was Italian)

Other people of significant Italian heritage who are mounting or have mounted plausible or semi-plausible campaigns for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States are:
*John A. Volpe (who sought the 1968 Republican nomination)
*James Traficant (who sought the 1988 Democratic nomination; Traficant’s father was of Italian descent)
*Rudy Giuliani (who sought the 2008 Republican nomination)
*Tom Tancredo (who sought the 2008 Republican nomination)
*Chris Christie (who sought the 2016 Republican nomination; Christie’s mother was of Italian descent)
*George Pataki (who sought the 2016 Republican nomination; Pataki’s maternal grandfather was Italian)
*Richard Ojeda (who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination; Ojeda’s mother is of Italian descent)
*Tim Ryan (who is seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination; Ryan’s mother is of Italian descent)

Geraldine Ferraro, who was of Italian descent, was the Democratic nominee for Vice President of the United States in 1984.

1 Response

  1. andrew says:

    Al’s father changed his surname to Smith because its means ‘blacksmith’ or ‘smith’ in Italian

    Ferraro is a variation of Ferrari, Ferrero and others.

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