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.

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

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 four, Roman Catholics to have been nominated for President of the United States by a major political party. John F. Kennedy, in 1960, John Kerry, in 2004, and Joe Biden, in 2020, are the others, with Kennedy and Biden being elected. All were/are Democrats.

He was married to Catherine Ann Dunn, with whom he had five children. Their great-grandson was Wall Street executive Alfred E. Smith IV.

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 grandfather was named Thomas Mulvihill. Thomas was from County Westmeath, Ireland.

Al’s maternal grandmother was named Maria Marsh. Maria was from County Westmeath.

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. He won 12 contests in 1928, the year he was nominated, and won 4 contests in 1932. 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, whose maternal great-grandfather was Italian, won 11 contests in the 2016 Republican Party primaries.

Other people of significant Italian heritage who 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)
*George Pataki (who sought the 2016 Republican nomination; Pataki’s maternal grandfather was Italian)
*Chris Christie (who sought the 2016 and 2020 Republican nominations; Christie’s mother was of Italian descent)
*Richard Ojeda (who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination; Ojeda’s mother is of at least three quarters Italian descent)
*Tim Ryan (who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination; Ryan’s mother is of Italian descent)
*Bill de Blasio (who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination; de Blasio’s mother was of Italian descent)
*Ron DeSantis (who sought the 2024 Republican nomination)

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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