Ellman for Assembly

[75 years ago today, Sept. 19, 1933]

© 2008, Eric J. Ellman


In 1933 the depression wore on in New York and America at large.  The economic environment also had an impact on the political climate everywhere.  Following the stock market crash in the Fall of 1929, New York City, then run by Tammany Hall, found it increasingly difficult to meet the expectations of the public.  Under pressure from all sides, Mayor Jimmy Walker resigned in September 1932.[1]  In a special election that November, Tammany’s hand-picked candidate, John P. O’Brien was elected, but only after Acting Mayor, Joseph V. McKee received approximately 500,000 largely anti-Tammany votes.[2] 

It was in November 1933 when Mayor O’Brien, was defeated by the Republican challenger and former congressman, Fiorello LaGuardia.  LaGuardia was elected on an anti-corruption fusion ticket formed by an uneasy alliance of Jews, Catholics, and liberal bluebloods. 

In Brooklyn in 1933, the incumbent Democratic Brooklyn borough president, Henry Hesterberg, was also cast aside by the Republican, Raymond V. Ingersoll. 

Before the 1933 general election votes were cast, New Yorkers first had to select primary winners on Sept. 19.  Disharmony spilled in to the open for both Democrats and Republicans.  According to the New York Times, on Sept. 17, “[t]he chief menace” to Democratic harmony in New York City was caused by Acting Controller Frank J. Prial”, who was seeking election in his own right to that seat.[3]  The city Democratic organization, Tammany Hall, selected John N. Harmon, general manager of the Brooklyn Times, to run for Controller rather than Prial.  Prial set up his own organization to fight for the nomination.    

In city-wide referendum against Tammany Hall civil servants, usually the “backbone” of the machine, propelled Prial to victory.  However, the anti-Tammany sentiment that lifted Prial to victory was not enough to lift others seeking to challenge the incumbent machine candidates.[4] 

In 1933, Brooklyn had 2.6 million people.  In East New York, in the 22nd Assembly District, Gerald J. Ellman of Shepherd Avenue was challenging the incumbent, Jacob H. Livingston of Bulwer Place for the Democratic nomination.  The district was essentially everything in Brooklyn east of the intersection of Eastern Parkway and Broadway down Williams to Blake and then east of Pennsylvania (Granville-Payne).[5] 

Livingston, first elected in 1928, was running for his sixth one-year term.  Both candidates collected the minimum 250 signatures for the $2,500/year position.

Democrats cast green ballots under clear skies and a 65 degree high for the day.  Many voters learned of the election returns the next day, Sept. 20, erev Rosh Hashanah.  Regrettably, Jerry Ellman lost that race to Livingston leaving New Yorkers to wonder ever more of what might have been. 

Later that fall, the same election that propelled two Republicans to city mayor and Brooklyn borough president saw Livingston reelected to his seat in East New York.  Livingston (D) received 24,474, Samuel S. Schwartz (R) garnered 10,136, Theodore Shapito (Socialist) received 4,380, Samuel Feldman (Communist), scored 693 votes, and 3,390 votes were not recorded.  Livingston was elected from the assembly to the senate in 1935 where he served until 1938; he then served as a Supreme Court Justice, from 1948-1949.

Also that fall, the Dodgers finished 6th in the National League with 65 wins and 88 losses 26.5 games behind the Giants, which defeated the Washington Senators in five games in the World Series; Prohibition was repealed by the 21st Amendment; President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced creation of the Civil Works Administration; Germany announced it was leaving the League of Nations; and Albert Einstein arrived in the United States.

April 2008

[1] Roy V. Peel, The New York Municipal Election, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 27, No. 6 (Dec., 1933), pp. 918, 918-919.

[3] Big Protest Vote Likely in Primary; Election Tuesday to Settle Bitter Factional Contests in Both Political Parties. Koenig Power at State, Hostility to O’Brien Also to Be Gauged, N.Y. Times, Sept. 17, 1933.

[4] Strong Primary Protest; Ex-Deputy Comptroller’s Nomination Victory for City Workers.  Carries 4 of 5 Boroughs; Blow to Tammany — O’Brien Wins by 185,000 Margin — 3 Curry Leaders Lose. Farley Among Defeated; McCooey’s Prestige Suffers Because of Harman Defeat — Hart Ahead in Richmond.  Prial is Victor in Primary Vote.  N.Y. Times, Sept. 20, 1933.

[5] Legislative Manual, New York, 1932.



























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