Sol Bloom

The last of our hero-makers, Representative Sol Bloom, took to George Washington the way a spring salmon takes to the Columbia River. By the time Bloom left Congress, Washington was almost better known than Mary Pickford.

The son of Polish Jewish immigrants, Sol began his career in a San Francisco brush factory. Subsequently he became ticket agent, show manager, producer, hootchy-kootchy inventor, music publisher, and backer of the first ferris wheel. When the SpanishAmerican War broke out, he demonstrated that he was more than equal to the occasion. The same day that news of the Maine disaster broke he completed and published a tune called, "The Heroes who Sank with the Maine." If you gave Sol an idea, he could make it go.

Feeling be had gone far enough, Sol Bloom retired in 1923 a millionaire, and proceeded to devote himself to public service. Tammany Hall backed him for Congress in the plush Riverside Drive district of Manhattan. He managed to get seated in a contested election, and to stay until his death in 1949.

However, Bloom's bizarre bills and fist fights in Congress were nothing as compared to his hero-making. In 1930 he became associate director of the George Washington Bicentennial Commission. His coequal on the Commission, U. S. Grant III, grandson of the General who made a name for himself by sticking it out on a battleline all winter, did not persist like his namesake. He left Bloom in sole control. The new commander not only filled the breach, he spilled all over the wall. Before Congress knew what had happened, he organized a nine months' celebration, nailed down an appropriation of $338,000, and hired a staff of 125. During the legislative recess he devoted fifteen hours a day to George in one way or another. Millions of printed pieces jammed the nation's letter boxes. Tons of Washington badges, buttons, and busts went on sale. Sol even took over, with Washington's help, Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Goethe's birthday. Finally he set up his own radio station, with antenna on top of the Washington Monument. Never, but never, has one man said so much about Washington to so many. As Will Rogers wrote in a letter to the Congressman, "You are the only guy who ever made a party run nine months, and you did it in dry times, too. You made the whole country Washington conscious."

A newspaper cartoon pictured Sol in a Continental uniform, with the caption, "First in War, first in Peace, first in Bicentennial publicity." One columnist thought he was getting to look more and more like Washington. A Republican Senator replied there was little cause for alarm just as long as Washington didn't start to look like Sol Bloom.

To no one's surprise, Sol's offer of $500 for any suggestion to publicize Washington that had escaped him went unclaimed. Sol knew why. "I have taught more real American history in the last twenty years to more students than anyone in the United States," he claimed. Even those who would quibble with the Congressman's definition of "real American history" must concede that no one else has ever done more for Washington. Weems, Marshall, Sparks, Stuart, and Houdon will have to move over and make room for Sol Bloom.

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