Ashbel P. Fitch -- Champion of Old New York by David E. Remington, Adirondack Museum/Syracuse UP '11, $45, 328 pages, ASIN #0815609884. Index, bibliography, notes, three appendices, b&w images sprinkled through text.
Political junkies familiar with the depredations of Boss Tweed and his cronies in the 19th century era of Tammany Hall may laugh at the phrase "honest Tammany man" and declare that it's a contradiction in terms. But, as independent scholar David E. Remington argues, that label was a reality when applied to Ashbel P. Fitch, Gotham four-term congressman and one-term city comptroller. From the book jacket:
"In the U.S. Congress, Fitch was a passionate advocate of New York City. His support of tariff reform and his efforts to have New York City chosen as the site for an 1892 World Exposition reflected his deep interest in issues of industrialization and urbanization. An ardent defender of immigrant rights, Fitch opposed the xenophobia of the times and championed cosmopolitan diversity. As New York's comptroller, he oversaw the city's finances during a time of terrible economic distress, withstanding threats from Tammany Hall on one side and from Mayor William L. Strong's misguided reform administration on the other. In Ashbel P. Fitch, Remington succeeds in illuminating the independence and integrity of this unsung hero against the backdrop of the Gilded Age's corrupt politics and fierce party loyalty." David F. Remington is a retired investment banker, "Adirondacker," and amateur historian. He is also the great grandson of Ashbel P. Fitch.
Desert Cities: The Environmental History of Phoenix and Tucson by Michael Logan, UPittsburgh Press '11, $24.95, 240 pages, ASIN #0822942941. Index, bibliography, notes, b&w images sprinkled through text.
Students of the American Southwest may find it of interest that while Phoenix has four times the population of Tucson, the latter city housed more people than Phoenix prior to 1920. In this fascinating study, historian Michael F. Logan analyzes the reasons for this huge population shift. From the dust jacket:
"Desert Cities examines the environmental circumstances that led to the starkly divergent growth of these two cities. Michael Logan traces this significant imbalance to two main factors: water resources and cultural differences. Both cities began as agricultural communities. Phoenix had the advantage of a larger water supply, the Salt River, which has four and one-half times the volume of Tucson's Santa Cruz River.
"Because Phoenix had a larger river, it received federal assistance in the early twentieth century for the Salt River project, which provided water storage facilities. Tucson received no federal aid. Moreover, a significant cultural difference existed. Tucson, though it became a U.S. prossession in 1853, always had a sizeable Hispanic population. Phoenix was settled in the 1970s by Anglo pioneers who brought their visions of landscape development and commerce with them." Other players in this demographic evolution are watershed, culture, ethnicity, terrain, political favoritism, economic development, and history.
Michael F. Logan is professor of history at Oklahoma State University and has written another book about the environmental history of the Santa Cruz River.