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William McKinley

William McKinley

Confederates on the Front Porch: Facing a populist surge, a candidate finds unity to win the White House.

Partisan gridlock in Washington, the two parties at each other’s throats. The economy wracked by disruptive new technologies and jostled by rising foreign competition.  A growing concern that the divide between the rich and poor is growing.

If that sounds like America today, it was actually where the country stood during the election of 1896, only things were worse.  There had been five presidential elections in a row where no one received 50% of the vote.  In two of them, the winner in the Electoral College lost the popular vote – and one of those contests involved a five-month dispute about the outcome in Florida.

For 20 out of 24 years, the government was divided with one party holding the White House and the other controlling one or both houses of Congress.  The result was stalemate on the major issues of the day.

The economic divide was made worse by the lingering effects of the Civil War, which had a major impact on American politics, especially in the South where powerful myths were woven to justify succession and slavery and explain away defeat as the result of Northern barbarity and material advantage.

Southern resentment of the North was exacerbated by the differences in economic modernization between the regions.  The North ended the war with its manufacturing base intact while the South saw most its factories and much of its agricultural production disrupted.  The economic disparity only increased as the economic growth in the North and Midwest outstripped that in the South in the decades after the Civil War.

At the time, many Southern farmers were forced to participate in the crop lien scheme where local “furnishing merchants” supplied them with necessities in return for title to their crops.  At “settlin’ time” when the harvest came in, the farmers’ debts routinely exceed the value of their crops, making them “another day old and deeper in debt.”

In 1896, both Democratic and Republican candidates addressed these economic concerns.  William Jennings Bryan, the 36-year old Democratic nominee, lashed the Northern Money Power, Wall Street and the foreign financial houses on which the U.S., a developing country, relied for investment.  His was a negative campaign which deliberately pitted class again class and region against region, with Bryan calling the industrial East “the enemy’s country.”

William McKinley

William McKinley

By contrast, his opponent, Republican William McKinley, deliberately struck a note of national reconciliation, saying that Americans were in this together.  The fortunes of labor and capital were inexorably tied.  This led McKinley to emphasize both economic and national unity.

One way the McKinley campaign showcased these appeals was to do something that no Republican presidential candidate had done since the end of the Civil War: meet with a group of ex-Confederates.

On the afternoon of October 9, two large trainloads arrived in Canton, Ohio, McKinley’s hometown, disgorging thousands of men, many in butternut or grey uniforms, along with their families.  These were Confederate veterans, mostly from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, where McKinley had fought at first as an enlisted man and then, after battlefield promotions for valor, as an officer with the 23rd Ohio.  Rev. Abram P. Funkhouser of Harrisonburg, Virginia, had organized the Southerners.

The former rebels were met at the depot by a mounted honor escort, a Grand Army of the Republic band and several hundred Union veterans in their blue wartime uniforms.  The wives of the GAR members presented the Southerners an elaborate silk banner to mark the visit.  Then with the band blaring and American flags flying, the Southerners marched to the Tabernacle, a local meeting hall, where Canton women served lunch to the men and their families as they waited for one more trainload of their comrades to arrive.

Each ex-Confederate was given a knife from Canton’s Novelty Cutlery Co. engraved with the American flag, McKinley’s portrait and the words, “No East, No West, No North, No South, the Union Forever.”  There were matching badges, with ribbons half blue and half grey, topped with a red, white and blue rosette, and bearing a similar sentiment with a medallion featuring portraits of McKinley and his running mate, Garrett Hobart.

By 4:30 P.M., the final train had arrived and Southern men gathered in the Stark County Courthouse Square behind their new banner that read “United We Stand.”  The reverse displayed an American eagle resting on a shield with the words, “Presented to the ex-Confederate Veterans of the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, by the ex-Union Veterans of Canton, Ohio.”  They were joined by groups of Union veterans and Northern and Southern units mingled together, the men formed up behind bands and flag bearers and then marched up North Market Street.  The sidewalks were packed with cheering spectators, standing under billowing flags and patriotic bunting.  Many people were weeping as former battlefield adversaries marched together in a display of national unity.  The march ended at a stage built on McKinley’s lawn; a crowd jammed the intersection to witness the historic moment.

McKinley was moved by the presence of men he may have faced in battle.  His remarks were deeply personal.  “Patriotism is not bound by State, or class, or sectional lines,” he told the Southerners, “we are a reunited country.  We have but one flag…Sectionalism was surrendered at Appomattox.”  His campaign stood for “Country first, Country last and Country with stainless honor.”  McKinley noted this was the first time a Republican presidential candidate had met with ex-Confederates and urged veterans North and South to support “the enthronement of justice and the supremacy of law.”

The crowd cheered what was an intensely emotional moment, both for McKinley and the former combatants.  Speeches over, the Southern men filed across the porch to shake the Republican Presidential candidate’s hand before returning to the Tabernacle for dinner.  The Confederate veteran bands offered a concert in the Courthouse Square before their trains left for Virginia at midnight.

It is hard now from a distance of nearly 120 years to understand what a powerful moment this had been.  America had not seen the like of it since Lee surrendered to Grant 31 years before.  And that McKinley – who had enlisted as a private at age 18 to answer Lincoln’s call to save the Union and then fought through to the war’s conclusion, ending the conflict as a major – had caused such an event to happen spoke volumes about his character and purpose.

Four weeks later, McKinley was elected the 25th president of the United States with the largest popular margin since Grant’s reelection in 1872.  And while the divide between North and South was not erased, sectional tensions eased, the bitterness of the war receded and nearly four decades of Republican dominance followed.  Such was the result of a remarkable campaign in which one candidate sought to bring the country together while another was willing to tear it apart to win.

Mr. Rove, a former deputy chief of staff for President George W. Bush, helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads.  He is the author of “The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters.”

Book Reviews

Merrily, Gatsby, Mary Jane, and More Win Applause at 2024 Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards

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Merrily We Roll Along has continued its award-winning roll, topping the list of winners for the 2024 Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards, chosen by Broadway.com readers.

The hit revival won in a total of five categories, including Favorite Musical Revival. They honored all three of its stars: Jonathan Groff was named Favorite Performance of the Year (Musical), while Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez won in featured categories. Groff and Radcliffe also won a second award for the category of Favorite Onstage Pair.

The Great Gatsby won the award for Favorite New Musical, while the musical’s stars Jeremy Jordan and Eva Noblezada won in the leading musical acting categories. Other musical performers who won awards included Spamalot’s Leslie RodriguezKritzer for Favorite Diva Performance, Gutenberg! The Musical! star Josh Gad for Favorite Funny Performance, and Grant Gustin, the lead of Water for Elephants, won for Favorite Breakthrough Performance.

Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer (center) and the cast of Spamalot. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman, 2023.

On the play front, David Adjmi’s Stereophonic was named Favorite New Play, and An Enemy of the People won for Favorite Play Revival. Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch star Leslie Odom, Jr. and Mary Jane star Rachel McAdams won in the leading acting categories, with Appropriate‘s Elle Fanning and Alex Brightman from The Shark is Broken named featured acting favorites.

The Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards contains many unique categories. Favorite Replacement awards, honoring actors who stepped into hit shows, were won by Jordan Fisher for Hadestown and Sutton Foster for Sweeney Todd. The composer for The Notebook, Ingrid Michelson won for Favorite New Song for “Carry You Home.

This year’s winners will be honored at a private reception at 48 Lounge on June 6.

A complete list of winners follows.

The cast of Stereophonic on Broadway. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

Favorite New Musical
The Great Gatsby (Book by Kait Kerrigan, Music by Jason Howland, Lyrics by Nathan Tysen)

Favorite New Play
Stereophonic (Written by David Adjmi)

Favorite Musical Revival
Merrily We Roll Along

Favorite Play Revival
An Enemy of the People

Favorite Long-Running Show
Wicked

Favorite Tour
Beetlejuice

Favorite Performance of the Year (Musical)
Jonathan Groff, Merrily We Roll Along

Favorite Performance of the Year (Play)
Leslie Odom, Jr., Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch

Leslie Odom, Jr. and Kara Young in Purlie Victorious – Photo by Marc J. Franklin.

Favorite Leading Actor in a Musical
Jeremy Jordan, The Great Gatsby

Favorite Leading Actress in a Musical
Eva Noblezada, The Great Gatsby

Favorite Leading Actor in a Play
Leslie Odom, Jr., Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch

Favorite Leading Actress in a Play
Rachel McAdams, Mary Jane

Favorite Featured Actor in a Musical
Daniel Radcliffe, Merrily We Roll Along

Favorite Featured Actress in a Musical
Lindsay Mendez, Merrily We Roll Along

Favorite Featured Actor in a Play
Alex Brightman, The Shark is Broken

Favorite Featured Actress in a Play
Elle Fanning, Appropriate


Sarah Paulson and Elle Fanning in 2ST’s Appropriate. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Favorite Diva Performance
Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer, Spamalot

Favorite Funny Performance
Josh Gad, Gutenberg! The Musical!

Favorite Onstage Pair
Jonathan Groff and Daniel Radcliffe, Merrily We Roll Along

Favorite Breakthrough Performance (Male)
Grant Gustin, Water for Elephants

Favorite Breakthrough Performance (Female)
Rachel McAdams, Mary Jane

Favorite Replacement (Male)
Jordan Fisher, Hadestown

Favorite Replacement (Female)
Sutton Foster, Sweeney Todd

Favorite New Song
“Carry You Home,” The Notebook (Music and Lyrics by Ingrid Michelson)

Rachel McAdams in MTC’s Mary Jane. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Shows with Multiple Wins
Merrily We Roll Along – 5
The Great Gatsby – 3
Mary Jane – 2
Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch – 2

Performers with Multiple Wins
Jonathan Groff, Merrily We Roll Along – 2
Rachel McAdams, Mary Jane – 2
Leslie Odom, Jr., Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch – 2
Daniel Radcliffe, Merrily We Roll Along – 2

Jeremy Jordan, Eva Noblezada, and the cast of The Great Gatsby. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

 

 

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Book Reviews

Mark Bego: The Prince Of Pop Biographies Gets Political With Yorkshire Publishing’s Campaigning For President

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What is the best-selling rock & roll biographer in the show business realm doing, writing a book on politics with “Campaigning For President?” asks author Mark Bego, “One of the reasons why this is a viable transition into another literary genre for me, is that political campaigns are 90% show business, and the act of finding an audience and playing to it—just like the music business.”

Mark Bego

Bego, whose last two books— “Band of Gold” with Freda Payne, and “Joe Cocker:  With A LOT of Help from His Friends”—both from Yorkshire Publishing—electrified the charts and further solidified his position as “the Prince of Pop Biographies” (a title given to him by Publisher’s Weekly).  On the heels of the Cocker biography, Bego was approached about reviving and updating the popular 2008 book: “Campaigning For President.”  According to him, “I am always up for a new literary adventure—and this seemed like a fun and historically relevant one to be involved with!”

Jordan M. Wright was the owner of the world’s most extensive collection of U.S. Presidential campaign memorabilia when he published the original 2008 book, “Campaigning For President.”  Only months later Wright tragically died, and his collection eventually found a permanent home at Long Island University. Since that time there have been five new presidential campaigns to write about, including the current 2024 Trump vs. Biden battle.  Bego was approached by Wright’s widow, Pamala Wright, about writing five new chapters, a new beginning, and re-imagining the original coffee table book.  “It intrigued me, and I was up for the challenge,” proclaims Bego.

According to Mark, “The five political campaigns that I have written about for this book have undoubtedly been the most dramatic ones ever mounted. And, the best part of this assignment is the fact that the book does not take political sides.  It is all about the memorabilia that is created for a presidential campaign, not the politics of it.  You can be a Republican, an Independent, or a Democrat, and still find everything in this book to be fascinating and of historical significance.”

“In my mind, a political rally can unfold the same way as a rock concert,” says Bego. “People can walk away from such an event with a Donald Trump ‘MAGA’ hat, or an ‘I’m With Hillary’ bumper sticker, or any number of catchy marketing items.  While I have spent my time collecting PEZ dispensers, and memorabilia on The Supremes and The Beatles, the original author of this book—Jordan M. Wright—was busy collecting political campaign items from George Washington in the 1780’s, up to George W. Bush in the 2000’s.  It is basically the same act, just a different arena.”

This new and fully updated version of the lavishly illustrated book “Campaigning For President,” with all new Bego material, is due to be released on June 4 from Yorkshire Publishing.  It represents Mark’s 69th published book.

Bego explains, “There is flattering memorabilia in this book about every candidate, and there are also some unflattering memorabilia about many of them too.  My task here is to present both sides of the coins, and to view the items in this book for their cleverness, their bitchiness, their ideals, their humor, and—ultimately—their effectiveness in the political outcome.”

Mark Bego’s next literary effort will undoubtedly return him to his musical wheelhouse. “I have several titles in my head; and in fact, have already begun writing one of them,” confirms the author.

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Book Reviews

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Four Award-Winning Musical Theatre Writers Who Turned to Writing Books

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“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents”, is  filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience.

In this episode T2C’s publisher and owner Suzanna Bowling talks with Douglas J Cohen, Stephen Cole ,Alison Louise Hubbard and David Spencer, musical theatre writers, who all have books out.

We are so proud because the show and our guests are now featured on the TV screens in the lobby and the hotel rooms.

I am so grateful to my guests Douglas J Cohen How To Survive A Killer Musical: Agony and Ecstasy on the Road to Broadway, Stephen Cole Mary & Ethel… and Mikey Who?, Alison Louise Hubbard The Kelsey Outrage, The Crime of the Century A historical true crime novel and David Spencer The Novelizers: An Affectionate History of Media Adaptations and Originals, Their Astonishing Authors—and the Art of the Craft

Thank-you Magda Katz for videoing and creating the content to go live, the audience who showed up to support us, Rommel Gopez and The Hotel Edison for their kindness and hospitality.

You can catch us on the following platforms:

Pandora:

https://www.pandora.com/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/PC:1001084740

Stitcher:

https://www.stitcher.com/show/1084740

Spotify:

Amazon:

https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/e3ac5922-ada8-4868-b531-12d06e0576d3

Apple Podcasts:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/id1731059092

We hope to see you there on April 24th. We will be announcing our guests tomorrow.

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Book Reviews

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Four Award-Winning Musical Theatre Writers Who Turned to Writing Books

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I am so pleased to announce our guest for next Wednesday’s show on April 17th are four award-winning musical theatre writers who turned to writing books.

For a veteran musical theatre dramatist, getting a new musical on is rarely easy, even at the healthiest of times. But when a pandemic stops everything cold—and a restless creative spirit is driven to both keep writing and reach an audience—what can be done? Well, four musical dramatists independently decided to meet the challenge head on with the same answer: Write a book! But their creative paths to near- simultaneous publication would be as unique as the rave-reviewed books themselves. And when they realized that their musical theatre backgrounds cast them as an equally unique quartet…they decided to come full circle back to the theatre community …to tell that story…the story of how their incredible books came to be…which in its way is also a universal story; a story for our time. A story of taking stock, taking a deep breath, taking new steps…and turning the page. Here are our writers:

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David Spencer is an award-winning musical dramatist, author, critic and musical theatre teacher, whose work has been produced in the US, Canada and England. His most well-known credits as lyricist-librettist are two musicals in collaboration with composer Alan Menken: The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, based on the novel by Moredecai Richler (original cast album on Ghostlight Records) and Weird Romance (co-librettist: Alan Brennert; original cast album digital-on-demand from Columbia Masterworks). He made his professional debut writing the acclaimed colloquial English-language adaptation of La Bohème for the Public Theatre; and as composer-lyricist wrote scores and orchestrations for Theatreworks/USA’s young audience versions of The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables (librettist-director for both: Rob Barron). His published books are The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide (Heinemann), the acting edition of Weird Romance (Samuel French)—and, pulpsmith proud, Passing Fancy, an original novel based on the TV series Alien Nation (PocketBooks). He recently completed a draft of his first straight play, Spirit Run (story by him and Jerry James).

David is an ex officio steering committee and faculty member of the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, where he taught for over 25 years, and has also taught at HB Studio, Workshop Studio Theater in New York; and Goldsmith’s College and BML in London.

His book is The Novelizers: An Affectionate History of Media Adaptations and Originals, Their Astonishing Authors—and the Art of the Craft

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 Stephen Cole is an award-winning musical theatre writer whose shows have been produced from New York City to London to the Middle East and Australia. His off-Broadway musical with Matthew Ward, After The Fair, was nominated for the Outer Critic’s Circle Award for Best Musical and was subsequently produced in London to great acclaim. The Night Of The Hunter won the prestigious Edward Kleban Award and was produced in New York City, Dallas, and San Francisco, where it was nominated for several Bay Area Theatre Awards. The award-winning 1998 concept CD features Ron Raines, Sally Mayes, and Dorothy Loudon. Saturday Night At Grossinger’s has had successful runs in Texas (starring Gavin MacLeod), Los Angeles, and Florida. Broadway legend Chita Rivera toured in Casper, and Hal Linden and Dee Hoty starred in the world premiere of his musical adaptation of Dodsworth. In 2005, Stephen was commissioned to write Aspire, the first American musical to premiere in the Middle East. This experience resulted in another musical about the creation of that show entitled The Road To Qatar!, produced to rave reviews and awards Off-Broadway, in London, and at the Edinburgh Festival, garnering a Best Musical nomination. Among his other produced shows are Rock Odyssey, which played to hundreds of thousands of kids for ten seasons of productions at the Adrienne Arscht Center in Miami, and Merman’s Apprentice, presented in concert at Birdland in New York City, followed by an all-star cast album on Jay Records, and an acclaimed premiere production in Sonoma, CA in 2019. Stephen’s latest critically acclaimed musical is Goin’ Hollywood. Stephen’s published books include That Book About That Girl and I Could Have Sung All Night, the Marni Nixon story, currently in development as a feature film from Amazon. Stephen has also written several published stories and his real-life friendships with Ethel Merman and Mary Martin resulted in this, his first novel. Visit www.stephencolewriter.org.