The paperback edition of Capital of the World has just been released! It is available now on Amazon.com, along with the earlier hardback and Kindle editions. If you are a teacher considering course adoption, please feel free to let me know of additions you would like to see to the teaching guides published on this website. Thank you for your interest!
Visitors to this website will notice some new features, which have been created to assist teachers and training professionals who are using Capital of the World in classes and staff development workshops (thank you!). So far, the teaching guides include U.S. history, world history, and American Studies; urban and suburban history; diplomatic history; and media studies, journalism history, and public relations. Feel free to write if you would like to see additional teaching guides or if you would like to have access to documents for any of the communities in the List of Contenders. Reach the author directly at email@example.com.
During the winter of 1945, as American cities and towns accelerated their campaigns to become the Capital of the World, Irving Berlin composed a song that captured the spirit of boosterism:
Anything you can do, I can do better
I can do anything better than you …
In the same spirit, the most assertive of the American civic boosters seeking the attention of the United Nations set out for London — without invitation — to personally present their cases to the UN Preparatory Commission meeting there. On December 1, 1945, a subcommittee of diplomats began the first of three hearings to appease their eager suitors. Much to the entertainment of the press corps, each team of boosters seemed to determine to top the others.
- Atlantic City – Boosters for the seaside resort argued that their community “presents an ideal location because of its beautiful Boardwalk, beach and ocean, temperate climate, superb hotel accommodations, mammoth Convention Hall, its proximity and accessibility to cosmopolitan centers, and its rail and airport travel facilities.” Two representatives dispatched to London offered a headquarters site on Brigantine Island and warmed up the diplomats by passing out salt water taffy and Colgate soap products in delegation offices.
- Black Hills Region – Paul E. Bellamy, a Rapid City businessman whose son had been killed in the war, led the campaign to place the UN in the Black Hills grew into a three-state effort by South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming. The Black Hills boosters promoted their region as central, accessible, spacious, and politically neutral. Bellamy added that hungry delegates would find no shortage of beef steak.
- Boston — Led by Governor Maurice Tobin, a delegation for Boston stressed their unique qualification as the American city closest to Europe, the traditional center for diplomacy. They unveiled an enticing offer of seventy-five scholarships to Boston-area colleges and universities.
- Chicago — A team from Chicago promoted their city as centrally located and prominent to the war effort, but in boasting about the city’s newspapers they also displayed an unfortunate headline: “Gangland Murder on the North Side.”
- Denver — University of Colorado President Robert L. Stearns carried the city’s case to London and stressed the facilities available in the “Second Capital of the United States,” which had become a center for federal agencies during the Roosevelt years. In contrast to other competitors, Denver stressed its proximity to Latin America.
- Newport, R.I. — A British cousin of one of Newport’s boosters presented the case for placing the UN in and among the aging mansions that survived from the Gilded Age.
- Philadelphia –Among the earliest and most persistent campaigners for the UN’s attention, the Philadelphians stressed their ability to meet all of the UN’s needs for a temporary and permanent meeting place. A journal of the trip kept by one of the Philadelphia promoters derided other competitors for such commercial tactics as showing color films of scenic attractions.
- San Francisco — Last in alphabetical order for the first day of hearings, Mayor Roger Lapham simply reminded the subcommittee of the war welcome they had received earlier in the year during the conference to draft the UN Charter.
The result of these proceedings? More headlines in American newspapers about the search for a UN home, more invitations from world capital hopefuls, and more booster delegations determined to make their way to London before it was too late.
As the new school year begins, I am glad to see Capital of the World is being picked up for course reading. Post here, and I’ll do my best to respond to questions or to provide primary sources related to the text. To start the conversation, here are some discussion questions that draw upon major themes from the book. I look forward to hearing about your journey into the worlds of civic boosters and diplomats at the end of World War II.
How does a writer go about researching a story involving 248 cities and towns across the United States? The blog tour for Capital of the World begins today with a guest post on A Bookish Affair. Read the story behind the story, together with a review (“Pretty darn good!”) and a chance to win a copy of the book, by clicking here.
Charlene Mires and her book, Capital of the World, will be on a month-long blog tour, kicking off in March. Join us on tour for blogger reviews, author interviews, book giveaways, and more!
Check out the 14-stop book blog tour schedule below—and mark your calendars!
Monday, March 4th: A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, March 5th: Padre Steve
Tuesday, March 12th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, March 14th: Man of La Book
Monday, March 18th: BookNAround
Wednesday, March 20th: Suko’s Notebook
Friday, March 22nd: Sophisticated Dorkiness
Monday, March 25th: Knowing the Difference
Tuesday, March 26th: Fifty Books Project
Wednesday, March 27th: The Relentless Reader
Thursday, March 28th: West Metro Mommy
Monday, April 1st: The Future American
Wednesday, April 3rd: Lisa’s Yarns
Date TBD: Bibliosue