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Capital of the World

The Race to Host the United Nations

Charlene Mires

Publication Year: 2013

"A fascinating account of the enthusiastic effort to establish a home for the fledgling United Nations at the end of World War II. Mires creates a powerful sense of suspense as she describes the intense competition among boosters from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and even the Black Hills of South Dakota. In lively and elegant prose, from the first sentence to the last, she captures the contradictory visions of the 'Capital of the World' that persisted from beginning to end."
—Allan M. Winkler, Distinguished Professor of History, Miami University
 
From 1944 to 1946, as the world pivoted from the Second World War to an unsteady peace, Americans in more than two hundred cities and towns mobilized to chase an implausible dream. The newly-created United Nations needed a meeting place, a central place for global diplomacy—a Capital of the World. But what would it look like, and where would it be? Without invitation, civic boosters in every region of the United States leapt at the prospect of transforming their hometowns into the Capital of the World. The idea stirred in big cities—Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, New Orleans, Denver, and more. It fired imaginations in the Black Hills of South Dakota and in small towns from coast to coast.
 
Meanwhile, within the United Nations the search for a headquarters site became a debacle that threatened to undermine the organization in its earliest days. At times it seemed the world’s diplomats could agree on only one thing: under no circumstances did they want the United Nations to be based in New York. And for its part, New York worked mightily just to stay in the race it would eventually win.
 
With a sweeping view of the United States’ place in the world at the end of World War II, Capital of the World tells the dramatic, surprising, and at times comic story of hometown promoters in pursuit of an extraordinary prize and the diplomats who struggled with the balance of power at a pivotal moment in history.
 
Charlene Mires is Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University-Camden. She is the author of Independence Hall in American Memory and a co-recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in journalism. 

Published by: NYU Press

Cover

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p. 1-1

Frontmatter

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pp. 2-7

CONTENTS

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pp. 8-9

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. 1-6

October 24, 1949, in New York City was a day of symbolism and silences.
At East Forty-Second Street facing the East River, a sleek slab of a building reached toward the sky, its upper floors still under ...

PART I: FROM WAR TO PEACE

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1 INSPIRATION

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pp. 9-28

During the second week of September 1944, the United States Army Air Force delivered a telegram with tragic news to Paul and Lucy Bellamy of Rapid City, South Dakota. Just a few days short of their fortieth wedding ...

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2 HOPE

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pp. 29-51

San Francisco had seen many prospectors in its history, from missionaries seeking souls to eager pursuers of land, fortune, and gold. Now, as diplomats from around the world arrived for the United Nations ...

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3 SCHEMES

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pp. 52-78

On the last day of June in 1945, four days after the San Francisco conference adjourned, the excursion steamship Western States cruised northward on Lake Huron, the second largest of the Great Lakes that ...

PART II: THE NEW WORLD

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4 BLITZ

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pp. 81-106

The competition to become the Capital of the World—which no one had announced—reached London in the fall of 1945 with a bombardment of invitations that no one had solicited: a resolution from the town ...

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5 SHOWTIME!

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pp. 107-122

The State Department told them not to go.
The president of the United States told them not to go.
The secretary of the United Nations Preparatory Commission in warscarred London suggested—diplomatically, of course—that they really ...

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6 SURPRISE

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pp. 123-141

The mayor of San Francisco stayed in London longer than any other American civic booster. Roger Lapham circulated among the diplomats to remind them of the warm welcome they had experienced in his city, ...

PART III: AMERICAN DREAMS

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7 STUMBLE

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pp. 145-169

Primed by the eagerness of civic boosters across the United States, an inspection team from the United Nations touched down in New York in January 1946 to find a site for the future Capital of the World. The leader ...

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8 SCRAMBLE

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pp. 170-193

While the site inspection team carried out its mission in the United States, the United Nations General Assembly convened for the first time in London and shouldered the challenge of securing peace for the world. “We ...

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9 DEAL

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pp. 194-218

If the United Nations needed further evidence of its increasingly precarious relationship with Westchester County, a single memorable event on a Saturday afternoon in October provided it. One of the UN’s ...

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EPILOGUE

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pp. 219-227

The dream of creating a world capital city, which had sprung so readily to life at the end of the Second World War, came to an end. Instead, in the tradition of earlier self-proclaimed world capitals from Rome ...

ABBREVIATIONS IN APPENDIX AND NOTES

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pp. 229-230

APPENDIX: CAPITALS OF THE WORLD

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pp. 231-255

NOTES

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pp. 257-296

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. 296-298

Traces of the Capital of the World competition are scattered widely, and so I owe thanks to many dedicated librarians and archivists who helped me follow the trail of civic boosters from their hometowns to the ...

Index

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pp. 299-318

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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p. 319-319


E-ISBN-13: 9780814708354
E-ISBN-10: 0814707947
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814707944
Print-ISBN-10: 0814707947

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2013

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