From the Press of Atlantic City (Sunday, March 17, 2013)
By VINCENT JACKSON, Staff Writer
If officials in the 1940s in Brigantine or Cape May had their way, people would have had to travel to one of their communities to visit the United Nations instead of New York City.
This month, Charlene Mires released a book, “Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations,” through New York University Press.
In Mires’ book, it is revealed that Atlantic City campaigned to have Brigantine be the U.N.’s permanent site and have the city serve as an interim site for the United Nations. Brigantine and Cape May officials made their own separate invitations to have the United Nations built in each of their municipalities.
Mires’ research uncovered there were suggestions, invitations or campaigns from 40 of the then 48 states to host the United Nations.
“In 1945, the United Nations was viewed by most people as being desirable and even essential,” said Mires, an associate professor of history at Rutgers University in Camden. “What you have to consider is the world had just been through a terrible war, which had ended with the atomic bomb, and so, there was a great concern about creating and securing peace and not having that experience repeated, and the United Nations was seen as the vehicle for that.”
Mires, of Philadelphia, made a trip to the Atlantic City Free Public Library to research articles published in The Press in January 1946, which she credits in her book.
People who read her book will learn or be reminded that in December 1945 the executive secretary of the New Jersey Invitation Committee to the United Nations traveled to London to extol the virtues of Atlantic City to a preparatory commission of the United Nations.
One of the more bizarre stories in the book featured the site inspectors touring the city’s famed Boardwalk and residential areas in January 1946 .
“At the behest of their hosts, Stoyan Gavrilovic – the diplomat guiding the search for the Capital of the World – removed his shoes, stood on a chair, and watched while a hotel manager emptied an envelope of local sand into his footwear,” wrote Mires, who added the United Nations headquarters complex was completed in New York City in 1953.
Then Brigantine mayor Paul Burgess promised diplomats could occupy up to two square miles of undeveloped land without disturbing the island’s 500 residents, according to information Mires found in the United Nations Archives in New York and in the now defunct Philadelphia Record newspaper.
“They flew over to London and everything to try to make the deal. They thought they had the deal,” said former Brigantine Mayor John Rogge, 92, who with his father spent years selling the thousands of lots that were going to be used for the United Nations.
Grant Scott, the Cape May commissioner of public safety, promoted “this historic seashore community” for its available land, scenic beauty and reputation as a resort retreat for presidents and other government officials, according to information Mires found in the United Nations Archives.
“I admire the creativity and the inspiration of somebody to try to do that,” said Cape May Mayor Ed Mahaney about Scott’s UN invitation.
From The New York Times (Sunday, March 10, 2013)
In “Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations” (New York University Press, $29.95), Professor Mires recounts the intense competition among 248 localities vying for the honor. Her detailed narrative is surprisingly accessible — even droll. After the Security Council convened at the Bronx campus of Hunter College (now Lehman College), James J. Lyons, the borough president, crowed: “History will record that the Bronx was the first capital of the world.”
Suburban hopes to host the headquarters were not helped when diplomats got lost on their way to the Rockefeller estate near Tarrytown, N.Y. “Looking back,” she writes, “if it all seems a bit crazy, then we have lost touch with the atmosphere of determination, hope and anxiety that characterized American society at the end of the Second World War.”