More on the linguistic skills of LaGuardia

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu May 3 13:44:32 UTC 2007

Just to check that what I had learned about LaGuardia at Ellis Island, I
googled around and found this page:

"LaGuardia was born on December 11, 1882, to Achille Luigi LaGuardia, an
Italian immigrant, who would serve as a band master in the US Army, and
Irene Cohen a Jewish immigrant from Austria-Hungary. Although born in New
York City LaGuardia grew up in the southwestern territories that would
eventually become New Mexico and Arizona. This exposure to the attitudes
and way of life in the old west would influence LaGuardia for the rest of
his life.

LaGuardia secured a position with the US Consular Service in 1901 and
served in Budapest, Trieste and Fiume, Hungary [sic!]. During his time
with the consular service he fought to better the treatment of the
immigrants then flocking to the United States. He urged the service to
institute pre-departure medical exams to prevent the immigrants from the
gut-wrenching experience of being denied admission to the United States on
medical grounds.

In 1907 LaGuardia returned to New York and began to work at Ellis Island,
the main port of entry into the United States. As a translator, LaGuardia
called upon his knowledge of five languages to assist the new immigrants
in their first steps to becoming US citizens. Simultaneously while at
Ellis Island LaGuardia was attending Law School at night at New York
University. He graduated in 1910 and soon after joined a law firm where he
was known for representing immigrants, the poor and workers."

So his linguistic skills, which I had attributed to being born in Europe,
were acquired from his multilingual parents, his diplomatic career, and
perhaps also from a stint in the American Southwest.

Hal Schiffman

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list