From the Editor: The award-winning hotel historian, Stanley Turkel, has an additional life as an American historian. The following article describes his recent invitation to the newly-opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
by Stanley Turkel, CMHS
On September 17, 2016, I was invited to the Collection Donor Preview & Reception at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The invitation came as a result of my donation of 670 artifacts* to the Museum which I collected over a fifty-eight year period. My lifetime interest was triggered by a chance exposure. In 1956, I attended a six-lecture course on Black Reconstruction given by the famous African American historian Dr. W.E.B. DuBois in Manhattan. I was a recent graduate of New York University and thought I was very well educated. Dr. DuBois was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University (1898) and in 1935 had written “Black Reconstruction: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America 1860-1880.” At eighty years of age, he was articulate and knowledgeable. His lectures were a revelation to me on subjects about which I knew very little.
As a consequence, I embarked on a life-long study program to learn as much as I could about the Reconstruction period in post-Civil War America. Over time, I became aware of the availability of rare books and documents from dealers who specialized in 19th century memorabilia. With limited resources, I slowly acquired original material and then taught myself to cut mats and do my own framing. Often the cost of commercial framing was more expensive than the item being framed. As my knowledge of the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction period expanded, I decided to write a book about sixteen pioneers (eight black and eight white) who were relatively unknown. My book “Heroes of the American Reconstruction: Profiles of Sixteen Educators, Politicians and Activists” was published in 2005 by McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina. It contains the stories of Adelbert Ames, Samuel Chapman Armstrong, Blanche Kelso Bruce, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Robert Brown Elliott, Charlotte Forten Grimke, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, John Mercer Langston, James Longstreet, John Roy Lynch, Albert Talmon Morgan, Albert R. Parsons, P.B.S. Pinchback, Robert Smalls, Albion Winegar Tourgee and George Henry White.
Unfortunately, Reconstruction is usually just a blip on the screen of high school history classes. Practically no attention is given to the second Bill of Rights: the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments or to the Homestead Act or the Morrell Land Grant Act. The disputed presidential election of 1877 between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden resulted in the removal of U.S. Army troops from the South and the brutal rise of white terrorist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan and the Knights of the White Camelia.
For ten years beginning in 1867 during Reconstruction, the former Confederate states elected twenty black congressmen and two black U.S. Senators. When the last of the radical reconstruction governments was overthrown in 1877, it would be eighty years before comparable number of African Americans would be sent to Congress.
The new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture will provide, once and for all time, a mountain of evidence of beneficial contributions by African Americans and the terrible repression they suffered for more than two centuries.
*books, newspapers, pamphlets, prints, documents, letters, booklets, photographs, magazines, leaflets, brochures, checks, envelopes, postcards, tickets, music sheets, etc.
About Stanley Turkel’s Hotel Books
During the thirty years prior to the Civil War, Americans built hotels larger and more ostentatious than any in the rest of the world. These hotels were inextricably intertwined with American culture and customs but were accessible to average citizens. Stephen Rushmore writes in the Foreword: “Drawing from more than 40 years of industry experience including managing some of the largest New York City hotels, Turkel captures the spirit of each of these pioneers and relates their achievements to important lessons that we can learn from.”
These thirty-two featured hotels have defied the passage of time for a variety of reasons, many explicable, some beyond explanation, all miraculous. Bjorn Hanson, Ph.D. writes in the Foreword: “Stanley Turkel is unique in his passion about the history of the United States lodging industry; he pursues and shares this passion by compiling information about great hoteliers and hotels for articles, updates for his clients, and this, the second of his two hotel books.”
All the eighty-six hotels featured in this book have unique and singular stories describing their creation, survival and revival. The book also contains eighty-six antique postcard illustrations and a Foreword by Joseph McInerney, President and CEO Emeritus of the American Hotel & Lodging Association: “Stanley Turkel is one of the best writers I know at capturing our history – the “old” – and infusing it with new life and relevance.”
Hotel Mavens tells the interesting stories of the following pioneers and the hotels they built and operated:
- Lucius Boomer, one of the most famous hoteliers of his time, was Chairman of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel Corporation.
- George C. Boldt who was the genius of the original Waldorf-Astoria. It was said of him that he made innkeeping a profession and, more than any man, was the creator of the modern American hotel.
- Oscar of the Waldorf was the superstar of his time and one of the stalwarts who managed both the original and the current Waldorf-Astoria.
Sam Roberts in the New York Times wrote:
"Nostalgia for the city's caravansaries will be kindled by Stanley Turkel's "Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt and Oscar of the Waldorf". The fact-filled book by Mr. Turkel, an industry consultant, explains, among other things, the history of the hyphen (recently excised) in the name of the Waldorf Astoria, which inspired a mid-block street and even a song."
Lawrence P. Horwitz, Executive Director, Historic Hotels of America, writes in the Foreword: “This book is an excellent history book with insights into seventeen of the great innovators and visionaries of the hotel industry and their inspirational stories.”
These important and largely unknown biographies include Stewart William Bainum, Curtis Leroy Carlson, Cecil Burke Day, Louis Jacob Dinkler, Eugene Chase Eppley, Roy C. Kelley, Arnold S. Kirkeby, Julius Manger, Robert R. Meyer, Albert Pick, Jr., Jay Pritzker, Harris Rosen, Ian Schrager, Vernon B. Stouffer, William Cornelius Van Horne, Robert E. Woolley and Stephen Allen Wynn.
All of these books can be ordered from AuthorHouse by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the book’s title.