24 May, 2012
Sol Bloom was an entertainment and popular music entrepreneur who billed himself as "Sol Bloom, the Music Man" and served for many years in the United States House of Representatives.
The son of Polish Jewish immigrants who moved to San Francisco while Sol was still an infant, he was introduced to the production side of theater business in his early teens, graduated to theater manager and staged boxing matches that featured "Gentleman Jim" Corbett. Seeking more spectacular shows to stage, he sailed for New York and to Paris for the Exposition Universelle (1889), where he was most impressed with the dancers and acrobats in the "Algerian Village" very loosely representative of France's Algerian colony.
Chicago World's Fair
His major success, at the age of 23, was in developing the mile-long Midway Plaisance for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. The Midway Plaisance offered enticing games and exhibitions presented by private vendors, removed from the somewhat icy Beaux-Arts splendor of the official exposition, ranged round its "Court of Honor". Reassigned to Bloom by the Exposition's committee, which had initially conceived of it as part of the Department of Anthropology entrusted to a Harvard professor, the "Midway" became a hugely successful crowd-pleaser that introduced the term "midway" to American English. In the "Street in Cairo", the North African belly dance was reinvented as the "hootchy-kootchy dance" to a tune made up by Bloom, "The Streets of Cairo, or the Poor Little Country Maid" sung for a century by young boys to the lyrics "O they don't wear pants on the sunny side of France" (or variants to the effect of "There's a place in France where the women wear no pants", "...where the naked ladies dance", etc.). Bloom neglected to copyright his tune, picked out on a piano at a preview for the Press Club of Chicago.
Bloom's entrée to the fair had been eased by Mayor Carter Harrison, Sr., who was assassinated days before the Exposition closed. Bloom found useful connections among Chicago's tough First Ward Democratic party bosses, "Bathhouse" John Coughlin and "Hinky Dink" Kenna. Soon he had a position as Chicago branch manager of M. Witmark & Sons, the largest publisher of sheet music in the United States, and by 1896 he was publishing under his own name, introducing photolithographs to make the scores more visually appealing. In 1897 he married Evelyn Hechheimer and settled down in a then-fashionable district on South Prairie Avenue, making himself known as "Sol Bloom, the Music Man". At the turn of the century he was awarded the first musical copyright of the new century, to much fanfare; it was "I Wish I Was in Dixie Land Tonight," by Raymond A. Browne.
Move to New York and politics
In 1903 he moved to New York, where he dabbled in real estate and enlarged his chain of music departments in department stores throughout the country. In New York he sold Victor Talking Machines. He switched his political connections to New York's Tammany Hall, to the extent that when Representative-elect of New York’s 19th Congressional District Samuel Marx died in 1922, he was invited to run, and gained the normally-Republican "Silk Stocking District" by 145 votes. He continued to represent the district until his death in 1949.
In Congress he was in charge of the George Washington Bicentennial (1932) and the U.S. Constitution Sesquicentennial Exposition (1937). He chaired the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in 1938. A strong supporter of Zionism, he was a delegate to the convention in San Francisco that established the United Nations. The first words of the Preamble to the United Nations Charter, "We, the Peoples of the United Nations .." were due to Bloom.
He represented the US at the first meeting of the UN General Assembly in London in January 1946. He called his success in persuading a majority to vote, against their instructions, for the new United Nations organization to take over the finances of the earlier United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration "the supreme moment" of his life.