Over the course of the past two centuries thousands of men and women have been elected to serve in the New York State Assembly. The vast annals of the New York State Capitol have seen the likes of such oddly named men as Demosthenes C. LeRoy, Victory Birdseye, , Sextus Heman Hungerford and Beveridge Colin Dunlop, and this author can state with the utmost certainty that the hallowed halls of the New York State Assembly have yielded some of the oddest named individuals you'll ever hear about!
Among these numerous instances of strangely named New York legislators is Mr. Hoxie Waldo Smith, a representative in the Assembly from Kings County during the early years of the 20th century. While his service in the legislature may have been brief (he served from 1918-1919), Smith was nevertheless a resident of distinction in his native New York, serving during WWI and had earlier been engaged in the brokerage business in Manhattan.
Hoxie Waldo Smith was born on July 12, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York, one of four sons born to Clifford Hoxie (1851-1915) and Elizabeth Ward Smith (1854-1924). Clifford Hoxie Smith had been a veteran printer in New York City, being connected with the Brooklyn Typographical Union for over forty years. Hoxie W. received his education at Public School 15 and the Commercial Evening High School in New York and was later enrolled in the Dwight Private school.
A young Hoxie Smith and his father Clifford, photo courtesy of Tim Smith.
After leaving school Smith began pursuing a career in law but after few months of study "abandoned it to enter the brokerage business." Smith proved successful in this new venture, finding employment with the Goodbody and Co. brokerage firm in Manhattan during the mid-1910s. Smith also became active in New York Democratic political circles during this time and was remarked as making "campaign speeches for many Democratic nominees" during the previous four years.
Hoxie Smith was eventually nominated for a seat in the New York State Assembly, and in November 1917 narrowly defeated Republican candidate Malcolm Matheson to represent Brooklyn's Tenth district in the legislature. A campaign profile for Smith appeared in an edition of the Brooklyn Standard Union newspaper towards the end of the contest and is shown below.
At the age of twenty-four, Hoxie W. Smith was the youngest assemblyman to be elected in 1917, and with his youth came a rather unexpected hangup! As mentioned in the Brooklyn Standard article below, Smith's youthful appearance caused some confusion in Albany when the 1918 legislative term began. Shortly after being elected, Smith was mistaken for a page boy by two Tammany Hall Democrats, one of whom palmed Smith a two-dollar bill. Smith (being the honest public servant that he was) shortly thereafter informed the men of his assemblyman status and returned the money!
A similar incident occurred in January 1919 after Hoxie Smith had won re-election to the assembly. After arriving at the capital to be sworn in, Smith ventured to the office of Deputy New York Secretary of State Charles Taft to take his oath. Secretary Taft (unaware of who Smith was) mistook the assemblyman for a page boy and told him to leave, stating that then New York Secretary of State Francis Hugo had "no time to see a page boy" and that Smith should come back the following day.
Understandably indignant, Smith replied "I am not a page. I am an assemblyman and want to be sworn in." Secretary Taft (unmoved by Smith's plea) evidently laughed at the annoyed assemblyman, who then left the office and later returned with witnesses who could verify who he was! Once the matter had been ironed out, Secretary Taft is remarked as "apologizing profusely" to Smith, who eventually took his oath of office. A write up on this humorous incident appeared in the Oswego Palladium on January 8, 1919 and has been posted below.
While Smith's legislative tenure got off to a rather interesting start in 1918, he immediately set about doing the best job possible for his constituency. He was named to the house committee on social welfare and the committee on banking, and later introduced a bill during his second term that would require people or corporations that gave trading stamps or premium coupons to pay a $1,000 license fee for "each place or store in the county owned by such person or corporation where such stamps are used."
Hoxie Smith won a second term in the assembly in November 1918 and midway through his second term is recorded as introducing legislation that would provide "license and license fees for elevators and elevator operators." Mention is also given to Smith resigning during this term to enter military service in WWI, but no elaboration is given as to his rank, length of service or area of deployment.
Smith was unsuccessful in his bid for a third assembly term in November 1919, losing to Republican candidate Leo V. Doherty by a vote of 10, 287 to 7,329. Not one to let a loss get the best of him, Smith continued to actively follow state politics, even being talked of as a potential state senate candidate in the late 1920s. In August 1921 Smith married in Cedarhurst, New York to Elenore Agnes Madden (1896-1985). The couple are believed to have been childless.
In late 1926 Smith returned to Albany as the newly installed statistician and market reporter for the New York State Department of Public Markets. His tenure in this post (listed as paying over $5,500 a year) lasted only a few months, with Smith resigning in mid-1927. His resignation proved to be a hot subject that year (as evidenced by the Brooklyn Standard article below) and the news of his resignation completely mystified the Democratic bigwigs in his native Brooklyn!
After leaving the Department of Public Markets, Smith continued to be involved in New York Democratic politics, becoming the vice chairman of the campaign for Manhattan borough president Samuel Levy, then running for the office of President of the City Council in 1942.
Hoxie Smith's life after 1942 is quite sketchy, with very little information being located on him after this date. He died at age 69 on July 17, 1962, in Hackensack, New Jersey and was shortly thereafter interred at the George Washington Memorial Cemetery in Paramus, New Jersey. Elenore Madden Smith survived her husband by over twenty years, dying at age 89 in 1985 and was later buried in the same cemetery as her husband.
Another "Hoxie" that made his name known politically is Mr. Hoxie Brown, a resident of Colchester in the county of New London, Connecticut. Born in the town of South Kingston, Rhode Island on November 1, 1819, Hoxie removed to the village of Lebanon, Connecticut with his family when he was still a child. He attended schools in both South Kingston and Connecticut and married in 1847 to Ms. Esther Hoxie (born 1822), with whom he would have two sons, Henry H. (1849-1915) and Edwin L. (1858-1930). In his early residency in Connecticut, Brown is mentioned as having involvement with the state militia, although no elaboration is given as to the length of his service.
Hoxie Brown spent the majority of his life as a successful farmer, eventually removing from Lebanon to the village of Colchester in the mid-1860s. He was elected to the Connecticut State House of Representatives in 1879 from New London County and is also remarked as receiving "many recognitions from his townsmen" both before and after his stint in state government.
After his brief service in the legislature, Brown continued to operate his farm in Colchester, later serving as a member of the Colchester Board of Health in 1886. Esther H. Brown died in 1901 at age 79 and Hoxie himself died on July 31, 1906 at age 86. Both were later buried in the Linwood Cemetery in Colchester. The rare portrait of him above was featured in the Illustrated Popular Biography of Connecticut, published in 1891. This informative work has also yielded portraits (and information) on Luzon Burritt Morris and Supply Twyng Holbrook, both profiled on the site in past articles.