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The failure of President Coolidge to include Charles A. Levine, organizer of the Columbia’s flight and first trans-Atlantic air passenger, in his message of congratulations to Chamberlin when the two fliers arrived in Germany, has evoked keen resentment in the Jewish press. It is pointed out that in view of the hearty welcome extended by President von Hindenburg and the heads of the German Cabinet equally to Chamberlin and Levine President Coolidge’s ignoring of Levine is especially glaring.
The “Day” in yesterday’s editorial asks Coolidge if he “tried to demonstrate his penchant for economy by omitting Levine’s name and thus saving the government 66 cents.”
“We have always been told,” writes the paper, “that the greatest, highest and perhaps, only political virtue of President Coolidge is his economy. We were told about it; we could not always see it and we often wondered where this legend of economy sprung from. At last we, too, are convinced of the great economy of our President. He is so parsimonious, he watches so closely the cash register of Uncle Sam that even the great sum of about 66 cents (the cost of cabling three words to Germany) is of importance to him.
“As soon as Clarence Chamberlin and Charles A. Levine arrived in Germany President Coolidge sent a cable to the American Ambassador in Berlin congratulating him in the name of the United States of America upon the great achievement of the Columbia. It is in this cable of the President that we note with amazement the mention of only one name, the name of Clarence Chamberlin.
“Two men left New York; two men risked their lives; two men have shown heroism and created a record even greater than Lindbergh’s. Two men left: two men arrived, Americans both. But the President of the United States congratulates only one, and by strange coincidence the one whom the President has not found worthy of being mentioned by one word is named Levine.
“Granted that Chamberlin deserves the greater part of the credit, because the fate of the New York-Berlin flight depended on his skill as a pilot: but was not Charles A. Levine his passenger? Has he no merit at all both as owner of the plane and as passenger who showed such prowess, so much sportsmanship?
“They understand it in England; they felt it in Italy. They, the English, the Italians, all the Europeans, do not separate the names of Levine and Chamberlin. They see in the deed of Levine even more heroism than in Chamberlin’s just because Levine is not a pilot by profession, just because he risked his life in the interests of humanity to prove to the world that an airplane can carry passengers too; that the flight over the ocean is not only an individual stunt but can be utilized for practical purposes. The whole world applauds Levine. Before all the world he is the representative American no less than Lindbergh or Chamberlin–all the world but Washington; but President Coolidge and Mr. Kellogg and the other representatives of official America.
“And the question arises: Would Roosevelt have acted in this way? Would Wilson have done it, or, for that matter, Alfred Smith if he happened to be in the White House? But why should we wonder? Was ever a man with a Jewish name honored and recognized during the last Administration.?
“Sixty-six cents economy, or the recognition of an American pioneer–and the 66 cents win, or is it only because the pioneer happens to be called Levine?”
The contrast between the action of President Coolidge and that of President von Hindenburg is pointed out in the “Jewish Morning Journal” by J. Magidov, who declares: “It is a remarkable fact, that the congratulatory messages from America to Germany are addressed only to Chamberlin, the pilot of the Bellanca plane, whereas the messages from Germany to America from Hindenburg and all other officials. include Chamberlin and Levine. Possibly the Germans are doing this chicfly out of a spirit of hospitality. They cannot very well greet one of the two flyers and ignore the other, but the truth of the matter is that credit is due to both equally. Levine was not merely a passenger who made the trip out of curiosity, he was not a fifth wheel to the wagon, as some would have it. He was the chief promoter of the entire undertaking. He furnished not only the money, which was really the most important thing, he contributed something even more important–enterprise, energy, initiative. There are many capitalists in America, many ‘promoters,’ and it is well known how difficult the conquest of the air has been, and yet America was until now backward in this respect. Neither private capital nor the government did anything about it. Now a Jewish capitalist, still a very young man, who has just made his fortune, throws himself into this enterprise wholeheartedly, staking his fortune and his life as well. Could there be a finer act than this, a more splendid example for others?”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.