Fearless finger

La Guardia
Civilian Defense

Eric Rauchway


April 24, 2023

Fiorello La Guardia, Federal Director of the Office of Civilian Defense and candidate for a third term as mayor of New York City on a Fusion ticket, in a photograph used in the Saturday Evening Post of September 6, 1941.

One of seven evocative portraits of La Guardia featured on the first page of “Fearless Fiorello” by William R. Conklin; this version is from an ad for the article that appeared in Time, because in the bound version of the Saturday Evening Post the photograph is too close to the gutter to be reproduced intact.

The article begins with a La Guardia-ism many people will know, but perhaps without the context. In February 1941, appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to testify in favor of Lend-Lease, La Guardia was asked about earlier remarks by Justice Herbert O’Brien of the Queens Domestic Relations Court, who told the committee that passing Lend-Lease would lead to racial conflict. One of the senators reminded the Little Flower he had appointed O’Brien. The mayor replied, “Senator . . . I have made a lot of good appointments, and I think I’m pretty good. But when I make a mistake—it’s a beaut!”1

The article does not give context for the wordless remark depicted in the photograph.


  1. William R. Conklin, “Fearless Fiorello,” Saturday Evening Post, September 6, 1941, 12.↩︎