Lurking at the corner of countless Western New York sports bars you’ll find them: the trivia nuts. You know the kind — the walking encyclopedias who recite Joe Ferguson’s passing yardage in 1980 or Tony McKegney’s junior hockey totals.
But as any real Buffalonian knows, our spectator sports extend beyond the Bills, Sabres and Bisons. Keeping score in politics ranks as a true Western New York avocation, with all the grinding of the Bills’ front line and hard checking of the Sabres’ French Connection.
So with more than 185 years of history under our belts, we think it’s high time that political junkies get a chance to test their skills with semi-worthless information about our storied past.
The possibilities for Buffalo political trivia questions are infinite, since the various permutations of Buffalo politics also are infinite. So for this effort at stumping the history and political buffs of Western New York, we’ll limit this contest to Buffalo mayors.
There are no prizes, no trophies. You won’t get your name in the paper, even if you score 100 percent. But you might amaze your friends during an upcoming party with a few factoids gleaned from this — the Buffalo Political Trivia Quiz: Mayoral Division.
Adjust your shoulder pads and fasten your helmet strap. Remember, this is a contact sport.
Dedicated to the men who have led Buffalo through its good and bad times from the big office in City Hall.
1. How many mayors have served Buffalo?
2. Who was Buffalo’s first mayor?
3. What would Mayor Ebenezer Johnson talk about with his brother, Elisha?
4. Who was the first mayor to occupy the mayoral suite in current City Hall?
5. True or false? No woman has ever run for mayor of Buffalo in a general election on a major party line.
6. Old Buffalo mayors rarely attain higher office, they just fade away. Who was the last mayor to advance politically?
7. What Buffalo mayor honed his political skills as a hangman? (Many smart-aleck answers are possible; only the correct one is accepted).
8. What Buffalo mayor deserves to have his face on a dollar bill?
9. Who were the Cleveland Four?
a. Cleveland Indians infield of the late 1950s
b. Ohio anti-war radicals arrested in the 1970s
c. Quadruplets born in 1984
d. The string of short-lived Buffalo mayors who succeeded Grover Cleveland when he was elected governor in 1882
10. What is common to these Buffalo mayors?: Ebenezer Johnson, Hiram Pratt, Samuel Wilkeson, Josiah Trowbridge, Ebenezer Walden, George Clinton, Joseph Masten, Timothy Lockwood, Orlando Allen (and his wife Marilla), Hiram Barton, James Wadsworth, Elbridge G. Spaulding, William Fargo, Chandler Wells, Grover Cleveland, Edgar Jewett and Louis Fuhrmann?
11. What claim does current Mayor Byron Brown have on the preceding question?
12. When was the last time Wells followed Fargo?
13. The military has a strong tradition among Buffalo mayors. Name three with military titles, and one who built a fort.
14. Who holds the record for longest tenure as mayor?
15. Who was the last Republican mayor of Buffalo?
16. What party has elected the most mayors of Buffalo?
17. Then Republicans must have the second-most total, right?
18. Buffalo’s political stew, like its wings, can keep repeating. What mayors came back for more with non-consecutive terms?
19. So who was that first Democratic mayor of Buffalo?
20. From what famous family did Mayor Clinton descend?
21. Which mayor seems awfully indecisive when it comes to choosing a political party?
22. What is the most popular gathering spot for ex-Buffalo mayors?
23. When the city owned the mayor’s official vehicle and before Mayor Griffin began the practice of leasing the car, what was the mayor’s license plate number?
24. Who was the most recent mayor who did not serve on the Common Council?
25. Buffalo mayors have come from a variety of occupations. What job did most mayors hold?
26. The majority of Buffalo mayors were born in New York State. But what state is next in producing Buffalo mayors?
27. Who was the last foreign-born mayor of Buffalo?
28. Not that ethnic politics has ever played a role in Buffalo (tee hee), but what nationality dominates the list of 20th and 21st century mayors?
29. Is there an official religion for Buffalo mayors?
30. What mayor was known as the "Father of Buffalo Harbor?" (Hint: There's a "pointe" to this question on the current Outer Harbor).
31. OK, he wasn't Catholic, but what Buffalo mayor sported a very Catholic last name?
32. Before they became mayor, what office did Buffalo's last three mayors occupy?
Ready to see how you did? Scroll down.
2. A required question, but necessary. It was Ebenezer Johnson, of course. And yes, present-day Johnson Park is named for him.
3. Mayoral stuff. Elisha once served as mayor of Rochester.
4. That would be Charles Roesch, who was mayor when City Hall opened in 1931.
5. False. Alfreda Slominski ran on the Republican line in 1969.
6. Would you believe Grover Cleveland? He was elected governor in 1882 and then president in 1884.
7. It was Cleveland, who after becoming sheriff of Erie County in 1871 personally sprang the trap on two men: Patrick Morrissey, convicted of stabbing his mother to death, and Jack Gaffney, found guilty of shooting a man over a card game.
8. Elbridge G. Spaulding (1847 to 1848), who actually achieved post-mayoral political success as a congressman, and was known as the “Father of the Greenback” for helping to introduce the nation’s paper money system.
9. The answer is d. When Cleveland resigned as mayor on Nov. 20, 1882, to become governor, he was succeeded by Marcus M. Drake, selected by the Common Council to fill the office until a special election could be held. But he did not like the job, had just been elected an alderman, and resigned on Dec. 29, 1882. The Council then appointed Harmon S. Cutting, who served 10 days as mayor until a special election on Jan. 9, 1883, elected John B. Manning.
10. If you don’t know this one, you don’t get out very much. These mayors all have Buffalo streets named after them.
11. Brown Street.
12. In 1866, when Chandler J. Wells succeeded William G. Fargo as mayor.
13. Maj. Andre Andrews, Capt. Sheldon Thompson, Maj. Gen. William Rogers, and Stan Makowski (who built an oft-criticized and short-lived wall in Niagara Square nicknamed Fort Makowski).
14. Did you forget him already? James D. Griffin, who served four terms over 16 years.
15. Chester Kowal, elected in 1961.
16. Democrats, of course, with 27.
17. Just barely. The GOP has elected 15 mayors, while the Whigs have elected 12. But given the GOP’s paltry enrollment in Buffalo, the Whigs might elect another mayor before the Republicans.
18. There were three: Hiram Pratt (1835-36, 1839-40), Hiram Barton (1849-50, 1852-53) and Frank Sedita (1958-61, 1966-73).
19. George William Clinton, elected in 1842.
20. His father was the famous DeWitt Clinton, governor of New York and father of the Erie Canal. His great-uncle was George Clinton, first and longest-serving governor of New York, and vice president of the United States.
21. That would be Buffalo’s first mayor, Ebenezer Johnson, a Democrat-Republican.
22. Not one of the city’s fine watering holes or other political lairs qualifies. But you’ll find lots of mayors in Forest Lawn.
By our count, 34 of Buffalo’s chief executives — from Andre Andrews (1833 to 1884) to Frank A. Sedita (1958 to 1961, 1966 to 1973) — rest in the venerable burial ground.
23. BNY. That tag, by the way, remains unused, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. And while some mayors still have special plates — the mayor of Albany’s is traditionally A — none are reserved for them.
24. Frank Sedita.
25. Most came from their own businesses; 17, to be exact. But nine were lawyers and five were doctors. Three were butchers or meat packers, one was a ship captain, one was a ship builder and one was a pharmacist. And yes, one — Tony Masiello — was a hoop star for Canisius College.
26. Connecticut, with seven. Many of the early mayors migrated here from New England, which, as a region, gave us 12.
27. James N. Adam (1906 to 1909), born in 1842 in Peebles, Scotland.
28. The Germans, who constituted Buffalo’s major voting bloc for many years, have elected six mayors since 1900, but none since Thomas L. Holling (1938-41). Only Polish, Irish, Italian or African-American (along with one Ukrainian) mayors have been elected since 1941.
29. The City Charter spells out no religious requirement, but before Byron Brown, you have to go back to Holling, elected in 1938, to find a mayor who wasn’t Catholic. Frank X. Schwab (1922 to 1929), by the way, was the city’s first Catholic chief executive.
30. Samuel Wilkeson.
31. Charles F. Bishop, mayor from 1890 to 1891 and 1892 to 1894.
32. State senator.