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January 21: Israel Zangwill’s Melting Pot

January 21, 2015

29-1Novelist, playwright, essayist, and popularizer of the term “melting pot” to describe America’s immigration-based society, Israel Zangwill was born in London on this date in 1864. His best-known works included Children of the Ghetto: A Study of a Peculiar People, an influential novel published in 1892, and his play, The Melting Pot, which came to the U.S. in 1909 and was cited by President Theodore Roosevelt as “among the very strong and real influences upon my thought and my life.” Zangwill was a supporter of feminism, pacifism, and early Zionism, which he later renounced to become a “territorialist,” urging Jews to create a Jewish land wherever in the world they could find territory. His many plays included Children of the Ghetto (1899), a dramatization of his novel, Merely Mary Ann (1903), Nurse Marjorie, The Lens Grinder, about Baruch Spinoza, and The Serio-Comic Governess (1904). Zangwill also wrote mysteries and social satire, including The King of the Schnorrers (1894).

“America is God’s Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and re-forming!” —Israel Zangwill