Hamilton Fish III: Our Response

About This Page

The Desmond-Fish Public Library was founded in 1980 by Hamilton Fish III and his wife, Alice Curtis Desmond. Fish represented the Hudson Valley in Congress from 1920-1945.

Recent episodes of the podcast Ultra, hosted by Rachel Maddow, reported actions and statements in the late 1930s by Hamilton Fish III that were in support of Hitler and his regime. Fish’s congressional office distributed harmful propaganda on behalf of the Nazi government.

At their January 21st meeting, the Board of Trustees of the Desmond-Fish Public Library asked the Library’s Racial Equity and Social Justice (RE/SJ) Committee to present recommendations for steps the Library should take in response; this page details that response, both in the immediate and long term. Here you can see a timeline of our work, learn about our Name Review Working Group or apply to join, and read more about this time period as well as the history of antisemitism.

As individuals and as an institution, all of us associated with the Desmond-Fish Public Library, including descendants of Hamilton Fish III, strongly condemn all anti-Jewish actions, statements, and beliefs. As citizens of our community and stewards of the Library, we are dedicated to working actively against racism, bias, and discrimination in all forms.

Long-Term Response: Name Review Process

The trustees of the Library have voted to begin the next phase of a long-term response effort regarding the allegations recently made public about Hamilton Fish III, who with Alice Curtis Desmond founded the Library. This next phase will be a name review, including community conversations, and an examination of restorative justice options.

A name review working group will be established as part of the Library’s Racial Equity and Social Justice (RESJ) Committee’s efforts, and will be composed of members of the Library board, staff, and the community. A thorough description of the Name Review Process is available here.


Historical Research

Resources & Reading Lists

As a library, our mission is to offer facts and research materials to our community members. To that end, we have created a list of resources regarding the national and global politics of the years from 1933 to 1941. In addition, we have assembled a reading list focusing on antisemitism in 20th century America, and its modern ramifications. In most cases, the works referenced are available at the Library or are free to read online.

A House Divided: Hamilton Fish III and American Isolationism 1933-1941

This list of resources explores the life and politics of our co-founder, Hamilton Fish III, with special focus on the years prior to the U.S. entry into World War II; it also provides contextual information on isolationism and interventionism in the pre-war years.

Past as Prologue: Isolationism and Antisemitism in 20th Century America, and Their Modern Consequences

This list of resources explores the issues of isolationism and antisemitism in the US from the early to mid 20th century, and their relationship to the current rise in antisemitism.

Related Programming

Community Book Discussions: Readings in Modern Antisemitism

Inspired by current events, the Desmond-Fish Public Library’s Community Read is a place to read and discuss works of literature of special contemporary relevance in a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment. On each occasion, we will read one book of particular note, and discuss it both as a work of literature and as a text of relevance to contemporary social conflict.

The current series focuses on modern readings in antisemitism, and is lead by Digital Services Librarian Ryan Biracree.


Hamilton Fish Sr. and the Politics of American Nationalism, 1912-1945

The role of Hamilton Fish III in twentieth-century American politics was the topic of a talk by Professor Anthony Troncone on Saturday, July 8th at 3pm at the Desmond-Fish Public Library.

Anthony Troncone is the retired professor of history and chair of the history program at Dominican College. Dr. Troncone received his PhD from Rutgers University. He taught history for 27 years, specializing in twentieth century American history while also teaching ancient Greece and Rome. As head of the History department he created a Womens Studies major and a student internship program in local history. He is a contributor to The Oxford Companion to United States History. Dr. Troncone will spoke on “Hamilton Fish Sr. and the Politics of American Nationalism, 1912-1945.”

This was the subject of his 1991 dissertation based on extensive research into the life of Hamilton Fish, available to read here.

On the video recording, the talk begins at 06:10.