Story by Lon Tytell
The Florida Historical Society hosted the 27th annual William H. Seward Birthday Celebration on Sat., May 20. At the wreath ceremony, held at the Seward monument, Gary Randall, President of the Florida Historical Society (FHS), spoke of the contribution from the Sanford family from Warwick and the Roe family from Florida.
Both families contributed to help pay for the monument. On the top of the monument is a bust of William H. Seward, designed by Daniel Chester French. French also sculpted the seated figure of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
Randall pointed out the important dates of Seward’s life which included his birth in the Village of Florida on May 16, 1801; his death in Auburn, NY on October 10, 1872; and his service as NY Senator, Governor of New York, U.S. Senator, and U.S. Secretary of State. Seward was responsible for the purchase of Alaska in 1867.
The assembled guests then proceeded inside to the S.S. Seward Institute cafetorium where Village of Florida Mayor Jim Pawliczek led those in attendance in the Pledge of Allegiance. Assemblyman Karl Brabenec said that William Henry Seward was the 12th Governor of New York and was 38 years old when he assumed office.
“He has one of the largest photos in the Hall of Governors in Albany,” said Brabenec.
A PowerPoint presentation, prepared by the students of Alison Cleary’s seventh grade class, described the life and times of Seward. Seward’s strong anti-slavery beliefs cost him the Republican nomination for President in 1860. As Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln, he was instrumental in the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation. He was injured on the same day that Lincoln was assassinated.
Ed Dubin, an FHS member, then talked about how Seward expedited the construction of the Union ironclad ship, the S.S. Monitor, which was needed as defense against the Confederate ironclad ship, the Virginia. Dubin pointed out that the Union naval ships were all made of wood and some had already been destroyed by the Virginia.
The steam powered ironclad ship could deflect the musket balls that were fired by cannons and could also ram another ship. The construction of the Monitor was the first time in U.S. History that the government subcontracted parts to be made in different locations and assembled in one location.
A poster displayed by Dubin showed the various locations in New York where the parts for the Monitor were made, before being assembled in Brooklyn, NY.
Bob Scott and Kathy Randall, members of the FHS presented books to the Golden Hill Elementary School, S.S. Seward Institute and the Florida Public Library. The Golden Hill fourth grade students, under the direction of Joan Kissinger, sang two songs about Seward.
At the end of the celebration, Gary Randall reminded those in attendance to stop by to see models of the S.S. Monitor and the Virginia. There were also displays dedicated to the memory of John Kimiecik and Mark Stewart.
Kimiecik, a charter member of the FHS, wrote several books on the history of Florida, and Mark Stewart, a seventh grade teacher at S.S. Seward Institute, for many years inspired his students to participate in the annual William Henry Seward Birthday Celebration.
ShopRite of Warwick donated a special birthday cake which featured the faces of William Henry Seward and his wife, Frances, which was served along with cookies, soda and coffee.