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Ed Sullivan's Amsterdam roots
Published on: 2014-11-15
Ed Sullivan and his Amsterdam roots
By Bob Cudmore, Focus on History, Daily Gazette, 11-15-14

Television star and newspaper columnist Ed Sullivanís parents were married in Amsterdam on September 22 1896, five years before he was born.

Ed Sullivanís mother was Elizabeth F. Smith, whose family resided on Garden Street. His father, Peter A.Sullivan, was living in New York City when he married Elizabeth. The wedding took place at St. Maryís Roman Catholic Church with the Reverend John McIncrow celebrating the Mass. Reverend McIncrow, a formidable pastor, died two months later.

After a reception at the brideís home, the newly married couple left on the 5:23 p.m. train for New York where Peter worked as a customs inspector. Elizabeth was an amateur painter.

THE SULLIVANS

Peterís father was Florence Sullivan who came to Saratoga Springs from Glengarriff, Ireland, near Cork, in 1851. In the 1870 census Peter was 10 years old and the family was living in Saratoga Springs. Florence was a shoemaker, a coachman and later worked on the Erie Canal, as did many Irish immigrants.

When Florence died in 1883, his widow Margaret Sullivan moved to Cornell Street in Amsterdam with her six children. That section then was an Irish-American enclave nicknamed Cork Hill. Peter was listed as a broom maker in the 1890 and 1891 city directories. Although he did not finish high school, he was third ward supervisor serving on the county board in 1892 and 1893.

In the news story on Peterís marriage he is described as ďan Amsterdam boy.Ē His younger brother, named Florence after their father, was assistant district attorney in 1896. In 1900 Florence became Amsterdam city attorney. In 1904 Florence moved to New York City and was a successful trial attorney there until his death in 1941. He was buried in the Sullivan family plot at St. Maryís Cemetery.

INFANT DEATHS

Peter and Elizabeth named their first son Florence in 1899. He died in infancy in New York and his body was sent to Amsterdam for burial at St. Maryís Cemetery.

Ed Sullivan and his twin brother Dan were born in an Irish and Jewish section of Harlem in New York City on September 28, 1901. Daniel died in July 1902 and his body also was taken to Amsterdam for burial.

According to an unconfirmed story told by a member of one of the longtime Irish families in Amsterdam, after Ed was born, he and his family lived in Amsterdam on and off for several years in an upper floor apartment opposite St. Maryís Church on East Main Street.

When Ed was five his family moved to Port Chester, N.Y. He turned down a chance to go to college, according to an online biography, although an uncle, perhaps Florence Sullivan, offered to pay the bill.

Edward Vincent Sullivan grew up to become a newspaper columnist then a radio and television star. He began dating Sylvia Weinstein, although both families were said to be opposed to a Catholic-Jewish wedding. They married in a civil ceremony in 1930 and their daughter Elizabeth or Betty was born that year. She was named for Sullivanís mother.

Sullivanís long-running television variety program, at first called The Toast of the Town, debuted in 1948. It became The Ed Sullivan Show in 1955 and was a CBS Sunday night staple. Sullivanís show often introduced mainstream American audiences to groundbreaking performers, perhaps most famously four appearances by the Beatles in the 1960s. In 1968 the theater where he broadcast the show was named the Ed Sullivan Theater.

CBS canceled the show in 1971. His wife Sylvia died in 1973 and Ed Sullivan died in 1974. Former Montgomery County historian Jacqueline Murphy provided research for this story.
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