"An All-America City"?

I recently moved from southern CA to Olympia, WA, and while driving around the area i’ve noticed that, when crossing the city limits into Olympia, one passes a sign with a red-white-and-blue shield on it and the statement “Welcome to Olympia - An All-America City”. I’ve also seen on the news the mayor of Spokane standing in front of a nearly identical sign. I’ve never seen any similar signs outside WA - is this a regional thing of some sort, a relic of some bygone political bragging point, or something else entirely?

I’ve also wondered what this means (and indeed was eventually going to start a thread.) I live in Saranac Lake, NY, also an “All America City.”

What I find most odd is that I would think they would say “All American City”, but it’s “All America City.”

Reflections of a foreigner

All-American is used in sport, is it not? It evoked images - for me, anyway - of a quarterback. Quarterbacks are typically blond … and white. All-American is a no-no.

The PR/marketing types who are charged (or charge, depending on how you look at it) to come up with these cliches, wanted to get ‘America’ in somehow. They also wanted to suggest the ideal of inclusiveness and integration - the American dream.

Thus, the awkward and arguably ungrammatical ‘all America’ (hyphen or no).

Everything you ever wanted to know: All-America Cities

Not far wrong with the PR/marketing angle:


The proper phrase to describe the sports figures is “All America”. At least according to the AP style guide. The AP chooses “All Americas” in various sports.

Blonde hair making them able to throw the ball farther, presumably?

Walloon, furt: I think what roger thornhill was getting at was that the epithet “All-American” conjures up some very specific images for a lot of people, images heavily influenced by fiction from the 1930s and 1940s. (I myself think of Jack Armstrong: All American Boy, but that’s just one of many possible specific instances.) American fiction from that era was heavily skewed towards the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant spectrum of humanity, commonly to the point of being overtly racist and in any case presenting a view of humanity eerily similar to Nazi propaganda pieces.

That is why “All-American” would be a bad choice for a PR gesture.

There are similar designations all over the country, though sometimes worded differently. Here we have Blue-Ribbon cities and Build communities. I assume they’re earned based on economic growth or civic efforts, but don’t really know. And quite honestly, don’t really care. It’s for the most part an honorary thing.

It is a political relic, and one with a very ugly meaning that essentially everybody has forgotten about.

There was once a political party called the Know-Nothing Party. Operating in the 19th Century, & largely Anglo-Saxon in membership, it was virulently Anti-Catholic & Anti-Immigrant. Total banning of all immigration, & reduction of Catholics to second-class citizenship, if that, were its goals.
It didn’t run candidates itself, as a general rule, but instead subverted existing party structure, to get around the non-proportional nature of US elections.
When asked by an outsider about the party, members were expected to say “I know nothing”, hence the name. It also cloaked itself in pseudo-Masonic rituals.

It was most powerful in small town America, where the locals saw the influx of foreigners as a political/economic/ religious threat.

To refer to a place or person as “All-American” was, in the 19th Century, an appeal to the bigotry of theis group.

Today, this has been forgotten, as the children of immigrants have intermarried thoroughly with the decendents of the people who harassed them.

Due to its secrecy, little in the way of good evidence remains about the Know-Nothings. But the echoes of their influence exist in our immigration laws.

A link

So, an All-American community was once one in which the Know-Nothings had driven out all the immigrants, especially the Catholic ones.

The Bronx, the northernmost borough of New York, is an ‘All-America’ city. Which I find odd, considering it’s only one part of a larger city, which apparently is not an ‘All-America’ city.

Go figure.

(Maybe it has something to do with the Bronx being the only part of NYC that’s located on the mainland?) :stuck_out_tongue:

Think–in the 19th Century, the Bronx was mostly Anglo-Saxon. Yes?

The “All America City” designation is now given to cities that are having economic woes as a feeble attempt to boost tourism.

I’ll bet that the whole issue comes down to nothing more than the phrase “all America City” being sufficiently distinctive to be trademarkable, while “All-American city” would not be.

Wow, I think some folks are reading WAY too much into this. The National Civic League, which presents the All-Amercia City designation, is a Progressive era creation designed to brainstorm solutions to the problems of a rapidly urbanizing society: inferior housing, overcrowding, crime, poverty, machine politics, etc. Among it’s initial creators were such statesmen as Theodore Roosevelt and Louis Brandeis. As far as I know, the organization has never had any connection to the Know-Nothings, the KKK, the American Nazi Party or the Legion of Doom.

Today, the All-America City designation is, as has been stated, pretty much just a marketing tool and boost to civic pride. Something the mayor can brag about to companies looking to locate there and the local chamber can emboss onto their “Live in Hicksville!” pamphlet. Also, despite the name, the All-America City award is given to communites of all sizes: cities, counties, neighborhoods, boroughs, regions, etc.

As to why “All-America” and not “All-American”, their website explains it in the FAQ , excerpted below:

"Q) Why is the award called the “All-America City Award?” Why not All-American?

The All-America City Award program originated when a reporter from the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Jean James) asked the National Municipal League (now known as the National Civic League) leaders, “if we know enough about high school football players that we can pick an All-America team each year, why can’t we do the same for cities?” The Star Tribune at that time was published by Cowles publishing, who also published Look magazine. Look incidentally picked the All-America football team. NML leaders decided it was a good idea - and modeled the original Award after the All-America football program, even going so far as to call the winners a “team” and picking 11 winners.

A serendipitous feature of calling the award All-America and not All-American, that was explicitly recognized by the originators of the award (and continues to this date), is that AAC does not recognize the most patriotic, or most cosmetically “American” cities (you know, everyone has a flag on display, our gardens all have red, white, and blue flowers) but honors substance: citizen involvement leading to community improvement.

The Award’s founders felt that citizens working together represented what America stood for much more that merely planting a victory garden. As Charles Edison, the NML president at the time AAC was initiated, stated, “If we don’t make democracy work where neighbors share concrete problems and can talk about them over their own back fences, we’re certainly not going to keep it alive in Washington or make it work on a world scale. Only as a responsible member of a local community which handles its own problems creditably can the individual learn the lessons and develop the civic competence needed to make him a safe member of the larger world community.”

Bosda, while your wikipedia cite contains plenty of info on the Know-Nothings, I can’t see that it lends any support to your theory that the hyphenated phrase “All-American” harkens back to 19th century bigotry and racism.

Cite was to establish the Know-Nothings background.

Info came from an American History course, circa 1984.

Stockton, California’s take on their award is here: Stockton All-America

Three community (that is, non-government) organizations, the Downtown Alliance, Community Partnership for Families, and The Peacekeeper Program were showcased in the city’s application. The designation is won by being an active community and not leaving everything up to the politicians and city departments.

Yes, it’s a big PR hook. Stockton has the All-America City Logo on letterhead paper, the sides of city trucks, and the uniforms of some city employees, just for starters.

You may be right, flurb, and the cite is valuable. But, as someone who has worked (unwillingly, it might be added) in PR for the last five years, I have developed this hypothesis regarding dissemination of information. In answer to difficult questions (especially single, simple questions - always the trickiest), answer (actually “respond” - don’t answer) as follows:

  1. Misinformation (evade issue, tell a story, appeal to patriotism, whatever)
  2. If 1. fails, Disinformation (don’t tell the whole truth, where the bit you don’t tell is the key bit without which the rest makes no sense, or is indeed inverted)
  3. If 2. fails, Lie.
  4. If 3. fails, Tell the truth.

You still may be right, but that story, mmm, not sure if I buy it.

It’s not just Rove (and for UK dopers Campbell) who are well versed in the arts of public relations. It’s very easy to do, given the basic ingredients of a halfway intelligent human being and a organisational structure that inspires “loyalty”.

My reaction to any media release issued in response to some serious issue is to start by reversing the organisational line to ascertain the truth of why something was done. (Example, “We are doing it for our customers” = “We are doing it for our shareholders” - which is actually always true). Sometimes, the truth may be found by looking for absences. Harder to pinpoint the truth this way, but ultimately more rewarding.