Calling on More Big Guns

February 1, 2008

In my last blog entry I tried to enlist the help of several experts to track down the driver of the car that hit Winston Churchill in New York in 1931. Since then, I’ve only had one reply from our panel of experts, and unfortunately, it’s not very helpful. The Churchill Archives replied to my request for help tracking down Mario Contasino by referring me to their online catalogue. A quick search doesn’t throw up anything too promising, so in the absence of any firm leads, I’m still relying on the advice of experts. Consequently, I’ve sent a few more emails. The first is to Sir Martin Gilbert, via his website. As blog user Stu has pointed out in the comments section, Gilbert is one of the few Churchill biographers who have mentioned the Mario Contasino accident in print, so I’m hoping that he might know more about what happened after the incident.

Dear Sir Martin,

I wonder if you can help me. In ‘Churchill and America’, you mention an incident in which Churchill was run over by a man named Mario Contasino. I’m trying to find out what happened to Mario Contasino after the event, and I’m recording my progress in a blog. Unfortunately, the incident isn’t especially well-documented, and Mario’s name doesn’t seem to appear in the 1930 Census. Indeed, the surname ‘Contasino’ seems to be a very unusual one, with few entries in the current US phonebook.

So I was wondering if you happened to have any leads as to what might have happened to Mario Contasino, or whether the signed copy of ‘The Unknown War’ that Churchill gave him has ever turned up at auction etc.

I’d be enormously grateful if you could get back to me to let me know if you can help.

Next, as Stu and Lidia Q also point out in the comments section, Churchill apparently gave Mario a signed copy of his book, ‘The Unknown War’. If I can trace the whereabouts of that book, then perhaps I can find out what happened to the man himself. Unfortunately, a quick Google search doesn’t shed too much light on its whereabouts, but in my correspondence with the Churchill Archives, they advised me that a company called Curtis Brown administers the rights to Churchill’s writings. So, somewhat optimistically, I have added a request for help tracing Mario Contasino’s ‘The Unknown War’ to my request to reproduce Churchill’s article.

I wonder if you can help me. I was hoping to reproduce an article written by Winston Churchill on an internet blog. The article in question was written for the Daily Mail, and published in 1932, entitled, “My New York Misadventure”. There is a copy held in the Churchill Archives, but unfortunately the staff there can’t advise me whether I am allowed to reproduce it, and instead provided me with your details.

The reason I’d like to reproduce the article is that I’m trying to find out what happened to Mario Contasino, who, in 1931, ran over Churchill in 1931 – an incident that Churchill subsequently recorded in the article. In fact, I wonder if anybody at Curtis Brown might know any information that might help my search: it’s reported that the two men became friends, so I wonder if there is any sort of correspondence that exists between the two men, or if the signed copy of ‘The Unknown War’ that Churchill gave to Contasino has ever turned up at auction, for example.

I’d be enormously grateful if you could get back to me to let me know if you can help with any of these enquiries.

And finally, to the New York Times. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the New York Times is one of our principle sources for the accident, and revisited it a couple of years ago in a regular column called FYI. Perhaps they might have more information in their archives relating to Mario Contasino.

I wonder if you can help me with something. Writing in the New York Times FYI column, in May 2006, you mentioned an incident in which Winston Churchill was run over by an unemployed mechanic named Mario Contasino.

I’m trying to find out what happened to Mario Contasino after the accident, but he’s proving to be very elusive: your article is one of only four that are returned by Google for the search term ‘Mario Contasino’, and he doesn’t appear to have an entry in the 1930 Census. Nor is the name Contasino an especially common one, with few entries in the current US phone book.

So I was wondering if there was any more information relating to Mario Contasino in the New York Times archives, or if there is anybody at the paper who might be able to help me track him down. My only real lead at the moment is that Churchill subsequently gave Contasino a signed copy of ‘The Unknown War’, so I wonder if it might have turned up at auction at any point.

Anyway, I’d be enormously grateful if you could get back to me to let me know if you can help with this enquiry.

Once again, it’s time to sit back with crossed fingers. But if you happen to know of any other information regarding the whereabouts of Mario Contasino or his descendents, send it to me at search@codemasters.com.

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3 Responses to “Calling on More Big Guns”

  1. [...] 5, 2008 While we’re waiting for the experts to get back to us with any further leads regarding the possible whereabouts of Mario Contasino’s [...]

  2. [...] 7, 2008 One of our experts has got back to us. You might remember that I emailed Sir Martin Gilbert to find out if he might know any more about Mario Contasino, the driver of a car [...]

  3. Andy E. Wold said

    This search has been included as a genealogical challenge on The Genealogue blog, http://www.genealogue.com/2008/02/genealogue-challenge-117.html

    You may be surprised at how quickly we genealogists can track down descendants. :)

    http://www.genealogue.com/2008/01/dimple-gets-document.html

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