Tammany Hall: Wikis


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Tammany Hall on East 14th Street, NYC, between Third Avenue and Irving Place (1914)

Tammany Hall (Founded May 12, 1789 as the Tammany Society, and also known as the Society of St. Tammany, the Sons of St. Tammany, or the Columbian Order), was the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in controlling New York City politics and helping immigrants (most notably the Irish) rise up in American politics from the 1790s to the 1960s. It usually controlled Democratic Party nominations and patronage in Manhattan from the mayoral victory of Fernando Wood in 1854 through the election of John P. O'Brien in 1932. Tammany Hall was permanently weakened by the election of Fiorello La Guardia on a "fusion" ticket of Republicans, reform-minded Democrats, and independents in 1934, and despite a brief resurgence in the 1950s, it ceased to exist in the 1960s.

The Tammany Society was named for Tamanend, a Native American leader of the Lenape, and emerged as the center for Democratic-Republican Party politics in the City in the early 19th Century. The "Hall" serving as the Society's headquarters was built in 1830 on East 14th Street, marking an era when Tammany Hall became the city affiliate of the Democratic Party, controlling most of the New York City elections afterwards.

The Society expanded its political control even further by earning the loyalty of the city's ever-expanding immigrant community, which functioned as a base of political capital. The Tammany Hall "ward boss" ("wards" were the city's smallest political units from 1686–1938) served as the local vote gatherer and provider of patronage. Beginning in late 1845, Tammany power surged with the influx of millions of Irish immigrants to New York. From 1872, Tammany had an Irish "boss," and in 1928 a Tammany hero, New York Governor Al Smith won the Democratic presidential nomination. However, Tammany Hall also served as an engine for graft and political corruption, perhaps most infamously under William M. "Boss" Tweed in the mid-1800s. The term "Tammany Hall" is now used to refer to a corrupt system of buying or controlling votes.

Tammany Hall's influence waned in the 20th Century; in 1932, Mayor Jimmy Walker was forced from office, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stripped Tammany of federal patronage. Republican Fiorello La Guardia was elected Mayor on a Fusion ticket and became the first anti-Tammany Mayor to be re-elected. A brief resurgence in Tammany power in the 1950s was met with Democratic Party opposition led by Eleanor Roosevelt, Herbert Lehman, and the New York Committee for Democratic Voters. By the mid-1960s Tammany Hall ceased to exist.

The last building to serve as the physical Tammany Hall, on Union Square, is now home to the New York Film Academy.





The Tammany Society, also known as the Society of St. Tammany, the Sons of St. Tammany, or the Columbian Order, was founded in New York on May 12, 1789, originally as a branch of a wider network of Tammany Societies, the first having been formed in Philadelphia in 1772.[1] The name "Tammany" comes from Tamanend, a Native American leader of the Lenape. The society adopted many Native American words and also their customs, going so far as to call its hall a wigwam. The first Grand Sachem, as the leader was titled, was William Mooney, an upholsterer of Nassau Street.[2] By 1798 the Society's activities had grown increasingly politicized and eventually the Tammany political machine (distinct from the Society), led by Aaron Burr, who was never a member of the Society,[2] emerged as the center for Democratic-Republican Party politics in the city. Burr used the Tammany Society for the election of 1800, in which he was elected Vice President. Without Tammany, historians believe, President John Adams might have won New York state's electoral votes and won reelection.[3] In 1830[citation needed], the Tammany Hall, the Society's new headquarters, was inaugurated on East 14th Street, and thereafter the name of the building and the group were used synonymously, although the Society and the political machine remained distinct entities.

After 1829, Tammany Hall became the city affiliate of the Democratic Party, controlling most of the New York City elections afterwards. In the 1830s the Loco-Focos, an anti-monopoly and pro-labor faction of the Democratic Party, became Tammany's main opposition by appealing to workingmen. Throughout the 1830s and 1840s the Society expanded its political control even further by earning the loyalty of the city's ever-expanding immigrant community, which functioned as a base of political capital. The Tammany Hall "ward boss" served as the local vote gatherer and provider of patronage. New York City used the designation "ward" for its smallest political units from 1686–1938.

Thomas Nast denounces Tammany as a ferocious tiger killing democracy; the tiger image caught on.

Immigrant Support

Tammany Hall’s electoral base lay predominantly with New York’s burgeoning immigrant constituency, which often exchanged political support for Tammany Hall’s patronage. In pre-New Deal America the extralegal services that Tammany and other urban political machines provided, often served as a rudimentary public welfare system. The patronage Tammany Hall provided to immigrants, many of whom lived in extreme poverty and received little government assistance, covered three key areas. First, Tammany provided the means of physical existence in times of emergency: food, coal, rent money or a job. Second, Tammany served as a powerful intermediary between immigrants and the unfamiliar state. In an example of their involvement in the lives of citizens, in the course of one day, Tammany figure George Washington Plunkitt assisted the victims of a house fire; secured the release of six "drunks" by speaking on their behalf to a judge; paid the rent of a poor family to prevent their eviction and gave them money for food; secured employment for four individuals; attended the funerals of two of his constituents (one Italian, the other Jewish); attended a Bar Mitzvah; and attended the wedding of a Jewish couple from his ward.[4]

Tammany Hall also served as a social integrator for immigrants by familiarizing them with American society and its political institutions and by helping them become naturalized citizens. One example was the massively expedited, although legally dubious, naturalization process organized by William M. Tweed. Under Tweed special naturalization committees were established to complete the forms, pay the fees and obtain the witnesses necessary for naturalizing immigrants, and judges were compelled to expedite naturalization proceedings.[5]


Tammany is forever linked with the rise of the Irish in American politics. Beginning in late 1845, millions of Irish Catholics began arriving in New York. Equipped with a knowledge of English, very tight loyalties, a proclivity for politics, and what critics said was a propensity to use violence to control the polls, the Irish quickly dominated Tammany. In exchange for votes, they were provided with money and food. From 1872 onward, Tammany had an Irish "boss." They played an increasingly important role in state politics, supporting one candidate and feuding with another. The greatest success came in 1928 when a Tammany hero, New York Governor Al Smith, won the Democratic presidential nomination.

Tammany Ring, by Thomas Nast

Tweed Machine

By 1854, Tammany's lineage and support from immigrants had made it a powerful force in New York politics. Tammany controlled businesses, politics and sometimes law enforcement. Businesses would give gifts to their workers and, in exchange, tell the workers to vote for the politicians that were supported by Tammany (usually a straight Democratic ticket). In 1854, the Society elected its first New York City mayor. Tammany's "bosses" (called the "Grand Sachem") and their supporters enriched themselves by illegal means. The most infamous boss of all was William M. "Boss" Tweed, whose control over the Tammany Hall machine allowed him to win election to the New York State Senate. His political career ended when he was sent to prison along with his partner Francis I.A. Boole, after his ousting at the hands of a reform movement led by New York's Democratic governor Samuel J. Tilden in 1872. In 1892, a Protestant minister, Charles Henry Parkhurst, made a widely heard denunciation of the Hall, which led to a Grand Jury investigation, the appointment of the Lexow Committee and the election of a reform mayor in 1894.


Weakened by defeats, the tiger is hunted by enemies in 1893. Puck cartoon by F. Opper

Despite occasional defeats, Tammany was consistently able to survive and, indeed, prosper; it continued to dominate city and even state politics. Under leaders like John Kelly and Richard Croker, Charles Francis Murphy and Timothy Sullivan, it controlled Democratic politics in the city. Tammany opposed William Jennings Bryan in 1896.

In 1901, anti-Tammany forces elected a reformer, Republican Seth Low, to become mayor. From 1902 until his death in 1924, Charles Francis Murphy was Tammany's boss. In 1927 the building on 14th Street was sold. The new building on East 17th Street and Union Square East was finished and occupied by 1929.[6] In 1932, the machine suffered a dual setback when Mayor James Walker was forced from office and reform-minded Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president of the United States. Roosevelt stripped Tammany of federal patronage, which had been expanded under the New Deal—and passed it instead to Ed Flynn, boss of the Bronx. Roosevelt helped Republican Fiorello La Guardia become mayor on a Fusion ticket, thus removing even more patronage from Tammany's control. La Guardia was elected in 1933 and re-elected in 1937 and 1941. He was the first anti-Tammany Mayor to be re-elected and his extended tenure weakened Tammany in a way that previous "reform" Mayors had not.

Tammany depended for its power on government contracts, jobs, patronage, corruption, and ultimately the ability of its leaders to swing the popular vote. The last element weakened after 1940 with the decline of relief programs like WPA and CCC that Tammany used to gain and hold supporters. Congressman Christopher "Christy" Sullivan was one of the last "bosses" of Tammany Hall before its collapse.

Tammany never recovered, but it staged a small scale come-back in the early 1950s under the leadership of Carmine DeSapio, who succeeded in engineering the elections of Robert Wagner, Jr. as mayor in 1953 and Averell Harriman as state governor in 1954, while simultaneously blocking his enemies, especially Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. in the 1954 race for state Attorney General.

All politics revolved around the Boss. 1899 cartoon from Puck

Eleanor Roosevelt organized a counterattack with Herbert Lehman and Thomas Finletter to form the New York Committee for Democratic Voters, a group dedicated to fighting Tammany. In 1961, the group helped remove DeSapio from power. The once mighty Tammany political machine, now deprived of its leadership, quickly faded from political importance, and by the mid-1960s it ceased to exist. The last building to serve as the physical Tammany Hall, on Union Square, is now home to the New York Film Academy. A large decorated flagpole base within Union Square Park is dedicated to sachem Charles Francis Murphy.


It was believed that Tamanny Hall's demise as the ruling group of the NY Democratic Party was when the Village Independent Democrats under Ed Koch managed to get control of the Manhattan party.

Political leaders

Date Name
1789-1797 William Mooney
1797–1804 Aaron Burr
1804–1814 Teunis Wortmann
1814–1817 George Buckmaster
1817–1822 Jacob Barker
1822–1827 Stephen Allen
1827–1828 Mordecai M. Noah
1828–1835 Walter Bowne
1835–1842 Isaac Varian
1842–1848 Robert Morris
1848–1850 Isaac Vanderbeck Fowler
1850–1856 Fernando Wood
1857–1858 Isaac Vanderbeck Fowler
1858 Fernando Wood
1858–1859 William M. Tweed and Isaac Vanderbeck Fowler
1859–1867 William M. Tweed and Richard B. Connolly
1867–1871 William M. Tweed
1872 John Kelly and John Morrissey
1872–1886 John Kelly
1886–1902 Richard Croker
1902 Lewis Nixon
1902 Charles Francis Murphy, Daniel F. McMahon, and Louis F. Haffen
1902–1924 Charles Francis Murphy
1924–1929 George Washington Olvany
1929–1934 John F. Curry
1934–1937 James J. Dooling
1937–1942 Christopher D. Sullivan
1942 Charles H. Hussey
1942–1944 Michael J. Kennedy
1944–1947 Edward V. Loughlin
1947–1948 Frank J. Sampson
1948–1949 Hugo E. Rogers
1949–1961 Carmine DeSapio
1961-1964 Edward N. Costikyan
1964-1968 J. Raymond Jones


This article incorporates text from the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site operated by the National Park Service, placed into the public domain.

  1. ^ Frederick Webb Hodge, editor, Handbook of Indians North of Mexico (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 30. GPO 1911), 2:683-684
  2. ^ a b The History of New York State
  3. ^ Parmet and Hecht 149–150
  4. ^ William L. Riordin, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1963), 91–93
  5. ^ Alfred Connable and Edward Silberfarb, Tigers of Tammany: Nine Men Who Ran New York (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967), 154
  6. ^ "Second Tammany Hall Building Proposed as Historic Landmark". http://www.preserve2.org/gramercy/proposes/new/district/100_102e17.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-03. 


  • Allen, Oliver E. The Tiger: The Rise and Fall of Tammany Hall (1993)
  • Connable, Alfred, and Edward Silberfarb. Tigers of Tammany: Nine Men Who Ran New York. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967.
  • Cornwell, Jr., Elmer E. “Bosses, Machines, and Ethnic Groups.” In The City Boss in America: An Interpretive Reader, edited with commentary by Alexander B. Callow, Jr. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.
  • Costikyan, Edward N. "Politics in New York City: a Memoir of the Post-war Years." New York History 1993 74(4): 414–434. Issn: 0146-437x Costikyan was a member of the Tammany Executive Committee 1955–1964, and laments the passing of its social services and its unifying force
  • Erie, Steven P. Rainbow's End: Irish-Americans and the Dilemmas of Urban Machine Politics, 1840–1985 (1988).
  • Finegold, Kenneth. Experts and Politicians: Reform Challenges to Machine Politics in New York, Cleveland, and Chicago (1995) on Progressive Era
  • LaCerra, Charles. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Tammany Hall of New York. University Press of America, 1997. 118 pp.
  • Lash, Joseph. Eleanor, The Years Alone. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1972, 274–276.
  • Lui, Adonica Y. "The Machine and Social Policies: Tammany Hall and the Politics of Public Outdoor Relief, New York City, 1874–1898." Studies in American Political Development (1995) 9(2): 386–403. Issn: 0898-588x
  • Mandelbaum, Seymour J. Boss Tweed's New York (1965) (ISBN 0-471-56652-7)
  • Moscow, Warren. The Last of the Big-Time Bosses: The Life and Times of Carmine de Sapio and the Rise and Fall of Tammany Hall (1971)
  • Mushkat, Jerome. Fernando Wood: A Political Biography (1990)
  • M. Ostrogorski; Democracy and the Party System in the United States (1910)
  • Herbert S. Parmet and Marie B. Hecht. Aaron Burr; Portrait of an Ambitious Man 1967.
  • William Riordan, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall (1963) 1915 memoir of New York City ward boss George Washington Plunkitt who coined the term "honest graft"
  • Sloat, Warren. A Battle for the Soul of New York: Tammany Hall, Police Corruption, Vice, and Reverend Charles Parkhurst's Crusade against Them, 1892–1895. Cooper Square, 2002. 482 pp.
  • Stave, Bruce M. , John M. Allswang, Terrence J. McDonald, Jon C. Teaford. "A Reassessment of the Urban Political Boss: An Exchange of Views" History Teacher, Vol. 21, No. 3 (May, 1988) , pp. 293–312
  • Steffens, Lincoln. The Shame of the Cities (1904) muckraking expose of machines in major cities
  • T. L. Stoddard, Master of Manhattan (1931), on Crocker
  • Thomas, Samuel J. "Mugwump Cartoonists, the Papacy, and Tammany Hall in America's Gilded Age." Religion and American Culture 2004 14(2): 213–250. Issn: 1052-1151 Fulltext: in Swetswise, Ingenta and Ebsco
  • Nancy J. Weiss, Charles Francis Murphy, 1858–1924: respectability and responsibility in Tammany politics(1968).
  • M. R. Werner, Tammany Hall (1932)
  • Harold B. Zink; City Bosses in the United States: A Study of Twenty Municipal Bosses (1930)

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

TAMMANY HALL, a political organization in New York City, U.S.A., claiming to be the regular representative of the Democratic party in that city. It takes its name from a sachem or chief of the Delaware Indians, Tamanend or Tammany, the name itself meaning "the Affable." Before the War of Independence there were Whig societies called "Sons of St Tammany" and "Sons of Liberty," with rituals in which Indian words were used to suggest the American character of the lodges. On the 12th of May 1789 William Mooney (d. 1832), an upholsterer, of Irish birth, who had probably been a member of an earlier Tammany society, founded in New York City the "Society of St Tammany" or "Columbian Order" as a patriotic, benevolent and non-political organization, with the intent to counteract the influence of what was believed to be the aristocratic Order of the Cincinnati. A few short-lived societies of a similar kind were founded in other states. In 1805 the New York Society was incorporated as a benevolent society, in 1811 it built its first wigwam, or hall, in Frankfort Street near the City Hall, and in 1867 it moved to its present hall in Fourteenth Street. The society was a secret organization, divided into tribes, with sachems (the most important being the Grand Sachem) as the chief officials, a sagamore, or master of ceremonies, and a winskinskie, or door-keeper, and with a ritual of supposedly Indian character. This "Tammany Society" is not itself the well-known political organization, but rents its hall to the Tammany Hall General Committee, the "Tammany Hall" of political notoriety; the leading members, however, of the "Society" and of the "Hall" are identical, and the "Society" controls the meeting-place of the "Hall," so that the difference between the two is little more than nominal. Almost from the beginning Tammany has been actively engaged in politics, being part of, and during the greater period of its existence actually representing in New York City, the Democratic party, though always subordinating the interests of the party as a whole to its own selfish interests. It has had local rivals at different times, but these, though successful for a while, have not lived long; on the other hand, the Hall has not generally been regarded with favour by the Democratic party throughout the country at large.

Soon after its founding, Tammany came under the influence of Aaron Burr. In 1800 it worked for the election of Jefferson as President. It bitterly opposed De Witt Clinton for many years and was hostile to his large Irish constituency; but, after it secured in 1822 the constitutional amendments providing for manhood suffrage and for the abolition of imprisonment of debtors, ,and especially after 1827 when Tammany first tried to reduce the five-year period of residence necessary for naturalization, the foreign-born element gradually came into control of the "Society" and of the "Hall." About 1842 Irish "gangs," which used physical violence at election time, became a source of Tammany strength. It reached its height of power about 1870, under the leadership of William Marcy Tweed (1823-78), who used his popularity as a volunteer fireman to advance himself in Tammany and who was the first "boss" of the organization, which had formerly been controlled by committees. In the mayoralty and the other administrative offices and in the common council of the city, in the chief executive office of the state, in the state legislature, and even in some of the judges' seats, Tweed had placed (or had secured the election of) accomplices or tools, or else controlled votes by purchase. In April 1870 Tweed secured the passage of a city charter which put the control of the city into the hands of the mayor, the comptroller, and the commissioners of parks and public works. A system of official plunder then began that has had few parrallels in modern times. How much was actually stolen can never be known; but the bonded debt of the city, which was $36,000,000 at the beginning of 1869, was $97,000,000 in September 1871, an increase of $61,000,000 in two years and eight months; and within the same period a floating debt of $20,000,000 was incurred, making a total of $81,000,000. For this vast sum the city had little to show. The method of plunder was the presentation of excessive bills for work done, especially in connexion with the new court-house then being erected. The bills were ostensibly paid in full, but in reality only in part, the rest being retained by Tweed, and divided amongst his followers in proportion to their importance. The total cost of the court-house to the city was about $13,000,000 - many times the actual cost of construction. The amount paid in these two years for the city printing and stationery was nearly $3,000,000. The end came through a petty quarrel over the division of the spoils. One of the plunderers, disgatisfied with the office he had received, gave to the New York Times a copy of certain swollen accounts which showed conclusively the stealing that had been going on. When Tweed was interviewed about the frauds his only reply was, "What are you going to do about it?" The better classes, however, were now thoroughly aroused, and with Samuel J. Tilden, afterwards governor of the state, at their head, and with the assistance of the Times and of Harper's Weekly, in the latter of which the powerful cartoons of Thomas Nast appeared, completely overthrew the ring and rescued the city. Tweed was tried and convicted, but was afterwards released on a technicality of law; he was re-arrested, but managed to escape and fled to Spain; he was identified and was brought back to gaol, where he died. The rest of the gang fared little better. Within a few years and under a new leader, John Kelly, Tammany was again in control of the city. Kelly was succeeded by Richard Croker, whose reign as "boss" continued. until 1901. Since 1881 Tammany has been in virtual control of the city government about onehalf the time, a Tammany and a reform mayor often alternating. There were elaborate investigations of Tammany's control of the city by committees of the legislature in 1890, 1894, and 1899. The most conspicuous overthrows of Tammany since the days of Tweed were in 1894, in 1901, when practically the whole reform ticket from mayor to alderman was elected, and in 1909, when the mayor (not a member of Tammany) was the only Tammany nominee on the general ticket elected. The grosser forms of corruption that prevailed under Tweed did not as a rule prevail in later years. Instead, the money raised by and for the Hall and its leaders has come from the blackmailing of corporations, which find it easier to buy peace than to fight for their rights; from corporations which desire concessions from the city, or which do not wish to be interfered with in encroachments on public rights; from liquor-dealers, whose licences are more or less at the mercy of an unscrupulous party in power; from other dealers, especially in the poorer parts of the city, whose business can be hampered by the police; from office-holders and candidates for office; and, lastly, indirectly through corrupt police officials, from the criminal classes and gambling establishments in return for non-intervention on the part of the police. The power of Tammany Hall is the natural result of the well-regulated machine which it has built up throughout the city, directed by an omnipotent "boss." Each of the "assembly districts" into which the city is divided sends a certain number of representatives to the General Committee of Tammany Hall. Each district also has a "boss" or leader and a committee, and these leaders form the Executive Committee of the Hall. There is also a "captain" for each of the voting precincts, over t000 in number, into which the city is divided. The patronage of the city filters down from the real "boss" of the Hall to the local precinct leader, the latter often having one or more small municipal offices at his disposal; he also handles the election money spent in his precinct. The party headquarters in the different assembly districts are largely in the nature of social clubs, and it is in considerable degree through social means that the control of the Hall over the poorer classes is maintained. The headquarters are generally over or near a saloon, and the saloon-keepers throughout Manhattan belong as a rule to the Hall - in fact, are its most effective allies or members. It should be remembered too that the Hall is not subject to divided counsels, but is ruled by one man, a "boss" who has risen to his position by sheer force of ability, and in whose hands rest the finances of the Hall, for which he is accountable to no one. When the "Greater New York" was incorporated the power of Tammany seemed likely to grow less because it was confined to the old city (Boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx), and the Democratic organizations in the other boroughs were hostile to it. The power of the organization in the state and in the nation is due to its frequent combination with the Republican organization, which controls the state almost as completely as Tammany does the city.

See Gustavus Myers, The History of Tammany Hall (New York, 1901). (F. H. H.)

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Tammany Hall, (also called the Society of St. Tammany, the Sons of St. Tammany, or the Columbian Order), named for Tamanend (meaning "affable"), a Native American leader of the Lenni Lenape, was started in 1786 and was declared on May 12, 1789 as the Tammany Society. It was the Democratic political machine that played a major role in controlling New York City politics. It also helped many immigrants, especially the Irish, rise up in American politics from the 1790s to the 1960s.


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