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Tammany Hall was the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in controlling New York City 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 to the election of Fiorello LaGuardia in 1934, then weakened and collapsed.
Tammany Hall on East 14th Street, NYC, between Third Avenue and Irving Place
The Tammany Society was founded in the 1780s. The name "Tammany" comes from Tamanend, a Native American leader of the Lenape. The society adopted many Native American words and 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.  By 1798, however, the Society's activities had grown increasingly politicized and eventually Tammany, led by Aaron Burr, who was never actually a member,  emerged as the center for Jeffersonian Republican politics in the city. Burr built the Tammany society into a political machine 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.  In 1830, the Society's headquarters were established on West 14th Street in a building called Tammany Hall, and thereafter the name of the building and the group were synonymous.
After 1839, Tammany became the city affiliate of the Democratic Party, emerging as the controlling interest in New York City elections after Andrew Jackson's. In the 1830s the Loco-Focos comprised a democratic, anti-monopoly faction that appealed 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, a task that was accomplished by helping newly-arrived foreigners obtain jobs, a place to live, and even citizenship so that they could vote for Tammany candidates in city and state elections. The mass immigrant constituency primarily functioned as a base of political capital. The "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.
Tammany is forever linked with the rise of the Irish in American politics. Beginning in 1846, large numbers of Irish Catholics began arriving in New York. Equipped with a knowledge of English, very tight loyalties, a genius 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.
"WHO STOLE THE PEOPLE'S MONEY" -- DO TELL. 'IT WAS HIM. NYTIMES
Tammany Ring, by Thomas Nast
By 1854, Tammany's lineage and support from immigrants 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. 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. Tweed's control over the Tammany Hall machine allowed him to win election to the New York State Senate. His political career ended when he became mired in corruption, and he went 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.
LOTS OF HUNTERS AFTER A VERY SICK TIGER!
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, 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 F. Murphy was Tammany's boss. 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. Roosevelt stripped Tammany of its federal patronage -- much expanded because of the New Deal -- and handed city patronage to Ed Flynn, boss of the Bronx. Roosevelt helped Republican Fiorello LaGuardia become mayor on a Fusion ticket, thus removing even more patronage from Tammany's control.
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.
NEW YORK'S NEW SOLAR SYSTEM
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 F. Murphy.
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 H. Morris
1848 – 1850 Isaac V. Fowler
1850 – 1856 Fernando Wood
1857 – 1858 Isaac V. Fowler
1858 Fernando Wood
1858 – 1859 William M. Tweed and Isaac V. 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 F. Murphy, Daniel F. McMahon, and Louis F. Haffen
1902 – 1924 Charles F. Murphy
1924 – 1929 George W. 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
1948 – 1949 Hugo E. Rogers
1949 – 1961 Carmine G. DeSapio
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• 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
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• T. L. Stoddard, Master of Manhattan (1931), on Crocker
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