Lankevich Chapter 5 Slides

The Age of Bosses
SECTION T1E (0852)
Fernando Wood (1812-1881)
William Magear Tweed (1822-1886)
“Honest” John Kelly (1822-1886)
The Age of Bosses
The New York Crystal Palace built in 1854
Built in 1853 as a part of the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations next to the Crystal
Palace, it burnt down in 1858, two years after the Latting Observatory. It was in imitation of the
London Crystal Palace, which was built in 1851 for an exhibition.
The Age of Bosses
The Latting Observatory
Built in 1853 as a part of the
Exhibition of the Industry of
All Nations next to the
Crytsal Palace, it burnt down
in 1856. It could handle
1,500 people at a time was
later dubbed New York’s first
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Nast Self-Portrait
The view from the Latting Observatory, 1855
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• The idea of the Common Council as a den of “forty thieves” and rampant
corruption in city government was was not new in the 1850s as indicated by
this cartoon from 1840, but the emergence of a political “boss” was a new
• The word “boss” is of Dutch origin and was mostly associated with the
captain of a ship in the 1600s. It came into wide use in the U.S. during the
long transition from the old apprenticeship system to a “free labor” wage
system, one theory holds, because it sounded more egalitarian than the word
“master,” with its associations with slavery.
• Lankevich puts forth the idea that Fernando Wood was the first modern
political boss in New York. Wood served as Mayor of New York from 1855 to
1857 and from 1860 to 1862.
• What caused Wood’s transition from “model mayor” to “spoiler” according
to Lankevich?
• When Wood broke from Tammany after his first term, he created his own
political machine known as “Mozart Hall.”
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• What arguments does Lankevich put forth about why “bossism” emerged in
the 1850s? What was it about the particular political environment of that
decade that enabled the rise of bosses?
• What was the relationship between Whig Mayor Ambrose Kingsland (18511853) and the Tammany-controlled Common Council?
• What was the role of the Citizens’ Association and its leader, Peter Cooper,
in revising the City Charter in 1853?
Peter Cooper
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Plymouth Church
Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)
75 Hicks Street in Brooklyn Heights
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Fernando Wood
The Age of
“The Great New York Police Riot” on June 16, 1857
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The Rise of Tweed
• E.L. Godkin (1831-1902), founding editor of The Nation, wrote, “If Wood was the Caesar of
the Ring, than Tweed was its Augustus.”
• Leader of the “Big Six” Americus Engine Company; fire
brigades were often a route to Tammany Hall leadership.
• Elected to the Board of Aldermen in 1851 and active in the
activities of the “Forty Thieves.”
• Elected to Congress in 1853, but disliked Washington, returning
to NYC in 1855.
• Worked on the Board of Education from 1855 to 1857.
• Worked as Supervisor of Public Works from 1857 to 1870.
• Made chairman of the Democratic Central Committee of New
York County in 1860.
• A. Oakey Hall becomes attorney general in 1862, protecting
“the ring” from prosecution.
• In January 1863, Tweed becomes permanent chairman of the
Executive Committee of the Tammany Society, and then Grand
Sachem in July.
• The ring’s control of the judiciary and ability to conduct “mass
naturalizations” of immigrants cemented its control.
• Becomes state senator in 1867 and helps big businessmen like
Jay Gould and Cornelius Vanderbilt obtain state charters for their
The Age of Bosses The Tweed Ring in Its Glory
• Graft becomes bureaucratized under “The Ring”—becomes business as
• Andrew J. Garvey, favorite henchman of the ring, received most plastering
contracts from the City of New York. Became known as “the Prince of
Plasterers,” charging $3 million for his work, and kicking back 60 percent to
“The Ring.”
• The Courthouse in City Hall Park: First budgeted at $350,000, it cost nearly
$13 million by the tie of its opening.
•Dead men were put on the city payroll.
• Metropolitan Fire District (1865): Old system of volunteers replaced by a
professional force in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
• Metropolitan Sanitary Commission and new Board of Health created (1866).
• As state senator, Tweed oversaw the incorporation of the Metropolitan
Museum of Art, the New York Stock Exchange, and the Lenox Library.
•“Tweed Charter” of 1870: Centralized control under the mayor, abolished the
Metropolitan Police, and guaranteed many other aspects of “home rule.”
The Age of Bosses The Tweed Ring in Its Glory
• The Ring elects two mayors:
John T. Hoffman in 1865 and
Abraham Oakey Hall in 1869,
known as “Elegant Oakey,”
who remained in office until
after the fall of the Ring in
1872. Tammany succeeded in
having Hoffman elected to the
governorship in 1868, and
replacing him as mayor with
the Shakespeare-quoting Hall.
Cartoon depicting “Elegant Oakey” and
Lucifer from Punchinello, April 1870
The Age of Bosses The Fall of the Ring
• Thomas Nast begins his campaign against the Ring’s plundering ways in
1870. “I don’t care what people write, for my people can’t read, but they have
eyes and can see as well as other folks,” says Tweed about the cartoons.
• In 1871: The Ring makes a mistake by making an enemy out of New York
Sheriff Jimmy O’Brien, who wanted a $250,000 payment that was denied. For
revenge, O’Brien turned over hard evidence to the editor of the New York
Times, George Jones.
• The Ring tried to pay off Nast and failed, and then did the same to Jones,
and Jones refused, starting to publish the evidence in July 1871.
• Evidence was clear that the ring had stolen at least $6 million, but later
historians put the figure as ranging from $30 to $200 million.
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Nast Self-Portrait
Thomas Nast (1840-1902)
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“That’s What’s the Matter,” Harper’s Weekly,
January 1, 1870
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“Two Great Questions” published in
Harper’s Weekly, August 9, 1871.
In July 1871, the New York Times ran a series
uncovering massive corruption in municipal
government and the Tammany Democratic
machine run by Boss Tweed. Cartoonist
Thomas Nast, who previously targeted Tweed,
intensified his campaign and played a vital role
in the fall of the “Tweed Ring.” The top
cartoon asked, “Who is Ingersoll’s Co.?” James
Ingersoll’s name was used for a fake company
to which many fraudulent city bills were paid;
Ingersoll was convicted of forgery in late 1872
and spent two and half years in jail. From leftto-right, the bottom cartoon shows Tweed,
Peter Sweeny (head of the Public Parks
Department), City Comptroller Richard
Connolly, and Mayor Abraham Oakey Hall in
the glasses.
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“The American River Ganges,” Harper’s Weekly,
September 30, 1871
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Cartoon published in Harper's Weekly, October 21, 1871
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“The Tammany Tiger Loose,” Harper’s Weekly,
November 11, 1871
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“He Tries To Steal Away,” Harper’s Weekly,
July 17, 1875 – Commentary on how Tweed could basically come and go as he pleased while in jail. Tweed actually
made a break on December 5, 1875, while taking one his sojourns, and fled to Cuba and then to Spain. Spanish
authorities arrested Tweed, identifying him using a Nast cartoon, and extradited him back to the U.S.
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“Honest” John Kelly (1822-1886)
• Emerges as head of Tammany in the post-Tweed era
in part.
• Had been a part of Tammany leadership until and was
expecting to be appointed police commissioner in
1863, but was not given it, so he broke from Tammany
and put much of the Irish vote behind independent
German Democrat, C. Godfrey Gunther, who won.
• To mollify him, Tammany had him elected sheriff.
When his post was not renewed, he broke from
Tammany again in the 1868 election, but was “paid” to
go away by Tammany.
• Had been in Europe during the height of the Tweed
Ring (1868-1871) on account of his health, so was
perceived as untainted.
• Develops the system of what becomes known as
“honest graft”: more disciplined system of kickbacks
and payoffs that did not get under control as under
• Consolidates his rule over Tammany in 1874 and
holds on to it until 1886.