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Post by thelivyjr »

Tammany Hall, continued ...

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Fassett Committee

The 1890s began with a series of what would be three political investigations into Tammany Operations, reminiscent of the early 1870s.

Platt was the key organizer of most of these committees, the first of which was the Fassett Committee of 1890.

This first committee featured testimony from Croker's brother-in-law, revealing gifts of cash surrounding his hotel business.

The recorded testimonies resulted in no indictments and the Democrats would not suffer in the elections of 1890 or 1892.

1894 mayoral election and the Lexow Committee

In 1894, Tammany suffered a setback when, fueled by the public hearings on police corruption held by the Lexow Committee based on the evidence uncovered by the Rev. Charles Parkhurst when he explored the city's demi monde undercover, a Committee of Seventy was organized by Council of Good Government Clubs to break the stranglehold that Tammany had on the city.

Full of some of the city's richest men – J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, Abram Hewitt and Elihu Root, among others – the committee supported William L. Strong, a millionaire dry-goods merchant, for mayor, and forced Tammany's initial candidate, merchant Nathan Straus, co-owner of Macy's and Abraham & Straus, from the election by threatening to ostracize him from New York society.

Tammany then put up Hugh Grant again, despite his being publicly dirtied by the police scandals.

Backed by the committee's money, influence and their energetic campaign, and helped by Grant's apathy, Strong won the election handily, and spent the next three years running the city on the basis of "business principles", pledging an efficient government and the return of morality to city life.

The election was a Republican sweep statewide: Levi Morton, a millionaire banker from Manhattan, won the governorship, and the party also ended up in control of the legislature.

Croker was absent from the city for three years starting at the onset of the Lexow Committee, residing in his homes in Europe.

Still, Tammany could not be kept down for long, and in 1898 Croker, aided by the death of Henry George – which took the wind out of the sails of the potential re-invigoration of the political labor movement – and returned from his stay in Europe, shifted the Democratic Party enough to the left to pick up labor's support, and pulled back into the fold those elements outraged by the reformers' attempt to outlaw Sunday drinking and otherwise enforce their own authoritarian moral concepts on immigrant populations with different cultural outlooks.

Tammany's candidate, Robert A. Van Wyck easily outpolled Seth Low, the reform candidate backed by the Citizens Union, and Tammany was back in control.

Its supporters marched through the city's streets chanting, "Well, well, well, Reform has gone to Hell!"

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Post by thelivyjr »

Tammany Hall, continued ...

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Mazet Investigation

A final state investigation began in 1899 at the prompting of newly elected Theodore Roosevelt.

This Mazet Investigation was chaired by Republican assemblyman Robert Mazet and led by chief counsel Frank Moss, who had also participated in the Lexow Committee.

The investigation revealed further detail about Croker's corporate alliances and also yielded memorable quotes from police chief William Stephen Devery and Croker.

This was also the committee that began probing Croker about his holdings in ice companies.

Despite occasional defeats, Tammany was consistently able to survive and prosper.

Under leaders such as Charles Francis Murphy and Timothy Sullivan, it maintained control of Democratic politics in the city and the state.

20th century

Machine politics versus the reformers

The politics of the consolidated city from 1898 to 1945 revolved around conflicts between the political machines and the reformers.

In quiet times the machines had the advantage of the core of solid supporters and usually exercised control of city and borough affairs; they also played a major role in the state legislature in Albany.

Tammany for example from the 1880s onward built a strong network of local clubs that attracted ambitious middle-class ethnics.

In times of crisis however, especially in the severe depressions of the 1890s and the 1930s, the reformers took control of key offices, notably the mayor's office.

The reformers were never unified; they operated through a complex network of independent civic reform groups, each focused its lobbying efforts on its own particular reform agenda.

The membership included civic minded, well-educated middle-class men and women, usually with expert skills in a profession or business, who deeply distrusted the corruption of the machines.

Consolidation in 1898 multiplied the power of these reform groups, so long as they could agree on a common agenda, such as consolidation itself.

There was no citywide machine.

Instead Democratic machines flourished in each of the boroughs, with Tammany Hall in Manhattan the most prominent.

They typically had strong local organizations, known as "political clubs", as well as one prominent leader often called the "boss".

Charles Murphy was the highly effective but quiet boss of Tammany Hall from 1902 to 1924.

"Big Tim" Sullivan was the Tammany leader in the Bowery, and the machine's spokesman in the state legislature.

Republican local organizations were much weaker, but they played key roles in forming reform coalitions.

Most of the time they looked to Albany and Washington for their sphere of influence.

Seth Low, the president of Columbia University, was elected the reform mayor in 1901.

He lacked the common touch, and lost much of his working class support when he listened to dry Protestants eager to crack down on the liquor business.

From 1902 until his death in 1924, Charles Francis Murphy was Tammany's boss.

Murphy wanted to clean up Tammany's image, and he sponsored progressive era reforms benefiting the working class through his two protégés, Governor Al Smith and Robert F. Wagner.

Ed Flynn, a protégé of Murphy who became the boss in the Bronx, said Murphy always advised that politicians should have nothing to do with gambling or prostitution, and should steer clear of involvement with the police department or the school system.

A new challenge to Tammany came from William Randolph Hearst, a powerful newspaper publisher who wanted to be president.

Hearst was elected to Congress with Tammany support, was defeated for mayor after a bitter contest with Tammany, and won Tammany support for his unsuccessful quest for the governorship of New York.

Hearst did manage to dominate Tammany mayor John F. Hylan (1917–25), but he lost control when Smith and Wagner denied Hylan renomination in 1925.

Hearst then moved to California.

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Post by thelivyjr »

Tammany Hall, continued ...

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Power vacuum and the Seabury Commission (1925–1932)

After Charles Francis Murphy's death in 1924, Tammany's influence on Democratic politics began its wane.

Murphy's successor as the Boss in 1924 was George W. Olvany, the first Tammany Hall Boss to have received a college education.

When Tammany's Jimmy Walker became the city mayor over Hylan in 1925, the hall was poised for advantage.

Olvany was not an overbearing Boss, and the familiar Tammany Hall schemes from a pre-Murphy era began.

Police received protection money from shopkeepers, rackets surrounded the fish and poultry markets, as well as the docks, and licensing fees for various professions were increased with Tammany Hall middlemen reaping the benefits.

This bright period of influence for Tammany Hall was short-lived.

The population of Manhattan, Tammany's stronghold, no longer represented the population of the city as other boroughs like Brooklyn and the Bronx made gains.

Franklin D. Roosevelt's election as New York State Governor in 1928 further reduced Tammany Hall's power.

Although Al Smith guided Roosevelt to the governorship, Roosevelt did not request Smith's advice once there and instead, appointed Bronx Boss Edward J. Flynn as New York's Secretary of State.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the increasing press attention on organized crime during the Prohibition era also contributed to the hall's decline.

Olvany resigned as the Boss in 1929, and John F. Curry was tapped to fill the role.

Curry beat Eddy Ahearn for the role, Al Smith's choice and often considered to be an abler man.

Although he looked the part, Curry was not considered smart enough to fill the role and proceeded to make a series of poor decisions on behalf of Tammany.

The organized crime robbery of a city judge and leader of the Tepecano Democratic Club, Albert H. Vitale, during a dinner party on December 7, 1929, and the subsequent recovering of the stolen goods from gangsters following a few calls from Magistrate Vitale, prompted the public to request a closer look at the ties of organized crime, law enforcement and the judicial system within the city.

Vitale was accused of owing $19,600 to Arnold Rothstein, and was investigated by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for failing to explain how he accrued $165,000 over four years while receiving a total judicial salary of $48,000 during that same period.

Vitale was removed from the bench.

A further investigation by U.S. district attorney Charles H. Tuttle discovered that Brooklyn Judge Bernard Vause was paid $190,000 in return for obtaining pier leases for a shipping company, and that another city judge, George Ewald had paid Tammany Hall $10,000 for the replacement seat of Judge Vitale.

FDR responded by launching three investigations between 1930 and 1932, headed by Samuel Seabury, called the Seabury Commission.

Another Tammany Hall associate, state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Force Crater, disappeared in August 1930, after the start of the first investigation, in what would become an unsolved case.

Crater was president of a Tammany Hall Club on the Upper West Side.

During questioning, Tammany associate and New York County Sheriff Thomas M. Farley denied that gambling took place in his political clubs and could not account for the frequent presence of associates of Arnold Rothstein.

Other questioning focused on the combined police, court, and bail bonding scheme surrounding the improper arrest of prostitutes and innocent women.

The outcome of these investigations included the dismissal of several corrupt judges, including the city's first female judge, Jean H. Norris, the resignation of Mayor Jimmy Walker, the indictment of Deputy City Clerk James J. McCormick and the arrest of State Senator John A. Hastings.

Sheriff Thomas M. Farley was removed from office by Governor Roosevelt.

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Tammany Hall, continued ...

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La Guardia in, Tammany out: 1933 to 1945

In 1932, the machine suffered a dual setback when mayor Jimmy Walker was forced from office by scandal and reform-minded Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president of the United States.

Tammany Hall leader John F. Curry and Brooklyn political boss John H. McCooey had joined forces to support Al Smith's candidacy.

Roosevelt and his lead campaign manager James Farley stripped Tammany of federal patronage, which had been expanded under the New Deal — and passed it instead to Ed Flynn, boss of the Bronx who had kept his district clean of corruption.

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.

After becoming mayor, LaGuardia reorganized the city cabinet with non-partisan officials and sought to develop a clean and honest city government.

Tammany alderman Alford J. Williams died in December 1933; when the Board of Aldermen reconvened in January 1934 it defied party leadership and elected an ally of La Guardia as his successor.

The shock from this decision caused Tammany Bronx leader Augustus Pierce to collapse and die of a heart attack in the aldermanic chambers.

As mayor, LaGuardia successfully led the effort to have a new city charter adopted which would mandate a proportional representation method of electing members of the City Council.

The measure won on a referendum in 1936.

After the new charter went into effect in 1938, the ward system which had allowed only a small number of people to serve on the City Council since 1686 ceased to exist, and the new 26-member New York City Council now had certain functions governed by the Board of Estimate.

La Guardia's appointees filled the board of magistrates and virtually every other long-term appointive office, and the power of Tammany Hall had now been reduced to a shadow of what it once was.

LaGuardia also greatly increased the number of city jobs awarded by the civil service system: about half of city positions required job seekers to take an exam in 1933, compared to about three-quarters in 1939.

In 1937, LaGuardia became the first anti-Tammany "reform" Mayor to ever be re-elected in the city's history and was again re-elected in 1941 before retiring in 1945.

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 control nominations to the Democratic ticket and 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.

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Post by thelivyjr »

Tammany Hall, continued ...

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Criminal issues

Manhattan District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey also got longtime Tammany Hall boss Jimmy Hines convicted of bribery in 1939 and sentenced to 4–8 years.

The loss of Hines would serve as a major blow to Tammany, as he had given the political machine strong ties to the city's powerful organized crime figures since the 1920s.

A few years prior, Dewey also had powerful mobster and strong Tammany ally Lucky Luciano convicted of racketeering and sentenced to 30–50 years; however, Luciano was still able to maintain control of the powerful Luciano crime family from prison until his sentence was commuted to deportation to Italy in 1946.

Several Tammany Hall officials affiliated with Hines and Luciano were also successfully prosecuted by Dewey.

In 1943, district attorney Frank Hogan provided a transcript of a recorded phone message between Frank Costello and Judge Thomas A. Aurelio, a Tammany associate running for state Supreme Court on both Republican and Democrat tickets, wherein Aurelio pledged his loyalty to Costello.

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Tammany Hall, continued ...

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Indian Summer, 1950s

Although the Kefauver hearings, an investigation into organized crime, did not directly impact Tammany, it did not help its image regarding its appeared connection to organized crime.

Tammany never recovered from prosecutions of the 1940s, but it staged a small-scale comeback in the early 1950s under the leadership of Carmine DeSapio, who succeeded in engineering the elections of Robert F. Wagner, Jr., an outspoken liberal Democrat, as mayor in 1953 and W. Averell Harriman as state governor in 1954, while simultaneously blocking his enemies, especially Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr. in the 1954 race for state Attorney General.

Unlike previous Tammany bosses, however, DeSapio had promoted himself as a reformer and always made his decisions known to the public.

The fact that DeSapio was of Italian descent also demonstrated that Tammany was no longer dominated by Irish-American politicians.

Under DeSapio's leadership, the nationality of Tammany Hall's leaders diversified.

However, DeSapio's close ties with the city's lead mobster Frank Costello, Luciano's self-appointed successor, helped establish him as a corrupt figure.

During DeSapio's reign, Costello was the main person who influenced the decisions made by Tammany Hall officials.

By 1956, however, Costello, who was convicted of tax evasion in 1954 and now controlled the Luciano family from prison, was engaged in a major power struggle with fellow associate Vito Genovese and his grip on power greatly weakened.

In 1957, Costello was released from prison after winning an appeal but officially abandoned his role as head of the Luciano family following a failed assassination attempt.

In 1958, DeSapio's "reform" image was severely damaged after he ran his own candidate for the Senate, Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan.

New Yorkers now saw DeSapio as an old-time Tammany Hall boss, and Hogan would lose the Senate election to Republican Kenneth Keating; Republican Nelson Rockefeller would also be elected Governor the same year.

Democrats who once praised De Sapio now excoriated him.

In 1961, Wagner won re-election by running a reformist campaign that denounced his former patron, DeSapio, as an undemocratic practitioner of Tammany machine politics.

After World War II, a group of young World War II veterans and other reform-minded Democrats began the Lexington Democratic Club in response to being denied access to Tammany Hall politics by the old guard.

Eleanor Roosevelt organized a counterattack with Herbert H. Lehman and Thomas K. 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 1967 it ceased to exist; its demise as the controlling group of the New York Democratic Party was sealed when the Village Independent Democrats under Ed Koch wrested away control of the Manhattan party.


There were two distinct entities: the Tammany Society, headed by a Grand Sachem elected annually on May 23; and the Tammany Hall political machine headed by a "boss".

The following list names the political bosses, as far as could be ascertained.

Tammany Hall operated with obfuscation in mind, so these public leaders may not represent actual leadership.

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 & Isaac Vanderbeck Fowler
1859–1867 – William M. Tweed & Richard B. Connolly
1867–1871 – William M. Tweed
1872 – John Kelly & John Morrissey
1872–1886 – John Kelly
1886–1902 – Richard Croker
1902 – Lewis Nixon
1902 – Charles Francis Murphy, Daniel F. McMahon & 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
1949–1962 – Carmine DeSapio
1962–1964 – Edward N. Costikyan
1964–1967 – J. Raymond Jones

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Tammany Hall, concluded ...

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Early years

In its very early days, the Tammany Society met in the back rooms of various taverns, most often in Barden's Tavern on Broadway near Bowling Green.

These back rooms served as unofficial campaign headquarters on election days.

In 1791, the society opened a museum designed to collect artifacts relating to the events and history of the United States.

Originally presented in an upper room of City Hall, it moved to the Merchant's Exchange when that proved to be too small.

The museum was unsuccessful, and the Society severed its connections with it in 1795.

Then, in 1798, the Society moved to more permanent and spacious quarters, the "Long Room" of "Brom" Martling's Tavern, at Nassau Street and Spruce Street, near where City Hall is today.

Tammany controlled the space, which it dubbed "The Wigwam", and let other responsible political organizations it approved of use the room for meetings.

This space became commonly known as "Tammany Hall".

Their new headquarters had limitations as well as advantages, and in 1812 Tammany moved again, this time to a new five-story $55,000 building it built at the corner of Nassau and Frankfort Streets, just a few blocks away.

The new Tammany Hall had a large room that could accommodate up to 2,000 people for political and social events, and the rest of the building was run as a hotel.

The Society was to remain there for 55 years.

14th Street headquarters

By the 1860s, Tammany under Tweed had much greater influence – and affluence, so new headquarters was deemed desirable.

The cornerstone for the new Tammany headquarters was laid on July 14, 1867, at 141 East 14th Street between Third Avenue and Fourth Avenue (the building at Nassau and Frankfort was sold to Charles Dana and his friends, who bought a newspaper, The Sun, and moved it there).

When the leaders of the Society found that they had not raised enough funds, and needed $25,000 more, a meeting was held at which $175,000 was immediately pledged.

The new Wigwam was completed in 1868.

It was not just a political clubhouse: Tammany Hall merged politics and entertainment, already stylistically similar, in its new headquarters. ... The Tammany Society kept only one room for itself, renting the rest to entertainment impresarios: Don Bryant's Minstrels, a German theater company, classical concerts and opera.

The basement – in the French mode – offered the Café Ausant, where one could see tableaux vivant, gymnastic exhibitions, pantomimes, and Punch and Judy shows.

There was also a bar, a bazaar, a Ladies' Cafe, and an oyster saloon.

All this – with the exception of Bryant's – was open from seven till midnight for a combination price of fifty cents.

The building had an auditorium big enough to hold public meetings, and a smaller one that became Tony Pastor's Music Hall, where vaudeville had its beginnings.

The structure was topped off by a large-than-life statue of Saint Tammany.

44 Union Square

In 1927 the building on 14th Street was sold, to make way for the new tower being added to the Consolidated Edison Building.

The Society's new building at 44 Union Square, a few blocks north at the corner with East 17th Street, was finished and occupied by 1929.

When Tammany started to lose its political influence, and its all-important access to graft, it could no longer afford to maintain the 17th Street building, and in 1943 it was bought by a local affiliate of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

Tammany left, and its leaders moved to the National Democratic Club on Madison Avenue at East 37th Street, and the Society's collection of memorabilia went into a warehouse in the Bronx.

The building at 44 Union Square housed the New York Film Academy and the Union Square Theatre, and retail stores at street level, until a complete renovation of the building began in January 2016.

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated it in October 2013.

Plans to add a glass dome to the building were nixed by the Landmarks Commission in 2014; however, the interior is still slated to be completely rebuilt, including demolishing the theater.

In 2015, a scaled-back version of the glass dome was approved by the commission.
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