Tamanend reputedly took part in a meeting between the leaders of the Lenni-Lenape nation, and the leaders of the Pennsylvania colony held under a large elm tree at Shakamaxon in the early 1680s. There, Tamanend is reported to have announced that the Lenni-Lenape and the English colonists would "live in peace as long as the waters run in the rivers and creeks and as long as the stars and moon endure." These words have been memorialized on the statue of Tamanend that stands in Philadelphia today.
It is believed that Tamanend died in 1698. Over the next century, many folk legends surrounded Tamanend and his fame assumed mythical proportions among the people of Philadelphia, who began to call him "King Tammany," "Saint Tammany," and the "Patron Saint of America." The people of Philadelphia also organized a Tammany society and an annual Tammany festival. These traditions soon spread across America. The reason for Tammany's popular status can be attributed to the need that patriotic colonists had to express a distinct "American" identity, in place of their former European nationalities. Tammany, an American Indian, provided an apt symbol for patriotic Americans to identify with.
Because of Philadelphia's political significance during the founding of the United States of America, Tammany soon became a national symbol throughout much of the newly-formed country.
In 1772, the original Tammany Society was formed in Philadelphia (it was originally called the "Sons of King Tammany" but was later renamed the "Sons of St. Tammany"). Soon, Tammany societies began to appear from Georgia to Rhode Island to the Ohio River. The most famous of these was New York City's Society of St. Tammany, which grew into a major political machine known as "Tammany Hall." A white marble statue of Tamanend adorned the facade of the building on East 14th Street that housed Tammany Hall.
On May 1, 1777, John Adams wrote of the Tammany festival in Philadelphia during the American Revolutionary War. Adams, who was in Philadelphia attending the Second Continental Congress as a delegate from Massachusetts, wrote a letter home to his wife, Abigail Adams, which said:
"This is King Tammany's Day. Tammany was an Indian King, of this past of the Continent, when Mr. Penn first came here. His court was in this town. He was friendly to Mr. Penn and very serviceable to him. He lived here among the first settlers for some time and until old age. ... The people here have sainted him and keep his day" (Lyman H. Butterfield, ed., Adams Family Correspondence; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963-1973, II, pp. 229-230).
On May 1, 1778, General George Washington and the Continental Army held a Tammany festival while camped at Valley Forge. The "men spent the day in mirth and jollity...in honor of King Tammany" (Military Journal of George Ewing, 1928).
After the end of the Revolutionary War, Tammany celebrations spread throughout America, as far away as Savannah, Georgia. Wherever a Tammany Society had been established, the society would promote a local Tammany festival. Many calendars of the time listed "Saint Tammany's Festival" on May 1.
Tammany celebrations were such important events that, in 1785, George Washington appeared at the Tammany festival in Richmond, Virginia with Virginia governor Patrick Henry. In 1787, New York City first began to have a Tammany festival.
In 1794, Ann Julia Hatton's tremendously popular "Tammany: The Indian Chief" premiered on Broadway. It was the first major opera libretto written in the United States that had an American theme and it was the earliest drama about American Indians.
In 1826, Tammany appeared (as "Tamenund") at the conclusion of The Last of the Mohicans, a novel which was extremely popular in the antebellum United States. The novel was written by James Fenimore Cooper (one of the first popular American novelists) and was part of the Leatherstocking Tales (which had a significant impact on both American literary culture and the emerging nation's identity).