Executive committee of the Democratic Party in New York City. The group was organized in 1789 in opposition to the Federalist Party's ruling “aristocrats.” The Society of Tammany was incorporated in 1805 as a benevolent body; its name derived from a pre-Revolutionary association named after the benevolent Indian chief Tammanend. The group became identified with the city's Democratic Party. The makeup of the society was substantially altered in 1817 when Irish immigrants, protesting Tammany bigotry, forced their right to membership and benefits. Tammany later championed the extension of the franchise to white propertyless males. Nevertheless, the society's appeal to particular ethnic and religious minorities, the doling out of gifts to the poor, and the bribing of leaders of rival political factions, among them the notorious boss William Magear Tweed, made the name Tammany Hall synonymous with political corruption. Its power was greatest in the late 19th and early 20th century; it declined in the 1930s under the reforms of Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mayor Fiorello La Guardia.
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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 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, 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.
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.
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 F. 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 F. 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. 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 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.
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.
|1827–1828||Mordecai M. Noah|
|1848–1850||Isaac V. Fowler|
|1857–1858||Isaac V. Fowler|
|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|
|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|
|1948–1949||Hugo E. Rogers|
|1949–1961||Carmine G. DeSapio|