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(tăm`ənē) or

Tammany Hall,

popular name for the Democratic political machine in Manhattan.


After the American Revolution several patriotic societies sprang up to promote various political causes and economic interests. Among these were the Tammany societies, founded in New York, Philadelphia, and other cities. The societies took the name of a Delaware chief, Tamanend, who is said to have welcomed William Penn and to have signed with him the Treaty of Shakamaxon.

The Tammany Society, or Columbian Order of New York City, the only Tammany society to have a long life, was formed c.1786 and was incorporated in 1789. Divided into 13 tribes, corresponding to the 13 states, it had as its motto "Freedom Our Rock"; its rites and ceremonials were based on pseudo–Native American forms, and the titles of its officials were also pseudo–Native American. Although its activities were at first mostly social, ceremonial, and patriotic, the society gradually became the principal upholder of Jeffersonian politics in New York City.

A Political Force

After 1798, Tammany came under the control of Aaron BurrBurr, Aaron,
1756–1836, American political leader, b. Newark, N.J., grad. College of New Jersey (now Princeton). Political Career

A brilliant law student, Burr interrupted his study to serve in the American Revolution and proved himself a valiant soldier in
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. While Tammany was fighting the political forces of De Witt ClintonClinton, De Witt
, 1769–1828, American statesman, b. New Windsor, N.Y.; son of James Clinton. He was admitted (1790) to the New York bar but soon became secretary to his uncle, George Clinton, first governor of the state, and in that position (1790–95) gained
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, it consolidated its position in the city. Tammany backed Andrew JacksonJackson, Andrew,
1767–1845, 7th President of the United States (1829–37), b. Waxhaw settlement on the border of South Carolina and North Carolina (both states claim him). Early Career

A child of the backwoods, he was left an orphan at 14.
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 for president, and after his victories in 1828 and 1832 it became a dominant force, fighting for democratic suffrage and the abolition of imprisonment for debt in New York state.

Although it stood for reforms on behalf of the common people, it was nonetheless increasingly controlled by men of the privileged classes. The hostility of workingmen toward this "aristocratic" control promoted splits within the Democratic party in the city and state, such as the revolt of the LocofocosLocofocos
, name given in derision to the members of a faction that split off from the Democratic party in New York in 1835. Tension had been growing between radical Democrats, who believed that Andrew Jackson's war against the national bank should be extended to state banks and
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 in the 1830s and the contest between the BarnburnersBarnburners,
radical element of the Democratic party in New York state from 1842 to 1848, opposed to the conservative Hunkers. The name derives from the fabled Dutchman who burned his barn to rid it of rats; by implication, the Barnburners would destroy corporations and public
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 and the HunkersHunkers,
conservative faction of the Democratic party in New York state in the 1840s, so named because they were supposed to "hanker" or "hunker" after office. In opposition to them stood the radical Democrats, or Barnburners.
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 in the late 1840s. Tammany meanwhile triumphed over the Know-Nothing movementKnow-Nothing movement,
in U.S. history. The increasing rate of immigration in the 1840s encouraged nativism. In Eastern cities where Roman Catholic immigrants especially had concentrated and were welcomed by the Democrats, local nativistic societies were formed to combat
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 and the local Whig party alike and steadily gained strength by bringing newly arrived immigrants, the great majority of them Irish, into its fold. The immigrants were helped to obtain jobs, then quickly naturalized and persuaded to vote for their benefactors. Because of the willingness of Tammany to provide them with food, clothing, and fuel in emergencies, and to aid those who ran afoul of the law, these new Americans became devoted to the organization and were willing to overlook the fraudulent election practices, the graft, the corruption, and the other abuses that often characterized Tammany administrations. Eventually, the protections provided to Irish immigrants by Tammany led to such reforms as child labor laws, minimum wage, and workers'compensation.

Flagrant abuses during the reign of William M. TweedTweed, William Marcy,
1823–78, American politician and Tammany leader, b. New York City. A bookkeeper, he became (1848) a volunteer fireman and as a result acquired influence in his ward. He was an alderman (1852–53) and sat (1853–55) in Congress.
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 led to reforms instituted (1872) by Samuel J. TildenTilden, Samuel Jones,
1814–86, American political figure, Democratic presidential candidate in 1876, b. New Lebanon, N.Y. Admitted to the bar in 1841, Tilden was an eminently successful lawyer, with many railroad companies as clients.
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. However, Tammany returned to power under John KellyKelly, John,
1822–86, American politician, boss of Tammany Hall, b. New York City. He entered politics at an early age. At first he opposed Tammany Hall, but later (1853) joined the organization and became city alderman.
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, and the boss system (see bossismbossism,
in U.S. history, system of political control centering about a single powerful figure (the boss) and a complex organization of lesser figures (the machine) bound together by reciprocity in promoting financial and social self-interest.
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) became firmly entrenched in New York City. Corruption under Richard CrokerCroker, Richard,
1841–1922, American politician, head of Tammany Hall from 1886 to 1902, b. Co. Cork, Ireland. He became prominent as Democratic leader of New York City's East Side and as an aide of John Kelly.
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 provoked new investigations, such as that initiated by Charles ParkhurstParkhurst, Charles Henry,
1842–1933, American clergyman and reformer, b. Framingham, Mass., grad. Amherst 1866, and studied theology at Halle and Leipzig. He was pastor of the Congregational Church at Lenox, Mass.
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, and when Seth LowLow, Seth,
1850–1916, American political reformer and college president, b. Brooklyn, N.Y., grad. Columbia, 1870. He entered his father's tea and silk importing firm, but became interested in politics and was reform mayor of the city of Brooklyn for two terms
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 became (1901) mayor, Tammany was eclipsed for a time.

Charles MurphyMurphy, Charles Francis,
1858–1924, American political boss, b. New York City. He was the owner of many saloons in New York City and took a keen interest in Democratic politics. His services to Tammany Hall brought him a job as dock commissioner.
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 succeeded Croker as boss. His reign was interrupted by the brief administration of John P. Mitchel, who, like Gov. William Sulzer, was a Democrat but an opponent of Tammany. Alfred E. SmithSmith, Alfred Emanuel,
1873–1944, American political leader, b. New York City. Reared in poor surroundings, he had no formal education beyond grade school and took various jobs—including work in the Fulton fish market—to help support his family.
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, a protégé of Murphy, became strong enough to create a "new" Tammany, in which he was an important figure. Corruption in city politics continued, however, and investigations, including that headed by Samuel SeaburySeabury, Samuel,
1873–1958, American jurist, b. New York City; great-great-grandson of Samuel Seabury (1729–96). He served on the supreme court (1907–14) and on the court of appeals (1914–16) of New York state.
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 (1930–31), of the city magistrates' courts completely discredited Tammany Hall and ultimately brought about the resignation (1932) of Mayor James J. WalkerWalker, James John,
1881–1946, American politician, b. New York City. Dapper and debonair, Jimmy Walker, having tried his hand at song writing, engaged in Democratic politics and in 1909 became a member of the state assembly. After studying law at St.
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Tammany suffered a telling defeat in the election of 1932 and did not regain its former strength in succeeding elections. The organization declined greatly during the administrations of Fiorello LaGuardiaLaGuardia, Fiorello Henry
, 1882–1947, U.S. public official, congressman, and mayor of New York City (1934–45), b. New York City. He spent his early years in Arizona with his father, an army bandmaster who had come from Italy to the United States.
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, 1933–45. The decline was accelerated by woman's suffrage, immigration restriction, and the social programs of the New Deal, which weakened voters' dependence on the machine.

After World War II, Tammany revived considerably under the leadership of Carmine De Sapio, who successfully promoted the nomination and election of Robert F. Wagner, Jr., as mayor in 1953 and of W. A. HarrimanHarriman, William Averell
, 1891–1986, American public official; son of E. H. Harriman. Expanding his railroad inheritance, W. Averell Harriman became a banker and shipbuilder and later (1932) board chairman of the Union Pacific.
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 as governor in 1954. De Sapio's leadership, however, came under increasing attack from reformers in the Democratic party. In 1961, Wagner was elected for a third term as the leader of a movement against boss rule, and De Sapio was ousted from his position as Tammany chief by the reform forces. Later attempts (1963, 1965) by De Sapio to regain power failed, and during the mayoralty of John V. LindsayLindsay, John Vliet
, 1921–2000, American politician, mayor of New York City (1966–73), b. New York City. He practiced law and then served (1955–57) as executive assistant to Attorney General Herbert Brownell. A liberal Republican, he was elected to the U.S.
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 (1966–73), Tammany passed out of existence as a political machine.


See G. Myers, The History of Tammany Hall (1901; 2d ed. rev. and enl., 1917, repr. 1973); A. Connable and E. Silberfarb, Tigers of Tammany (1967); M. R. Werner, Tammany Hall (1932, repr. 1970); J. Mushkat, Tammany (1971); T. Golway, Machine Made: Tammany and the Creation of Modern American Politics (2014).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/


(?1625–?1701) Delaware chief; born near the Delaware River near present-day Bucks County, Pa. According to legend, he welcomed William Penn to America in 1682; little is known about him except for his name in several contemporary texts. For his legendary character and loyalty to the whites, he became known as Saint Tammany, the patron saint of America and a symbol of the American resistance to the British. Several American organizations subsequently took his name, the most famous being New York City's Society of Saint Tammany (1789), originally so named to reflect the members' disdain for pretentious Americans; later it became known as Tammany Hall, which functioned as Democratic Party organization of New York.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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