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WIlliam "Boss" Tweed

WIlliam "Boss" Tweed

This knowledge card is about notorious New York politician and gangster WIlliam "Boss" Tweed, his life, his corrupt political practices, and his downfall.

 

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Luke Maloney

Luke Maloney

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Nast used his talents in a campaign to undermine Tweed and rally good government forces to overthrow the boss. Cartoon after cartoon pictured Tweed as a thief. In addition to his caricatures of Tweed, Nast created the Tammany Tiger as a symbol for the Ring, and sometimes he used it as a more general symbol for the Democratic Party.

Article: Thomas Nast
Source: Thomas Nast
Luke Maloney

Luke Maloney

45 Knowledge Cards 

Thomas Nast used his skills as an illustrator to create political cartoons exposing to the public who the real Boss Tweed was. 

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''It's hard not to admire the skill behind Tweed's system, though,'' Ackerman writes. ''The Tweed ring at its height was an engineering marvel, strong and solid, strategically deployed to control key power points: the courts, the legislature, the treasury and the ballot box. Its frauds had a grandeur of scale and an elegance of structure: money-laundering, profit sharing and organization.''

Article: The New York Times > B...
Source: The New York Times
Luke Maloney

Luke Maloney

45 Knowledge Cards 

This is a quote from Kenneth D. Ackerman's biography about Tweed. He makes a very valid point that at the peak of Tweed's reign he ran a brilliantly orchestrated fraud and made millions of dollars from it.

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The city’s debts jumped about $100 million dollars in just two years from 1868 to 1870. Tweed was convicted in 1873 for his role in a corruption ring that stole at least $1 billion in today’s dollars and given a 12-year sentence.

Article: RealClearPolitics - Ten M...
Source: RealClearPolitics

Tweed escaped and fled to Spain where he was arrested and sent back to New York City. Tweed died in prison from pneumonia in 1878. Many, including Tweed himself, believed that despite his crooked ways he did a lot of good for the city, especially for the poor.

Article: RealClearPolitics - Ten M...
Source: RealClearPolitics
Luke Maloney

Luke Maloney

45 Knowledge Cards 

Even with all of his corruption, some people really did believe Tweed did a lot of good for the community. 

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It has been estimated that during his reign of corruption, William Magear (“Boss”) Tweed, the “Tiger of Tammany,” and his political cronies stole $200 million (the equivalent of about $3.5 billion in today’s money) from the citizens of New York.

In an era in which all of the land for Central Park cost New York City $5 million, and the elaborate St. Patrick’s Cathedral cost $2 million to build, the Tweed Courthouse wound up costing New York’s taxpayers $12 million (equivalent to about $200 million today). More money was spent to build the Tweed Courthouse than was spent to construct the United States Capitol. In fact, the Courthouse was the costliest public building that had yet been built in the United States.

Luke Maloney

Luke Maloney

45 Knowledge Cards 

The New York Times eventually discovered the motives behind Tweed's actions and were responsible for his downfall.

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The Tweed Ring reached its peak of fraudulence in 1871 with the remodeling of the City Court House, a blatant embezzlement of city funds that was exposed by The New York Times.

Article: The History Channel
Source: History
Luke Maloney

Luke Maloney

45 Knowledge Cards 

The City Court House remodeling was the project that Tweed embezzled the most money during.

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By the mid 1860s, he had risen to the top position in the organization and formed the "Tweed Ring," which openly bought votes, encouraged judicial corruption, extracted millions from city contracts, and dominated New York City politics.

Article: The History Channel
Source: History

With absolute power over who could be nominated as a Democratic candidate and enormous influence over appointments to office, "Boss Tweed" was himself appointed a Deputy Street Commissioner, and began putting cronies on the city payroll for doing no work. With his substantial kickbacks, Tweed bought several companies which were promptly awarded city contracts. He was elected to the State Senate in 1867, and within months had charmed and cajoled his way to similar near-absolute control over the state's capitol.

Article: Boss Tweed
Source: Boss Tweed
Luke Maloney

Luke Maloney

45 Knowledge Cards 

Tweed was the single most powerful figure in New York. He had say over almost every monetary decision that was made in New York at the time.

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William Magear Tweed worked at a brush factory, and moved into management after marrying the owner's daughter. He soon became a rising star in New York City politics of the 1850s and a key player in Tammany Hall, the behind-the-scenes group that had make-or-break power over local Democratic Party nominations. By the late 1850s Tweed and his associates controlled the group, and in 1863 he was elected Chair of Tammany Hall.

Article: Boss Tweed
Source: Boss Tweed
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