Tammany Hall and the Battle for New York

Edward O'Donnell
Edward O'Donnell
College of the Holy Cross

Edward O’Donnell is a professor of history at College of the Holy Cross. He is the author of several books, including Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality: Progress and Poverty in the Gilded Age. He frequently contributes op-eds to publications like Newsweek and The Huffington Post, and has been featured on PBS, the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and C-SPAN. O’Donnell also has curated several major museum exhibits on American history and appeared in several historical documentaries. He currently hosts a history podcast, “In the Past Lane.”




July 18, 2022, 4:00 pm

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In the mid-1800s, political organizations known as “political machines” emerged in response to mass immigration, urban expansion, rapid industrialization, and the broad expansion of the vote. The most powerful and infamous machine was Tammany Hall which came to dominate New York City and wield immense power in national politics into the 1930s. In this talk, we’ll learn how Tammany leaders like William “Boss” Tweed used fraud and corruption–as well as constituent service and compassion–to win elections, enrich themselves, and build American cities. We’ll also delve into the ways that Tammany and other political machines provided vital assistance to the poor and vulnerable in the age before welfare and social services. Finally, we’ll consider what factors led to the demise of Tammany and machine politics starting in the 1930s.




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