In 1789, there was an organization that was considered both patriotic and charitable. It was known as the society of Saint Tammany, and it was named after the Delaware tribe chief. This organization was founded by tradesmen who were not wealthy enough to join exclusive clubs.
Saint Tammany, also known as Tamanend, helped the non stop trove of immigrants with necessities for survival. This helped to build a voting bloc for immigrants as well as a society that was quite political. The main headquarters was located on East 14th street, and it was known as the wigwam by members of the group.
The head honcho was named William Marcy Tweed. He made it through the ranks starting as the head of the fire department to city alderman by the young age of 28. In the mid 1800’s, fire fighting was a doorway to politics, which inevitably gave Tweed the title of boss to the society of political immigrants.
Once Tweed was in charge, he spared no expense to get his way. He bribed officials and showed no shame in buying votes to ensure his cronies were a part of nearly every election or political decision. This helped Tweed to control basically every aspect of governance in New York City.
By 1870, Tweed had shifted power into the hands of his cronies as well as himself, and they had the final say in expenditures in regards to New York City. This situation led Tweed to open his own businesses, and he made sure that his businesses were top pick when the city needed work done in regards to the sewer, street improvements, and buildings.
At the height of his power, Tweed exploited turf wars between the Dutch, Irish, and Scottish gangs of New York City. He pulled all the strings in regards to intimidating or eliminating them by pitting them against one another. In reality, there was not a vote that was cast according to the wants of the voters. For those he could not openly control, such as judges, police, and other officials, he simply opted to bribe them to get his way. He also bought favorable coverage from the press, therefore, Tweed was free to do as he pleased.
Tweed would have easily continued his graft on New York City, but his greed got the best of him. He shorted a county bookkeeper, who then in turn handed over incriminating evidence of Tweeds doings to the New York Times. The information was so incriminating that Tweed could not bribe the New York Times, and many Democrats demanded justice be served.
He went to trial, yet the jury was a hung jury. This led officials to believe that he had bribed the jurors, and this complicated matters quite a bit. By the time everything was said and done, there were two police officers watching one juror to ensure that no more bribes could be made. Tweed was eventually found guilty of forgery, larceny, and failure to audit claims against the city.
He was sentenced to 12 years in jail, and his charges were dropped to 1 year. When he was released from jail, the city sued him for millions of dollars, and he was eventually jailed again. However, this time it was a lot more relaxed. He was allowed to visit his family daily as long as he was accompanied by a guard, and this allowed Tweed to escape.
He fled from New York City, and he found work as a seaman on a ship. He was eventually recognized and returned to New York City to finish his sentence. By the time he made his way back to his jail cell, Tweed was extremely ill. He tried to make a deal to share all of the information he knew about the corruption of his own making. His offer was denied, and Tweed spent his final days in jail until he died in 1878.