Tammany Hall and the Battle for New York

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Duration 01:06:20

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.”




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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Elaine Baker

Tammany Hall

The presentation was very well organized and clearly explained the historical context of Tammany Hall.

2 years ago
Annette Hopkins

Engaging presenter

Thoroughly enjoyable historical snapshot by an engaging and knowledgeable presenter.

2 years ago

Excellent report!

Informative, entertaining and relevant – plus a lot of old political cartoons, which is a great combination. I learned a lot.

2 years ago
kevin fox

An enjoyable thorough presentation

Well worth the time for history majors as well as the history ignorant like myself. Although I had little interest in all the names the presenter was quick to get to “the meat” of the “what” “why” and “how”, so the “who” didn’t bore me. Another enjoyable presentation by this lecturer- I see his name and I click!

1 year ago
Rosalind Kurzer

Gifted teacher

A terrific presentation that gives the audience a clear, insightful history of Tammany Hall. Politics is a showcase of human behavior.

8 months ago
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