8. William M. Tweed and the Prince of Plasterers
Thomas Nast cartoon. Image via Wikimedia: public domain
The reign of William M. Tweed – widely known as “Boss” Tweed – was arguably the pinnacle of Tammany Hall’s political power. In the heyday of his influence, Tweed was the third-largest landowner in New York City, as well as a proprietor of the Metropolitan Hotel and the director of Eire Railroad and the Tenth National Bank. Moreover, Tweed was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1852 and the New York County board of supervisors in 1858.
In addition to his power, Boss Tweed was the personification of corruption, bribery and fraud. It is estimated that during his reign, Tweed and his political associate stole $200 million (equal to a whopping $3.5 billion in today) from the citizens of New York.
The corruption that existed was vast and blatantly conducted; in one case a carpenter was paid $360,751 (approximately $4.9 million today) for one month’s labor in a building that had very little woodwork. In another case, a furniture contractor received $179,729 ($2.5 million today) for three tables and 40 chairs! A plasterer, Andrew J. Garvey, received $133,187 ($1.82 million today) for two day of work – an act that earned him the title, “Prince of the Plasterers”.