Gangsters, Banksters, and Party Bosses, an alternative history of New York City.
By: Matthew Egler
The Year is 1869, May 22nd, It is in the middle of the Spring, Election day is on Nov. 3 six months from now. Arthur Mc’mallin was sitting in his home. A Modest tenement with a wooden build that was two stories and housed three Irish families from the old country. Arthur was a middle aged Irish Catholic who managed to get involved in politics through the advice of the local precinct captain. He had since become a voice in the local ward through years of getting out the vote and back-room door dealing that is so characteristic of the politics of the old machine.
“Murphy! What are the voting numbers that we got from Tammany Hall from the Last Election!?”
“I don’t know Arthur, But the next Precinct Captain that gets less than a 95% voter turnout rate is getting fired from their police municipal job! We are fighting for control of the 6th ward of the city, If we don’t get out the vote this election we will lose control of the city jobs to that fidlem bend John Cunningham! We’ll be dead as good Friday!”
Arthur takes out a match box and lights his timber(cigar). As he is watching the coal glow in the dark at the end of his timber(cigar) he turns to Murphy
“Our Constituents need help for the winter, we need to get more coal and hot soup prepared so the nativists and reformists don’t have a time and makes us look like dumb micks.”
”We have more things to do today. Their is a good Irish couple who have been harassed by some Chiselers by the waterfront, the Husband’s name is Philip.” said Murphy.
“Do you want me to send some crushers(Police) down their and take care of it? I was thinking that if we did this favor we could but Philip as a Precinct Captain to help us maintain control of the ward from the opposition, We need more Precinct Captain votes at the Ward meeting to maintain our majority in the party and get out the vote, He would be a good addition to the society of St. Tammany,” Arthur nodded,
“Go ahead and put him through the process.”
Arthur, The Ward Boss of the 6th Ward was sitting in a green chair staring out the window with a thoughtful look in his face, his eyebrows furrowed in concentration as he was discussing Real Estate Prices with Boss Tweed, Boss Tweed, The Party Boss of the Democratic party, and Grand Sachem of the Society of St. Tammany was sitting behind his desk with his Rod and Reel in the Corner from a day a couple weeks ago when he went on his favorite pastime, fishing. As party boss of the Democratic Party he wielded an inordinate amount of influence. The machine that ruled the politics of New York was actually two organizations. The Democratic Party, and the Society of St. Tammany, The society was super imposed upon the party, and served as a supporting instrument to the Party and its get out the vote efforts. His top hat, was tilted to one side as he kicked his feet on the oak table in front of him. Campaign Signs, campaign Literature and logos of the Democratic Party were strewn and flying all over the place on the second floor of Tammany Hall, there were the faint sounds of singing from the Opera House located in the back of the building, and shouting coming from the bar downstairs.
“So, Philip Agreed to run for ward Chair? John Cunningham is Protestant and Philip is Protestant so the Vote is split?” Said William “Boss” Tweed.
“That’s right, with his support among the Protestants 26% for John Cunningham and 26% for Philip, the vote is split and we have enough votes for me to keep the Ward Chair for the 6th ward.” Said Arthur. Tweed gets up walks over to Arthur, put his hand on his shoulders and says,
“That’s good news, We don’t want those Reformers to come in and pass legislation that would take away our power over patronage jobs. I talked to our mutual friend in the five points, the Leader of the dead rabbits, Grady Gilroy, he will provide the muscle for this coming Election Day in your Ward. Now that that’s settled, I want to turn our attention to the Vanderbilts, They are an upper-class family from 5th Avenue that is trying to gain control of the Erie Railroad system. Vanderbilt recently Purchased control of a large number of stocks from the Eire Railroad system. We have enough votes in the legislature to make the stocks issued by our friend Daniel Drew, Who is the Chairmen of the board of Directors, legal. This will water Down the Stocks and make them cheaper which will cost Cornelius Vanderbilt Lots of money. In return, I will be placed on the Board of Directors.”
Arthur went to go see Grady Gilroy on June 7th, It was a mild cloudy day in the middle part of the summer. Grady’s haunt and Headquarters was a Brothel on Mulberry street, There was violin music playing as Drunk John’s sang Bawdy Music, Surrounded by half naked well endowed women who dispensed sexual favors with gusto, sometimes even doing it for free for clients that they had taken a liking too. Arthur went to a stairwell located in the back, there were two big men flanking the entrance to the stairwell, playing cards and gambling among themselves while they talked with women, Arthur nodded his head as he passed by the thugs. Arthur went upstairs and there he was, Grady Gilroy. Leader of the Dead Rabbits, an Irish-Catholic gang that controlled the underworld in the 6th Ward and even beyond. They were at war with the Bowery Boys, the Nativists Version of a street gang. Grady had huge massive hands and a burly chest, he wore a lower class hat that looked something like a bean bag with a bill on the front. This was in contrast to the top hats worn by the upper class or the bowler hats worn by the middle class. He wore pants fit for a factory worker and his chest was bear due to the nights entertainment. He was smoking a timber(cigar) as he entertained a lovely young gal who wore a feathery head dress and nothing else, her skin illuminated by the flickering candle light.
”Grady, I am running for re-election, seeing as how this ward is dominated by the Irish it should be no problem for you to get out the vote.”
Grady looked up and away from the blonde gal he was eloping with and turned his head toward Arthur,
“I expect protection from the Crushers, that raid on one of my Brothels by that young upstart Police Sergeant Dwyer cost me a good bit o Money you know? I got a lot O Prim Looking Stargazers that are sitting in jail instead O working on their backs.”
Arthur Walked towards the bead and sat on the edge of the bed,
“It’s funny how you mentioned police sergeant Dwyer, Me and my associate Murphy Gallagher were discussing his voting precinct. His voter turnout is less than satisfactory.” Grady’s Brow Furrowed,
“I ain’t puttin in no muscle work for you and your lot unless you put dat Sergeant in a place where he is stunned and poorly, that lad has outlived his usefulness to us.”
Arthur nodded his head,
“He will be taken Care of. We don’t tolerate People in the Tammany Family that can’t deliver on voting day. We will have him fired from the Municipal police. In return, I expect for the Votes to be their on election day, will all the usual niceties. We will bring in fake ballots and stuff the box, we expect you to get the Irish vote, Even if they vote once, make them vote again! We must win this election. Vote early and vote often, Agreed?” Grady gave him a wide Smile, “Agreed.”
Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt was an upper-class white in the English sense of the word, versus the savage non-whites that are the Irish Catholics. He was a Baptists Protestant. He wore a top hat in the tradition of his class, and spoke the “Queens” language, old English as if he were from Britain. He was going to the 6th floor of the offices of his company to do the days business. As he got out of his carriage he saw a beautiful young lady,
“Good afternoon miss.”
The well dressed lady wore white gloves on both her hands, she wore makeup and a small fancy hat and carried a Magnificent scarf of real fur with a luxurious pearl necklace that pronounced her wealth and status to everyone around her. The Lady Turned in his Direction and stated,
”Indubitably, it is in indeed a fine morning, May this morning Leave you in the Grace and Favor of the Lord!” Vanderbilt Smiled,
”Madame Astor, Perhaps you could follow me up to my office so that we may discuss the day’s business, I would inquire as to the state of your Husband that Old Sport.” Madame Astor smiled, “He will be here in a moment! Good Grief!!! Do you think that an Astor would ever be late for a meeting?” Vanderbilt laughed,
“Of course not.”
“I wanted to Inform you of my position regarding the politics that I KNOW you and my husband candidly discuss. I support the women’s right to vote, and I expect that my wishes will be respected during your meeting with my husband?” She smiled,
“Of course Madame! You can rest assured that your wishes will be most closely listened to as we discuss our affairs!” Madame Astor laughed in only the way a women of status could laugh,
“Excellent news! Inform my husband that I will most closely watch the next elections so as to ascertain you decisions!”
William Backhouse Astor, Sr was a black haired white protestant, much like Vanderbilt. His business interests were primarily in the real estate market. He became the Richest man in America at the death of his father, inheriting the tremendous wealth that he made. The majority of his wealth was held in a series of family trusts that the family created in order to preserve their wealth. He was the Patriarch of the family, responsible for making the major business decisions and in control of how the family fortune was to be invested. He walked primly into Vanderbilt’s office, confident in himself
“what business did you wish to discuss?” Astor said to Vanderbilt.
“We have gotten information regarding the bank of Manhattan about a new financial product that they are going to be selling, currently, we are the only ones that know about it, this information has yet to be released to the public so we can go ahead and buy shares now so that when the information becomes publicly available it will drive up their stock and we will profit from this inside information.” Astor looked at him blankly,
“Insider trading is not the most legal means of profiting, but then, when are legalities ever considered in our business? The Old Wall Street saying is true! The best time to buy is when their is blood in the streets!” Astor started laughing,
“Is their anything else?” Vanderbilt clasped his hands behind his back,
“We have to reconsider our dealings with Tammany hall.” Astor furrowed his brow,
“We have profited handsomely from our relationship with Tammany, they have provided us with information regarding city work projects before it was announced publicly, allowing us to make a huge profit margins on our sales of real estate. what is it that we must reconsider?” Vanderbilt walked over and looked Astor directly in the eye,
“We need to get rid of these Irish savages that demoralize our churches with their roman popery, these drunkards will be the end of what is good and decent. I propose that we shift our influence in favor of the reformists, especially after Tweed drove down the stock price of the Erie railroad company, costing me millions.” Astor nodded his head,
“I agree, though we can make money with our business dealings, we simply cannot allow these scum to have the government taken over by the pope, and infest our country with their barbarous ways. What do you propose?”
Vanderbilt walked across the room and stared out the window,
“Their is a young cartoonist named Thomas Nast, We will run a PR campaign against Tammany hall, at the same time, we will use our influence with the bowery boys to compete with the Dead rabbits in their get out the vote efforts, in time, we may successfully defend ourselves against these lower class savages, niggers, and chinks. Thomas views himself as an honest man, but honest men can be manipulated to evil ends. I have no doubt that he will perform his job exactly as expected.”
Police Sergeant Dwyer was down on his luck. He was angry. He was mad. He was a Jewish immigrant that came to seek the promise of America in order to run away from the persecution of Europe. He viewed himself as an honorable person, though many people would disagree due to the fact that he is a Jew. As most immigrants do he found favor in Tammany hall, who helped him to secure a job after his long arduous journey. Unfortunately, his position with the Tammany family did not last long. When the rest of the Precinct captains found out that he was Jewish they all turned against him, seeing him as a greedy Jew who cannot be trusted, and coming from a relatively wealthy Jewish European family. He then stopped listening to his fellow captains and went rogue, going against the ward boss and brining down criminals. Having just lost his job at the municipal police station he decided to go the bar for a drink. As he was sitting there looking at his mug he noticed an interesting looking figure approach him. A man with a baled head, with long hair on the sides and a goatee for a beard sat next to him,
“can I offer you another drink?”, the man said.
“Sure.” Sergeant Dwyer said.
“Allow me to introduce myself, I am Thomas Nast, a cartoonist, I recently heard from a friend of mine that you were fired from the municipal police due to the fact that you are Jewish, which also caused you to have problems with the society of St. Tammany.” Sergeant Dwyer nodded, “you must have good contacts.”
”I am not without my friends, but let me be clear, I work closely with the reformers, a group that opposes Tammany hall in general and wish to see things change for the better. We have support in the form of money from many people, including many respectable individuals from wealthy families such as yourself. Seeing your predicament, we wondered whether we can be of some assistance. We are prepared to get you a new hob with the metropolitan police in exchange for everything you know regarding the inner workings of the Tammany family. You will be well rewarded.”
Sergeant Dwyer sat their for a moment, contemplating the decision he is about to make,
“What are you going to do with the information?” Thomas replied,
”We are going to wage a Public relations campaign in order to clean up corruption in this city and expose these scoundrels for who they really are. I am here to ask your help in doing the right thing.” Police Sergeant smiled,
“Then I’m your man.”
It was November 3rd, election night, The numbers are in, the votes are counted. Arthur mc’mallin is the victor in the election between him and John Cunningham. Arthur is pleased with himself, he is sitting drunk in a chair at the headquarters of Grady Gilroy, the head of the dead rabbit, For his election day party. There is a naked women on each knee as he is surrounded by fine women, beer, his local precinct committeemen, Grady, and his henchmen.
“Please enjoy yourself, tonight is a victory worthy O warriors, the Irish will be plagued not all by those bowery boy rag tags!”,
said Grady as he slapped Arthur on the Back and poured him another drink.
“It is a fine day, a day of victory,” Arthur smiled to himself privately,
” John Cunningham had no idea that the vote was split, when we did the nominations I could see the anger, contempt, and surprise on his face. Brows furrowed and eyes dilated, mouth with lips pulled back on one side, then lifted eyebrows with an open mouth. I will never forget the look.” Philip was sitting in the corner with murphy, talking privately to each other, they both glanced briefly in Arthur’s direction, smiled happily at him, then went back to their conversation, and then suddenly adopted a more serious look as they conversed with each other. Grady continued to talk, “This will ensure that the dead rabbits will continue to not be harassed by the crushers. As long as you and your lads continue to hold up your end of the bargain.” Arthur leaned forward,
” The numbers from Prince Henry Voting Precinct, Dwyer’s old Precinct are much better this year. Everything went according to plan as it should. You will have no trouble now from the crushers, the bowery boys are a different story, though.”
Arthur leaned back in his chair, pleased with the nights affairs. As he was drinking, Murphy and Phillip walk over to him, both smiling broadly in the atmosphere of sex, alcohol, and general debauchery, they sat down on either side of Arthur. Murphy looked at Arthur,
“Enjoying the night boss?”.
”Of course I am.” Murphy put his hand on his shoulder,
”Me and Phillip wanted to give you some good news.”
”what news is that? ”
”We were talking with the other sachems and they agreed to appoint you to be the sachem for this side of the city.” Arthur stood up suddenly,
”They want me to be a sachem?!?!”
The crowd suddenly turned to look at the trio with Grady standing behind them. “Congratulations boss, it seems as if you will continue to advance within the Tammany family.”
William “Boss” tweed was a mess. He was sitting in his jail cell, contemplating to himself the things that have happened to over the last couple of years. The year is 1872. It is winter and it is snowing outside. There was pale light coming through the window form the outside, Boss Tweed could see his breath in the fresh winter air. A year ago, a story hit the newspaper,
”That damn Thomas Nast”, Tweed said to himself,
”I do not care about what he wrote, my constituents can’t read. But they can’t help but notice those damn cartoons, “He sighed.
“These damn reformers, I should have know they would be the death of me.”
There was a knock at the door, slowly it opened sending a shaft of light illuminating Boss Tweed’s Jail Cell.
“It’s time” said the Guard, boss tweed could see his name and badge number on his chest, ‘Sergeant Dwyer’, it said.
Boss Tweed got up and walked past the guard, the guard followed behind him and they went down the hall and around the corner through a set of double doors until finally stopping at a big brown door, Boss tweed could hear people talking on the other side. The guard reached forward and opened the doors. Boss Tweed walked through the doors, he was in the middle of a courtroom. It’s a full house. He scanned the courtroom, he saw his wife and three daughters on the defendant’s side looking at him with watery eyes and sitting solemnly, behind them were his business associates, including his good friend Arthur Mc’mallin, several other ward bosses and sachems, many Precinct Captains, Dead rabbits, and Irish Catholics along with many other minorities. He looked to the Plaintiff’s side of the Courtroom. he saw many faces: Bowery boys, Nativists, Reformers, The Vanderbilt’s, The Astor’s; Those and many other Bankers, politicians, and their constituents. He walked to the defendant’s side of the table, sat down and waited.
“All Rise.” Said the Court Bailiff,
“Presenting the honorable judge Charles Estin.” He was a known reformer Judge.
The Judge walked in and sat down, everyone else sat down along with him. Once the judge sat down a door opened on the side of the room and the jury began to file in. The jury sat down in their chairs. The judged looked at the jury,
“has the jury reached a verdict?” A lone juror stood up,
“Guilty on all charges!” The judge nodded,
Boss tweed looked towards the Plaintiff’s side of the room, everyone was smiling, but none more widely that Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt and his associate William Backhouse Astor, Sr.
“I hereby sentence you to 20 years in a federal penitentiary for the crimes of Larceny, Fraud, Forgery…” Boss tweed sank in his chair, started shaking and let out a horrendous scream.
The Vanderbilts and the Astors Smiled Wider.
Tammany Hall was in Disarray, After the elections of 1862 the Tammany family lost ground on all fronts across the city. Mayors, Judges, Ward Chairs, City Councils, police precincts, fire precincts all gone. Control of the Patronage machine of government jobs that rewarded members of the society of St. Tammany was lost to the reformers and nativists. The Dead rabbits, under fire from the newly elected reformer police sergeants and police chiefs were losing power in the five points. The bowery boys, having found new power due to their increased presence in the police departments because of their alliance with the nativists, reformers and bankers, were thriving. Their had been several fights in the street with the Bowery boys gaining the upper hand with the help of the police. Several brothels had been shut down and a lot of territory had been lost. The Council of Sachems, the power brokers of the Society of Saint Tammany and ward bosses of the Democratic Party Political Machine was convening. The location was at Tammany hall, There were flags and memorabilia strewn throughout the room. Shouting was coming from the bar downstairs, and singing coming from the opera House in the back. Arthur Mc’mallin sat in his chair.
“We need to throw those dumb micks a bone.”
said Sachem and ward boss of the 7th ward Phillip Mc’leoud. He had moved to the 7th ward the previous year and was elected the ward boss and sachem. Along with Murphy to the 5th ward, again elected as ward boss and sachem.
“What are we to do, who will we elect as the new Grand Sachem?” Arthur looked around.
This was the meeting of all the sachems all over the city. They were here to find a new direction for the Tammany Family, and elect a new Grand Sachem.
“We are here to do the election of the new Grand Sachem” said Murphy.
“Let’s get this business done and let the new Boss Decide.”
After this statement, the sachems nodded their heads in agreement. They each grabbed a piece of paper, and took their time in writing down a name. Some sat for awhile with their brows furrowed, looking suspiciously around the room, others quickly wrote a name down and then sat silently. As soon as everyone was done they each passed their pieces of paper silently to murphy, who took his time opening each piece of paper and putting a tally on a notepad he had next to him.
“I have the results.” Murphy Proclaimed,
“The New Grand Sachem, and Party Boss of the Democratic Party Political Machine for New York City, is Arthur Mc’mallin!” Clapping immediately ensued,
Arthur Sat their in disbelief as Murphy Immediately walked over to give him his congratulations,
“Congratulations Arthur, your the Party Boss now.”