This Day in History – November 23rd, 1876

Boss TweedWilliam Magear Tweed (April 3, 1823 – April 12, 1878) – often erroneously referred to as William Marcy Tweed and widely known as “BossTweed – was an American politician most notable for being the “boss” of Tammany Hall, the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in the politics of 19th century New York City and State. At the height of his influence, Tweed was the third-largest landowner in New York City, a director of the Erie Railroad, the Tenth National Bank, and the New-York Printing Company, as well as proprietor of the Metropolitan Hotel.

Tweed was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1852 and the New York County Board of Supervisors in 1858, the year he became the head of the Tammany Hall political machine. He was also elected to the New York State Senate in 1867, but Tweed’s greatest influence came from being an appointed member of a number of boards and commissions, his control over political patronage in New York City through Tammany, and his ability to ensure the loyalty of voters through jobs he could create and dispense on city-related projects.

Nast depicts the Tweed Ring: "Who stole the people's money?" / "'Twas him."

Nast depicts the Tweed Ring: “Who stole the people’s money?” / “‘Twas him.”

Tweed was convicted for stealing an amount estimated by an aldermen’s committee in 1877 at between $25 million and $45 million from New York City taxpayers through political corruption, although later estimates ranged as high as $200 million.

Boss_Tweed,_Thomas_NastUnable to put up the $3 million bail, Tweed was locked up in the Ludlow Street Jail, although he was allowed home visits. On one of these, Tweed escaped and fled to Spain, where he worked as a common seaman on a Spanish ship. The U.S. government discovered his whereabouts and arranged for his arrest once he reached the Spanish border; he was recognized from Nast’s political cartoons. He was turned over to an American warship, which delivered him to authorities in New York City on November 23rd, 1876, and he was returned to prison. He died in the Ludlow Street Jail.

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