Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York

Kenneth D. Ackerman, Author Carroll & Graf Publishers $27 (437p) ISBN 978-0-7867-1435-3
William Marcy Tweed didn't invent graft, but he rigged elections and stole from the public on an unprecedented scale, gaining a stranglehold on New York City and amassing a vast personal fortune. By the early 1870s, he and his ""ring"" had skimmed between $25 and $40 million from the municipal treasury, a staggering amount even in an era notorious for robber barons and market manipulators. Ackerman, the author of The Gold Ring: Jim Fisk, Jay Gould, and Black Friday 1869, a book about two other Gilded Age scoundrels, deftly chronicles Tweed's epic rise and ultimate disgrace, giving us a nuanced portrait of the ""Boss."" Early in his career, Tweed brilliantly recognized that he could win power by mobilizing New York's teeming working-class and immigrant wards. Through patronage and largesse, Tweed recruited an army of ballot-box stuffers who helped install his cronies in office, allowing him to award jobs and contracts to friends while punishing enemies. Tweed's ring borrowed vast amounts on the city's tab and spent lavishly on such public projects as Central Park, making Tweed ""the city's grand benefactor, Santa Claus with a diamond pin."" But while Ackerman gives Tweed his due, describing how the Boss's machine aided the poor and helped modernize a crowded, chaotic city, the author is too clear-eyed to present his subject as a latter-day Robin Hood. Ackerman's Boss Tweed robbed everyone-and kept plenty for himself. And ultimately, Tweed's corruption and fiscal recklessness had crippling consequences for the city long after he died, penniless, in jail. In the end, this book is not only a compelling look at the colorful yet ruthless man who invented the big city political machine, it is also the gripping story of how dedicated newspapermen and zealous reformers brought down a notorious kingpin.
Reviewed on: 03/01/2005
Release date: 03/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 446 pages - 978-1-61945-007-3
Paperback - 446 pages - 978-1-61945-002-8
Paperback - 437 pages - 978-0-7867-1686-9
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