"Little Short Of Madness"

A bold dream to connect the Hudson to the Great Lakes by canal created a transportation revolution

As mayor of New York City and later as governor of New York State, De Witt Clinton crusaded so zealously for a canal connecting Albany to Buffalo that the project became known as “Clinton’s Ditch.” It was a dream of pharaonic proportions—a 363-mile-long artificial waterway that most people considered impossible.

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American Characters


Lincoln Steffens was a young reporter for the Commercial Advertiser during the late 1890’s, and he always remembered it as a grand time for a New York City newspaperman: “There was the Cuban war, the Boer war, and best of all—Tammany was back in power.” Tammany Hall, “which has voters but no friends,” had just had its hold on City Hall briefly shaken by a reform administration; now, “hungry and irritated,” it was back in business, “providing us with a world of public enemies to hate and unconcealed schemes to expose.” AndRead more »

The Central Park

In the dead center of the long, rectangular island of Manhattan—New York to most people—sits a long rectangle of parkland known appropriately enough as Central Park. On a quiet Saturday morning in springtime, when the automobiles are banned from its drives, it seems wonderfully at odds with the surrounding city. It pits rolling meadows against the city’s sharp angles, green life against brick and black asphalt, winding paths against the unbending streets of New York’s remorseless grid, into which it has been squeezed as if in a vise.Read more »

“well, What Are You Going To Do About It?”

Thus Boss Richard Croker breezily dismissed charges of corruption. But the fortune he made from “honest graft” was not enough to buy him what he most wanted

The most glamorous and the most powerful —of the Tammany bosses who ran New York City for much of the century between Boss Tweed and Carmine DeSapio was Richard Croker. Read more »

Tammany Picked An Honest Man

The 1910 race for the mayoralty of New York looked like a tough one.

In the early years of this century, the manager of Delmonico’s famous restaurant in New York was sometimes heard to lament that all his customers looked alike, dressed alike, and even talked alike. In 1910 there occurred an instance of individualism run wild, if not rampant and amuck, that sufficiently stifled his lamentations. This refutation was the unloosing upon the New York scene of William Jay Gaynor, the city’s new and extraordinary mayor. Delmonico’s served as background for the eruption.

Fiorello’s Finest Hour

Once upon a time an honest man ran for mayor of New York City — and, naturally, lost

Fiorello La Guardia ran for office thirteen times. He was defeated three times: on his first trial for Congress in 1914, on his last trial for Congress in 1932, and on his first trial for mayor of New York in 1929. That 1929 contest against the popular and notorious Jimmy Walker was his most vigorous offensive. It was, in effect, his tryout for his successful mayoralty campaign four years later, when he won and became the most energetic and interesting mayor New York has ever had.

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The Last Of The Bosses

Part hero, part rogue, Boston’s Jim Curley triumphed over the Brahmins in his heyday, but became in the end a figure of pity.

For the first half of this century and beyond, James Michael Curley was the most flamboyant and durable figure on Boston’s political scene. Mayor off and on for a total of sixteen years, he spent four terms in Congress and two in jail, and for two depression years he was governor of Massachusetts. At his death he lay in state for two days in the State House Hall of Flags, the fourth person in the history of the Commonwealth to be so honored.