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Tammany Picked An Honest Man
The 1910 race for the mayoralty of New York looked like a tough one.
February 1967 | Volume 18, Issue 2
All in all, no less likely a man for Tammany to hit upon as its candidate for mayor of the city of New York could have been found; and when he was nominated, probably half of New York believed Tammany could not have found a worse candidate. Except for the World, the press was uniformly hostile when the nomination was made known, and Tammany’s potent district leaders had been frankly aghast when Murphy first proposed Gaynor: they were afraid of the man. But Murphy insisted that with Gaynor the Democrats could win against the Hydra-headed opposition; without him, probably not. In a private dining room at Delmonico’s the issue was threshed out, Murphy carried his point, and almost with a groan the party announced that Judge Gaynor would be their man in the forthcoming contest.
The fact that the nomination had taken place at Delmonico’s (the subsequent party convention in Carnegie Hall was only a clambake to keep the rank and file happy) reflected changing times. Charles Murphy, a ponderous man whose personality matched his physique, was a former saloonkeeper from the East Side. He had succeeded Richard Croker as the master of Tammany, and since his rise to influence and coincidental affluence most of his working days were as well regulated as a clock. Every morning he was to be found at Tammany Hall on Fourteenth Street, carrying out the multifarious duties of his position; but as the afternoon wore on, he would gather up his bulk (for he was a man of great dignity of person) and betake himself northward to Fifth Avenue at Forty-fourth Street for a drink and a dinner at Delmonico’s. This partiality for exotic food in surroundings alien to most of Tammany’s braves was regarded with repugnance at the Hall; daily association with “uptown swells,” it was feared, would rot the Boss’s moral fiber, and the practice was to be discouraged. But Murphy was unmoved by the criticism of his underlings: he was not a boss for nothing. Thus it was that Judge Gaynor was chosen in a cloud of fragrant cigar smoke at Delmonico’s, after the district leaders had enjoyed a most persuasive dinner.
When the word was carried back to them, the braves trembled for their sustenance. Edward Shepard, the man who made the nominating speech at the window-dressing convention held shortly afterward, put the case with candor and clarity when he exclaimed of the candidate he was offering to the party and to the city, “There is, I fancy, not a man whom he has not offended, myself included, many, many times.” Nevertheless, Gaynor’s nomination was dutifully confirmed.
Plunging into one of the most vituperative campaigns on record, Judge Gaynor soon proved that the nominating speech was a model of understatement. He broke all the rules, including his own. He had never been inside Tammany Hall itself (although he did know Delmonico’s), and deferred accepting Tammany’s invitation to visit there and address the faithful until the middle of the campaign. When he did arrive he was late, for, as he explained, he had been obliged to telephone to find out how to reach the place. Then, looking around curiously, while the sachems seated on the platform shifted in their chairs, he spoke up cheerfully: “So this is Tammany Hall … But where is the Tiger?—that Tiger which they say is going to swallow me up? If there happens to be any swallowing up, it is not at all unlikely that I may be on the outside of the Tiger.” In the silence that ensued, the only smile in the room was a tigerish grin on the face of Gaynor.