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Two Hundred Years Ago

May 2024
1min read

Middle-class New Yorkers led by a furniture and wallpaper dealer named William Mooney founded the Society of Tammany on May 12, largely in opposition to the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of upper-class former Revolutionary War officers.

Tammany began as a fraternal and charitable brotherhood with arcane Indian rites, but its social antagonisms soon brought it into the political arena on behalf of Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican party. By 1805 it controlled the New York Democratic party, and it would do so off and on for more than a century, even after the name of Tammany Hall virtually came to define corrupt big-city machine politics. Reformers hindered Tammany throughout its history, often ineffectually but in the end fatally, killing it off for good in 1961.

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