The Rise and Fall of Boss Tweed

New York’s Boss Tweed was big, bold and brash. His crimes were breathtaking. Harper magazine illustrator Thomas Nast drew an oversized Boss Tweed, with an enormous carrot on his shirtfront, handing out thousands of dollars to New York’s poor from the city’s treasury. The caption: “Let’s blind them with this, and then take some more.”

And that’s exactly what Boss Tweed did. He kept issuing new debt and spreading the millions around, some going to the city, much of it going to his own pockets. He had a flair that today’s politicians dream of having. He also had the money to keep his friends loyal.

But Tweed’s “friends” were as motivated by power and greed as Tweed was. And when the political winds shifted, and reformers took control of the city’s coffers, Tweed’s powerhouse collapsed.

Hear a conversation with biographer Kenneth Ackerman about the rise and fall of Boss Tweed, the godfather of corrupt politicians.


Kenneth Ackerman, author of “Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York,” served more than 25 years on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch, currently practices law in Washington D.C.

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst and senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly magazine.

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