Synopses & Reviews
History casts Tammany Hall as shorthand for the worst of urban politics: graft, crime, and patronage personified by notoriously crooked characters. In Machine Made, journalist and historian Terry Golway—who has spent his life examining the Irish American experience—carefully dismantles these stereotypes and presents a starkly revisionist portrait, focusing on the many benefits of machine politics for marginalized and maligned American immigrants. As thousands fled the potato famine and began new lives in New York, the very question of the meaning of democracy and who would be included under its protection was at stake. Tammany’s transactional politics were at the heart of crucial social reforms—such as child labor laws, workers’ compensation, and minimum wages—and Golway demonstrates that American labor history cannot be understood without Tammany’s profound contribution. Golway’s groundbreaking work reveals the deep roots of Tammany influence, heretofore woefully overlooked.
"New York's Tammany Hall long symbolized urban corruption and boss politics, satirized memorably by cartoonist Thomas Nast and condemned by WASP 'clean' government reformers. An unjust verdict, historian and author Golway (Irish Rebel: John Devoy and America's Fight for Ireland's Freedom) argues convincingly in this headlong narrative. Gotham's classic Democratic machine, which can stand in for many others since then, was less a corrupt organization than an effective political vehicle of ethnic, especially Irish-American, aspirations. Golway's take isn't new, but never has the story been told so well or with greater strength. Yes, Tammany members and followers sometimes used strong-arm street methods and vote-buying to get their way, and New York's Irish repaid the anti-Catholicism they encountered with equally ugly anti-black racism. But Tammany, usually ably led, even by the notorious Boss Tweed, eventually put New York solidly in the Democratic camp, got Al Smith elected governor, helped elect F.D.R. president, ultimately proving so successful at integrating the city's ethic groups that, by the 1970s, it was defunct. Like many narrative histories, Golway's has no clear point of view save its basic argument. Though not unaware of debates among historians and political scientists, he simply ignores them in the interest of storytelling. A pity, for though he winningly makes his case, he doesn't broaden it out into the story of the nation's 20th-century transformation. Agent: John Wright." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
New York’s Tammany Hall has long been thought of as a black spot inthe history of urban politics, a political machine filled with shady characters like William “Boss” Tweed and a cast of others involved ingraft, crime, and corruption. Golway makes the case that yes, the Tammany Hall machine was certainly corrupt but it also was in avanguard of social reform, an unusual role for the time. Early Irish immigrants were greeted with hostility and had no political voice.The Tammany Hall organization took on the role of protecting those marginalized immigrants. The author’s reconstruction of this era inhistory will likely attract readers interested in American history, urban history, and political history.Annotation ©2014 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)
Irish immigrants arriving in New York during the nineteenth century faced an unrelenting onslaught of hyperbolic, nativist propaganda. They were voiceless in a city that proved, time and again, that real power remained in the hands of the mercantile elite, not with a crush of ragged newcomers flooding its streets. Haunted by fresh memories of the horrific Irish potato famine in the old country, Irish immigrants had already learned an indelible lesson about the dire consequences of political helplessness. Tammany Hall emerged as a distinct force to support the city's Catholic newcomers, courting their votes while acting as a powerful intermediary between them and the Anglo-Saxon Protestant ruling class. In a city that had yet to develop the social services we now expect, Tammany often functioned as a rudimentary public welfare system and a champion of crucial social reforms benefiting its constituency, including workers' compensation, prohibitions against child labor, and public pensions for widows with children. Tammany figures also fought against attempts to limit immigration and to strip the poor of the only power they had the vote.
While rescuing Tammany from its maligned legacy, Golway hardly ignores Tammany's ugly underbelly, from its constituents' participation in the bloody Draft Riots of 1863 to its rampant cronyism. However, even under occasionally notorious leadership, Tammany played a profound and long-ignored role in laying the groundwork for social reform, and nurtured the careers of two of New York's greatest political figures, Al Smith and Robert Wagner. Despite devastating electoral defeats and countless scandals, Tammany nonetheless created a formidable political coalition, one that eventually made its way into the echelons of FDR s Democratic Party and progressive New Deal agenda.
Tracing the events of a tumultuous century, Golway shows how mainstream American government began to embrace both Tammany s constituents and its ideals. Machine Made is a revelatory work of revisionist history, and a rich, multifaceted portrait of roiling New York City politics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
A major, surprising new history of New York's most famous political machine--Tammany Hall--revealing, beyond the vice and corruption, a birthplace of progressive urban politics.
For decades, history has considered Tammany Hall, New York's famous political machine, shorthand for the worst of urban politics: graft, crime, and patronage personified by notoriously corrupt characters. Infamous crooks like William "Boss" Tweed dominate traditional histories of Tammany, distorting our understanding of a critical chapter of American political history. In , historian and New York City journalist Terry Golway convincingly dismantles these stereotypes; Tammany's corruption was real, but so was its heretofore forgotten role in protecting marginalized and maligned immigrants in desperate need of a political voice.
About the Author
Terry Golway was a journalist for thirty years, writing for the New York Observer, the New York Times, and other venues. He holds a PhD in American history from Rutgers University and is currently the director of the Kean University Center for History, Politics, and Policy in New Jersey.