City Bosses in the United States: A Study of Twenty Municipal Bosses

By Harold B. Zink | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
"COMMISSIONER" CHARLES F. MURPHY

Much water has passed under the political bridges since William M. Tweed ruled the destinies of New York City as master of Tammany Hall. Under "Honest John" Kelly Tammany made a distinct advance, and while some may question whether it progressed far with Richard Croker at the helm, nevertheless, he possessed qualities that mark him as a step in the evolution of the boss. Charles F. Murphy, taking up the leadership when Croker resigned, represents still another important stage.

Charles Francis Murphy, born on the East Side of New York City on June 20, 1858, definitely belonged to the Irish in racial stock, for both his parents claimed Ireland as native land. Charlie grew up in a neighborhood as Celtic perhaps as any part of Ireland. His father belonged to a family of Irish tenant farmers, passed through life rather casually, undaunted by his large family, and after enjoying life for eighty-eight years, died in 1902.1 Charlie's mother, who had been a Mary Pendergrass before her marriage, shouldered most of the burdens which necessarily accompany a family of eight children.

After a very few years in public and parochial school, during which he did not emerge from the elementary grades, Charlie went to work in a wire factory. Still a youth, he left the wire works for a more lucrative job as caulker in Roache's shipyard on the East River. The heavy work of wire plant and shipyard developed considerable muscular strength which enabled him in early teens to gather around

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1
The senior Murphy is seldom referred to in print. But see Gustavus Myers , The History of Tammany Hall ( New York, 1917), p. 299; The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, XIII, 574, and Who's Who in America, 1922-1923 ( Chicago, 1922), p. 2279.

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