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

By Harold B. Zink | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
"HONORABLE" WILLIAM M. TWEED

The distinction of being the first acclaimed American municipal boss has ordinarily been awarded to William Marcy Tweed. And while bosses have come and bosses have gone, he has retained a prominent place in the interest of Americans, perhaps partially because of Lord Bryce's classic although somewhat inaccurate portrayal. For bold daring and general picturesque character he has a unique reputation, although, as a matter of fact, certain other municipal barons, who are not so well known, equal Tweed in both respects.

Born April 3, 1823, in the city of New York, Willie Tweed was the youngest child in a family of three boys and two girls. Three generations of Tweeds before William had resided in New York City. The paternal great grandfather, a sturdy smithy, emigrated to the United States from Kelso on the River Tweed in Scotland. Phillip Tweed, the grandfather, also a blacksmith, kept a shop on Rutgers Street. Richard Tweed, William's father, engaged in chairmaking first as a laborer and later as a manufacturer and finally succeeded well enough to add to his interests a partnership in a brushmaking concern. Still in the prime of life he retired from business with a comfortable income and sound reputation. The New York Times of May 19, 1860, contains a notice of his death at the age of seventy years.1

William's mother belonged to a Long Island family of considerable American residence. She seems to have been a woman of unusual energy, for she had the reputation of being such an excellent housekeeper that there was small comfort to be had in her house. Nevertheless, she displayed

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1
For additional information concerning the Tweed family, see the New York World, April 13, 1878; New York Tribune, April 13, 1878; and Dennis T. Lynch, "Boss" Tweed ( New York, 1927), pp. 13 ff.

-96-

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