Boss Tweed's New York

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Overview

At the height of his power in New York City, around 1870, William Marcy (Boss) Tweed's hands were everywhere in city government and party politics. His success in looting the city treasury and using the payoff to achieve his objectives earned him a reputation as the classic example of the corrupt municipal boss. Mr. Mandelbaum sees Tweed's New York as a metropolis in the making, still evolving from a loose connection of villages. Political organization was incoherently decentralized; the decision-making process was rudimentary and dispersed. Public sanitation, housing, transportation, welfare, and control of crime were deplorable.

Amidst this turbulence Boss Tweed was, according to Mr. Mandelbaum, the right man at the right time--"a master communicator" who "united the elements in a divided society." The author argues that communications plays a crucial role in democratic decision-making, and that Tweed's New York suffered hopelessly inadequate communications. They could not cope with the complexity of the city's problems. Difficult issues took on a forced simplicity, and political decisions were thrown into the marketplace. Mr. Mandelbaum's analysis of the historical situation forms a cogent case study in the democratization of American society.

How Tweed earned his reputation as the paradigm of the corrupt city boss.

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Editorial Reviews

Annals
A rewarding description of New York City in the days of Tweed.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780929587202
  • Publisher: Ivan R Dee
  • Publication date: 7/19/1990
  • Series: New Dimensions in History Series
  • Edition description: 1st Elephant Paperback Edition
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Seymour J. Mandelbaum is Professor of City and Regional Planning and History at the University of Pennsylvania. His other books include Community and Communication.

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Table of Contents

1. Communication and Community 1
2. Benchmarks and Barriers 7
3. Communicating Across a Distance 19
4. Communication and Organization 27
5. The Democratic Dream 40
6. Decentralized Government and the Big Pay-Off 46
7. The Moment of Opportunity 59
8. The Fall of the Ring 76
9. In Pursuit of Economy 87
10. Self-Confirming Suspicions: The End of Reform 105
11. Structure, Not Party 114
12. The Rejection of Kelly 131
13. The Growth of Regulation 141
14. Administering a Complex Environment 155
15. Giant Without Direction 169
16. Communication and Social Change 182
A Note on Sources and Intellectual Debts 187
Index 189
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2003

    through and through about 1860s new york

    Most people's concept of William Meagher 'Boss' Tweed, if any, is that of a manipulative mastermind who understood how to best bilk New Yorkers out of tens of millions of dollars, only to be brought down by a resentful member of his 'ring' and the brilliant political cartoons of Thomas Nast. Seymour Mandelbaum's study, BOSS TWEED'S NEW YORK, reveals that this is a gross minimalization of the facts. As the title suggests, it was New York's political and economic machinery of the times that made it easy for anyone to loot the public's coffers. Other politicians before Tweed took advantage of this vulnerability. In fact, many New Yorkers bitterly accepted that graft was a way of life. Mandelbaum goes to great pains to explain, however, that it was the degree to which Tweed took advantage of these weaknesses that set him apart from other thieves. But the more interesting aspect of BOSS TWEED'S NEW YORK is the discussion of Tweed's downfall. There was much more to it than Nast's wonderful cartoons or the informant's testimony. Again, as the title explains, it was New York itself--it's changing immigrant make-up, the proliferation of the press, and the compression of communication between political wards--that accelerated his decline. The point is that the real subject of this book is New York City during and just after the Civil War years. It is a provocative and surprising account of the metropolis under unprecedented changes and pressures. Changes and pressures that came so quickly that the mighty Tweed could not keep up with them. And this has been a gross minimalization of Mr. Mandelbaum's thesis. Read it for yourself. You will find it an invaluable addition to your collection of books on political or New York history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2001

    My Opinion: Book Tells Little of Tweed or his New York

    About twenty pages of the text are dedicated to a biographical sketch of William Marcy Tweed. Tweed appears suddenly and disappears that quickly. There is little history as to how he attaind his power. He is of passing, not intense, interest. More space is dedicated to the reformer Mayor John Kelly than to the 'Boss'. Mr. Mandelbaum's main concentration is on New York City from post Civil War to the 1880's and there are things of interest; the attempts at regulations for law, medicine etc. He describes endeavors to solve important problems e.g., street cleaning and garbage collection - serious issues in the era of horse drawn transportation. Still, these are discussed post-Tweed. The index is limited. There is a Note on Sources and there are numerous footnotes; however, these could have been better used to form the nonexistent bibliography.

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