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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 15

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This is the grave of William “Boss” Tweed

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I hardly need to provide a biography of the man whose name is synonymous throughout the United States with political corruption. Tweed, the child of Quakers like another paragon of virtue in American history named Richard Nixon, became a machine man from a youth, where he became a volunteer firefighter known for his ax-wielding violence against competing firefighting companies. He rose fast in the Democratic machine in New York and served a term in Congress in the 1850s. Then he realized where real power was located. By 1863, he controlled Tammany Hall and used it for massive personal profit, patronage, and corruption. Of course, as the U.S. was preparing for the Gilded Age with all its corruption, Tweed worked with men such as Jay Gould and Jim Fiske to rip off Cornelius Vanderbilt through the law, for which Tweed was repaid with massive amounts of stock. After 1869, Tweed controlled all politics in New York and stole left and right from every public project he approved, at least $25 million and probably significantly more. His downfall was quite swift; by 1871, he was out of power, he was on trial in 1873, and he died in prison in 1878, after once escaping to Spain aboard a Spanish ship and after he agreed to reveal the inner workings of his ring to his old enemy and now New York governor Samuel Tilden in exchange for release, which Tilden immediately reneged upon.

There is a small bar surrounding the gravesite. There is a gate in the front. I did what any visitor should do. I opened the gate, walked in, and left a nickel on Tweed’s tombstone.

Boss Tweed is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York.

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