A Stripe of Tammany's Tiger

A Stripe of Tammany's Tiger

Louis Eisenstein
Elliot Rosenberg
Copyright Date: 1966
Published by: Cornell University Press,
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    A Stripe of Tammany's Tiger
    Book Description:

    "This book is a highly personal glimpse into the world of precinct, district, and county politics. It deals with several stripes of the Tammany Tiger and brings into close focus some of the most forceful background figures in New York City's political framework. Primarily, it is a forty-year panorama of Tammany practices and personalities."-fromA Stripe of Tammany's Tiger

    In this fascinating book, first published in 1966, Louis Eisenstein, a Tammany precinct captain from Manhattan's Lower East Side, sets out with his coauthor Elliot Rosenberg to chronicle the evolution-or rather devolution-of New York City politics through the first seven decades of the twentieth century. Eisenstein imbues his lively narrative with an overarching theme: that personal interactions and good faith between those at all levels of power are of paramount importance both for sustained political success and for competent municipal administration.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6836-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Once Upon a Tiger
    (pp. 1-4)

    THIS IS THE STORY OF NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS AS IT ONCE WAS, and never again will be, on New York city’s Lower East Side. The Fourth Assembly District, base of the nation’s melting pot, proudly wore the title of Banner Democratic District of the city and state. As such, it was a powerhouse in Tammany circles for decades. Its leaders always rode the Tiger and often gripped its reins. The Aheams, father and son, ruled here as princes in an age when honest personal politics often filled a dishonest public framework. We shall never see its return or the return of...

  5. II Nurtured in Tammany’s Realm
    (pp. 5-12)

    I WAS A CHILD OF THE LOWER EAST SIDE AND I NEVER LEFT ITS womb. My parents arrived here late in the nineteenth century, long after the Mayflower’s journey. For this they made no apologies. The Pilgrim ship sailed from Plymouth, England, and that is a long way off from western Galicia, where my ancestors had set down their roots. News of America and its opportunities traveled slowly in those years. But when it finally reached my parents’ ears, they listened and they came.

    It is fortunate they did. For their tiny village of Shendishiv—I have spelled it phonetically...

  6. III Ahearn the Elder: Squire of the Lower East Side
    (pp. 13-31)

    At the juncture of East Broadway and Grand Street, in the heart of the Lower East Side, a cold, impersonal bank stands today. It is flanked by a small park where a few elderly folks gather to absorb the sun’s rays by day and the cool breezes by evening. Extending eastward to the river are block after block of tall co-op apartment buildings, built since World War II. Across the street from the bank is a newly-erected, modernistically-designed public school.

    Little evidence remains that the immediate neighborhood was the magnetic bottom of the nation’s melting pot. And no surrounding block...

  7. IV Ahearn the Younger: Not by Breadbaskets Alone
    (pp. 32-59)

    THROUGHOUT THE 1920s, NOSTRUMS, NOT NORMALCY, PREVAILED in New York City politics. While Warren G. Harding presided over the dissolution of Washington’s integrity during the early part of the decade, James Walker awaited his turn up in the wings at Albany. His turn came in 1925, when he danced onto the City Hall stage.

    By that time, the rest of the nation had already cooled off with Coolidge. So Jimmy had the spotlight to himself. He certainly made the most of it. I sometimes wonder, though, whether the hanky-panky under our town’s Beau Brummell would have smelled so badly under...

  8. V Days of Grandeur and Grime
    (pp. 60-75)

    ALTHOUGH NO ONE REALIZED IT, THE NINETY MINUTE SESSION OF Tammany Hall’s Executive Committee on April 24, 1929, was probably the most pregnant gathering in Tammany history. The meeting did not merely give birth to a new leader. It set the course followed by the organization for the second Walker administration. And it paved the way for a grand spree of loose public dealings that made Tammany’s defeat almost inevitable four years later.

    Eddy’s brisk bid for the leadership failed. Instead, the post was awarded to a middle-aged, rigid, stern district chief who had strength of will, stubbornness of purpose...

  9. VI Changing of the Guard: The White House, City Hall, Tammany Hall
    (pp. 76-91)

    NINETEEN-THIRTY-TWO WAS A PIVOTAL YEAR FOR CURRY AND EDDY as well as for Roosevelt and Walker. In the past three years, Tammany’s aging leader had made one error after another on his way to the grand blunder. Yet he was far too stuffy and stubborn to backtrack when faced with unassailable realities.

    Following defeat at the national convention in Chicago, Curry refused to strike any chord of party unity. While others sought to smooth out the friction and restore Democratic harmony in New York, he sat glumly through Roosevelt’s victory celebration.

    Later that summer, at New York State’s own Democratic...

  10. VII The Little Flower: Scent and Odor
    (pp. 92-116)

    FOR NEARLY HALF A CENTURY, TAMMANY HALL’S BANNER IN the Fourth Assembly District had been folded around the Ahearn name. Sentiment decreed that it should continue to do so.

    Eddy had a younger brother, William. Though only three years in age separated them, Willie had never become a familiar figure in the political affairs of the neighborhood. Indeed, he has not even been mentioned in this narrative until now.

    Early in life, Willie suffered a serious head injury. I believe, at one time, he carried a metal plate on his skull as enduring evidence of this disability. His health was...

  11. VIII Tiger? What Tiger? Do You See a Tiger?
    (pp. 117-134)

    THE MISFORTUNES HEAPED UPON THE REPUBLICANS BY THEIR little, round cherub turned Frankenstein paled before the chronic agony that plagued Tammany Hall. It no longer ruled the city. It no longer ruled the Democratic Party of the city. Now it prepared for even greater embarrassments.

    As the summer of 1937 approached, the search for a Democratic Mayoralty candidate helped shatter the party still further—as if that were possible. Before the year was out, the Tiger would be a toothless pussycat, gaping with hollowed-out eyes at the catnip beyond its reach. The cemetery would be a long step closer.


  12. IX Years of the Meek “me-ow”
    (pp. 135-153)

    BY THE FALL OF 1939, TAMMANY HALL HAD BEEN SUBJECTED TO a period of upheaval, if not reformation. Hines was exchanging Tiger stripes for convict stripes. Marinelli vanished from the political scene. William Kenneally, Christy Sullivan’s sparring mate of former days, lost his district leadership and his post as chairman of Tammany’s Executive Committee. Sheriff Daniel Finn, scion of an old established political family, narrowly squeezed in as leader of part of the First Assembly District. His election was being disputed, however, by an energetic insurgent named Carmine G. DeSapio.

    This young rebel had formed his own Tamawa Club and...

  13. X Fission in Fusion: The Little Flower Withers Away
    (pp. 154-166)

    AS LAGUARDIA’S THIRD TERM IN CITY HALL PROGRESSED, IT BECAME apparent that the Little Flower was beginning to wither. One by one, the petals were coming off.

    Although he sought, and found, friendships in strange quarters for a reform Mayor; all was not well within his own municipal family. Take the Police Department, for example. Years before, the Mayor had said, “I have had many a headache and have been discouraged many times since I took office . . . the fact that I have seen the courage and the high morale of the police improve has been one of...

  14. XI O’Dwyer: A Knight in Rusty Armor
    (pp. 167-187)

    THE COMING OF WILLIAM O’DWYER WAS WELCOMED WITH Enthusiasm by Tammany Hall as well as by Democratic organizations in other comers of the city. After twelve years of LaGuardia, everyone in party politics looked forward to a square deal, a new deal, a fair deal. O’Dwyer was destined to be the Sir Galahad who would bring this shining new age to the city. Few Democrats could dream, much less predict, that their knight was about to shuffle a stacked deck and hand out a raw deal.

    Edward V. Loughlin, whose head would soon become an O’Dwyer trophy, innocently proclaimed: “It...

  15. XII War of the Halls: City Hall Versus Tammany Hall
    (pp. 188-207)

    IN THE FALL OF 1949, VINCENT RICHARD IMPELLITTERI BECAME Mayor of the City of New York by grace of O’Dwyer’s self-imposed exile and the 1945 city “Green Book.” This pocket-size volume, more accurately titledOfficial Directory, lists nearly everybody who is anybody—and many who are nobody—on the city payroll.

    Edward Loughlin, Tammany’s nominal leader at the close of World War II, has since remarked that the name “Impellitteri” caught his eye while he was feverishly thumbing through the “Green Book” for a man of Italian ancestry to run for the Presidency of the City Council. A crisis had...

  16. XIII “Bashful Berty’s” Last Stand
    (pp. 208-222)

    SOON AFTER YOUNG WAGNER’S ELECTION DAY TRIUMPH, I MET Carmine DeSapio at a charity affair. My job at Harry Brickman’s office would end, of course, as soon as Impellitteri’s administration packed up at City Hall on December 31, 1953. Harry himself would be out of work. That is the way the spoils system work. Carmine knew this. He realized, though, that his blow in taking away my Albany job earlier in 1953 had been a bit below the belt.

    “I’m sorry about what happened, Louis,” he said. “I had nothing personal against you.”

    “That’s the way politics goes,” I acknowledged....

  17. XIV The Captains and the Kings Depart
    (pp. 223-240)

    SOME TIME BEFORE HIS DEATH, EDDY AHEARN HAD REMARKED that politics had “lost its kick”—it was not “fun” anymore. Whatever truth that statement had in the grim days of the early 1940s was magnified tenfold by events of recent vintage. The Bert Stand Era had accelerated the process of local political decay. Under the current regime, no hope of a glittering renaissance beckoned.

    My personal reappraisal of Mitch Bloom followed his appointment as executive manager in the Manhattan Borough President’s office. By prearrangement, I had been first in line for the job. Though no Bible was in sight, Mitch...

  18. XV A Wagnerian Opera Without Music
    (pp. 241-267)

    ALTHOUGH THERE WERE MANY NASTY CHARGES HURLED BY Bentley Kassal and William Haddad against Lenny Farbstein in their bids for his Congressional seat, neither could rightfully call him a “boss-dominated” candidate. By 1962, and even more so by 1964, there was no mighty “boss” left on the island of Manhattan. At least not in the traditional sense of Tammany Hall politics.

    Following Carmine DeSapio’s defeat in the 1961 primary, his authority vanished. His once-magnetic influence on city and state officials dissolved. Though an eclipsed Tammany chief may retain his circle of friends, the same cannot be said about his circle...

  19. XVI Of Tammany Men Reformers and Reformed Reformers
    (pp. 268-296)

    WHEN ROBERT F. WAGNER, JR., l02nd IN THE LINE OF SUCCESSION, abdicated his Mayoralty throne, he left no crown prince to carry on. Many considered Paul R. Screvane, President of the City Council, number two man in the city administration and a Wagner protege, as the logical heir apparent. But usurpers abounded throughout the municipal palace. No orderly procession to power loomed ahead. And no regal gathering of Democratic county leaders could be expected to thrash out the question of succession, as in the days of yore. The result was a scramble for the Democratic nomination, the likes of which...

  20. Index
    (pp. 297-300)