This first series of images is a collection of photographs and sketches from the turn-of-the-century era depicting Tammany Hall, Boss Tweed, Tammany's most famous leader, and public opinion of the political organization. As a public figure, Boss Tweed essentially represented Tammany's political nature, unwilling to hide or change his corrupt politics.

The organization's parallel exploitative, self-serving nature and "honest dishonesty" are two features Steffen's focuses on in his discussion of "good government" and Tammany Hall as the constant alternative in New York's dynamic political environment.

Situated in the heart of New York City, Tammany Hall itself was as prominent a structure as was the organization it housed, its tall columns, impressive facade, and central location symbols of Tammany power and money. Decorated as much like an opera house or theatre as a political office, Tammany Hall shameless reaped the rewards of its political successes, self-lavingingly displaying its power and triumph.

Click Boss Tweed to view a series of contemporary political cartoons that expand Steffen's appraisal to public consensus, demonstrating explicitly the overt Tammany corruption and backhanded policies, especially with respect to Boss Tweed, tolerated by the New York City public. Click here to read Steffen's full discussion of New York City politics and the role played by Tammany Hall.

The second series of contemporary images depicts New York City during the era of Steffen's writings; America's first city and a thriving metropolis, but torn between worlds of an emerging commercial juggernaught and the spreading working-class squallor of a city of immigrants.

The turn of the twentieth century was an important moment across American history and especially for New York, as the city emerges from political corruption and the social struggle Steffens observes, soon to raise her famous sky scrapers and emerge as the world's first city. Built on through the thirties by America's poor immigrants, these symbols of New York reflect the sharp socio-economic dichotomy in the city, another significant element in understanding Steffen's politically tumultuous period.

A symbol of freedom for the arriving immigrants and American triumph and power for the emerging commercial aristocracy, The Statue of Liberty unifies New York's opposed demographics, presenting a true symbol of hope and Americanness unfettered by politics and corruption, capturing the wild spirit into the early twentieth century.

Click below and select another city to explore, or return home.