Extent: 3 boxes, 1 oversize drawer
The Museum of the City of New York’s Collection on Politics consists of a variety of material types spanning from 1774 to 2013 and relating to both New York City and national politics. The collection primarily contains objects relating to local campaigns, elections and inaugurations of political figures, and to political parties and events; a small amount is related to national politics.
The history of politics in New York City predates the founding of the United States, and has included many powerful figures and parties. Politics and policies have shaped the history of the city, and vice versa. The city’s system of governance has evolved drastically over the years – from economic and religious factions of colonial Manhattan, to the Common Council, Tammany Hall, and the increasing influence of the office of Mayor in the 19th century. As the most populous city in the United States, and with a population that outnumbers that of 40 of the 50 states, it is no surprise that the city’s government has long fought for greater autonomy. In 1861 Mayor Fernando Wood proposed that New York City secede from the state; that did not happen, but later mayors continued to fight state control of city affairs. A diverse population has also allowed for many smaller, special interest groups to exist, and even govern, in addition to the traditional two parties.
Scope and Content
The Museum of the City of New York’s Collection on Politics consists of a variety of materials spanning from 1774 to 2013 and relates to both New York City and national politics. The collection primarily contains objects relating to local and national campaigns, elections and inaugurations of political figures, and to local and national political parties and events. The main formats of the material are invitations, programs, flyers, brochures, stickers, election ballots, and petitions.
The Tammany Hall Society is one of the most represented organizations in the collection. Also known as the Society of St. Tammany or the Columbian Order, the Tammany Hall Society was a New York City political organization founded in 1788. In the early 19th century the organization established itself and earned loyalty by helping immigrants find work and gain citizenship, and by opposing anti-Catholic and nativist movements of the time. Tammany Hall became a political machine in the late 19th century under the leadership of its boss John Kelly, who established a system of elected leaders and precinct captains, to serve as liaisons and enforce voting in the city’s neighborhoods. In the early 20th century, Tammany Hall earned support among Democrats and progressives by opposing Prohibition and supporting suffrage. However, the organization was rife with corruption and largely fell out of favor amidst investigations and a 1933 defeat in the mayoral race by Fiorello H. LaGuardia, who held the office for twelve years.
II: Groups and Events
The Museum is grateful for the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities; this collection was reprocessed as part of the NEH project Illuminating New York City History through Material Culture: A Proposal to Process, Catalog, Digitize, and Rehouse the Ephemera Collections of the Museum of the City of New York. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this finding aid do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.