Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A rare Tweed photo -- at his clubhouse in Greenwich, Connecticut

Yes, that's Boss Tweed.  He's the one with the beard, sitting up front in the middle, a white hat in his lap, surrounded by his friends.  Tweed had so, so very many friends back then, in 1870 -- before they all abandoned him in the scandal.

But surprisingly, this is not New York  City.  By 1870, as Tweed sat at his very pinnacle of power as supreme leader of New York's political and financial worlds, having made himself filthy rich from years of graft, Tweed had largely moved his summer headquarters away from  his usual Manhattan haunts -- his law office on Duane Street and his mansion on Fifth Avenue at 43rd -- to Greenwich, Connecticut. 
Tweed owned two steam-powered yachts (even though he got constantly sea-sick and hated being on the water) to make the quick trip from lower Manhattan across the Long Island Sound to Greenwich.   In Greenwich, he owned a 40-acre estate with wide green lawns and gardens.  And on a beautiful, sunny inlet called Indian Harbor, he founded his own playhouse-- the Americus Club -- where he served as president.

Tweed's political friends from New York City all jumped at the chance to join him there.  They all loved making the summer weekend pilgrammages to Greenwich.  By all accounts, they had a wonderful time and lots of fun -- with swimming, boat races, fancy dinners, lots of music, brandy and cigars.  They laughed and talked and told stories until the late night hours.  

Back in New York, the high society Union League and Manhattan Clubs would never allow these grubby politicians inside, but Tweed happily relished their company.

Also back in New York, forces were secretly converging during that summer of 1870 to destroy Tweed's life: Thomas Nast's relentless stream of humiliating cartoons, the relentless attacks by the New York Times (which soon would obtain a stolen copy of the Tweed Ring's secret account books, disclosing an amazing record of theft and kickbacks),  and secret plotting by enemies inside his own camp.  Within a year, Tweed would be toppled from power.  Within two years, he would be in prison.  After that, he would never walk free again, and his reputation would be blackened for over a century.

But look at Tweed on this pretty summer day in 1870.  He looks as if he didn't have a care in the world, surrounded by friends at his Greenwich summer retreat. 

If only time could have stopped for him at that moment.

Thanks to our friend Alan Bennett for finding this photo on Greenwich Nostalgia group page on Facebook.


1 comment:

John McArthur said...

Just read Boss Tweed. So good; at times I wanted to feel sorry for him then I felt angry.