Gilded Age Politics
The Gilded Age
• To be “Gilded” means to look like gold on
the outside, while the inside is anything
• Politics during the late 1800’s were much
• Robber Barons and politicians went from
being poor to being wealthy through
Mark Twain coined the term “Gilded Age”
• This is an organized group, often
members of a political party, who control
politics in a city.
• Political Machines used election fraud and
grafts to make their members rich.
• “Grafts” = illegal use of power to gain
wealth at the expense of others
Gaining Support from Voters
• Political Machines could only work if they
had candidates elected into local offices
such as the office of Mayor.
• To win elections, the machine would bribe
voters by promising to give them money,
jobs, hospitals, schools, parks, etc..
Immigrants join Political Machines
• Many “Bosses, leaders of Political
Machines, were immigrants. They used
their power to help new immigrants find
jobs and get naturalization papers.
• Immigrants gave their support to poilitical
machines because they viewed the
Bosses as men who understood their
• With support from the poor and fresh
immigrants, Political Machines quickly
dominated Local governments
• Machines used common people to rig
elections by voting multiple times, using
names of dead citizens to vote,
intimidating others to vote a certain way,
paying voters to support a candidate, etc.
Grafting the Public
• Once elected, a Political Machine
Candidate began a program to steal
money from the citizens to make the Boss
and machine members wealthy.
• Machines would over charge on taxes and
city projects. The tax payers pay the high
sums while the machine pocketed the
majority of the money.
The Tweed Ring
• William M. Tweed, “Boss Tweed,” ran the
Democrat political machine in NY City.
• Their headquarters were in Tammany Hall.
• Boss Tweed used grafts to make millions
at the expense of the tax payers
“Boss” William M. Tweed
• Thomas Nast was a political cartoonist.
• He was angry at Boss Tweed’s Tammany Hall
• Although newspaper articles had already
exposed Tweed’s corruption, immigrant voters
still supported him.
• Nast realized that they supported him because
they could not read, therefore they didn’t realize
Tweed was robbing them.
The Pen is Mightier than the Sword
• Nast began drawing cartoons that showed
the illiterate immigrants what Tweed and
his machine members had been doing.
• The Cartoons worked.
• Boss Tweed lost his support.
• The City turned against Tweed and his
machine. Tweed was arrested and
sentenced to jail
The Tammany Tiger
Who Stole the People’s Money?
Time to Prey
Tweed on the Run!
• Tweed however controlled the police and
the prison system.
• Many guards were on his bribe pay roll
• Tweed escaped from jail and flees to
• However, police in Spain had seen Nast’s
cartoons and identified Tweed. They
arrested him and sent him to a new prison