The “Boss” Comes to Wheeling
The notorious William Magear “Boss” Tweed visited Wheeling 143 years ago today on September 6, 1873, but the reason for his visit was then, and remains today, a mystery.
Who’s the Boss?
Tweed was a Democratic politician and the “Boss” (circa 1858-1871) of New York City’s infamous Tammany Hall, one of the most overtly corrupt political machines in the nation’s history. Tweed used a system of cronyism to make sure members of his inner circle, the “Tweed Ring,” were appointed to positions of power in city government; he essentially controlled city elections by awarding jobs to mostly Irish immigrant constituents in return for votes, as well as through outright fraud; and he used inflated building contracts, bribery, and kickbacks to embezzle tens of millions (hundreds of millions in today’s money) of taxpayer dollars. Political cartoonist Thomas Nast launched a relentless crusade against Tweed, principally in the pages of Harper’s Weekly.
According to legend, the power of Nast’s satirical depictions of Tweed caused the latter to despair, “I don’t care a straw for your newspaper articles, my constituents don’t know how to read, but they can’t help seeing them damned pictures.”
His corruption fully exposed, and his support badly eroded, Tweed was arrested in 1871. The jury at his first trial deadlocked in January 1873, but Tweed would be tried again in November of that same year, and this time, he was convicted.
It was during the period between trials, in September of 1873, that Tweed, for some still unknown reason, visited Wheeling. Read More