The Tweed Ring

 “Two Great Questions”
  Source:  Harper’s Weekly
  Date:   August 19, 1871, p. 764

Click to see the previous version of this cartoon...

Click to see the previous version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
In the August 19, 1871 issue of Harper’s Weekly, two of Nast’s finest and best-known satires were drawn on a single woodblock, linked by a common Tammany theme and by Nast’s slashing signature on the center right.  These “Two Great Questions” are: (top) “Who Is Ingersoll’s Co.?” asked by the Tribune in the person of Horace Greeley; and (bottom) “Who Stole the People’s Money?” asked by The Times

In the top composition, Greeley has been studying The Times’ detailed “Secret Accounts/Frauds of the Tammany Ring” as he confronts the principal ring bagman James Ingersoll, through whose hands much of the missing money had passed (as revealed by the disclosures).  Ingersoll introduces the editor to the giant Tweed himself.  The Boss bows courteously, shielding craven associates—particularly Mayor Hall, who hides, memorably, behind Tweed’s hat.  Tilting his glasses upward to command a sharper view, the editor rephrases the query he addressed to the mayor in the Tribune editorial page of July 25:  “Who is his [Ingersoll’s] company?”

In Nast’s second picture, Tweed Ring members are positioned appropriately in a ring, each deflecting attention by pointing an incriminating finger at the next man.  The exception is Mayor Hall, who jerks his thumb at Connolly as if to emphasize that he has had no involvement whatsoever with any of the misdeeds.  Tweed is pointing at Ingersoll, whose hatband is labeled “Chairs” in reference to chairs purchased from his company at greatly inflated prices by the city government.  The unanimous refusal to take personal responsibility is emphasized by the nondescript little figure above Hall who is labeled “Tom, Dick & Harry.”  Greeley’s Tribune may well have suggested the idea for this cartoon with a headline on the editorial page of July 28 called “Widening the Circle—Fixing the Responsibility.”  Nast’s image here is probably the most frequently parodied of all his satires, having become a classic visual metaphor for politicians “passing the buck.”



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