The Tweed Ring

 “A Group of Vultures Waiting for the Storm to ‘Blow Over’—‘Let Us Prey”
  Source:  Harper’s Weekly
  Date:   September 23, 1871, p. 889

Click to see a large version of this cartoon...

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
Thomas Nast’s first tangible benefit from Greeley’s Union Square speech of June 12, 1871, was an irresistible notion that he would store for use three months later.  Greeley had derided the “carpetbag” Northerners who went South after the war as “long-faced and greatly serious characters looking for the salvation of souls, and whose motto is ‘let us pray.’  But they always spell the pray with an e, and they always obey the apostolic injunction to pray unceasingly.” 

Nast applied Greeley’s observation to four key Tweed Ring figures—(left-right) Peter Sweeny, William “Boss” Tweed, Richard Connolly, and Oakey Hall—who the cartoonist transformed into vultures in his famous “Waiting for the Storm to ‘Blow Over’:  ‘Let Us Prey’” (September 23, 1871).  The Tweed Ring of Tammany Hall, the principal Democratic political machine in New York City, used extortion, kickbacks, and other malfeasance to pocket millions from the city and county treasuries.  Their downfall began when disgruntled ex-Tammanyites provided The New York Times with information for a series of exposés beginning in July 1871.  Harper’s Weekly and other reform-minded newspapers added their own anti-ring commentaries.  Nast had been assailing the Tammany Ring for years through his creative and powerful images, but intensified his assault in the summer and fall of 1871.  In reaction, Boss Tweed reportedly exclaimed, “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!” 



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