William Tweed

“Boss” Tweed signed New York City payment voucher at the peak of the Tammany Hall racket

1pp partially printed and partially handwritten municipal invoice and receipt signed by multiple individuals including Deputy Street Commissioner William M. Tweed as “W.M. Tweed”, Tweed crony and city Comptroller William Barrett Connolly as “W.B. Connolly”, and career bureaucrat and Chief Clerk R.H. Clifford as “R.H. Clifford”, all signed at bottom. Cream paper with red- and blue-lined ledger section at center, signatory section at bottom, and blue stamped and printed docket section verso. Inscribed by multiple hands in pencil, red, purple, and black ink. Page measures 8" x 9.75".

This triplicate copy of Voucher No. 91, Requistion No. 286 authorized “The City of New-York” to pay $375 to one Joseph C. Field on August 31, 1869 “For Services rendered as General Inspector in the Street Department from June 1st to August 31st 1869 @ $1500 annum. 3 months”. Chief Clerk R.H. Clifford certified “that the articles above enumerated have been received, and the services performed; that they were necessary for, and have been or will be applied to … and that the prices paid were just and reasonable”. Below his signature, Street Commissioner William M. Tweed certified “to the necessity of the above expenditure, and approve[d the above account”. Last, Comptroller William Barrett Connolly acknowledged receiving the request for the sum.

This remarkable document dates from the peak of “Boss” Tweed’s power in New York City. Tweed was an exceptionally well-connected person in lower Manhattan. He not only had ties to influential lawyers, construction contractors, and Wall Street types, but also fiercely cliquish volunteer fire brigade companies and semi-secret societies like the Masons. Tweed had had himself appointed Deputy Street Commissioner in April 1863, and six years later, his de facto take-over of New York City politics under the Tammany Hall machine was complete. Tweed fashioned a government peopled with his cronies, and this “Tweed Ring” systematically overcharged and defrauded the public of millions of dollars. One of Tweed’s cronies, Richard “Slippery Dick” Connolly, oversaw bookkeeping, so Tweed’s racket went unchecked until the former’s arrest in 1871.

Our paperwork appears legitimate -- indeed precise and very thorough -- but it does date from an era of rampant corruption. City services have been carefully recorded at a clearly defined rate, and triple checked by responsible city officials. It even bears the stamp and signature of the “Auditor of Accounts” J.T. Connolly in the docket section. Yet it is possible that these books were cooked. For instance, what was the “Contiguous Streets Department” and what did it do? Who determined Joseph C. Field’s rate of pay? What itemized work did Field complete other than “general inspecting”? These might be indices that Field was paid much more than he earned, and that that difference was pocketed by the conspirators.

William M. Tweed (1823-1878) was arrested in 1873 for forgery and larceny and released on bail. While facing civil charges, Tweed fled to Spain. He was eventually extradited and died in prison at age 55.

Richard B. Connolly (1810-1880) was elected Comptroller just two years before signing this document. Three years after, Connolly had resigned his post, was arrested, and released on bail. He died an expatriate in Marseille, France.

R.H. Clifford (19th C.) was still working as Chief Clerk of the Department of Public Works almost twenty years after signing our document. The Official Journal of the City Record, Vol. 3, part 3 recorded that R.H. Clifford received a salary increase from $4250 to $4500 in 1885.

A sensational document from the “Boss” Tweed era!

Item: 62594

Price: $500.00
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William Tweed
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