Plunkitt of Tammany Hall

Author: George Washington Plunkitt


THIS volume discloses the mental operations of perhaps the most thoroughly practical politician of the day-George Washington Plunkitt, Tammany leader of the Fifteenth Assembly District, Sachem of the Tammany Society and Chairman of the Elections Committee of Tammany Hall, who has held the offices of State Senator, Assemblyman’, Police Magistrate, County Supervisor and Alderman, and who boasts of his record in filling four public offices in one year and drawing salaries from three of them at the same time.

The discourses that follow were delivered by him from his rostrum, the bootblack stand in the County Court-house, at various times in the last half-dozen years. Their absolute frankness and vigorous unconventionality of thought and expression charmed me. Plunkitt said right Out what all practical politicians think but are afraid to say. Some of the discourses I published as interviews in the New York Evening Post, the New York Sun, the New York World, and the Boston Transcript. They were reproduced in newspapers throughout the country and several of them, notably the talks on "The Curse of Civil Service Reform" and "Honest Graft and Dishonest Graft," became subjects of discussion in the United States Senate and in college lectures. There seemed to be a general recognition of Plunkitt as a striking type of the practical politician, a politician, moreover, who dared to say publicly what others in his class whisper among them-selves in the City Hall corridors and the hotel lobbies.

I thought it a pity to let Plunkitt’s revelations of himself-as frank in their way as Rousseau’s Confessions-perish in the files of the newspapers; so I collected the talks I had published, added several new ones, and now give to the world in this volume a system of political philosophy which is as unique as it is refreshing.

No New Yorker needs to he informed who George Washington Plunkitt is. For the information of others, the following sketch of his career is given. He was born, as he proudly tells, in Central Park-that is, in the territory now included in the park. He began life as a driver of a cart, then became a butcher’s boy, and later went into the butcher business for himself. How he entered politics he explains in one of his discourses. His advancement was rapid. He was in the Assembly soon after he cast his first vote and has held office most of the time for forty years.

In 1870, through a strange combination of circumstances, he held the places of Assemblyman, Alderman, Police Magistrate and County Supervisor and drew three salaries at once-a record unexampled in New York politics.

Plunkitt is now a millionaire. He owes his fortune mainly to his political pull, as he confesses in "Honest Graft and Dishonest Graft." He is in the contracting, transportation, real estate, and every other business out of which he can make money. He has no office. His headquarters is the County Courthouse bootblack stand. There he receives his constituents, transacts his general business and pours forth his philosophy.

Plunkitt has been one of the great powers in Tammany Hall for a quarter of a century. While he was in the Assembly and the State Senate he was one of the most influential members and introduced the bills that provided for the outlying parks of New York City, the Harlem River Speedway, the Washington Bridge, the 155th Street Viaduct, the grading of Eighth Avenue north of Fifty-seventh Street, additions to the Museum of Natural History, the West Side Court, and many other important public improvements. He is one of the closest friends and most valued advisers of Charles F. Murphy, leader of Tammany Hall.

WILLIAM L. Riordon

A Tribute to Plunkitt by the Leader of Tammany Hall

SENATOR PLUNKITT is a straight organization man. He believes in party government; he does not indulge in cant and hypocrisy and he is never afraid to say exactly what he thinks. He is a believer in thorough political organization and all-the-year-around work, and he holds to the doctrine that, in making appointments to office, party workers should be preferred if they are fitted to perform the duties of the office. Plunkitt is one of the veteran leaders of the organization; he has always been faithful and reliable, and he has performed valuable services for Tammany Hall.



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Chicago: George Washington Plunkitt, "Preface," Plunkitt of Tammany Hall in Plunkitt of Tammany Hall Original Sources, accessed February 4, 2023,

MLA: Plunkitt, George Washington. "Preface." Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, in Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, Original Sources. 4 Feb. 2023.

Harvard: Plunkitt, GW, 'Preface' in Plunkitt of Tammany Hall. cited in , Plunkitt of Tammany Hall. Original Sources, retrieved 4 February 2023, from