Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics

ISBN: 0451526201
ISBN 13: 9780451526205
By: William L. Riordan Peter Quinn

Check Price Now


19th Century American History Currently Reading Default History Non Fiction Nonfiction Politics School To Read

About this book

This classic work offers the unblushing, unvarnished wit and wisdom of one of the most fascinating figures ever to play the American political game and win. George Washington Plunkitt rose from impoverished beginnings to become ward boss of the Fifteenth Assembly District in New York, a key player in the powerhouse political team of Tammany Hall, and a millionaire. In a series of utterly frank talks given at his headquarters at Graziano’s bootblack stand inside the New York County Court House, he revealed to a sharp-eared and sympathetic reporter named William L. Riordon the secrets of political success as practiced and perfected by Tammany Hall titans. The result is not only a volume that reveals more about our political system than does a shelf load of civics textbooks, but also an irresistible portrait of a man who would feel happily at home playing ball with today’s lobbyists and kingmakers, trading votes for political and financial favors. Doing for twentieth-century America what Machiavelli did for Renaissance Italy, and as entertaining as it is instructive, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall is essential reading for those who prefer twenty-twenty vision to rose-colored glasses in viewing how our government works and why.

Reader's Thoughts


This book was absolutely horrific. I had to read this for my American history class and write up a report for it. This Plunkitt guy was such a sleazebag, that I have absolutely no idea how he even got elected to office. Good grief!My father also read the book and he loved it, so maybe it's just personal preference. Or maybe I'm just too young to appreciate his words. But I hated every minute of reading it.

Maximilian Gerboc

This is my favorite book about American politics.


I have my 11th grade honors students read this short book of political musings. This short but humorous book explains the mind set of political machines of the Gilded Age and later. Do you know the difference between good graft and bad graft?

Max Green

This was one of the most interesting pieces of political non-fiction that I have ever read. I believe it to be on the same level as Machiavelli's The Prince.

Steven Peterson

An enchanting look at the old Tammany Hall political machine at the turn of the 20th century. Through the eyes of one of the machine politicians--George Washington Plunkitt. His discussions of honest versus dishonest graft, reformers, how to advance in the system, how to be a successfully elected politician, and so on are keen observations about the operation of a machine.Fun and enlightening at the same time. . . .


I enjoyed reading this account of the inner-workings of Tammany Hall.

Laura Lobianco sword

Recommended by a co-worker, I was skeptical about this book at first, but found it to be a quick read that anyone who loves politics and/or history would enjoy.


I had to read it for my US History class, but I would NEVER recommend it, it was very dull reading

Stephanie Fiddy

Plunkitt's political filibuster changes your perspective of politicians forever. His taking on "honest graft" and political monopolies helps those out of the loop learn on how so many politicians get so rich. Great novel, short read, and very influential.

Tom Marcinko

How political machines operate. Disarming and funny. The distinction between honest and dishonest graft is one that eludes most voters, but explains so much political behavior.A few quotes (1905):There’s an honest graft, and I’m an example of how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin’: “I seen my opportunities and I took ‘em.”How are you goin’ to interest our young men in their country if you have no offices to give them when they work for their party?I know more than one young man in the past years who worked for the ticket and was just overflowin’ with patriotism, but when he was knocked out by the civil service humbug he got to hate his country and became an Anarchist.The fact is that a reformer can’t last in politics. He can make a show for a while, but he always comes down like a rocket. Politics is as much a regular business as the grocery or the dry-goods or the drug business. You’ve got to be trained up to it or you’re sure to fail. Suppose a man who knew nothing about the grocery trade suddenly went into the business and tried to conduct it according to his own ideas. Wouldn’t he make a mess of it? He might make a splurge for a while, as long as his money lasted, but his store would soon be empty. It’s just the same with a reformer. He hasn’t been brought up in the difficult business of politics and he makes a mess of it every time.The looter goes in for himself alone without considerin’ his organization or his city. The politician looks after his own interests, the organization’s interests and the city’s interests all at the same time. See the distinction?With grand opportunities all around for the man with a political pull, there’s no excuse for stealin’ a cent.I acknowledge that you can’t keep an organization together without patronage. Men ain’t in politics for nothin’. They want to get somethin’ out of it.If illiterate means havin’ common sense we plead guilty.Live like your neighbors even if you have the means to live better. Make the poorest man in your district feel that he is your equal, or even a bit superior to you.You have no idea of the harm dress suits have done in politics.Shakespeare was all right in his way, but he didn’t know anything about Fifteenth District politics.The time is comin’ and though I’m no youngster, I may see it, when New York City will break away from the State and become a state itself. It’s got to come. The feelin’ between this city and the hayseeds that make a livin’ plunderin’ it is every bit as bitter as the feelin’ between the North and South before the war.Of course the day may come when we’ll reject the money of the rich as tainted, but it hadn’t come when I left Tammany Hall at 11:25 a.m. today.

Zach Vaughn

Indeed, some plain, frank talk, but also a lot of hooey. Interesting from a historical perspective.


One of my absolute favorite required readings in a history class! Even to this day I remember it, reference it, and see it in work and life. I LOVE Boss Tweeds explanation of the difference between good and bad graft. Excellent! Truly excellent. Primarily because he is serious.


This is a showcasing of politics in the Tammany Hall era of New York. While other people feel its corrupt, it shows how the government was attempting to subvert the Tammany stronghold on elections by removing his base from even being considered.2 chapters and any extra space are dedicated to Plunkitt's disgust of the Civil Service.Its hard to say whether Plunkitt was corrupt, he makes a distinction between "Honest and Dishonest Graft" and helped the people regularly (of course in order to gain votes) without expecting anything in return.


it brings me back to my college days.


Now I know what is being referred to when someone mentions tamminy hall. More people need to understand the difference between honest and dishonest graft.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *