New York, state, United States: Political Corruption and the Labor Movement

Political Corruption and the Labor Movement

As economic growth accelerated, political corruption became rampant. Samuel J. Tilden won a national reputation in 1871 for prosecuting the Tweed Ring of New York City, headed by William Marcy “Boss” Tweed, but Tammany soon recovered much of its prestige and influence as the Democratic city organization. The Republican party also had bosses, notably Roscoe Conkling and Thomas Collier Platt, and the split between Democratic New York City and Republican upstate widened. New Yorkers Chester A. Arthur (1881–85) and Grover Cleveland (1885–89, 1893–97) served as Presidents of the United States in the late 19th cent.

After 1880 the inpouring of immigrants from Ireland, Italy, and Eastern Europe brought workers for the old industries, which were expanding, and for the new ones, including the electrical and chemical industries, which were being established. Labor conditions worsened but were challenged by the growing labor movement, whose targets included sweatshops (particularly notorious in New York City). Muckrakers were particularly vociferous in New York in the late 19th and early 20th cent. Service as New York City's police commissioner and then as a reform-oriented governor of the state helped Theodore Roosevelt establish the national reputation that sent him to the vice presidency and then to the White House (1901–9). A fire in 1911 at the Triangle Waist Company in Manhattan that killed 146 workers resulted in the passage of early health, fire safety, and labor laws including the Widowed Mothers Pension Act.

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