This refers to a democratic “political machine” in New York from the late 1700s all the way through the 1960s. It began as something like a fraternal order, and took the name “Tammany” from an Indian chief. The members started to exert political influence shortly thereafter, picking candidates and influencing elections.
Corruption invariably followed, with various members and leaders taking brides to support causes and candidates they deemed favorable. FDR was very anti-Tammany, and stripped the organization of “federal patronage,” which means that no Tammany members or supporters could be “awarded” positions in the federal government. This reduced the influence of the organization, and it eventually disappeared in the 1960s.
Why I Looked It Up
I had heard the term in various degrees over the years. I was reading a book about politics in New York in the early 1900s, and it was mentioned often, as it essentially controlled politics and ran the city.
Added on April 30, 2022
In a book about the Vanderbilts:
The New York City Board of Estimate and the city council were under the hell of the last vestiges of Tammany Hall, the Democratic machine that had controlled New York politics since the late nineteenth centrality.
This passage was referred to a period in the late 1960s.
Added on May 17, 2022
I read somewhere (I can’t remember where) that Donald Trump might be “the new Tammany Hall” in the sense that Trump and his informal circle of allies are endorsing candidates for office, and their endorsement seems to carry a lot of weight. Presumably, the promise of a Trump endorsement or a threat of Trump resistance would impact the nominee process.
Added on June 10, 2022
I was walking through New York City when I stumbled upon a building with “1786, The Society of Tammany or Columbian Order, 1928” inscribed on the side of it. This is the actual Tammany Hall building. It’s on 17th and Park Ave.
Here it is on Google Street View.