The Tammany Society was founded in New York City in 1789 by William Mooney, a Revolutionary War veteran. It drew its name from a respected Delaware chief, Tammend or Tamanend, who had reportedly befriended William Penn. The Society, sometimes called the Columbian Order, was originally a patriotic and charitable organization.
A watershed event occurred in 1817 when the Irish managed to force their way into membership in Tammany. The practice of exchanging votes for benefits quickly became the organization's backbone. In 1830, the group's headquarters were established in Tammany Hall and thereafter the name of the association and the location were synonymous.
Tammany Hall elected its first mayor, Fernando Wood, in 1855. New York City would be governed by Tammany forces for the next 70 years with only a few short interruptions. In 1868, William Marcy Tweed headed Tammany and ushered in an era of extreme corruption. Tweed was successful with making the organization a statewide force, but was eventually brought down by a reform attorney, Samuel J. Tilden.
Tammany Hall regained its strength in the 1880s and was prominent in the life of the city. Such figures as Richard Croker, Alfred E. Smith and Jimmy Walker were deeply involved in the dealings of the machine. In the 1930s, reform mayor Fiorello la Guardia, backed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, sharply reduced the power and influence of Tammany Hall. It lingered for several decades as a county organization, but was finally ended by another reform mayor, John V. Lindsay, in the 1960s.