A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from May 23, 2005
Tammany Tiger
Thomas Nast is also given credit for the Tammany tiger, and again, this is incorrect. Certainly, his November 11, 1871 Harper's Weekly political cartoon is perhaps the most famous in American history.

However, the tiger had long been a symbol of the Americus "Big Six" fire company.

The Tiger: The Rise and Fall of Tammany Hall
by Oliver E. Allen
Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company

Pg. 83:
In 1848, a state assemblyman named John J. Reilly invited Tweed and others to help form a new engine company, No. 6, and Bill happily assented. They decided to name it the Americus ENgine Company, perhaps after Americus Vespucci, and further to adopt as its symbol the likeness of a ferocious Begnal tiger that the members copied from a French lithograph. It is not known for sure whether Bill Tweed suggested the tiger, which was soon emblazoned on the company's engine, but a decade or so later, when Tweed became Tammany Hall's undisputed leader, Tammany politicans began wearing pins portraying the tiger. SHortly thereafter Thomas Nast in his anti-Tweed cartoons used the tiger to symbolize a predatory Hall. (Pg. 84 - ed.) In the ensuing years, Tammany's leaders - despite the scandals surrounding Boss Tweed - adopted the symbol officially. Tammany Hall was the Tiger.

Nast, Thomas, 1840—1902, American caricaturist, illustrator, and painter, b. Landau, Germany. He was brought to the United States in 1846. He began his career as a draftsman for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper and Harper's Weekly. He was sent to England by the New York Illustrated News, served (1860) as artist correspondent in Garibaldi's campaign, contributing sketches to English, French, and American papers, and attracted wide attention with his cartoons of the Civil War, published in Harper's Weekly. He is best known for his clever and forceful political and personal cartoons, which were instrumental in breaking the corrupt Tweed Ring in New York City. It was Nast who created the tiger, the elephant, and the donkey as political symbols of Tammany Hall, the Republican party, and the Democratic party. Nast was also an illustrator of note and a painter in oil. He died at Guayaquil, Ecuador, where he was American consul general.

His cartoons frequently had numerous sidebars and panels with intricate subplots to the main cartoon. A Sunday feature could provide hours of entertainment and highlight social causes. His signature "Tammany Tiger" has been emulated by numerous cartoonists over the years.

Nast became a close friend of President Grant and the two families shared regular dinners until Grant's death. Nast encouraged the former president's efforts in writing his autobiography while battling cancer.

He did some painting in oil and some book illustrations, but these were comparatively unimportant, and his fame rests on his caricatures and political cartoons, and introduced into American cartoons the practice of modernizing scenes from Shakespeare for a political purpose.

Notable images and icons which he created or popularized were:

A classic version of Santa Claus, drawn in 1863 for Harper's Weekly

Republican Party Elephant

Democratic Party Donkey

Tammany Hall Tiger, a symbol of Boss Tweed's political machine

Columbia, a graceful image of the Americas as a woman, usually in flowing gown and tiara, carrying a sword to defend the downtrodden.

Uncle Sam, a lanky image of the United States (first drawn in the 1830s; Nast and John Tenniel added the whiskers).

John Bull, a rotund image of Britain's spirit

John Chinaman, a sympathetic image of Chinese immigrants.


"The Tammany Tiger Loose," Harper's Weekly,
November 11, 1871, p.1056-1057. Wood engraving.

In 1871 the Republican New York Times ran a scathing
series of exposés of corruption in the Tammany Hall-controlled Democratic administration of New York City, and Harper's Weekly and Thomas Nast quickly joined the campaign. A bloodthirsty Tammany mascot has mauled the Republic, symbolized by Columbia,having broken her shield, the ballot, through corruption. The rotund emperor, Tammany Boss William Magear Tweed, enjoys the spectacle, sitting among otherwell-known Democratic politicians. The allusion to the historic slaughter of innocent Christians in Roman arenas—Rome now being the center of Catholicism—was particularly powerful, as was the way Nast drew the rampaging tiger looking directly at the reader, clearly its next victim.

10 September 1869, New York Herald, pg. 10, col. 6:






10 September 1869, New York Evening Telegram, pg. 1:

16 November 1870, New York Times, "The Americus Club Ball in January - Great Preparations," pg. 2:
Another feature of the ball will be the appearance of all the members of the organization in a new dress uniform, consisting of a blue cloth dress-coat, with gilt buttons, in form a tiger's head, the emblem of the Club, white cashmere vest, with small buttons of a similar form, and blue pantaloons, with a wide gilt stripe.

6 January 1871, New York Times, pg. 5:
The "Tiger" Entertains Its Prey - A
Costly and Extravagant Entertain-
Within the buildings of course TWEED and the rest had made the "money fly." There was a gaudy show of paint and flowers, and festoons and banners, and gas-jets amd scenery. There were lights everywhere - rows of them, clusters of them - some representing the insignia of the "Tiger," others conveying suggestions of "Big Six" in their flaming intensity, and others again, in alphabetical convolutions, "speaking a piece" in their gassy way, which way was peculiarly in keeping with the style of the managers.

Posted by Barry Popik
Government/Law/Military/Religion /Health • Monday, May 23, 2005 • Permalink

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