William Marcy "Boss" Tweed Escapes From Prison

On December 4, 1875, William Marcy "Boss" Tweed, notorious leader of New York City's Democratic political machine, escaped from prison and fled to Europe.

Between 1865 and 1871, Boss Tweed and his cronies stole millions of dollars from the city treasury. Convicted of forgery and larceny in 1873, Tweed was released in 1875. Immediately rearrested on civil charges, he was allowed daily visits to his family in the company of his jailor. On one of these trips, Tweed made his escape.

Elected an alderman in 1851, the former bookkeeper and volunteer fireman worked his way up New York City's Democratic hierarchy by holding various elected and unelected positions in the municipal government. He served one congressional term, but operated most effectively at the state level. By 1868, the year he gained a seat in the New York senate, Tweed firmly controlled the state Democratic Party. Two years later, he maneuvered passage of a revised city charter. A newly instituted board of audit became the principle means by which the Boss and his friends siphoned the city treasury of between twenty million and two-hundred million dollars.

William Marcy Tweed (April 3, 1823 – April 12, 1878), known as "Boss Tweed," was an American politician most famous for his leadership of Tammany Hall, the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in the politics of 19th century New York. At the height of his influence, Tweed was the third-largest landowner in New York City, a director of the Erie Railway, the Tenth National Bank, and the New-York Printing Company, as well as proprietor of the Metropolitan Hotel.

Tweed was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1852, and the New York City Board of Advisors in 1856. In 1858, Tweed became the "Grand Sachem" of Tammany Hall. He was elected to the New York State Senate in 1867.

Tweed was convicted for stealing between $40 million and $200 million (based on the inflation or devaluation rate of the dollar since 1870 of 2.7%, this is between 1.5 and 8 billion 2009 dollars) from New York City taxpayers through political corruption. He died in the Ludlow Street Jail.

There was Tweed;
Under his rule the ballot-box was freed!
Six times as big a vote he could record
As there were people living in the ward! ”

— W.A. Croffut, "Bourbon Ballads,"