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“A Marriage of Convenience”

October 19, 1901


William A. Rogers

“A Marriage of Convenience”
 

Mayoral Elections; New York City, Government/Politics; Symbols, Tammany Tiger; Tammany Hall, Richard Croker;
 

Croker, Richard; Shepard, Edward M.; Devery, William;
 

New York City;


No caption.


After two years of press allegations and state investigations against Tammany Hall corruption, Republicans, independents, and anti-Tammany Democrats put aside their differences to nominate reformer Seth Low for mayor in 1901.  The search for a clean mayoral candidate to counter the forces arrayed against Tammany Hall led Boss Richard Croker to offer the Tammany nomination to Edward M. Shepard, a well-respected lawyer and Democratic reformer who had previously denounced Tammany and backed Low's unsuccessful bid for the mayoralty in 1897. 

Cartoonist W. A. Rogers comically portrays the "Marriage of Convenience" between Tammany and Shepard, with the carefree and dapper candidate holding the paw of the veiled Tammany Tiger.  In the background behind the couple, an irritable Croker carries a model of City Hall, and behind him a worried-looking Police Chief William Devery bears a bouquet of flowers.  The "Made In England" ribbon on Shepard's coat may allude to his aristocratic manner.

Edward Morse Shepard was born in New York City in 1850.  His father died when Edward was six years old, and August Belmont became legal guardian of the Shepard children.  Raised in Brooklyn, Edward Shepard attended the common schools and City College, from which he graduated with the highest distinction in 1869.  Afterward, he read law at a private firm and passed the state bar in 1871.

A good-government reformer, Shepard served on the Brooklyn Civil Service Commission in 1883-1885, as its chairman in 1888-1890, as New York's forestry commissioner in 1884-1885, and on the Brooklyn Water Commission from 1889-1890.  Although primarily a civil lawyer, he gained public acclaim in 1893-1894 while serving as special deputy attorney general in the prosecution of John Y. McKane, the corrupt police chief of Coney Island.  Harper's Weekly judged that Shepard's "patriotic spirit and intrepidity cannot be too highly commended..."  He also earned plaudits as counsel to the New York Rapid Transit Commission, for which he oversaw negotiations for construction of the city's subway.  

In 1895, he ran unsuccessfully for the Brooklyn mayoralty against the Democratic machine of Hugh McLaughlin.  The next year, Harper's Weekly deemed him a "worthy leader" of the reform Democrats, whose "high character, as well as his eminent ability, commands the absolute confidence of his followers--in fact, of the community at large."  In 1896, he endorsed the breakaway "Gold" Democrats against the free-silver presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, William Jennings Bryan.  Anxious about American imperialism in the wake of the Spanish-American War of 1898, Shepard backed Bryan in 1900.

When the opportunity came to run for mayor of New York City in 1901, Shepard's commitment to reforming the Democratic Party from within compelled him to accept the Tammany nomination.  Given the egregious corruption revealed through press and public investigations, many who previously held Shepard in high regard considered his candidacy to be naive (as in this cartoon) or duplicitous.  Harper's Weekly editorialized that his decision to run on a Tammany slate was personally "despicable" and "pathetic from the standpoint of public morals."  In November 1901, Shepard lost to Low, 53%-47%.

Shepard served as a trustee for City College from 1900 and as chairman from 1904 until 1911.  He died at his summer home in Lake George, New York, in July 1911.

Robert C. Kennedy




“A Marriage of Convenience”
October 19, 2017







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