In the years following the Civil War, America’s cities grew dramatically, not only because of the Industrial Revolution, but because of the influx of immigrants. The result was political chaos, and the part-time politician couldn't handle the change. From this disorganization, the political boss, a distinctive breed, emerged. Even though many bosses were involved in graft and corruption, they also replaced chaos with order.

Most of the early bosses in the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century came from either the corner saloon or the volunteer fire department. In either setting they were able to sell themselves as “people’s men,” who were down to earth and interested in service to humanity.

Note on the Author

Dennis L. Lythgoe is Professor of History at Bridgewater State College.