Nellie Bly and the Tiger

Nellie Bly

The New York World/October 8, 1893

How The World’s Young Woman Was Treated By the Tammany Chiefs.

Fun At The Convention

Speaker Sulzer Says He Does Not Believe in Buying Votes,
No Matter What the Emergency.

Judge M’Mahon on Marriage.

Tim Campbell May Be Surprised
When He Reads of the Joke Played Upon Him.

Register Levy Talks About Charity

Wiskinkie Donegan Chats Confidently About Betting on the Races,
His Only Vice, He Says.

It was the girl or the tigers.

They thought they would be interviewed; I thought I would be annihilated.

They held aloof and looked blank; I stood on one foot and wished I was at home.

They eyed me furtively between whispers; I pretended not to notice them and wished my hat was more becoming.

At last I became nervous and began to wonder how I had ever been persuaded to come to a political convention and be at the mercy of all these big Tammany chiefs.

I had no hankering desire to gain the right to sell a vote, having as many rights now as I care to carry, and I knew nothing and feared much of those I had been sent to meet.

In vain I sought some excuse for making my escape. I pondered upon cause and effect, backed up by pretense. I wondered if a pretended sprained ankle at the Democratic Convention in Saratoga would have any effect on my seeing the yacht race in New York.

I concluded the one would lead to the other.

I was trying to make up my mind to take a false step when a voice at my side said:

“Miss Bly, may I introduce Speaker Sulzer to you?”

I turned with a thrill of fear to glance up into a bright, smiling face.

So I met my first tiger.

“I’ve heard so much about you,” he began.

“Please don’t!” I broke in hastily, adding in the same breath:

“What a pretty badge you have.”

“Will you honor me by accepting it?” he asked quickly, unpinning it as he spoke and handing it to me.

“I did not mean that,” I assured him. “I’m robbing you.”

But he insisted, and in a second, hanging just beside a little silver object that is ticking off hours I fain would keep, was the blue ribbon badge bearing in gold letters upon its two short streamers this inscription:

OUT G. 1603

That’s how the girl and the tiger met.

There was some subtle power in that badge for the moment I became its possessor I began to feel a stronger interest in Tammany Hall.

A Pen Picture of Speaker Sulzer

I wanted to know who was who and which was which, and naturally I started upon the tiger in hand.

He is young and fair; he is tall and slender; he wore a silk hat, a frock coat with the usual accompanying apparel and a smile.

The silk hat was tilted back on his blond head, the frock coat was thrown carelessly open and the smile meant little or much.

“You are very young for such a prominent politician,” I remarked; “When did you start in politics?”

“I’ve been in it all my life,” he answered.

“The first thing I remember was my mother taking me to a political meeting. I was a little chap, I am sure I couldn’t have been more than five. All I remember of the meeting, and I recall it as plainly as if it had been yesterday, was that a man rose and said: ‘Let’s give three cheers for George B. McClellan. He’s a hunky-dory man!’ ”

“Do you believe in buying votes, Mr. Sulzer?” I asked suddenly.

“No, I do not,” was the emphatic answer.

“I believe in enfranchising all men, and the man that tries to buy votes, if I had my way, should be deprived of all rights.”

“But if you want to be elected and have some doubts as to the result—what then?”

“I believe in every man working for himself in so far as he can, so long as money is not employed. I would rather be defeated than pay for a single vote.”

‘You are German?” I asked irrelevantly, something in his voice raising the question in my mind whether he was German or Irish.

Born On St. Patrick’s Day

“Yes, I am a German, but I have been called Irish,” he said, smiling. “I came just this close to being Irish. I was born on St. Patrick’s Day. I remember once when I was canvassing I came to a little baker shop, ‘No use to stop in there,’ the man with me said. ‘Those people are against you.’ ‘Then they are the very ones I want to see,’ I replied. ‘What’s the use seeing those who will vote for me anyway.’

“But the man hung outside and I went into the little shop and in my best German addressed the proprietor, a little fellow who sat back of the case containing the stock of bread and pies. In the back of the room, a small partition dividing, I saw the family lived, and from where I stood I could see the wife sitting.

“I spoke to the proprietor and told him I was a candidate in his district and that if he had not some preference already I would like to have his vote. He never said a word in reply, but I saw his wife keep leaning forward to look out and listen.

“I kept on talking, but the man would not answer a word, so I started to leave. Just when I reached the door the wife rose and said to her husband. ‘Mine goodness! That is an Irishman who speaks Sherman.’”

Speaker Sulzer has several hobbies. First, of course, is politics. Apart from that he spends a great deal of time in collecting books of humanity, and is very fond of the subject and study.

His greatest hobby at present is a cure for Bright’s disease, which he bought from a doctor who claims that he has not had a patient in three years.

“I’ve got to share my room with Tim Campbell,” he said to me at last. “If I see you in the morning I’ll introduce him to you”

Mr. Marrin of Goatville

“Here is a very young but rising member you must know,” said my guide, and a nod of his head brought to our side a smiling young fellow who looked as if he had not yet conquered the bashfulness of youth.

“Mr. Charles C. Marrin, of the Harlem District,” was the way my second Tiger was introduced.

“I come from goat land,” Mr. Marrin said, laughing merrily. “Have you ever been up to One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street, Miss Bly? It is the prettiest part of the city.”

“But so awfully far out of it,” I replied, “especially to one who calls the Tenderloin District New York City.”

“Mr. Marrin is working to have the price of gas reduced,” my guide informed me, and Mr. Marrin laughed again.

“That is nothing,” he said, quickly.

“It will be a great deal if you accomplish it,” I said, and then I found in a Tiger an old acquaintance.

“How do you do?” he cried warmly, pushing through the crowd and holding forth his hand.

“How do you do?” I replied, thinking how much a handshake displayed character.

This handshake was close, firm and strong, added to a friendliness that was very flattering. It was a clasp that would put the heart in one despairing and that would make an acquaintance feel that here, indeed is a friend who will stand firm through everything.

“You have forgotten me,” he said, as he held my hand.

“Indeed, I have not,” I replied, honestly. “I remember you very well.”

“Who am I then?” he asked, teasingly.

“You are,” I hesitated. I knew his face. I recollect where his business had been. Then I knew all about him—that he is a devoted husband, a faithful friend, a just Judge, and, personally, the most conscientious man and devout Christian. But my unfortunate habit of never forgetting a face and always forgetting names kept me from speaking his.
“You are”, I stammered, for he laughingly insisted. “You are Judge Gowty.”

Judge McMahon on Marriage

“No, McMahon. Have you gone back to newspaper work again? I thought you never would.”

“I could not keep out of it any longer,” I confessed. “But tell me where are you now? You were on the east side when I knew you.”

“I am at the Tombs now.”

“Tell me” I broke in, “is marriage a failure? You see enough of the poor class to speak from that standpoint.”

“Marriage is not a failure; far from it,” was the emphatic reply. “We hear of a great many cases where it is, but they are in the minority, not the majority. We only think they are numerous because we always hear of them and no mention is made of the many, many cases of happy wedded life.”

“Even among the lowest,” he added, “a woman never deserts a man. No difference how low he is; there is always some woman—a mother, sister, wife or sweetheart—who sticks to him. And women always forgive. I have known wives to endure brutality until their lives were endangered, and only as a last resort come to me and with tears in their eyes, beg me to send their husbands to the island. In a few days they would be after me begging me to get them out, for they could endure brutality easier than to see their children go hungry, which is always the case when their support, be it ever so poor, is taken from them.”

I was standing in the lobby of the hotel. To my left was a large room filled with men.

Everybody knew without reading the placards over the door that is was the headquarters of the Democratic convention.

On my right was the hotel office and reading room, also crowded with men; back of me was the dining room filled with hungry men, and by looking straight ahead I could see the plaza and street crowded in the same manner.

Men, men everywhere, but the most quiet men I ever saw. No one spoke or laughed above his ordinary voice, and, most marvelous of all things, not one man showed any signs of drinking.

Register Levy Talks of Charity

This astonished me more than anything else, for I thought a political convention meant an unlimited series of “Will you join me?”

As I parted with Judge McMahon I met Register Levy, whose kindly, good-natured face has not grown one day older since he was Coroner.

“I was very much interested in your story about the Food and Shelter” he said, after greeting me. “I used to be President of the Jewish Emigrant Society, and in that way became very familiar with the poverty on the east side. It is wonderful what an amount of poverty we have, considering the numerous charities of New York. I believe our city is the most charitable in the world but there must be something wrong with our system of distribution.”

“What do you think could help it? I asked.

“Personal distribution. I always say to my friends, if you have anything to give go down among the tenements and give it yourselves. I know if they start out to give five or ten they will end by giving twenty-five.

“I get so many letters begging for help,” he continued.’ “I always go to investigate the cases before I give aid. You know I speak Mammeloschen, a Jewish jargon, a mixture of Hebrew and German, and it helps me in my charity work among my own people. I went the other day in answer to an appeal, and took with me some friends of mine. I found the family in a tenement on the fifth floor (somehow all my cases are on the fifth floor). The man was sick, and I could see, without questioning, the extreme want.”

Saved by the World’s Bread Fund.

“They had been living for a long time on the bread they had been given by The World’s Bread Fund. If it had not been for that they would have starved. As it was they were to be dispossessed for their rent, which amounted to $7. My friend and I paid the rent, bought some food and started away. Half the way downstairs we stopped and he said to me “I haven’t done anything that made me feel so satisfied in ages.” It was the same with me. I was happier than I could have been by spending money any other way. So we all put our hands in our pockets and, making up a little sum walked back and gave it to the people. It gives one a very good feeling to relieve want.”

“What are your ideas on immigration?”

“I believe it should be restricted. We are too free, and we only make poverty worse for those who are already here.”

The distribution of badges and tickets was over and the delegates soon deserted headquarters, leaving behind few of the nicest tigers it was ever my good luck to meet Daniel Donegon, the great “Wiskinkie of the Tammany society.

The public hears of Wiskinkie as the collector of the fabulous sums which Tammany is said to require from the office-holders.

Wiskinkie Donegan’s smooth face is so frank and open that he gives the impression of being just a jolly good boy.

Two Great Persons Meet

“What! Are you Nellie Bly? The real Nellie Bly?” he cried, holding my hand and gazing at me with his friendly blue eyes. “Why, bless me, I thought you were as big as Tom Brennan!

“And so you are Nellie Bly? A little thing like you. Well, well, I was sure you were as big as Tom Brennan, because I never thought a little thing could do what you’ve done. Come in, won’t you, and see headquarters.”

“What were you doing in here?” I asked, glancing hastily around at the bar-room, with its cheap pictures and cane chairs.

“I was giving out badges and tickets, a job that always falls on me and one I’ve been trying to get out of for years. You know,” laughing, “I make so many enemies this way. They will never believe I haven’t any more after the supply is exhausted and they think I have slighted them because I did not save any.”

“Wiskinkie hasn’t an enemy on earth,” my guide assured me, which made Wiskinkie laugh.

“What does Wiskinkie mean?” I asked curiously.

“As near as I can learn from the most reliable authorities, it means the gatherer or custodian of beads and jewels. It is an old Indian name. I suppose you know that the Tammany Society, not Tammany Hall, but from which the latter sprang, is 104 years old?”

“Give us two badges, Wiskinkie,” said a man appearing in the door.

“All out,” was the reply. “Haven’t one. That is,” hastily, “not here. I’ve some more in the Adelphia. I’ll get you some later. Just think,” turning to me with a hearty laugh, “I’m up here distributing badges when I should be in New York collecting money. I guess that part can wait, though money’s tight this fall. Things might be worse for me. If there was a race between Tammany and Lamplighter I might have to be here, but I would be sorry.”

“You are fond of racing?”

His Only Vice

“Am I!” emphatically, “I need to go every day. Still, if I had all the money the newspapers say I have made on the races. Oh, I’d be happy, that’s all.”

“How are you on the season?”

“I’ll say about even, I had some heavy losses, but several long shots have evened things up. But as much as I love horse-racing, do you know I was never had once in a gambling house, and that only for an instant. I never touched liquor in my life. I don’t know what beer tastes like even, and I never smoked or chewed.”

“Why? Don’t you like drink and tobacco?”

“I don’t know. They have never touched my life. It was all my mother’s doings.”

He spoke softly and his merry blue eyes filled with tears.

“She was left a poor widow with three children to support. I was her only son, and often when drunken men were arrested in our street my mother would call me to the door (she kept a little grocery store) and, pointing to the man would say: ‘My son, look at that poor man. If he had never touched the first glass he would not be where he is today.’ I never forgot that, and I have yet the first glass to touch. My dear mother lived to see the result of her teachings. One winter just before she died I was very sick, and the doctor said I must be given milk punches to keep up my strength. I remember how my mother looked when he said this, but she did not speak. ‘Can’t I get well without taking them?’ I asked. He said I might, but it was only one chance in a hundred. I said I would take that chance. I shall never forget the look of joy that came over my mother’s face as, with glad tears running over her cheeks, she walked from the room. She is dead now, but she knows I shall never forget.”

“I should think you would also stop betting on the races.”

“I thought I couldn’t, but sure I said I won’t bet for a year, and for sixteen months I never saw a race, and they were all around me. I hadn’t the least desire to go after I said I wouldn’t. I guess I will stop them altogether. There’s nothing in it. The chances are too big against winning. It’s a hundred against eighty very time.”

She Meets Tammany’s Chesterfield

It was at breakfast that I met the renowned tiger, Tim Campbell.

When I went in to the room Speaker Sulzer saw me, and leaving the table came forward to shake hands with me.

“Never a word,” he whispered. “This is Tim Campbell, and I want to work a joke on him the same as he worked on Hoke Smith.”

“Mr. Campbell” he said aloud, “I want to introduce you to my friend, Miss Carey of Albany.”

Down went the knife and fork, and up rose a smiling man, whose handsome brown eyes sparkle with mischief and good humor.

“Miss Carey,” he said, taking my hand, “I am glad to meet you. Have you had breakfast? Sit down and breakfast with us, do. What will you have? I have liver and eggs and potatoes. Here, girl! Say, my dear, won’t you bring me a cup of coffee?”

“It’s all done, sir. Soon as some’s made. I’ll bring it,” the girl answered.

“And, Miss Carey did you come to see the convention?” to me.

“Yes,” I replied, smiling at the speaker, whose right eye was going through a series of contortions meant to be boosting to my courage.

“And what do you think of us as much as you’ve seen?”

“That you are extremely quiet and that there isn’t an intoxicated man visible in town. Please proceed with your breakfast, or it will be cold. Don’t wait for me, or I shall insist upon going away and letting you eat in comfort.”

He Offers Nellie His Liver.

“Won’t you mind? Thank you. Won’t you share my liver or the Speaker’s eggs? No? Well, no if you don’t mind?” And they continued their interrupted meal.

“Did you ever hear of Mr. Campbell’s joke on Hoke Smith?” inquired Speaker Sulzer.

“Ah, now?” Pleadingly from Mr. Campbell.

“It was a shameful thing,” with a slight wink of the right eye. “He introduced a young woman reporter to Hoke Smith as a relative and afterword she wrote two columns about him. It was dreadfully cut up.”

“I didn’t mean anything. She coaxed me for two hours before I consented and worked on my sympathies so that I couldn’t refuse. But I haven’t seen her since and I’ll never do it again or any girl.”

“Why?” I asked curiously. “Because you haven’t seen her since?”

Mr. Sulzer burst into a roar of laughter, in which Mr. Campbell partly joined.

“Oh him!” ejaculated the Speaker.

“Ah now!” (the brown eyes dancing) “I didn’t say that. Miss Carey (trying to change the subject) did you ever do any newspaper work?”

I looked at the Speaker. His right eye was winking vigorously, but the eye next to Mr. Campbell was calm and serene.

“Miss Carey works for the D. A.,” the Speaker replied for me.

“Tell me, Mr. Campbell, what you think should be the national flower,” I said, to give the conversation another turn.

“I don’t know now. I’ll have to ask Mrs. C. that. She knows all about flowers. I’ll ask her.”

As To Miss Campbell

“Tell me about the baby,” I whispered slyly.

He looked up: his face grew radiant and big brown eyes very tender.

“It isn’t right for me to say anything, but everybody else says it’s a beauty.” He answered, with a mixture of tender pride and modesty. “I can only tell what others say. Her mother thinks so, too; and I think her mother knows everything. She is a Pennsylvania Dutch girl and as clever as any you’ll ever meet. She’s just the wife for me; has a leaning towards politics and all that.”

“What is the baby called?”

“Marguerite. Her mother selected the name. Great, big, fine, healthy baby she is! The other day Senator Blackburn had her in his arms and he said: ‘Miss Campbell, consider yourself engaged to Mr. Blackburn’ (his two-year old nephew), and to me he added: ‘Tim, We’ll make a match between them, sure’”

“Let me ask you some more questions. What should be the national hymn?’

“I think”—rather dubiously—“those we have are good enough.”

“Do you believe in Home Rule for Ireland?”

He lifted his head and his lips parted in a smile.

“Why not?” he asked, “They’ve proved they can rule New York and the United States, why shouldn’t they rule their own land?”

“Maybe all the great ones came over.”

He laughed. “They’re never great till they get here.”

“Miss Carey, I am delighted to know you,” he said, as we rose from the table. “I’ve had a pleasant breakfast and I hope you’ll let me dine at your table at noon.”

“Certainly, Mr. Campbell; I shall be delighted.”

“Wait till I get my hat,” he said, as we walked towards the door.

But he did not get it. A hat was there, but it was not his.

“Well; some duffer’s walked off with my hat. And it was given to me in San Francisco too. Guess I’ll have to make the best of it.” And trying to make it fit his head, we walked out.

So I met and parted from the great Tim Campbell, and said good bye all the Tigers.

(Source: Nellie Bly Online,

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