Lesson Plans

Early Twentieth Century

The Political Machine of Tammany Hall
Author: Joseph Cornet
School: Blake High School
Grade Level: 9th
Time Estimated: 1 day (90 minute block)

Enduring Understanding

Students will take a look at multiple cartoons to understand the story of the political machine at Tammany Hall. They will learn about the negative aspects of political machines as described by the cartoonist Thomas Nast. They will contrast Nast's view by reading quotes from George Washington Plunkitt to gain an understanding of the benefits of political machines. Students will do this by examining primary sources that reveal historical content.

Students will also learn skills that will help them with analyzing primary sources. While viewing the cartoons, the students will gain an understanding of the events, but they will also uncover the motives and effectiveness of Nast's cartoons. Why did he create these? This will be directly contrasted with the quotes from Plunkitt.


Students will analyze primary sources to compare and contrast two views on the effectiveness of political machines.


Unit 9.2 "Technological Change Transforms American Society"
Lesson Sequence 3 and 4, Session 5 for both - "Machine Politics" and "Corrupt Governments"


  • Pen/Pencil
  • Notebook Paper


  • Students will do a 2 minute quick write answering the following two questions (1 Min for each question). This will activate prior knowledge on immigration:
      • Why did immigration explode during the turn of the century?
      • What will immigrants need in order to survive in the New World?
  • Students will complete the packet using the Nast cartoons. They will analyze one cartoon at a time, then record their answers to the questions. Directions are given throughout the packet.
  • Students will reflect on what they have looked at by completing the positives and negatives worksheet. This will assess if they have an understanding of what the machines did and also will reflect their opinion on the effectiveness of the machines.


This lesson will accommodate many different styles of learners. It will be most effective with those students who learn visually. The lesson can be modified for special education students by analyzing each cartoon one by one with the class. After having the students view the cartoon, as a class you could discuss what the students see within the cartoon. This can turn the assignment into a guided discovery. The Plunkitt quotes could be read allowed by students and discussed as a class to gain understanding. The lesson is already geared to higher level learners where they are independently analyzing the primary sources.


Students will create a chart showing the positives and negatives of political machines. Finally they will create their own cartoons showing a positive and a negative.

References: Web

Political Cartoons & Caricatures, "The Senate Theatre: 19th-Century Cartoonists and the U.S. Senate," Donald A. Ritchie

Library of Congress, American Memory

Thomas Nast Portfolio, Ohio State University

Plunkitt Quotes