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Abstract

This essay examines the rise and fall of Boston’s ward-based Irish political machine, from the 1880s to its demise in the 1914 municipal elections. The bosses who ran the machine, though initially successful, undermined themselves by limiting their outreach to the city’s Irish population. Meanwhile, the machine fractured at the turn of the century, with bosses fighting for power, weakening the machine. With waning support and the rise of factional bickering, the machine was weakened by the reformist 1909 city charter, then destroyed by the unforeseen dark horse victory of Irish politician James Michael Curley in the 1914 mayoral election.

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