Richard Croker

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Richard Croker
Richard Croker - Bain portrait2.jpg
Grand Sachem of Tammany Hall
In office
Preceded by John Kelly
Succeeded by Lewis Nixon
Member of the New York City Council
In office
Personal details
Born (1843-11-24)November 24, 1843
Ardfield, Cork, Ireland
Died April 29, 1922(1922-04-29) (aged 78)
Stillorgan, Dublin, Ireland
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Fraser (m. 1873; her death 1914)
Beulah Edmonson (m. 1914; his death 1922)
Children 7 children
Profession Coroner, mobster
Religion Presbyterian

Richard Welstead Croker, Sr. (November 24, 1843 – April 29, 1922), known as "Boss Croker," was an Irish-American politician, a leader of New York City's Tammany Hall.[1]


Politicians and people from various professions revolve around Croker, depicted as the sun in this 1898 cartoon from Puck.

He was born in the townland of Ballyva, in the parish of Ardfield, six miles south of Clonakilty in County Cork on November 24, 1843,[2] son of Eyre Coote Croker and Frances Laura Welsted. He was taken to the United States by his parents when he was just two years old. They boarded at the Henry Clay in Cobh, County Cork and headed for the land of opportunity.[3] There were significant differences between this family and the typical family leaving Ireland at that time. They were Protestant, and were not land tenants. Eyre Coote Croker owned an estate in Ardfield, in south west Cork.[4] However, he was not a good manager. Within a short space of time, he was as poor as his tenants.

Richard Croker was educated in the public schools of New York City, where he eventually became a member of Tammany Hall and active in its politics. He was an alderman from 1868 to 1870, a Coroner of New York County, New York from 1873 to 1876. He moved to Harrison, New York by 1880, then he was the New York City Fire Commissioner in 1883 and 1887, and city Chamberlain from 1889 to 1890. After the death of John Kelly he became the leader of Tammany Hall, and for some time almost completely controlled that organization. As head of Tammany, Croker received bribe money from the owners of brothels, saloons and illegal gambling dens. He survived Charles Henry Parkhurst's attacks on Tammany Hall's corruption and became a wealthy man.

Croker's greatest political success was his bringing about the 1897 election of Robert A. Van Wyck as first mayor of the five-borough "greater" New York, and during Van Wyck's administration Croker is popularly supposed to have completely dominated the government of the city. After Croker's failure to carry the city in the presidential election of 1900 and the defeat of his mayoralty candidate, Edward M. Shepard in 1901, he resigned from his position of leadership in Tammany and was succeeded by Lewis Nixon. Afterwards, Croker retired and began living a country life in England and Ireland.

Thoroughbred racing[edit]

Croker bought the first $5000 bulldog

Croker operated a stable of thoroughbred racehorses in the United States in partnership with Mike Dwyer. In January 1895 they sent a stable of horses to England under the care of trainer Hardy Campbell, Jr. and jockey Willie Simms. Following a dispute, the partnership was dissoved in May but Croker continued to race in England. [2] In 1907 his horse Orby won Britain's most prestigious race, the Epsom Derby. Orby was ridden by American jockey John Reiff whose brother Lester had won the race in 1901. Croker was also the breeder of Orby's son Grand Parade who won the Derby in 1919. In another animal venture, Croker was the first person to pay $5000 for a bulldog, Champion Rodney Stone.

Later life and death[edit]

Richard Croker married firstly Elizabeth Fraser (died September 1914) in 1873 and secondly Beulah Benson Edmondson (1884–1957[5]) in November 1914 when he was 71 years old.[6]

Mrs Croker, outside Glencairn, their house in Stillorgan, c.1921 or 1922

He died on April 29, 1922 in Ireland.[1] He left an estate estimated to $3–5 million to his second wife, disinheriting his children.[7] This resulted in a celebrated lawsuit in which the children unsuccessfully claimed that their father's second marriage was invalid for bigamy, in that their stepmother was at the relevant time married to another man. They were, however, unable to produce any credible evidence that the gentleman existed.

Croker's funeral drew some of Dublin's most eminent citizens, The Times (of London) describing it as follows (the 'Alderman Macdonagh' referenced being Joseph MacDonagh:[8]

FUNERAL OF MR. CROKER: - The funeral of Mr. Richard Croker took place yesterday [May 5, 1922], when the body was buried in the grounds of Glencairn House, Mr. Croker's residence in South County, Dublin. After a Requiem Mass in the private oratory, the burial service was conducted by the Right Rev. Dr. W. J. Miller, Roman Catholic Bishop of Eumenia. The body was clothed in evening dress, and before the coffin was closed Mrs. Croker desired the mourners to look at her husband's face for the last time. The coffin was covered with a pall made of natural violets and evergreen. The pall-bearers were Mr. Arthur Griffith, President of Dáil Éireann, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Mr. A. H. Flauley, of Chicago, Mr. Oliver Gogarty, Alderman Macdonagh, and Mr. J. E. Tierney. Mr. Michael Collins, Chairman of the Provisional Government, was represented by Mr. Kevin O'Shiel. Mr. James MacMahon, British Under-Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, was also in attendance.


  1. ^ a b "Richard Croker Dies In His Irish Castle As Result Of Cold". New York Times. April 29, 1922. Retrieved 2007-06-14. Ex-Tammany Boss, Aged 80 Suffered Exposure On Trip From America In October. Dictator Here 16 Years Gang Leader, Prize Fighter, Alderman, Coroner Before He became Tammany's Chief. Made Fortune In Politics Went Abroad To Live And Wonderby. Last Years Embittered By Fight With Children. London, April 29, 1922. Richard Croker, former leader of Tammany Hall, died at 3:30 o'clock this afternoon at Glencairn Castle, his residence in County Dublin. 
  2. ^ New York Times, 12 April 1927. Date from 1911 EB article; some other sources say 1841. The 1880 US Census shows a Richard Croker, an ex-coroner at that date, born in Ireland in 1843, living in Harrison, Westchester, New York. It does not show any other Irish-born Richard Croker. Found by searching for the relevant terms at [1], October 7, 2006.
  3. ^ Kramer, Rita (Feb 1973). "Well, what are you going to do about it?". American Heritage Magazine. Retrieved 26 Aug 2010. 
  4. ^ Clarke, J.I.C. (14 Jul 1907). "Richard Croker -- The Story Of His Ancestry". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. p. SM4. Retrieved 28 Aug 2010. 
  5. ^ "Biographical data on Bula Edmonson". Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  6. ^ "Photo from the wedding". Archived from the original on December 8, 2007. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  7. ^ "Children cut off by Richard Croker" (PDF). The New York Times. May 22, 1922. Retrieved 2008-07-22. Entire Estate, Estimated at 3 to 5 Millions, Goes to His 'Indian Bride.' Richard Croker left nothing to his four children ... 
  8. ^ The Times, May 6, 1922

Further reading[edit]

  • Zink, Harold B. City Bosses in the United States: A Study of Twenty Municipal Bosses (1930) pp 128–46 online
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Kelly
Tammany Hall
Succeeded by
Lewis Nixon