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The Boss

By David Dayton McKean
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

When Frank Hague attained the age of twenty-one Hudson County was dominated by Boss Bob Davis, whose lieutenant in the Horseshoe was Denny McLaughlin. His interest in the Guttenberg race-track kept McLaughlin too busy to watch his ward as well as he had done in earlier days. On the street floor below the Greenwood Social Club Nat Kenny, called `The Mayor of Cork Row,' operated one of the most successful of the forty saloons in the Horseshoe. Politics was business, and Kenny, an anti-Davis Democrat, dabbled in it enough to arouse the apprehensions of Denny McLaughlin. Kenny appears to have had no personal political ambitions, but sought rather to establish himself as a behind-the-scenes boss such as McLaughlin.

To chastise Kenny, McLaughlin opened, with great ceremony, a rival saloon, the Park House. It was the most magnificent in the district, and within a few months it had drawn off the patronage of the boys from the Greenwood Social Club and the Cable Athletic Club. Faced with the danger of bankruptcy, Kenny sought some political victory to shake McLaughlin. The first election was that of constable.

Kenny interviewed his friends and found no candidate to oppose the McLaughlin man. No one wanted to make the campaign because to do so would be a declaration of war on the Davis organization. Kenny had many friends and some money, but no bloc of voters. While his business faded lie sought a candidate. Folklore has it that the inspiration for the man came from Mike Egan, a boilermaker for the Erie who was a steady customer of Kenny's; he suggested Joe Craig's manager. Kenny needed some convincing, but as the time was short, he invited Frank Hague in for a conference

Frank, whose long ambition it had been to get on the police force, was dazzled. An eyewitness remembers his response to Kenny's offer: `I'll run, Mr. Kenny, but I'll need some money. I ain't got a dime.'

`How much will you need?'

'Well, about seventy-five dollars, if I'm to make friends.'

Kenny took seventy-five dollars from his cash drawer and gave it to Frank Hague. It was probably the largest sum he had ever possessed. They shook hands. Frank Hague, aged twenty-one, in the year 1897, had begun his political career


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