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The Early Career of Mayor Frank Hague

Chapter 2 - Hague’s Alliance With Wittpenn
Part 5

By Mark S. Foster

Copyright 1967

Web version, edited by GET NJ.
Copyright 2002

The armed truce between Wittpenn and Davis threatened to break out into a full scale war at any moment. When, in obvious reference to Davis, Wittpenn struck out against “irresponsible bosses,” Davis replied with tongue in cheek: “I don’t know of any boss within the Democratic party. Mr. Wittpenn is Mayor and nobody disputes his authority.”15 Shortly thereafter, Davis slapped back even harder at Hague who was caught in the middle. On the day the Jersey Journal’s headline read “Davis Roasts Wittpenn’s Man Hague,” he stated the following for public consumption:

Hague is City Hall Custodian and I suppose he will hang on to the $2,000 job. But I do wish Hague would attend to his official business while he is drawing his fat salary. The City Hall corridors are dirty. The sidewalks in front of City Hall have not been swept since New Year’s Day. Hague is upstairs on the second floor a great deal. He hangs around the mayor’s office from morning to night….16

And when asked what his real objection to Hague was, Davis snapped: “I don’t like him.” Wittpenn’s defense of Hague was somewhat vague at best: “I find the City Hall very clean. Mr Hague is doing alright as Custodian. But if anyone thinks I am going to get into a controversy with anybody over such a picayune topic as the cleanliness of City Hall, he is mistaken.”17 Clearly Wittpenn was intent upon avoiding a knockdown fight with Davis. If so, it was in his interest to get his friend Hague out of the limelight and “off the hook.”

Davis, however, had no intention of letting Hague escape so easily. On May 30, the Journal announced that Davis had dethroned Hague as ward leader, replacing him with John Sheehy. Hague’s old enemy, John Heavy, the Street and Water Commissioner, gloated: “The turning down of Hague as ward leader suits the Democrats alright. Hague wouldn’t be heard from even if he weren’t kept alive by the newspapers. There is nothing to Hague.”18 A “political expert” agreed: “Hague lacks sand. He isn’t the fighter the second warders thought he was.”19 This particular “expert” was not wholly aware of the true picture. In the past, it was true, ward leader appointments had been decided by the county of executive committee which was headed by Davis. He reckoned without the wrath of Hague. Hague rallied his supporters in the second ward Democratic Club (now known as the Tammany Club). In an unheard of move, the club ignored Davis’s decision of the previous week and voted to retain Hague as leader in the ward!20 Democrats in ward two now had a choice of two leaders, Hague and Sheehy!


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