American clergyman and social reformer. Although scholarly and reserved in temperment, Parkhurst preached two sermons in 1892 in which he attacked the political corruption of NYC government. Backed by the evidence he collected, his statements led to both the exposure of Tammany Hall and to subsequent social and political reforms.
SIG – Vintage signed and dated small slip of paper Your Affectionate Friend, Charles H. Parkhurst, January 2nd, 1927. Sufficient room for matting. Accompanied by a small reprint image of Parkhurst.
Professor of theology at Williston Seminary, Easthampton, MA. Ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1873. Pastor of a Congregational church in Lenox from 1874-80 when he was called to the Madison Square Presbyterian Church, NYC, where he served from 1880-1918. Interested in municipal affairs, he was elected president of the New York Society for the Prevention of Crime in 1891 during which time he challenged the methods of the city police department. He inaugurated a campaign against the political and social corruption of Tammany Hall. The hall had begun innocently as a social club but had drifted into politics and graft. It acquired a lock on elections in the city and its bosses protected crime and vice in Manhattan and surrounding boroughs. Grand jury investigations were ineffective, despite the appeals of social reformers. Few in Parkhurt’s congregation recognized that Tammany Hall, the police, and organized crime were interconnected. On February 14, 1892, Parkhurst challenged Tammany Hall from the pulpit. Pointing to the hall’s political influence and their connection with the police, he noted that men fed upon the cithy while pretending to protect it.
When the municipal grand jury asked Parkhurst for hard evidence, the minister personally hired a private detective and, with his friend John Irving, went to the streets in disguise to collect proof of corruption. Parkhurst’s sermons led to the appointment of the Lexow Committee to investigate conditions, and to the election of a reform mayor in 1894. Although Tammany Hall did publicly clean house, it remained influential on both the political front and in organized crime until the 1950s.
On a less-enlightened note, Parkhurst also ranted against women’s suffrage observing: The quality of feminine blatancy which is being at present so extensively advertised here and in England, that disposition toward self-exploitation indulged in by short-haired women and encouraged by long-haired men, is of a sort to chill and then freeze over those masculine impulses that seek restful and satisfying companionship in a member of the opposite sex.
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