Published on May 1, 2012 by Amy
Tamanend or Tammany or Tammamend, the “affable”, (c. 1628–c. 1698) was a chief of one of the clans that made up the Lenni-Lenape nation in the Delaware Valley at the time Philadelphia was established. Tamanend is best known as a lover of peace and friendship who played a prominent role in the establishment of peaceful relations among the Native American tribes and the English settlers who established Pennsylvania, led by William Penn.
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Tamanend reputedly took part in a meeting between the leaders of the Lenni-Lenape nation, and the leaders of the Pennsylvania colony held under a large elm tree at Shakamaxon in the early 1680s. There, Tamanend is reported to have announced that the Lenni-Lenape and the English colonists would “live in peace as long as the waters run in the rivers and creeks and as long as the stars and moon endure.” These words have been memorialized on the statue of Tamanend that stands in Philadelphia today.
It is believed that Tamanend died in 1698. Over the next century, many folk legends surrounded Tamanend and his fame assumed mythical proportions among the people of Philadelphia, who began to call him “King Tammany,” “Saint Tammany,” and the “Patron Saint of America.” The people of Philadelphia also organized a Tammany society and an annual Tammany festival. These traditions soon spread across America. The reason for Tammany’s popular status can be attributed to the need that patriotic colonists had to express a distinct “American” identity, in place of their former European nationalities. Tammany, an American Indian, provided an apt symbol for patriotic Americans to identify with.
Because of Philadelphia’s political significance during the founding of the United States of America, Tammany soon became a national symbol throughout much of the newly formed country.
In 1772, the original Tammany Society was formed in Philadelphia (it was originally called the “Sons of King Tammany” but was later renamed the “Sons of St. Tammany”). Soon, Tammany societies began to appear from Georgia to Rhode Island to the Ohio River. The most famous of these was New York City’s Society of St. Tammany, which grew into a major political machine known as “Tammany Hall.” A white marble statue of Tamanend adorned the façade of the building on East 14th Street that housed Tammany Hall.
By the early 1770s, annual Tammany Festivals occurred in Philadelphia and Annapolis. The festivals were held on May 1, replacing the May Day traditions of Europe. The festivals also continued many of the features of the traditional May Day celebrations. For example, the Saint Tammany Day celebrated on May 1, 1771, in Annapolis had a may pole decorated with ribbons. People danced in Native American style to music while holding a ribbon and moving in a circle around the pole.
On May 1, 1777, John Adams wrote of the Tammany festival in Philadelphia during the American Revolutionary War. Adams, who was in Philadelphia attending the Second Continental Congress as a delegate from Massachusetts, wrote a letter home to his wife, Abigail Adams, which said:
“This is King Tammany’s Day. Tammany was an Indian King, of this past of the Continent, when Mr. Penn first came here. His court was in this town. He was friendly to Mr. Penn and very serviceable to him. He lived here among the first settlers for some time and until old age. … The people here have sainted him and keep his day” (Lyman H. Butterfield, ed., Adams Family Correspondence; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963-1973, II, pp. 229-230).
On May 1, 1778, General George Washington and the Continental Army held a Tammany festival while camped at Valley Forge. The “men spent the day in mirth and jollity…in honor of King Tammany” (Military Journal of George Ewing, 1928).
After the end of the Revolutionary War, Tammany celebrations spread throughout America, as far away as Savannah, Georgia. Wherever a Tammany Society had been established, the society would promote a local Tammany festival. Many calendars of the time listed “Saint Tammany’s Festival” on May 1.
Tammany celebrations were such important events that, in 1785, George Washington appeared at the Tammany festival in Richmond, Virginia with Virginia governor Patrick Henry. In 1787, New York City first began to have a Tammany festival.
Other Tammany appearances in popular culture
In 1794, Ann Julia Hatton’s tremendously popular “Tammany: The Indian Chief” premiered on Broadway. It was the first major opera libretto written in the United States that had an American theme and it was the earliest drama about American Indians. The opera premiered at the John Street Theatre, New York, on 3rd March 1794 and featured the English actress and ‘grande dame’ of American theatre, Charlotte Melmoth. Melmoth refused to speak the opera’s epilogue, as she disapproved of its patriotic sentiments, leading to the New York Journal calling on the public to boycott the play as long as Melmoth was still in the cast.
In 1826, Tammany appeared (as “Tamenund”) at the conclusion of The Last of the Mohicans, a novel which was extremely popular in the antebellum United States. The novel was written by James Fenimore Cooper (one of the first popular American novelists) and was part of the Leatherstocking Tales (which had a significant impact on both American literary culture and the emerging nation’s identity).
A statue of a Native American, marked Tamanend, is shown in the lobby outside Tammany Hall in the film Gangs of New York.
Philadelphia has a statue of Tamanend located at the intersection of historic Market Street with Front Street. The statue is located between Old City and Penn’s Landing, the riverfront area. The plaque notes that “Tamanend was considered the patron saint of America by the colonists prior to American Independence.”
The prominence on Kittatinny Mountain on the northeast (New Jersey) side of Delaware Water Gap is named Mount Tammany.
The Gettysburg Battlefield has a statue of Tamanend on a monument to the Tammany Regiment that fought at Gettysburg. During the Civil War, the Tammany Regiment was the nickname of the New York 42nd Infantry.
The famous “Tecumseh Statue” at the United States Naval Academy faces Tecumseh Court (in front of Bancroft Hall) where the Brigade of Midshipmen forms the daily Noon Meal Formation. The “Tecumseh Statue” is a bronze replica of the figurehead of the USS Delaware. This bust, one of the most famous relics on the campus, is commonly known as Tecumseh. However, when it adorned the American man-of-war, it commemorated not Tecumseh but Tamanend. In times past, the bronze replica was considered a good-luck “mascot” for the midshipmen, who threw pennies at it and offered left-handed salutes whenever they wanted a ‘favor’, such as a sports win over West Point, or spiritual help for examinations. Today it is used as a morale booster during football weeks and on special occasions when “Tecumseh” is painted in themes to include super heroes, action heroes, humorous figures, a leprechaun (before Saint Patrick’s Day) and a naval officer (during Commissioning Week).
St. Tammany Parish is one of nine Louisiana parishes (counties) named for “saints” and the sole one whose eponym is not a “saint” as recognized by the Roman Catholic Church.