Big Tom Foley (1852-1925) was a Tammany Hall district leader and saloon owner. Foley used his Tammany Hall political connections to help win the governorship of New York for fellow Irishman Al Smith, and later backed Smith’s unsuccessful bid for the presidency.
Mr. Foley has become a controversial figure because of his Tammany Hall connection, but does have Foley Square (the site of his last saloon and political gathering place) where the court houses and Federal Building sit in downtown Manhattan named after him.
He left school at age 13 to support his widowed mother, working for a time as a blacksmith’s helper. “’Big Tom’ was a square-shaped, mustachioed, quiet man who spent most of each day at the Downtown Tammany Club listening to the cries for help — for a boy who had been arrested, for a process server who had been fired, for a policeman who had been shifted to a Staten Island beat — with unfailing patience. Although his saloons thrived, he was to die a poor man, their profits trickling, along with the payoffs and the campaign contributions, through his fingers into those of his constituents.” (The Power Broker by Robert Caro)