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Final Post

On October 20, 1884, Ada Brown, a young widow with a seven year old child, shared a drink with two men who were likely her former lovers in a Hartford, Connecticut, apartment. One, Martin Harrison, began to argue with Brown about $10 he’d previously given her. The argument escalated and he brutally slashed her throat with a knife. The other man, George Gregory, then quickly stabbed Harrison in the throat. as the police arrived, seven year old Elena witnessed her mother die. Despite Harrison’s initial insistence that he was the innocent party and Gregory the murderer, the ensuing trial determined that Gregory was altogether innocent, and Harrison saw seven years in prison following a guilty verdict on the charge of manslaughter. An eager press followed the case, sensationalizing its details and eagerly noting that Brown was ‘depraved,’ and when Harrison in 1885 confessed to having murdered Ada Brown, the Hartford Courant labeled what happened a “crime of passion.” 

Although the manslaughter charge of Ada Brown’s case may not be concretely understood, the various angles in which it can be perceived stem from the social class, gender roles, and criminal justice systems found in the 19th century. 

Ada Brown was born as Frances Adelaide Kinney in Lee, Massachusetts, in 1854. Her father, William Kinney, worked as a spinner in the local mill and he and his wife, Adelaide Moore, had three children. Adelaide died when Ada was a child and by 1860, she was living with an aunt and uncle in Winchester, Connecticut. By 1880, she was married to William Brown and living with him, their daughter and a nephew in Hartford. Their daughter, Elena, was named after William’s former wife, and had been conceived well before her parents married. William had married twice and been widowed twice before he married Ada; he’d served in the Union army and was employed in Hartford as a painter, serving periodically on local professional organizations. He died May 1882 of phthisis, a form of tuberculosis. His death left Brown in a vulnerable, precarious position, one she may have been already familiar with when she became a mother out of wedlock.

Following the death of her husband, Brown had relationships with multiple men, including Harrison and Gregory. Newspaper coverage of the murder suggested that she had had a romantic relationship with Gregory before Harrison, though we don’t know the circumstances of that situation. We do know she worked for a while as Harrison’s housekeeper or maid, though we do not know if their romantic relationship came before or after that job. 

George Gregory was born in 1855 and spent his whole life in Hartford. His father was a very well-respected owner of a block of city property and ran a fruit store on site. We have no idea what went wrong for Gregory; in 1877, he shot his wife in the head, a wound she survived (though she understandably moved far away). 

Martin van Buren Harrison was born in Glastonbury, Connecticut, in 1834. By the time he met Brown he’d had five wives, all of whom had died young. He’d also lost several children to various childhood ailments and often had to rely on the state to bury his family. One wife died of delirium tremens, which indicates that at least for part of Harrison’s family, drinking was a problem. When he murdered Brown he was working at the horse railroad company. He’d evidently lent or given Brown the ten dollars that were suddenly so dear to him.


In the 1880s, Hartford was a growing city. Between being a site of industrial might, the insurance capital of the country, and a landing spot for immigrants, she grew tremendously in the later decades of the 19th century. The need for cheap labor meant jobs for immigrants, who came, as in other New England cities, in large numbers; that influx sometimes made native-born Hartford residents concerned about their own job prospects but their worries did not curb new arrivals. 

Immigrant populations were often crammed into tenement buildings that popped up in neighborhoods like Clay Arsenal, which was northwest of downtown; the goal of builders was to keep immigrants inside certain areas. Other poorer neighborhoods were a bit southeast of there, and that’s where we find Brown and Harrison on Sheldon Street. Wealthier neighborhoods were often a bit of a distance from poorer ones; the Asylum Avenue area as well as the Prospect Avenue area were quite wealthy and some distance from poverty and industry, as well as from the saloon cultures and perceptions of chaos those places had. 

Hartford was part of the 19th century parks movement; municipal funds and donations from wealthy residents helped build parks and institutions across the city. Oftentimes the funds donated by the wealthy helped shape infrastructure to their own desires. The poor got relatively little in terms of city monies, and little in the way of social services existed outside of the poor house, work house and an orphanage or two.

The 19th century also featured a newspaper boom, and Hartford, like most every town in America, had a newspaper of some kind. Many of those papers were “yellow journalism”: sensationalist presses that blew a lot of stories out of proportion for sales. Hartford had a pair of newspapers: the Hartford Times and the Hartford Courant, the oldest continuously published paper in the US. Headlines and text about the Brown murder indicate how even the Courant participated in sensationalizing stories, rejoicing in the idea that a murder in the city was exciting and likely to attract extensive attention: at one point it even predicted that the Brown case could become a “celebrated murder.”


The Courant’s reporting often gloried in the “depraved” status of the murder victim, Ada Brown, whom they branded from the start as a “fallen woman.” “Fallen women” were women who had had sex outside of marriage and whose reputations were destroyed as a consequence. Once a woman ‘fell’ there was no return. Men did not face the same standard and in contrast, were expected to have had some sexual experiences before marriage. This double standard is part of a common 19th century pattern in which women were expected to be chaste and family-oriented. It’s unclear whether Brown “fell” because of her child before marriage or her affairs afterward, but neither likely helped. We also know her family declined to respond to news of her death, and we don’t know if her “fallen” status may have been part of why.

In contrast to feminine culture of relative domesticity and subservience, masculine cultures in the late 19th century were shifting from gentlemanly with some emotional availability to strong and stoic. Perceiving threats by rising numbers of immigrants to their jobs and culture, many (white) men saw strength as a key weapon against potential change: masculine culture emphasized both physical strength and dominance over others. In the murder, Gregory and Harrison were both trying to show dominance over each other and over Brown. 

Men had a greater opportunity for education, even as it wasn’t entirely common yet across America. Poorer folks had less education, generally, given the labor demands on children’s time. Attendance wasn’t great among less wealthy kids and school had few standards for days or content. Wealthier people could afford more days in school as well as private education, which often set their sons up for better jobs than the poor could often aspire to. Girls were largely left out of these concerns altogether, since girls of higher socio economic status were expected just to marry and have children, anyway. In all likelihood, the figures in the Brown case had some education but may not have had much.

Saloons often followed the expansion of manual labor and were one of the few ways immigrant men in particular could socialize after work. Saloons often were a cornerstone of local economies and served as recreational space in poorer neighborhoods; the only institutions more common were grocery stores. That said, saloons were oftentimes the target of temperance organizations who saw its abundance of alcohol as a neighborhood blight and a destroyer of families. Americans drank a lot of alcohol in the late 19th century; 7.1 gallons of pure alcohol was average. Men drank more than women, as it was much more socially acceptable for them to visit saloons. We know that the figures in our story engaged in some drinking the night of Brown’s death, and we know that at least some of their families had been destroyed by it. Alcohol was a constant presence.


After Brown’s death, the ensuing trial indicates some level of complexity and chaos. For one thing, the jury had to determine whether Harrison’s claims that Gregory was the murderer were accurate (they weren’t) and if Gregory should be punished for stabbing Harrison in the neck (he was charged with assault with intent to kill but wasn’t found guilty). Harrison ultimately pled guilty to manslaughter and served seven years.

The court system put a lot of sentencing authority in the hands of judges, whereas now the US often has minimum sentences that dictate the limits of judicial authority. That said, we do not know why the charge –initially murder–was reduced to manslaughter, and we don’t know what determined the judge’s choice of 7 years imprisonment. The woeful conditions of Connecticut prisons may or may not have been a part of that decision. The New York Times did comment, however, that Harrison’s charge and sentence was a “miscarriage of justice” and thus was out of place for its time.


Young Elena was a primary victim in her mother’s passing. Now parentless, she went to the Hartford Orphan Asylum for several months before she was adopted in 1885 by Thomas and Katherine Killian. She married, she divorced on grounds of ‘intolerable cruelty’ and married again. She has one child and family history suggests the trauma of her childhood stayed with her.


There were many factors that played into the murder of Ada Brown and its outcome. From sexism to poverty, municipal structures to the press, Brown’s unfortunate passing was inevitably marked by when and where it happened. Studying her death provides insight into the late 19th century city, and a window into the intersecting cultures of the country at large.

By the class of HIST 228

The Many Parks of Hartford

For the last two blog posts we’ve been looking at the power possessed by corrupt people and organizations in the city as Hartford. We then speculated on how this corruption could have affected the outcome of the trial. This week we decided to look into an even more powerful force than corruption, change. It doesn’t have to be a massive change to have an effect, sometimes the smallest changes can have the biggest impact. Such changes can be observed in the most unlikely places, such as the city of Hartford’s parks system. 

The parks system began in 1853, with the creation of Bushnell Park. Bushnell would also become the nation’s first voter approved and publicly funded park. More parks would follow in its stead, eventually leading into the “Rain of Parks” era which occurred from 1894 to 1905. It earned this name due to the addition of 1,000 acres of parkland across Hartford. The amount of park space in the city would continue to expand to meet the demands of the expanding population (brought on by new technologies like the railway and steam engine). For the most part this expansion was done by the Park Board convincing wealth citizens to donate land and funds to establish more parks as well as expand the park system. While this rapid development was underway with the park system, the city of Hartford itself was becoming an industrial powerhouse when it came to external investment (i.e. insurance companies, etc.). The parks system in Hartford would continue to ride this high well into the 20th century, as in the 30’s the city was reputed to have the largest park acreage per capita in America. The citizens of Hartford were generally supportive of funding the parks, and many came to visit them or engage in several of the activities present there. Unfortunately, such good times couldn’t last forever. 

The parks system in Hartford would begin to struggle starting in the mid 1930’s, facing problems such as losing workers apart of the Workers Progress Administration as a result of the program being phased out. The parks were able to remain successful during the 40’s thanks to the efforts of Superintendent George H. Hollister and Park Recreation Director James H. Dillon. But it was also during the 40’s that the upkeep of these parks began to strain Hartford. People began to wonder if the cost of these parks were worth it when compared to what people were getting out of it. But the number of people using the parks remained relatively high, so the costs could be justified. It was also during this time period that the Park Board who once governed the park system with near impunity where disbanded and replaced by the Parks & Recreation Department. This meant that the parks were completely under the control of the city, and thus there was no buffer to advise against unwise decisions or projects. All of this would have certainly spelled certain doom for the system, but in the end there was a bigger factor at play that served the killing blow. And it was that the city itself was changing. 

The city of Hartford was to experience a dramatic shift after 1950, one that would seal the fate of the city’s parks. Many of Hartford’s white collar residents left the city in favor of life in the suburbs. This trend was also seen with the white population of the city, with them heading to the suburbs. The minority residents and blue collar workers left in the wake of this change would essentially fill in the role the whites and white collars had left behind. And with such a shift in demographics and economic station came a more critical look at the park systems. This critical look would see the city’s park system (now the Parks and Recreation department) greatly weakened. A decreased budget meant that many of the skilled workers, such as the gardeners, had to be cute. Lack of park maintenance would lead to an increase in litter, crime, and vandalism. The message was clear; the parks were no longer as important to the city as it once were. Though there is some sadness in how these parks fell so low, it is also important to recognize that change is always going to happen whether we like it or not. During that process some things get left behind, usually because there are more important things to be working on. That being said, perhaps one day down the road Hartford’s parks might return to their former glory. 

Now that all might seem like it has nothing to do with a murder case that took place in the mid 19th century, this history offers us a look back into how the city of Hartford used to be run and goes as far back as when the murder takes place. While one can get a glimpse of this from the Ada Brown case, it doesn’t provide one a full picture of city politics. By taking a closer look into the story of the city’s park system we see a failure caused by government incompetence similar to how Ada Brown’s murderer only getting charged with manslaughter and a seven year prison sentence was seen as a failure of the courts. Both of these cases also beautifully demonstrate just how quickly things can change, and how the world of today is a vastly different landscape then what it was 50 or 60 years ago. It makes one wonder how the trial would have gone if they used the same methods we use today, or it makes one wonder if the parks system could have been saved if techniques used today to maintain parks were used back then. But most of all it shows how small changes and large changes can have an equally large impact on their surroundings. 


Feeney, C. C. (n.d.). A Fractured Legacy: The Go ed Legacy: The Governance, Goals, and Guides of the ernance, Goals, and Guides of the Hartford Park System. Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1651&context=theses

Melissa, Zach, Sophia, Zack 

Social Class and the “Fallen Woman”

The term “fallen woman” has a rich etymological and sociological history that begins with the Hebrew scriptures, also called the Old Testament of the Bible. The term “fallen” was used to describe the angel, Lucifer, who had fallen from the grace of God and out of heaven. This fall was both physical and spiritual. He fell into hell, a place that is considered to be underneath heaven. He also fell out of God’s favor spiritually. “Fallen” is also often used to describe Eve in the book of Genesis, who ate forbidden fruit and fell out of God’s favor. The word “fallen” has been used to reference sin since the beginning of this religion. Even in Old Norse etymology, “fall” means “downfall” or “sin.” The concept of the Christian definition of sin being related to morality is something that has shaped the way we think about class structure. 

For centuries, upper classes characterized the working class as “sinful” and “dirty.” This was intentional because it justified the working class having incredibly difficult lives. It allowed the wealthier citizens to separate themselves from these struggles with the inherent belief that the working class deserved this life. This mindset is what informs our understanding of the term “fallen women.” The women in this category were most often lower class women who had sex before marriage. This was considered a sin against God and themselves in the largely Protestant Christian American society. “Fallen women” often led very difficult and lonely lives because of this “sin,” which automatically caused them to fall to the lowest class. 

The distinction between the Victorian ideal conception of a woman and the definition of the “fallen woman” is based on the nineteenth-century cultural context. In comparison to the pervasive and widely tolerated portrayal of sexuality in the media in the early twenty-first century, sexuality and prostitution were very challenging subjects in Victorian times. In general, cultural historians accept that marriage is desirable, and that “there was much more concern for those who remained single, the so-called ‘surplus woman’ question.” These so-called “surplus women” were thought to be the source of prostitution. The prevalent viewpoint on women’s sexual behavior was female passivity in comparison to male activity. With universally recognized binary oppositions of private and public spheres, this dichotomy expanded into the social domain. In culture, both the ‘fallen’ and the ‘virtuous’ females were denied agency.

The statement that the prevalence of this vice [prostitution] leads, in a variety of ways, to the decay of national character, – and, as a result, to the exposure of the nations among whom it abounds to weakness, decline, and collapse, is borne out by all historical documented experience. As a result, it was predicted that the ‘loss’ of women would lead to the ‘fall’ of the entire country. This myth placed a great deal of pressure on women to be morally pure and chaste. Simultaneously, fears of women’s future failures arose with uncontrollable ferocity. These anxieties were transferred into the bodies of women in particular.

As a result, a ‘real’ woman’s identity was determined by her ability to bear and raise children. The prostitute, who was considered to be barren, stood in stark contrast to this ideal. The claim that prostitutes are incapable of bearing children, or at the very least of fulfilling the “normal” function of being a “healthy” mother, labels her as a “unnatural” woman. As a result, a prostitute was unworthy of the title of ‘woman.’ Since being ‘womanly’ meant being passive rather than licentious, the ‘fall’ deprived a woman of her femininity.

In terms of Ada Brown, yes she was what you could call a fallen woman in some sense, she had a tough upbringing, lived in rough neighborhoods and would’ve been considered a secondary or lower class citizen. Regardless of all this, her brutal murder inside her own home is still a horrible horrible crime. Calling Ada, a fallen women would’ve meant that she was sinful and lived sin, it tough to say exactly if she was or what she did, regardless though, her murder to this day is still absolutely unjust.

Sam, Nathan, Ben, Joe


Auerbach, Nina. “The Rise of the Fallen Woman.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction, vol. 35, no. 1, 1980, pp. 29–52. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2933478. Accessed 20 Apr. 2021.

Côté, Stéphane, Paul K. Piff and Robb Willer. “For Whom Do the Ends Justify the Means? Social Class and Utilitarian Moral Judgment.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2012. Retrieved from https://www-2.rotman.utoronto.ca/facbios/file/social%20class%20utilitarian%20reasoning%20JPSP.pdf

Halbmeyer, Tabea. The Fallen Woman. Representations in Dominant Victorian Discourses. http://www.grin.com/document/926318. 

“Fallen.” Oxford Languages

The Bible. New King James Version. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.

Temperance Movement in the 19th Century

The earliest temperance organizations date between 1808 and 1813 in New York and Massachusetts (Encyclopaedia Britannica), the beginning of temperance as a movement began with the American Temperance Society in 1826 (Porter). Although in 1789, the first American temperance societies in Connecticut were formed in order to vocalize a public push to limit alcohol consumption.  By 1833, 6,000 local organizations surrounding temperance formed, and churches strongly advocated with the temperance movement, often making pledges for complete abstinence from alcohol (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Many churches applauded the idea of abstinence and created their own organizations, such as the Catholic Temperance Society, St. Mary’s Mutual Benevolent Total Abstinence Society, and the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America. Alcohol had serious impacts on communities and by the 1880s, public schools in NY and PA were legally required to teach students about the dangers of alcohol abuse.  In 1846, Maine became the first state to prohibit alcohol and 13 other states followed. However, at the end of the Civil War, only five of the prohibition states stayed. Connecticut and Massachusetts ended up abolishing prohibition in 1875, done by the republican party, which the party was then condemned for (Porter).

The temperance movement also often found its way in newspapers, often containing a daily article on temperance (Porter). In Hartford specifically, Connecticut had its own organization, holding its annual meetings in Hartford at Pearl Street Church. As the organization was already having its 14th annual meeting in 1880, temperance organizations remained sturdy throughout the 19th century (Hartford Courant).

In the 19th century, alcohol and temperance became the focal point of a cultural war between different lifestyles and values (small towns vs cities, old ‘Americans’ vs immigrants, agricultural south vs industrializing northeast, protestantism vs catholicism and judaism)

By the late 1800’s the fight for prohibition had grown to a national level. Americans over the age of 15 had been consuming nearly seven gallons of pure alcohol a year since 1830. The effects of this frequent use of alcohol was seen in urban factory workers, mainly men, who were deemed unreliable by their employers because of their intoxication level. The men often lost their jobs impacting their wives and children as they often relied on the men in their lives for financial support. The Civil War diverted almost all attention from movement and returned with force during the 1870s when women directed temperance work to a great extent under the auspices of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Speaking of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, in 1874, the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement was founded, a religious based organization that pushed for prohibition in a constitutional amendment and worked to spread temperance throughout the country. Women in this organization spread their fight for temperance through lectures and marches, songs, and published tracts that warned about the destructive consequences of alcohol. Temperance was not only a women’s issue though. In 1898, a men’s temperance organization was founded, the Anti-Saloon League. As men, the group was able to better exert their political power than the WCTM and pushed politicians to pass prohibition legislation. The Anti-Saloon league also created their own publication, the American Issue, to help pull more people into fighting for their cause. The group published flyers, cartoons, and pamphlets that spread pro-temperance information, including using anti-immigration sentiments as a way to portray alcohol as a menace to society.  The image below is of Pearl Street Church in Hartford where CT Women’s Temperance Movement annual meetings were held.

Works Cited

Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Temperance Movement: Social History.” Brittanica. (n.d.).https://www.britannica.com/topic/temperance-movement

Porter, Eugene O. “An Outline of the Temperance Movement.” The Historian, vol. 7, no. 1, 1944, pp. 54–67. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/24442231. Accessed 20 Apr. 2021.

15 Jan 1880, Hartford Courant at Newspapers.com. Retrieved April 20, from https://www.newspapers.com/image/369464433/?terms=temperance&match=1

By Jayme, Lily, Lindsey, Julia

Prison Sentences in the 19th Century

By: Andrea, Daniela, and Kylie

For this week’s blog post, our group is going to be focusing on prison sentences and information surrounding Martin Harrison in Ada Brown’s murder case. 

    First, in acknowledging Martin Harrison (and how his sentence may have been perceived), it is important to acknowledge a bigger picture of prison sentences in the 19th century. One source states: “Since the 1800s, indeterminate sentencing was the criminal sentencing model in use in Connecticut and nationally. Under an indeterminate sentence, a convicted offender received a sentence with a minimum and maximum term set by a judge (refer to Appendix A). Correctional or parole authorities were then responsible for determining when an offender had been sufficiently punished and/or rehabilitated and was, therefore, ready for release.” (“Mandatory Minimum Sentences Briefing”) Through this explanation, it demonstrates the emphasized authority that the judge had in providing sentences. Specifically, through a minimum and maximum term set by a judge, that gives judges a lot of authority to make decisions. Additionally, there is more “flexibility” for judges to execute their power and make decisions on sentences. However, there is a shift that occurs later on in the prison sentencing system, specifically in the latter half of the 20th century. First, before going into more depth of what occurred in the shift, it is important to consider how much time had gone by before significant transitions were made. This demonstrates that the more “flexible” authority of the judge in making decisions for one’s prison sentence were in effect for several decades longer before more structure was established. In the latter half of the 20th century, “A mandatory minimum sentence requires a judge to impose a statutorily fixed sentence on individual offenders convicted of certain crimes, regardless other mitigating factors.” (“Mandatory Minimum Sentences Briefing”) Through this line, it demonstrates that there has been much more structure and imposed regulation for a judge to follow when they conduct sentences. By requiring a minimum/fixed sentence needed by a judge, it establishes that the criminal is serving the minimum amount of time appropriate for the type of crime they committed. Therefore, this limits a lot of the power of the judge because they are required to comply with guidelines under a minimum sentencing. 

   In the case of Ada Brown’s murder, Martin Harrison, the man Ada was having an affair with, pleaded guilty to murdering her. (“Miscarriage of Justice” 1885) He was also only given a 7 year sentence, with a manslaughter charge instead of a murder charge. (“Sentenced to Prison for Seven Years” 1885) Throughout the semester, our group has strived to consider the different pathways that may have led to this outcome. In thinking about what was known about prison sentences during the 1800’s, this is another area for consideration into Martin Harrison’s sentencing. By thinking about the judge’s authority to be flexible with someone’s sentencing period, this may correlate as to why Martin Harrison may have only had to serve 7 years. Once again, there may have been many other factors that led to the manslaughter charge as well as the sentencing period. However, in thinking from the perspective of the judge, their “flexibility” and stronger authority may have been able to push a short sentence, especially with a crime that involved a murder. Therefore, this is another area that our group wished to consider as a potential area for the outcome of Ada’s case.

    Overall, the “so what” of this post is getting at another potential area of consideration for the outcome of Ada Brown’s case. By specifically looking into prison sentences in the 1800’s, it brings up important discussions about how much authority a judge may have had in a case, especially in one as horrific and sad as Ada Brown’s. Therefore, through the acknowledgment of a mindset Harrison’s judge may have had during the case, there can be further thoughts and areas of consideration with regards to why Harrison only received a 7 year sentencing for manslaughter. 


Mandatory Minimum Sentences Briefing. Accessed April 21, 2021. 



“Miscarriage of Justice.” New York Times, March 10, 1885. 

“Sentenced to Prison for Seven Years.” Hartford Courant. January 10, 1885.

Ada Brown as a Fallen Woman

By Claudia, Justine, Ewelina & Alexa

This week we looked deeper into Ada Brown’s life and how she was viewed as a fallen woman. In the 19th century, the idea of a fallen woman was closely tied to a woman losing her good reputation related to the act of premarital sex. Ada gave birth in 1878 to her daughter Elena. At this time, she was not married, but was seeing William S. Brown. It wasn’t until three years later that William and Ada got married. When we originally researched Ada’s life, it was particularly striking that her daughter, Elena, shared the same name with William’s previous wife, Ellena Schalk. 

In the 19th century, divorce was quite uncommon. While couples may have separated, it was unlikely they got legally divorced. When looking at Ancestry, the lack of divorce records make it difficult to know when marriages had ended. Ellena Schalk died around 1872, though an exact date could not be confirmed. Dr. Cote had suspected that Ada and Ellena Schalk may have been friends which would explain Ada and William’s decision to name their daughter after her. Although we do not know if Ada and William began seeing each other while he was still in his marriage with Ellena, we do know that Ada conceived and gave birth to her daughter prior to being married to William which would have led to the public’s perception of Ada as a fallen woman. 

Thinking critically about the perception of others, we came to understand how impactful other people’s viewpoints were in Ada’s story and her ultimate fate. In the first report of Ada’s murder by the Hartford Courant, the subheading read “Ada Brown, a depraved woman, stabbed to death” (Hartford Courant, 10/21/1884). The word ‘depraved’ means morally corrupt; wicked. For those who had not personally known Ada, this negative language paints her as the villain of the story. 

In the following reports on the case, there was a clear lack of sympathy for Ada. At the time of her murder, Ada was Martin Harrison’s mistress. Ada’s story was sensationalized in the news as the Courant and other papers were excited to be covering such a dramatic story. In the second report by the Hartford Courant about the case, they stated, “it is not unlikely it will become a celebrated murder case” (Hartford Courant, 10/22/1884). In another article, the subheadline below Martin Van Buren Harrison reads, “the Suspected Murderer of Ada Brown and a Portion of His History” (Hartford Courant, 10/29/1884). The subheading goes on to read “Gossip About the Murder” (Hartford Courant, 10/29/1884). Words describing the case such as ‘celebrated’ and ‘gossip’ demonstrate a lack of sympathy and respect for Ada, her family, and the outcome of this situation. 

Lastly, when considering the lesser charges Harrison and Gregory received, we referred to Julia, Lindsey, and Jayme’s post from last week and particularly agreed with the point they made about how women were seen as the moral compasses of society and were often held to a higher standard than men. This point really seems to tie together our findings- the perception of Ada Brown as a fallen woman ultimately led to her death, and a clear lack of respect and lack of justice was displayed in her case. 

Week 8- Socioeconomics of Hartford

Income/wealth disparity

The topic of income inequality is commonly debated in America today and the roots of this problem are found in 19th century America and the effect of the industrial age. The gap between the rich and poor widened significantly because of industrialization and the shift to factory work and large companies employing hundreds of people. The gap between the owners of production and the production workers presented a clear class divide. The workers relied on the owners to survive, a power imbalance that led to a lot of company owners exploiting this desperation, and to the beginning of the wealth disparity that infects our society today. 

The yearly income for new England families in 1860 can be divided into percentages similar to our income levels today. While the top 1 percent of families in New England in 1860 made an annual income of $1,059, the bottom 40 percent made $82. Calculating for today’s rate of inflation, the top 1 percent would have an equal buying power to $33,796 in 2021. The bottom 40 percent would have an annual income equal to $2,047. The top income level made over 15 times more money annually than the bottom income levels. This bottom 40 percent represents the unemployed and those that we’re unable to find daily work to make money. The middle 40 percent is a more accurate representation of the daily unskilled laborer, who made $1.01 a day ($32.23 in 2021) and $321 a year ($10,244 in 2021). While the cost of living was lower and more affordable in the mid-1800s, this does not mean it was a comfortable existence. One of the key factors in an individual’s income percentage category was their access to education and advancement of knowledge. 

  • Education access
  • Education in the 19th century was different than we know it today, well the roots and basic schedules and principles have stayed the same, back then education was a privilege, we know education as a necessity and something we all have to do. In the 19th century, however, education was only a privilege for the few that could afford it, and what was taught was incredibly basic. On the teaching side of it, the teacher taught very little, most of their days were spent teaching reading and writing, there was little to no teaching of sciences and math-related stuff in the public schools.
  • Employment opportunities

The allocation of wealth and wages around the entire population is a major issue in the modern era. This distribution has been a source of contention and negotiation between two economic entities—business owners and employees—since the Industrial Revolution and the development of the free-market system. Many of these conflicts have been resolved peacefully and equally in the past, although others have culminated in violent clashes between business and labor. Where conflict has erupted or the environment has been affected by an economic dispute, government—local, state, or federal—has intervened.

Connecticut has a long tradition of economic growth dating back to pre-industrial times as one of the original thirteen colonies. This is the root of Connecticut’s reputation as tough Yankee farmers and artisans who created the new country, tamed the wilderness for farming, sailed the seas for whales and fish, dug the earth for metals, and manufactured products and sold them through a network of Yankee peddlers. Any detailed labor history of the state must include all facets of business and manufacturing shifts, as well as workforce changes throughout history.

The expansion of the Atlantic trading system was critical to Connecticut’s and the American colonies’ economic prosperity. This so-called “Atlantic Triangle” relied on the colonies producing the cash crops and other raw materials that Britain needed, exchanging them for finished British goods and African slaves, and shipping those products back to the American colonies. After the American Revolution, similar trading trends persisted. Connecticut farmers developed the foodstuffs that were exported to the Caribbean and Southern states, such as onions, potatoes, and livestock. Until Britain banned the slave trade in 1807, prominent Connecticut traders, mostly from New London and Middletown, were actively involved in the slave trade between the African Gold Coast and the Caribbean and Southern states.

The majority of Connecticut residents were farmers during the colonial and early national times. Market towns had pockets of production, mainly to provide supplies to the local population. The early settlers, who were professional artisans, were mostly English and Scottish immigrants. Traditionally, artisans owned their own instruments and worked in workshops that hired apprentices and journeymen. Anything related to their craft was made by artisans. Iron forgers, for example, dug ore from the Litchfield hills, cut trees, and burned wood to make charcoal, and then used their skills to heat open furnaces, remove iron from the ore, and purify it into wrought iron for metalworking.

The 1800s – Living costs in the 1800s – $1.80 for one bag of flour – $1.19 for a one-quarter pound of tea – $1.80 for one bag of flour – $1.80 for a one-quarter pound of tea – $1.80 for one bag of flour – $1.80 for one bag of flour – $1.80 for one bag of flour – $1 One quart of milk (38). 56 – One pound of low-cost coffee 35 pound – three and a half pound $1.05 sugar – 12 ration of meats a week $1.60 – two pounds of lard $3.50 – four pounds of butter 38 – Apples that have been dried for use as treats Vegetables (number 25). 50 – Soap, starch, pepper, salt, vinegar, and other similar ingredients 2 bushels of coal for $1.00 Kerosene costs $1.36. 30 – Miscellaneous 28 – Rent of $4.00 a week = $18.50 total

The weekly wage for the average worker was just $16.00. Some trades only made $2, $3, $4, or $6 a week. The family above spent $2.50 a week more than the father earned, leaving little money for entertainment or clothes. In the 1880s, men operating horse-drawn streetcars in New York earned $1.75 a day for working 14 to 16 hours a day.

Ben, Sam, Joe, and Nathan


CPI Inflation Calculator. https://www.in2013dollars.com/us/inflation/1860?amount=1.01

Lindert, Peter and Jeffrey Williamson. “American Incomes 1774-1860.” Berkeley, https://eml.berkeley.edu/~webfac/cromer/e211_f12/LindertWilliamson.pdf

Philip R. P. Coelho, and James F. Shepherd. “The Impact of Regional Differences in Prices and Wages on Economic Growth: The United States in 1890.” The Journal of Economic History, vol. 39, no. 1, 1979, pp. 69–85. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2118911. Accessed 14 Apr. 2021.

The Journal of Political Economy, vol.13, 1905. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015059385339&view=1up&seq=375

United States. Bureau of Labor. “Wages in the United States and Europe, 1870-1898,” in United States. Bureau of Labor. “September 1898 : Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Labor, No. 18, Volume III,” Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Labor, Nos. 1 – 100 (September 1898) : 5-33. https://fraser.stlouisfed.org/title/3943/item/477571/toc/498267, accessed on April 14, 2021. 

Bucki, C., Prof. (2019). Introduction: Business and the labor movement in Connecticut History. Retrieved April 14, 2021, from https://portal.ct.gov/SDE/Publications/CT-Labor-and-Working-Class-History/Business-and-the-Labor-Movement-in-Connecticut-HistoryKononov, C. (2008). Connecticut history 1800’S. Retrieved April 14, 2021, from https://gometaldetecting.com/cthistory1800s.htm

The Crowbar Governor of Connecticut

Last week we looked into political machines and the widespread corruption they caused in the government, with people only looking out for their own interests rather than that of the people. For this week, we decided to look a bit deeper into the topic and focused our attention on Morgan Bulkeley, who served as mayor of Hartford during the time of the murder and the trial that followed. We wanted to see if Morgan or any of his staff had any involvement with political machines or any other type of corruption present in Connecticut. But first, it is important go over Morgan’s history prior to him becoming the mayor of Hartford. 

Born into a wealthy family, Morgan spent his early life sweeping the floors with his brother at the Atena Life Insurance company that his father co-founded. Eventually Morgan would go to work with J.H. Morgan in Brooklyn, starting as an errand boy but slowly rising his way up into becoming a salesman. After the Civil War started, both Morgan and his brother Charles would enlist to join the fight. While Morgan survived the war, Charles wasn’t as lucky and was killed. With the end of the Civil War and his father’s death, Morgan would return to Hartford in 1872. Once there he helped to organize the United States Bank of Hartford and even became its first president. Morgan founded the Hartford Dark Blues baseball team in 1874 and became the first president of the National League when it was founded in 1876, though he only served as its president for one year before stepping down to resume his business pursuits. In 1879 he would become the president of Atena when his father’s successor stepped down. 

Morgan’s political career began during this period of his life. He started by getting elected to Hartford’s common council and its board of alderman. Morgan would go on to run for mayor and governor simultaneously, though he would only end up winning the mayoral. He served as Hartford’s mayor from 1880 to 1888, for a total of four terms. His time as mayor was one free of controversy and scandal, something that plagued other politicians. Controversy would eventually find Morgan, though not in the way like it had to many before him. It was near the end of his run as Governor of Connecticut, the election for his successor had become so close and the legitimacy of the votes casts (meaning corruption/political machines might have been involved) were being called in to question. Thus, the election officials refused to certify results. To make matters worse, the Republicans had control of the House while the Democrats controlled the Senate and refused to agree on who won. As a result of this mess, Bulkeley refused to recognize either candidate and instead decided to exercise his power as governor to stay in power until the election was decided. This choice would lead to the Democratic comptroller locked the door to his office. Bulkeley resorted to using a crowbar to force the door open, earning his nickname as the Crowbar Governor. 

But how does this relate back to the murder case of Ada Brown? As with last week’s post, the connection between the two is more implied than concrete. Previously the implication was that it was possible that corruption and political machines were behind many of the mistakes that occurred during the trial. However, there are some things to reconsider after this extensive look into Morgan Bulkeley. Perhaps corruption and political machine were as powerful in Connecticut (and more specifically Hartford) than previously thought, though still present as evidence by the governor election fiasco. And it is also possible that the missteps that occurred during the trial were caused by genuine human error rather than ones brought one by the consequences of a corrupt organization’s actions. The exact answer to all this may never be known, but looking into things like political machines and people like Morgan Bulkeley help us to get a better understanding of the times and all the things at play. 

Picture Here: Morgan Bulkeley | Not Pictured Here: His beloved crowbar


Morgan bulkeley, the crowbar governor. (2015, December 26). Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/morgan-bulkeley-the-crowbar-governor/ 

Morgan Bulkeley. (2021, February 19). Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morgan_Bulkeley#Politics 

Morgan Gardner bulkeley. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.nga.org/governor/morgan-gardner-bulkeley/ 

[Image of Morgan Bulkeley]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://i1.wp.com/todayincthistory.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/12-26-bulkeley-at-desk-ft.png?fit=581%2C641&ssl=1 

Melissa, Zach, Sophia, Zack

Masculinity & Alcohol

Lily, Julia, Lindsey & Jayme

During the 18th century, alcohol had become a part of daily life for many Americans. Alcohol was often incorporated into the daily diet of Americans because it was more sanitary than the drinking water and also cheaper than other drinking options, “by the 1820s, whiskey sold for twenty-five cents a gallon, making it cheaper than beer, wine, coffee, tea, or milk.” (Vorel). By 1830, the average American over the age of 15 was consuming about 7 gallons of alcohol a year (Temperance Movement). Alcohol was also used as a cure all for mental and physical illnesses (Bynum). This high consumption of alcohol had numerous effects on the daily lives of the people and also caused many to become addicted to the drink. Before the late nineteenth century, alcoholism was not recognized as a disease that could be treated. Alcoholism was a disease that was very prevalent during the nineteenth century but how it affected men and women often differed. 

Social expectations for women had a huge impact on how they interacted with alcohol. Women were seen as the moral compass of society and were often held to a higher standard than men. These expectations also applied to women who drank alcohol. Women who drank alcohol were seen as “not respectable and problematic” (Hunt & Antin). These societal expectations for women and alcohol are even more important when contrasted with how society viewed mens relationship with alcohol. 

When looking at society’s expectations for men and alcohol, a more lenient and accepting perspective is taken. Men were more likely to drink than women in both quantity and frequency (Hunt). Men’s use of alcohol was not as criticised as women’s use because alcohol was seen as a way for men to bond and show their masculinity. Intoxication in men was simply regarded as “men being men” (Hunt). The supremacy of masculinity in society again allowed men more freedom in life, in this case when consuming alcohol. 

One of the only criticisms of men’s relationship with alcohol is found when examining how it could affect the lives of women and children. As gender norms at the time often forced most women to remain in the home or earn meager wages, a woman and her children often had to rely on the men in her life for financial support. Unfortunately, alcohol could put that financial reliance in jeopardy if a man used it too frequently or became an alcoholic. If a man was frequently drunk he would most likely lose his job as employers did not view men who drank to the point of being drunk on a regular basis as reliable (Temperance Movement). This unreliability in holding down a job would prevent a man from being able to support his wife and children. It is when this became the issue that society began to look down at men who drank alcohol. This is important because society is victimizing the women in this situation as being incapable of supporting themselves and took the focus off of the men abusing alcohol and placed it on the women in his life.

The prevalence of alcohol in American society during the 19th century is very important to the story of Ada Brown. The night of her murder, Ada, Gregory, and Harrison had all been drinking. Gregory had also visited a saloon before going to see Ada that night (Courant Article 2). It is not clear how much alcohol each of them had consumed, but it is safe to assume that the alcohol had an influence on what occurred that night. Based on the societal expectations for women explored earlier, it is also safe to assume that the public’s view of Ada was more influenced based on her drinking than their view of Harrison and Gregory. It is also interesting that a fight about money is stated as the main catalyst for the murder. Harrison had given Ada money earlier in the day and then had asked for it back. With society’s denounciation of men who could not financialy support the women in their lives due to their alcohol use, it is interesting that both money and alcohol are important players in Ada’s murder. It is unclear if Harrison’s alcohol use had any affect on his ability to provide for Ada, but the fight about money while under the influence of alcohol is an interesting aspect of this event. 

Works Cited:

CENTURY.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine, vol. 42, no. 2, 1968, pp. 160–185.
JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/44450720. Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.

Campbell, Alice W. “The Temperance Movement.” VCU Social Wellfare History Project,
https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/religious/the-temperance-movement/. Accessed 13
April 2021.

Geoffrey Hunt & Tamar Antin (2019) Gender and intoxication: from masculinity to
intersectionality,Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 26:1, 70- 78, DOI:

O’Brien, Jane. “The Time When Americans Drank All Day Long”. BBC News. 9 March 2015.

Vorel, Jim. “The 1800s: When Americans Drank Whiskey Like it was Water.” Paste. 10 August
2018. https://www.pastemagazine.com/drink/alcohol-history/the-1800s-when-americans-
drank- whiskey-like-it-was/.

Criminal Investigations in the 19th and 20th Centuries


Kylie, Daniela, and Andrea

During our blog post for this week, our group decided to take the topic of police a bit further into examining criminal investigations. In discovering more information about criminal investigations, we are also going to be specifically referring to how they appeared in both the 19th and 20th centuries. This would have been more or less around the time of Ada Brown’s murder, which occurred in the 1880’s. (Murder on Sheldon St. 1884)

    First, in beginning the discussion of criminal investigations, it is important to see how they looked in the 19th century and 20th century. One text states, about this idea, “criminal investigation is largely a 20th-century phenomenon.” (Braga 2011, 2) Through this text, it is evident that although criminal investigations did exist in the 19th century, they were further enhanced in the 20th century. Therefore, when thinking about the regulatory practices and specific guidelines that criminal investigations may need to follow, it makes sense to assume that many investigations done (especially in the 19th century) could have held a lot of problems, misleading information, and unstable conditions. However, the 20th century did obtain a lot of more modern and concrete ideas about criminal investigations, which can be seen through an example of the FBI. Initially, the creation of the FBI was found when “ J. Edgar Hoover took over the cor­rupt Bureau of Investigation during the 1920s and through a variety of measures, ranging from strict behavioral standards for investigators to shrewd publications programs, created what was consid­ered an incorruptible and proficient Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) (Reppetto, 1978). Hoover’s and the FBI’s status were so high that urban police departments modeled their overall strategy and the role of criminal investigators on the FBI model.” (Braga 2011, 2) Through this line, it is speaking about the formation of the FBI and the steps taken for it to become a stable institution. In the 1920’s (as this text states), the FBI was created through a variety of measures. By looking into “strict behavioral methods for investigators” (Baraga 2011, 2) as one of the criteria towards crafting the FBI, this demonstrates that stronger changes were coming for more concrete ideas about criminal investigation. Additionally, this text exposes the vast popularity of the FBI’s values/ideas even in the 20th century, as police forces were starting to implement its ideals into their own practice. This is giving a sense of a more unified system of criminal investigation and perceptions of crime. In looking at a more specific example of early practices within the FBI, one source states “The origins of the Bureau’s lab may be traced back to the 1920s. The latest developments in the field of scientific crime detection had captivated Hoover and other Bureau officials for years. After he became Director in 1924, Hoover encouraged the Bureau to keep an eye on the latest insights into Bureau work that science provided. At first this interest was focused on fingerprint identification matters, especially those dealing with the discovery of latent fingerprints, but the use of scientific analysis in other matters was becoming prominent in law enforcement circles, and Hoover wanted the Bureau to use these methods where applicable.” (Fox 2016) Through this line, it is noting that even back in the 1920’s, interests and different pathways for examining crime were being discussed. As mentioned in the text, areas such as fingerprint identification and scientific uses of investigation were becoming an area of consideration. This is an interesting area to look into, as many of the practices being observed at that time are still being used today (such as the use of fingerprint identification). Therefore, it is interesting to be able to consider that the advancing practices in the 20th century with criminal investigations helped to lead to more modern criminal investigation practices. However, in relation to Ada Brown’s death in 1884, (Murder on Sheldon St. 1884) there can be some discussions being made about how criminal investigations may not have been a huge consideration for the case.

On the topic of the 19th century, it is important to look into many of the unstable issues arising within criminal investigations. As it was previously mentioned about the 20th century, this period was beginning to craft more modern and stable conditions for criminal investigations. However, the 19th century could be seen as a lot more unstable and confusing with how criminal investigations were actually addressed. A clear example of this includes that “investigators usually were former thief takers or constables who had continued their stipendiary investigative activities after the creation of police departments. Although they brought investigative skills to the police, they also brought the bane of stipendiary police—corruption. […] Chicago disbanded its criminal investigative division in 1864, as did Boston in 1870, and New York City suffered major scandals in 1877—all as a consequence of corruption. All those cities soon reconstructed their investigative units, but significant improvement in the professional conduct of detectives did not occur until well into the 20th century.” (Early police in the United States) Through this exploration into the corruption amongst investigative practices, it is clear that the systems in place in the 19th century may have caused more harm than good. By having corruptive issues in investigative practices, it is clear that the actual investigations may have included a lot of misleading and/or unfair/harmful practices that harmed a case at-hand. Therefore, this poses important questions about the fairness of crime in the 19th century, especially from the perspective of criminal investigations. Additionally, the text makes note that improvement to investigative practices really only came in the 20th century. By understanding this (and other practices from the 20th century that have been noted in previous paragraphs), it is clear that the unstable practices/regulation in the 19th century with criminal investigations could have put a damper on the accurate processes of dealing with a case.

     In the case of Ada Brown’s murder, it is important to consider how criminal investigations of the 19th century may have played a role in the case. As it is known, Martin Harrison, the man Ada was having an affair with, pleaded guilty to murdering her. (“Miscarriage of Justice” 1885) Additionally, he was given a 7 year sentencing for manslaughter. (“Sentenced to Prison for Seven Years” 1885) After considering all of this criteria, the topic of criminal investigations can be considered. Unfortunately, there is not much evidence that our group found about criminal investigations in Ada’s case. However, by understanding how the 19th century looked with its investigative practices, we can assume that to an extent, Ada’s case may have been investigated across unstable conditions and regulations. This could have affected how much time was put into investigating the case, how many measures were taken, etc. Additionally, one other perspective to consider is the media portrayal of a case. For a 19th century serial killer named H.H. Holmes (Johnson 2017, ii), for example, “his trial and past were the focus of media and police investigation, which led to his arrest and sentencing, especially as people grew more fascinated with his crimes. His insurance scheme brought about an investigation and there was extensive media coverage throughout the course of the trial. There was also greater police involvement, with police from Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Toronto involved in his case and arrest.” (Johnson 2017, 18-19) In understanding how Holmes’ case was perceived, it is interesting to consider how media coverage played a role. By what this text emphasizes, it is clear that extensive media coverage contributed to the advanced practices of Holmes’ case. This, in turn, led to further police regulation and investigative practice. Therefore, when comparing the popular publication of Holmes and Martin Harrison in Ada Brown’s case, it helps to bring in a discussion about the media. In Ada’s case, there have been a few newspaper articles written about it. (Newspapers n.d.) However, in comparing those newspaper articles to the widespread understanding of Holmes, it is clear that Ada’s case was a lot less publicized. Therefore, there is an interesting perspective to consider about how the case of Ada Brown was less publicized in the media (and thus received less media attention). Therefore, since less people may have been less knowledgeable about the case, could that also have contributed to the criminal investigations that were practiced? 

Overall, the “so what” of this blog post is considering the differences between criminal investigations in the 19th and 20th centuries. By getting a bit of an idea about how criminal investigations were different between the two time periods, it can help us think about how criminal cases were perceived in a certain time. In the case of Ada Brown, there have been many discussions that have come up about how criminal investigation (or lack thereof) may have been used, based on what is known about investigative practices in the 19th century. Additionally, this blog post demonstrates a bit of the impact of media, and how that has even been found to play a role in how a case is looked at. Therefore, this brings in important questions about how fairly certain cases have been examined over others.


Braga, Anthony. “Moving the Work of Criminal Investigators Towards Crime Control.” 

New Per. Harvard Kennedy School, March 2011. https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/232994.pdf. 

“Early Police in the United States.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, 

inc. Accessed April 14, 2021. https://www.britannica.com/topic/police/Early-police-in-the-United-States. 

Fox, John F. “The Birth of the FBI’s Technical Laboratory-1924 to 1935.” FBI. FBI, 

August 17, 2016. https://www.fbi.gov/history/history-publications-reports/the-birth-of-the-fbis-technical-laboratory1924-to-1935. 

“Historical Newspapers from 1700s-2000s.” Newspapers.com, n.d. 


Johnson, Tatyanna. “Fear and Media: An Examination of Serial Killers in 19th Century 

America.” Digital Commons. Digital Commons, 2017. https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1238&context=honors. 

“Miscarriage of Justice.” New York Times, March 10, 1885. 

“Murder On Sheldon St! .” Hartford Courant. October 21, 1884. 

“Sentenced to Prison for Seven Years.” Hartford Courant. January 10, 1885.