Police Work, Press, and an Excellent Adventure in Hartford

A Brief Overview of Adventures

This week Grace and Jess visited the Connecticut State Library and the Hartford Public Library, where the Hartford History Center is located. We first started at the state library and did not have much luck, other than requesting some archived material involving court records. We then went to the city library and on our way we drove on Sheldon Street, which was awesome! After unsuccessfully attempting to access the Hartford History Center because it was not yet opened, we were asked to contribute to a weaving project for the city of Hartford, symbolizing that people are beautiful and better when woven together. (We took pictures of this adventure!) At the library, after a lovely woman took the time to hunt us down, and after we were originally turned away due to the Center not being open to the public yet, we were allowed special access into the History Center for a half-hour and were finally able to start our research. The fantastic thing was that all of this happened in between 9:30am and 11:40am, and we were still able to make our noon classes/appointments at USJ!   

Policing and a Touch of Politics

This week, while investigating the Hartford History Center at the Hartford Public Library, we found information in the Hartford Municipal Records of 1884 that revealed some interesting insights about the Hartford police force, as well as some more information on Mayors Joseph Sprague and Morgan Bulkeley.

By the year 1884, Morgan Bulkeley was the Mayor of Hartford. However, former Mayor Joseph Sprague was not completely forgotten on the political scene. In the 1884 Municipal Records, there are multiple different boards of commissioners listed, including boards of Park Commissioners, Fire Commissioners, and Police Commissioners. Sprague is listed in the records as being the president of the Hartford Street Commissioners. What exactly that would have entailed in 1884 we are not quite sure. By looking at other cities’ street commissioners, it appears that street commissioners were in charge of things like removal of refuse and garbage from the city and making sure the city streets were generally up-kept. Yet, this position is a definite step-down from mayor, and so, though Sprague kept some form of political power, it was nowhere near the sort of power he had in the 1870s during his term as mayor.

Another interesting thing we found under the listings of board commissioners was the fact that Mayor Morgan Bulkeley was also listed as the president of the board of Police Commissioners. We found out some information that states the mayor is usually the one who appoints the police commissioners, but this source was not a reliable one, and so more research would have to be done in order to verify that information. However it occurred, it is an undeniable fact that Mayor Bulkeley was the president of the board of Police Commissioners, at least in 1884. This would make sense, as we already know he had a hand in reinstating Chief Packard as the chief of police in 1882.

        A further question that came up was whether Joseph Sprague was on the board of police commissioners during his term as mayor, and if he was, how that might have positively or negatively affected the police force. We wish to do further research in future ventures to the Hartford History Center, in order to determine if Sprague was also the Police Commissioner when he was mayor.

Also contained in the Hartford Municipal Records was the annual report given by Chief of Police, Caleb L. Packard. In the report, Packard states that as of March 31, 1884, there is a total of “…one Chief, one Captain, one Lieutenant, and forty-five policemen doing regular duty” (Hartford Municipal Records- Police Report). Packard then goes on to specify that three of those police officers had special, assigned duties within the city. One officer is assigned to the Police Court, one to the Union Depot, and the last serves as Truant Officer for thirteen different schools. According to Packard, this left forty-two policemen to “perform the various duties and requirements that are made of the ‘police force,’ and to do the patrol duty of the city day and night” (Police Report). Only forty-two policemen patrolling the entire city of Hartford seems like a somewhat small number. Packard certainly believed so, and stated in his report his repeated requests to increase the numbers of the police force.

To tie this to the case, we know from our dossier that there were policemen nearby to hear cries for help during Ada Brown’s murder. If three of the forty-two men from the police force ended up patrolling near Sheldon Street, we can conclude that Sheldon Street was probably a location that tended to have larger amounts of violence occur in the vicinity. Though we did not have enough information to follow through on that much further, we did learn of an interesting fact that ties into the police station. The Hartford Municipal records documented that the address for the Police Station was No. 38 Kinsley Street in Hartford. Though we did not have a chance to look at a contemporary map of Hartford from the 1880s, we did use current maps and located the address of 38 Kinsley Street. We calculated that it was approximately a half-mile from the Police Station to Sheldon Street where Ada Brown’s home was located. Considering that Hartford was not a small city in the 1880s, a half-mile between the Harford Police Station and Sheldon Street is quite close.

Another relevant note to make is that Ada’s murder happened in October of 1884, and we found that the municipal records only went to the end of March of the year listed. Therefore, the municipal records for 1884 were more accurately the end of the year 1883 and the beginning of the year 1884. If we are able to, we are going to try and look into Hartford’s Municipal Records for 1885, as that will reiterate the rest of the year 1884, which will cover the time of Ada’s murder.

The report below came from the Municipal Records from 1884 that we located at the Hartford History Center. This specific table comes from the annual police chief’s report from January 1884- March 1884. The report was written in April by Police Chief Packard. This report shows the number of crimes committed under each category which entails a variety of crimes ranging from murder to “bad boys” and “bad girls”. These records indicate that up until this point in 1884 there was only one murder committed and this was before Ada’s murder in October. This one occurrence of murder reveals that this is not a very common crime that is reported. It also shows that the crimes that occur the most are assault and battery and breach of peace, which both may have to do with people’s levels of intoxication, leading further to the conclusion that alcohol does indeed increase the rate of crime and violence as seen similarly in Ada Brown’s murder.


(Picture: Hartford Public Library’s Hartford History Center)


The Press

To delve deeper into how the papers talk about the murder, I thought it would be interesting to bring up another murder of a young lower class girl and see the similarities and differences of how The Hartford Courant and The New York Times bring up both murders. I am going to compare the way the papers talk about the women and the way they talk about the murders.

So let’s take a look at the murder of Mary Stannard, a young servant girl from New Haven CT who was killed because she was thought be be pregnant with the child of a prominent Connecticut Minister, Herbert Hayden (Timelines of History). For some time, Hayden had an affair with Stannard while his pregnant wife fell ill. After she had the child he moved back with her and the affair ended until a couple month later when Stannard started showing signs of an early pregnancy (Timelines of History). They met up and Hayden told Stannard that he would be able to pick up medicine so that she could abort the baby. She agreed because she had already had one kid out of wedlock and couldn’t afford another. They agreed to meet in the woods between their houses (Timelines of History). Later that night Mary Stannard’s father found her lain on a big rock with her neck slashed open and a large head wound (Timelines of History).. She was only suspected murdered after the coroner found arsenic in her system; the same exact arsenic that Hayden bought that day. He was arrested and later tried for first degree murder and assault which he was freed from because the jury couldn’t evict him because he beautiful wife would be a poor widow (Timelines of History).

Now there are similarities and differences in this case compared to the other case. It is interesting because The New York Times  talks about the murder differently compared to The Hartford Courant. I think that the reason why they do is because The Hartford Courant’s closer to where the murder of Ada Brown and Mary Stannard. The New York Times however is farther away so they don’t bring in a lot of the drama that comes with a town paper. For starters, The New York Times did a very getting straight to the point and being concise in what they wrote. On another side note, both Harrison and Hayden killed their victims (Ada and Mary) the same exact way. Both Mary and Ada bleed out before anyone could get medical attention immediately. The difference is that Harrison to some degree seemed to accept the fact that he was guilty and that we would pay for what he did but Hayden on the other hand denied it the entire time even though the evidence and the witnesses all pointed to him.

So first off I wanted to analyze the difference in how the Hartford Courant talks about Ada Brown to Mary Stannard. When they talk about Mary Stannard, they make it seem like “poor Mary”, which is interesting because when Ada is murder they make it seem like she almost deserved it. I don’t think it is bad that they make Mary seem like a poor lady that was unfortunately killed but they did not give the same courtesy to Ada. My only guess would be because Ada was murdered in Hartford, where the newspaper is based out of, that they were more likely to set a very dramatic scene about her rather than Mary, who is from New Haven. There was also probably much more gossip from Ada’s murder so The Hartford Courant was able to take that and turn it around and make Ada seem like a bad person, whereas Mary was talked about as if she was this poor, young, single mother who was helpless. In some ways they do talk about both women similarly. The Hartford Courant brings up Mary and Ada as “fallen”, which according to Jennifer Cote in her book, American Catholic studies page 23, “…referred to a wide range of young women in industrial America..” (Cote 23). The way The New York Times perceives both women is very similar. The only difference that I could see was they did not sensationalize the women nearly as much in The New York Times, or any of the people that were involved with this case.

The other thing that I wanted analyze was the way The Hartford Courant and The New York Times spoke of both of the murderers, which incidentally ended up being prominent white males. When both of the papers talked about Harrison and Hayden they deemed them very strong `but misguided people. When the murder of Ada Brown happened, everyone jumped on board to see what Harrison and Gregory both had to say about the death of this “fallen” widowed woman (Murder in Sheldon Street, Dossier Materials). The Hartford Courant especially were making sure they sensationalize these men. It is very interesting because in present times, if some guy kills a woman he gets harrassed thrown in jail for a long sentence and most try to hide from the media but in this time period it didn’t seem like Harrison nor Hayden tried to stay away from the press, instead they almost embraced the popularity. Another thing I thought was interesting is when they talk about Harrison and Hayden, they refer to them by their last names or Mr. rather than their first names. The women were not regarded this way at all which is weird because they seem to get a lot of respect even though they had just murdered a person.



And here are some pictures! A huge thank you to the amazing people at the Hartford Public Library and the Hartford History Center!

Works Cited

“Timelines of History.” Timelines. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2016.

“The CT Files: The ‘Unsolved’ Murder of Mary Stannard.” The Connecticut Story CT Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2016.

“Hadens Story Attack.” Dossier Materials. New York Times, n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2016.

“The Madison Murder.” ProQuest. Hartford Courant, 16 Sept. 1878. Web. 4 Nov. 2016.

“The Hayden Trial.” ProQuest. Hartford Courant, 05 Dec. 1879. Web. 4 Nov. 2016.

“Garbage, Refuse, and Ashes. Care and Disposal.” Public Health Reports (1896-1970). Published by: Association of Schools of Public Health. Accessed 11/4/16. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4573094.

Municipal Register: City of Harford 1884. Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library. Visited on 11/2/16.


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