Our Police Protectors
History of New York Police
Chapter 13, Part 2

By Holice and Debbie


While the State and general Government were thus employed in grappling with those serious disturbances, it was natural that public attention should be attracted to the great State of New York, to mark what effect the revolutionary proceedings of the strikers would produce in that quarter. The hands employed at Hornellsville, on the Erie Railroads, had struck, and taken up arms in defiance of law. Governor Robinson, by proclamation, warned all persons engaged in the violation of law to desist therefrom, and offered a reward of five hundred dollars, to be paid upon the arrest and conviction of each and every striker found guilty of a breach of the law. Syracuse, Buffalo, and other cities and towns were deeply agitated by the unlawful work of the strikers.

It was at this crisis that an event occurred in the city of New York, which, for weal or woe, was destined to prove of far-reaching importance. This city was regarded as the pivotal point of the strike; as New York went so went the victory or defeat. It caused, therefore, serious alarm throughout the State when it was announced that a mass meeting was called to take place in Tompkins Square, under the auspices of Socialistic leaders, and, of course, in sympathy with the strikers. This action was regarded by the city authorities, and properly so, as being fraught with the possibilities of great danger to the peace and welfare of the State and entire country. The rioters had at this stage been checked in the several centres which they had selected as their strongholds. They had hoped to regain lost ground by making a diversion on this city, where the elements of popular disorder are but too numerous. With New York strikes and their sympathizers up in arms, an impetus would have been given to the cause, which, in the inflamed and strained condition of the temper of the masses, would have been extremely difficult to stamp out, and what untold tales of horrors and atrocities might have resulted as the natural product of such a conflict! This truly was one of those public critical emergencies where an ounce of Police prevention was better than a pound of military cure. It was a very trying and anxious moment for New York City, and it is not much of an exaggeration or an abuse of a figure of speech to say that her fate trembled in the balance.

The Police, true to their history, were not unmindful of the gravity of the situation. By their prompt and energetic measures the advancing tread of the strikers was brought to a halt before they had time to marshal their forces or fall into line. A morning paper, in three words, summed up the situation: "NEW YORK SAYS STOP!" the same paper says: "The thorough and magnificent preparations made by the National guard of the First Division and the New York Police have checked the threatened disorder in this city at the outset, and left nothing whereon t hand to-day any fear or expectation of outbreak here."

The Board of Police, by reason of disturbances and riots in other cities of the State, and the apprehensions of similar disorders, taking place in this city, demanded the assistance of the Seventh, Twenty-second, Eighth, and Seventy-first Regiments, which demand was approved by the Mayor. The regiments named were "accordingly assembled in their respective armories, equipped for service, armed with breech-loaders, and each supplied with forty rounds of ammunition per man, and directed to hold themselves in readiness to respond--until further orders--to any demand which might be made upon them by the Board of Police to aid in suppressing riot, tumult, or disturbance of the public peace.

The Police force covering Tompkins Square were distributed as follows:

Mounted Squad and mounted Patrolmen from up-town precincts, under Sergeant Revell, at the Eighteenth Ward market, foot of West Seventeenth Street; three hundred Patrolmen at the Seventeenth Precinct Station House, Fifth Street and First Avenue, under command of Inspector Murray; two hundred Patrolmen at the Eighteenth Precinct State House, Twenty-second Street, between Fist and Second avenues, under Inspector Thorne; one hundred and sixty men at the Eleventh Precinct Station House, sheriff and Houston Streets, under Captain Allaire; and one hundred men in reserve at Police Headquarters, under Captain Hedden and Gunner. Nearly every part of the city was covered by the Central Office Detectives, who made regular reports. Trouble being expected at the Thirtieth Street Depot of the Hudson river Railroad, Captain Washington, of the Twentieth Precinct, had his command strongly reinforced. The Western Steamboat Squad, under the command of Sergeant Gastlin, guarded the property of the Pennsylvania Railroad at Piers Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 38, and 39, North river; that of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, Pier No 26, North River; that of the Starin Transportation Company, at Piers Nos. 14 and 15, North River, and the landings at the foot of West Twenty-second Street and Twenty-ninth Street.

These preparations were too formidable for the men to cope with who had called the Tompkins Square meeting. Strikers and rioters were cowed, and the meeting broke up with no public disturbance of any consequence. The turning point was safely passed and the demon of discord was crushed. The public breathed more freely, and the press, voicing public opinion, gave emphatic expression to this sentiment:

"The conduct both of the Police and of the citizen soldiery was simply admirable."

Mayor Ely made charges for dereliction of duty against three Police commissioners of this city, viz. Messrs. Erhardt, Nichols, and Wheeler. The following letter to one of these commissioners embodies the nature of these charges:



NEW YORK, Dec. 18, 1877.

Joel B. Erhardt, Esq.,

Police Commissioner of the city of New York:

Sir: the management of the Police Department seems to call for official action on my part. The duty of cleaning the streets, which is devolved upon that Department, has been inefficiently performed. The unclean and filthy condition of the streets during the present year has not only been a public scandal and disgrace tot he city, but has been recently reported by the Health Department as dangerous to the public health, although the sum of sixty thousand dollars has been taken each month from the public treasure for street cleaning purposes; an amount in my judgment amply sufficient for the proper performance of that work.

The Police Department has also assumed the right to decide when the statutes of the State should be enforced, and when they should be permitted to be ignored, and after allowing them to be disregarded for considerable periods of time, has then enforced them capriciously and by raids, in such manner as to render law odious instead of respected.

For this inefficiency and maladminstration of the Police Department, you, as one of the Commissioners, are in my judgment responsible.

You are hereby notified that I will give you an opportunity to be heard in answer to the above charges on the twentieth day of December instant, at twelve o'clock noon, at this office, then and there to show cause, if any exist, why you should not be removed from office as one of the Police Commissioners of the city of New York.

SMITH ELY, JR., Mayor.

To this, Mr. Erhardt made an order as follows:


Joel B. Erhardt, being sworn, says" that the charges herein were served upon him late in the day on Tuesday, December 18,m 1877; that they are so general in their nature, that it has been impossible for him to properly prepare his defense in the time allowed in such charges; that so far as said charges relate to street cleaning, it is, as he is advised by his counsel and verily believes, necessary and important that he should present evidence to show not only that all moneys expended by the Police Department have been properly and economically expended; that the streets have been as thoroughly cleaned as the law, and the legal, and other instructions and complications have permitted, and that the Police Department has not been guilty of inefficiency or maladministration. But as deponent is advised by his said counsel, it is furthermore important that he should be prepared to show that he is not responsible for any inefficiency or maladministration. That if a brief delayed is allowed, deponent will be prepared with such proof. That the only reason for desiring such delay is the physical impossibility, while, by attending to the necessary duties of his office, and examining the witnesses, or procuring their statements, and preparing the necessary statistics in the brief time permitted, especially as the absence from the country of one of the members of the Board has thrown increased labors upon the remaining members. Deponent further says that the charge that the right to decide when the statutes of the State should be enforced and when they should be permitted to be ignored, has been assumed, and that the laws have been enforced capriciously and by raids, is so general in its nature, that, as he is advised by counsel and verily believes to be true, it is important and necessary to be prepared to show its falsity by evidence and statistics of the office during the two years past; and that deponent has been unable to procure the requisite statistics and proofs from the records in the brief period allowed. Deponent further says, that the said charges are each and all of them untrue, and that he has a good and substantial defense upon the merits, after a full statement of the facts, as he is advised by counsel and verily believed to be true.


Sworn to before me, this 20th day of December, 1877

Notary Public.

Sidney P. Nichols, for nearly two years previously chairman of the Committee of the Police Department on Street Cleaning, in defending himself against this charge of dereliction, testified that the organization of the Street Cleaning bureau was made up as follows:

The person in charge was known as the Street Cleaning Inspector, and by law was required to be a Police officer. He had charge of all the operations of the Bureau, directed how and when the work should be done, and was responsible to the Commissioners of Police for the proper carrying out of the work of the Bureau. He was assigned by a person known as the Deputy Inspector, who assisted him in carrying out the orders of the Inspector, and had a general supervision of the work of the Bureau.

The city was divided into Street Cleaning Districts, usually Wards, of which one or more constituted a district, which was in charge of a foreman, who had the immediate charge of the work in his district, assisted by two or more gangmen, who were in direct charge of the laborers and cartmen, of which there were employed constantly a sufficient number to perform the work in each district. The gangmen reported all matters to the foreman, and the foreman made a daily report of all the men employed, the time each is entitled to, the streets to be cleaned, and the number of loads of ashes, garbage, and street sweepings gathered by the cartmen and delivered at the several dumping boards upon scows or barges to be taken away to places of deposit. There was one district made up of Broadway and the principal avenues and streets that need cleaning oftener and at night, which district was in charge of a foreman and gangmen, the same as the other districts. The foremen directs what streets and avenues shall be cleaned each working day, unless specially ordered by the Inspector to clean certain street or parts of streets on specified days.

There was a person employed at each dumping board known as a Dump Inspector, who had charge of all work and workmen at the dump, and kept a tally of all loads delivered by the carts, specifying each cartman by name and the number of loads each cartman delivered during the day or night. These daily returns of the foreman and Dump Inspectors were returned each day to the officer of the Street Cleaning Bureau, and there compiled and preserved.

There was a person known as a superintendent of Scows, or Boats, who had the immediate charge of all the floating property of the Bureau, and directed (under orders from the Inspectors) where the material shall be taken to be disposed of, and has charge of the force employed indisposing of the same.

There was a person known as the Superintendent of Stables, who had the immediate charge of the stables and repair shops. All horses, carts, and machines owned by the bureau, except when at work in the several districts, were in charge of a foreman. He had charge of and kept the time of all laborers, mechanics, etc., employed in and about the stables.

The Street Cleaning Department was created by statute in 1872. The Board of Police were required to clean the streets, and to keep them clean. In 1873 the amount of money expended was one million and seventy-nine thousand dollars; in 1874, it was eight hundred and twenty-nine thousand dollars; in 1875, eight hundred and one thousand dollars, in 1876, it was seven hundred and twenty-six thousand dollars, and in 1877 it was seven hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, or five hundred and ninety-two thousand dollars to November, 1, 1877; and for all four years three million four hundred and fifty-four thousand dollars. The number of miles they cleaned in 1873 was eleven thousand; in 1874, twelve thousand; in 1875, it was nine thousand, and in 1876, it was eleven thousand. In four years, forty-six thousand three hundred and twenty-two. The loads of ashes, garbage and dirt removed were as follows: In 1873, one million one hundred and forty-seven thousand; in 1874, one million and thirty thousand; in 18755, one million and thirty-one thousand; in 1876, one million and eleven thousand; four million four hundred and twenty thousand in four years. The total cost per mile in the first year was ninety eight dollars; the second year, 1874, sixty-four dollars and eighty cents; in 1875, it was eighty dollars and fifty-six cents, in 1876,m it was sixty-four dollars--making an average of seventy-six dollars and eighty-two cents per mile in each year. the cost per load of material--that is the only way it can be arranged--was, for the year, ninety-seven cents; second year, eighty cents; third, seventy-seven cents; and for the fourth year, seventy-one cents; making an average of eighty-three cents for our years; and in 1877 it has been seventy-two cents. A million of loads and more was the product; two hundred and fifty miles of streets to be cleaned, and three hundred miles and over to be traversed every day for the purpose of collecting ashes, garbage and street dirt. The material so collected had the relation of about sixty-five to seventy per cent of ashes; of about--a large allowance--ten per cent garbage, and the remainder street sweepings as it was collected.

The manual at present in use in the Police Department was promulgated in 1877. Amendments have been added thereto at several subsequent periods. Some of the rules and regulations of the aforesaid manual are appended in a condensed form. The following was the Board of Police for 1877: William F. Smith, DeWitt C. Wheeler, Joel B. Erhardt, and Sidney P. Nichols, Commissioners. Officers: William F. Smith, President, DeWitt C. Wheeler, Treasurer.


On rules and Discipline: Commissioner Erhardt, chairman; Commissioners Wheeler, Smith and Nichols.

On Street Cleaning.--Commissioners Nichols, and Wheeler.

On Repair and Supplies.--Commissioners Wheeler and Nichols.

On Elections.--Commissioners Wheeler and Nichols.

On Clerical Force.--Commissioners Wheeler and Nichols.

Seth C. Hawley, Chief Clerk; George W. Walling, superintendent.

The "Police Department" of the city of New York consists of a "Board of Police" composed of four "Commissioners" (appointed by the Mayor, by "and with consent of the Board of Aldermen) and the "Police Force" and officers appointed by said Board. The Board is the head of the Police Department; governs and controls the department, its business and affairs; is invested with the exercises all the powers conferred by law upon the Police Department. The territorial jurisdiction and authority of the Board, and the Police Force under their direction, are co-extensive with the territorial limits of the city of New York. For the purposes of Police government, the territory of the city of New York is divided into Inspection Districts, Surgeons Districts, and Precincts, subject to alteration, from time to time, by the Board of Police. Precincts are divided into patrol beats or posts by the Captains, with the approval of the Superintendent, subject to alteration, from time to time, by like authority.

The territory of the city of New York was divided into four Inspection Districts, which are respectively named the First, Second, Third, and fourth Inspection Districts.

First District consist of Precincts Nos. 1, 4, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 18, 21, 26 and First and Third District Court Squads.

Second district consists of Precincts Nos. 5, 8, 9, 15, 16, 20, 25, 27, 29, and Second District Court Squads.

Third District consists of Precincts Nos. 12, 19, 19 Sub., 23, 34, and Fourth, Fifth and Sixth District Court Squads.

Fourth District consists of Precincts Nos. 22, 30, 31, 32, and 35.

An Inspector of Police is assigned to each district, and has an office within the limits of his district, or at such places as the Board of Police may determine.

The Superintendent, unless otherwise ordered by the Board of Police, assigns one Inspector, in rotation, to attend to the night duty, and one to the duty pertaining to the Central Department, on Sunday.

Night duty commences at 6 P. M., and terminates at 8 A. M.

Sunday duty begins at 8 A. M. and end at 6 P. M.

The Police force of the city of New York consists of a Superintendent, four Inspectors, Surgeons, Captains, Sergeants, Patrolmen, and Doormen, clerks, and employees, to the number of each rank, authorized by law.

The Police force is divided into as may companies as there are precincts, and such other companies and squads as the Board of Police may order.

The regulation uniform is:

For the Superintendent.-- For the Superintendent.--The dress was a double-breasted frock coat; the waist extending to the top of the hip, and the skirt with one inch of the bend of the knee; two rows of Police buttons on the breast, eight on each row, placed in pairs, the distance between each row, five and one-half inches on the top, and three and one-half inches at the bottom; stand-up collar, rising no higher than to permit the chin freely to turnover it, to hook in front at the bottom; cuffs, three and one-half inches deep, and buttoning with three small buttons at the under-seam; two buttons on the hips, one button on the bottom of each skirt-pocket welt, and two buttons intermediate, so that there were six button on the back; collars and cuffs of dark blue velvet; lining of the coat, black. The trousers plain; black neck cloth; white gloves and collar; the vest single-breasted, with eight buttons placed at equal distances; the cap of navy blue cloth, and of the form of the pattern in the Superintendent's office, having a bank of dark blue velvet, with a gold embroidered wreath in front embracing a silver star.

For Inspectors.-- For Inspectors.--the dress the same as for Superintendent, except that there were seven buttons in each row on the breast of the coat, placed at equal distances, and the gold wreath on the cap enclosed the word "Inspector" in silver.

For Captains and Sergeants.-- For Captains and Sergeants.--The same as for Superintendent, except that there were eight buttons in each row on the breast of the coat, placed at equal distances; the collar rolling; the collar and cuffs of the same color and material as the coat; the band of the same color and material as the body of the cap, welted at the edges, and the wreath enclosing the work "Captain" or "Sergeant," with the number of the precinct to which the officer was attached, in gold. The Captain of the Harbor Police had a gold anchor, and the Sergeants silver anchors, enclosed in a wreath in lieu of the number of the precinct.

For Patrolmen.-- For Patrolmen.--the dress was a single-breasted frock coat with rolling collar; the waist extending to the top of the hip, and the skirt to within one inch of the bend of the knee; nine buttons on the breast, two buttons on the hips, two buttons on the bottom of each pocket, and three small buttons on the under seam of the cuffs. Trousers having a while welt in the outer seam; white shirt collar, and white gloves; black neckcloth; vest, single-breasted, with nine buttons placed at equal distances. The cap of navy blue cloth, to correspond with sample in the office of the Superintendent, with wreath surrounding the appropriate number in white metal.

The Patrolmen detailed as Roundsmen, in addition had the word "Roundsman" in white metal letters, in lieu of the wreath.

Roundsmen wear on each arm of the overcoat, dress coat, and blouse, a United States Infantry chevron of two stripes, above the point of the elbow.

The officers of the force rank in the following order: First, Superintendent; second, Inspector; third Captain; fourth, Sergeant; fifth, Roundsmen.

Mounted Roundsmen wore, as above mentioned, the United States cavalry chevron.

For harbor Patrolmen.--The dress is a sailor's jacket, rolling collar, to come down half way between the hip joint and knee; five buttons on each side of breast, two buttons on the under seam of the cuff; pockets inside; best, single-breasted, nine buttons; trousers, plain; shirt of blue flannel, hat, same as other Patrolmen, with wreath and number; pea-jacket overcoat, three inches above the knee, five buttons on each side, side pockets with flaps; in other respects, same as other Patrolmen.



Our Police Protectors, History of the New York Police, Published for the benefit of the Police Pension Fund, by Augustine Costello, Published by Author, 1885.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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