The Stamford Historical Society Presents
Law & Order: The History of the Stamford Police Department 1830-1956 a 2004 Exhibit and more
Note: Due to circumstances beyond our control, this online project was never fully completed; however, the essential information is there.
Chief William Brennan, Arnold Kurth holding the flag. Daniel Hanrahan next to Kurth, Frank B. Curley at extreme right. From other images it appears that this was at or before the 275th Anniversary Parade 1916.
by Thomas A. Zoubek, Ph.D., Executive Director, Stamford Historical Society
The Stamford Historical Society’s decision to focus an exhibit on the history of law enforcement in Stamford from 1830 to date, and more specifically on the history of the former Stamford Police Department from 1894 to 1956, was framed in the light of the events of September 11 th and the intensification of concerns with national security. The goal of the exhibit was to examine to roots of law enforcement over time; as the community of Stamford developed; as it grew in population and ethnic diversity. The growing diversity of the city is mirrored by the membership of the department, which initially was virtually completely Irish, but which, over the years, grew to include Italians, Poles, and after 1940 African Americans. Interestingly, during this same period, the Police Commission and the later Committee for Public Safety continued to be dominated by Yankees with deep roots in Stamford.
The decision to cover the history of the department up till 1956 was motivated by the lack of records prior to this year. Owing to floods in the old Town Hall, virtually all police records prior to 1956 were destroyed. There is also no written history of the department. Thus, the exhibit committee resorted to those few records that did survive, including the logbook of Police Chief William H. Brennan, as well as secondary records such as the annual reports of the City of Stamford and the City Directories. With this information, the rosters of the department have been recovered through 1928, as well as financial records and inventories. The complete records of criminal arrest were recovered through 1934.
This text based information was supplemented by oral interviews with several retired officers who served during the 1940s and 50s.
While much of the material is photographic, The Stamford Historical Society was lucky to receive a number of objects as loans from retired officers or their families.
Many photo reproductions were made from pamphlets and newspapers; and in some cases, damaged photos were repaired, using computer graphics. Thus the quality of the images varies.
Working with a number of officers has enabled us to fill in names on many photos. But even after a tremendous amount of detective work, there is still a lot to learn.
We are pleased to report that we are still receiving items. If you can help SHS to better tell this story, let us know. We would be happy to receive any additional material and to conduct more interviews to tell more thoroughly the story of law enforcement in Stamford. Here are details.
The Society’s new exhibit on the history of the Stamford Police Department opened Sunday, February 22, 2004. The exhibit covers the period from the formation of the borough of Stamford in 1830 till 1956, when the Police department was moved to its current headquarters on Hoyt and Bedford Streets. During the earlier period from 1830 into the 1870s, order was maintained by a single man who initially held the title warden and, later, bailiff. Town constables are listed in the Annual Register for the State of Connecticut as early as the 1840s.
By 1870 special constables were chosen to maintain law and order. The most famous of these early constables were the Alphonse brothers, who served many consecutive years during the 1870s and 1880s.
The Stamford Department was not officially organized until 1893. It was first headquartered at the Whitney Building, but later moved to Quintard Block on Atlantic Square. After the construction of the new Town Hall in 1907 the police moved there, where they remained until the 1950s. In 1956 the first facility built expressly for the police was completed on Hoyt Street.
In the beginning, there were only a handful of regular police, supplemented by special police, who served as required at 32 cents an hour. Eventually, the department swelled to over 300 by the 1930s and 1940s. The number of ranks also increased. Initially there was a chief only, over time the ranks of captain, lieutenant, sergeant and detective were added.
The first police department had a single horse to drive its ambulance and police wagon. By the 1920’s the department had two cars and a number of motorcycles. Police call boxes were located at important intersections downtown and later radios in cars kept police in communication with headquarters.
The exhibit includes photos never before shown as well as badges, uniforms, a police revolver, billy clubs and other ephemera.
The Stamford Historical Society would like to thank the Exhibit Committee, without whom this presentation would not have been possible
Walter Wheeler III
We would also like to thank the following individuals for donations and loans
|E. Gaynor Brennan Jr.
Mr. & Mrs. Patrick Lynch
Mr. & Mrs. William Lockwood
Thanks for oral interviews to