Blue Flu

Today in History, September 9, 1919:

The Boston Police Strike. By 1919, the cost of living had risen 76%, while Boston Police Officers pay had increased 18%. New hires were making $2 per day…the same as they made when the force was created in 1854. Elevator operators were making more than cops, and most city employees made at least twice what cops made, many of whom had just returned from serving in WWI. Conditions in the police stations were intolerable; on today’s date most of the force refused to show up for work.

Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge called out the National Guard to patrol the streets, and the Mayor refused to rehire the striking cops when the strike ended.

The events would propel Coolidge to the national stage; he would be elected Vice-President in 1920.

The cops eventually got higher pay, but it would be 20 years before they attempted to unionize again. Today it is illegal for police and other public safety personnel to strike, although there have been other incidents of “blue flu.”.

Through the efforts of the Fraternal Order of Police, salaries and work conditions are negotiated with municipalities.

Heroism and Sacrifice

The date is off for today’s post. My extended family is mourning the loss of yet another first responder in Colorado. So my mind went back to some other Colorado heroes who affected me and so many others years ago. I had to share it in their memory and in the honor of my Colorado LE family.

Today in History, July 31: 1976 –

The Big Thompson Canyon Flood. While Colorado was celebrating its Centennial, a highly unusual thunderstorm broke out high in the mountains, near the source of the Big Thompson Canyon in northern Colorado.

The storm deluged the canyon with the equivalent of 3/4’s of the areas annual rainfall in a matter of hours. It sent a wall of water 20 feet high racing down the canyon; residents and tourists miles away from the storm near the mouth of the canyon had no idea there was a storm higher up, much less a torrent of flood water headed their way. 144 died.

Colorado State Trooper Sgt. W. Hugh Purdy and Estes Park Officer Michel O. Conley were advised of the approaching flood. Remember that this before cel phones and other mass media, most of which wouldn’t have worked in the canyon anyway.

These men drove their patrol cars up the canyon, telling people to flee using their public address systems, with full knowledge of what they were doing….until they met the water and were killed.

I saw this memorial while visiting relatives in Greeley, CO as a teen. These men are part of the reason I’m a cop. God bless them and their families.

Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight.” -Vice President Thomas Marshall

Today in History, January 6: 1919 –

“Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight.” -Vice President Thomas Marshall. President Theodore Roosevelt dies at Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, New York in his sleep of a heart attack. “Teddy” had taken every last drop of adventure and worthiness that he could squeeze out of life in the preceding 60 years.

Roosevelt had been a sickly child; constantly plagued by breathing problems, he could rarely play with the other children. His father, Theodore Sr., a remarkable man himself, told “Teedie” that if he wanted to have a successful life, he would have to take charge and force his body into the form he needed to match his intellect. Roosevelt did just that. He took exercise as his “raison detre” until he was barrel chested and of vigorous health. Each time he became sick during his life, he would simply work through it.

As a young man, while serving in the New York Assembly, Roosevelt’s wife and mother died on the same day…February 14, 1884. Roosevelt fled into the west, becoming a rancher and for a time a lawman in the Dakota Territory. The experience would strengthen him and give him a background people respected.

During his life he was a state rep from New York, the Police Commissioner for New York City, Governor of New York, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (he oversaw the building of a modern US Navy while his boss was not paying attention), he led the “Rough Riders” (1st Volunteer US Cavalry) up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War, became Vice President, and the President after President McKinley was assassinated.

As President he defined the modern presidency, breaking up monopolies, seeing that mistreated workers got a fair shake, sent the “Great White Fleet” around the world establishing American as a world influence, saw the Panama Canal built, saw the establishment of the National Parks Service, and countless other accomplishments.

He worked tirelessly for the American people. After the Presidency he traveled extensively, going on an African Safari, and exploring an unknown region of South America, “The River of Doubt”; a region so treacherous that it was considered a no-man’s land. He nearly died in the mapping of the river, now called “Rio Roosevelt” in his honor.

All of his male children fought in WWI, and the only reason Teddy didn’t was because the Democrat President (Wilson) refused to let him, afraid Roosevelt would run against him in the next election and win. One of his sons, Quentin, would be shot down over France and be killed. That was the last straw for the “Old Lion”. He mourned dreadfully until his death.

One of his other children, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., would be the only General to go ashore with the troops at D-Day in WWII; Teddy Jr would die of a heart attack himself several weeks after the Normandy invasion. The entire world would mourn President Roosevelt’s passing; he had become larger that life, a hero to people the world over. The quintessential American. And in case you couldn’t tell, my favorite Hero.

Presidential Protests are Nothing New


Today in History, August 16: 1841 – Rioters burn President John Tyler in effigy directly in front of the White House. The importance of this act is complicated and involved Tyler’s former rivals. The Bank of the United States had been in charge of the nation’s finances off and on since it was originally established during President Jefferson’s tenure. One of the major events of President Andrew Jackson’s presidency involved the bank. Jackson found the bank to be corrupt, manipulating markets and committing fraud. Jackson refused to renew the bank’s charter, preferring instead to have the nation’s moneys spread amongst many banks. Many criticized Jackson for this, including then Senator Tyler. Later President Martin Van Buren again refused to renew the bank’s charter. When Tyler became President, the Whigs thought he would renew the bank’s charter. However from his new position he was able to see what Jackson observed, and he too refused to renew the charter. Another important note in this series of events….the District of Columbia established a police force to deal with such violence after the events in front of the White House.

As an interesting aside, President Tyler had many children, who also went forth and multiplied. John Tyler was born in 1790 and still has two living grandsons. 


Today in History, July 31: 1976 – The Big Thompson Canyon Flood. While Colorado was celebrating its Centennial, a highly unusual thunderstorm broke out high in the mountains, near the source of the Big Thompson Canyon in northern Colorado. The storm deluged the canyon with the equivalent of 3/4’s of the area’s annual rainfall in a matter of hours. It sent a wall of water 20 feet high racing down the canyon, filled with deadly debris.

Residents and tourists miles away from the storm near the mouth of the canyon had no idea there was a storm higher up, much less a torrent of flood water headed their way. 144 died. 

Colorado State Trooper Sgt. W. Hugh Purdy and Estes Park Officer Michel O. Conley were advised of the approaching flood. Remember that this before cell phones and other mass media, most of which wouldn’t have worked in the canyon anyway. These men drove their patrol cars up the canyon, telling people to flee using their public address systems, with full knowledge of what they were doing….until they met the water and were killed. 

Stormin’ Norman


Today in History, May 12: 1932 – H. Norman Schwarzkopf looks down into the recently found shallow grave of infant Charles Lindbergh, Jr. in a field not far from the Lindbergh home. The Lindbergh baby had been kidnapped from his home on March 1st, the ransom paid, but the child was not returned to his parents. Schwarzkopf, a West Point graduate and WWI veteran, in 1921 had been appointed by the Governor of New Jersey to create, organize and train the New Jersey State Police. It was in this capacity that he led the investigation of the Lindbergh Kidnapping, the “Crime of the Century”. He would prove that the baby had been killed accidentally as he was being carried down a ladder from his second floor bedroom. When a new governor took office, he would be sacked. He would return to the US Army when WWII broke out, where he would be tasked to use his logistics and organizational talents to train the Iranian police, a country where the US was setting up railroads to supply the Soviet Union for the fight against Germany. After the war, Schwarzkopf would also help set up the security forces of the Shah. Two years after he investigated the Lindbergh kidnapping, his son, H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. would be born. And as most know, “Stormin’ Norman” would follow his father to the middle east in the service of his country nearly six decades later.

The Crusading Commissioner

Today in History, May 6: 1895 – A former New York State Assembleyman who had been serving in DC of late is sworn in as a NYC Police Commissioner; one of several on the board. He would quickly be voted to be the President of the Police Commission.  Notably, he served on the commission with Frederick Dent Grant, son of former General and President US Grant. 

Theodore Roosevelt was out to make a name for himself, but also do some good; reform minded in light of recent events in the NYPD. 

He soon became a scourge for the officers as he began to conduct frequent walks through the streets at night, finding officers asleep or spending their time in bars rather than on patrol.  He also worked to weed out corruption, finding himself at odds with those that padded their salaries with bribe money. 

Roosevelt also found allies amongst those who appreciated his efforts not only for reform, but also to provide much needed training and equipment for the officers who wanted a more professional agency to emerge. 

He made a huge mistake in attempting to enforce a law in which bars must be closed on Sundays. Immigrants in the city worked 6 days a week, with only Sunday off to socialize and drink. The backlash cost TR’s Republican party in the next elections. 

Roosevelt would also be shaped during his midnight patrols and other tours. He would see the squalor that many lower income families endured, which would help drive his battles for better working conditions as President. 

Roosevelt would spend two years as NYPD Police Commissioner. The whirlwind that was his life would continue.  Back to DC as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, where he would drive the building of a 20th Century force, the Rough Riders and Cuba, Governor of NY, Vice President, then President…all by Sept 1901.