Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Man of Splendid Physique


Perhaps it was the ever-present political perspective behind each Fort Wayne newspaper’s editorial slant—even down to the last detail about the police department’s latest sergeant, John Kelly Stevens. Taking a look at three different city newspapers—the Sentinel, the Journal, and the News—each one seemed to focus on a different aspect regarding the same man.

The Fort Wayne Sentinel gave the broadest description of the city’s newest sergeant on February 2, 1898:
John Kelly Stevens, the new sergeant, has been a member of the police force a little less than two years, but during that time has demonstrated that he is a thorough policeman. He was a moulder by trade and for years was employed at the Bass Foundry and Machine Works. Mr. Stevens is a member of the A. O. H. and the C. B. L. He will also assume his new duties this evening.
Even this routine rundown of John Kelly Stevens’ work history provides us with the flavor of who the man was—and with whom he associated. The “A. O. H.” being, of course, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, his membership there demonstrated John Kelly’s affinity with the native land of his father.

Despite those ever-present journalistic errors, the Fort Wayne Morning Journal’s take on John Kelly Stevens’ promotion to sergeant added some other observations about his character—albeit most likely written with the nod of political friends, even if it wasn’t Henry Scherer who was mayor when John Kelly was added to the police force.
Sergeant Stevens was appointed as a patrolman two years ago, by Mayor Scherer. Previous to that time he was a molder at the Bass works. He is a steady, reliable, cool headed man, a faithful and efficient officer, and a better selection could not have been made. He is one of the most popular men on the police force, and his promotion gives universal satisfaction.
One publication, however, made me wonder if their editorial perspective was decidedly patrician, looking down from their exclusive lofty position upon the plebeian masses, from whom would be selected those most suited for merely the physical labor of the office. Somehow, this excerpt from an article concerning the "kaleidoscopic changes in the police force" gives that sense of observing qualifications as if reviewing candidates for the meat market…

From the Fort Wayne News:
J. Kelley Stevens, who has been promoted from the ranks to the position of sergeant, was made patrolman in May, 1896. He was formerly a moulder in the Bass foundry, and is a man of splendid physique. He was born in Indiana and is of the same age as the new captain. Sergeant Stevens is five feet eleven inches tall and weighs 165 pounds.

10 comments:

  1. I will have to Check Back Later (giggles) to learn what CBL was...

    Sgt. Stevens was a "skinny" dude!

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  2. http://www.exonumia.com/art/society.htm

    :-) might come in useful for some of us!

    CBL - Catholic Benevolent Legion

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    1. Now, that's definitely a link to bookmark. Thanks for posting that, Iggy! Great resource.

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  3. Different reporters..you gain info from each of them! :)

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    1. Different sets of eyes...always comes in handy!

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  4. Geez - he was a stick. I hope he didn't run into any real thugs.

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    1. Must have been all muscle--and lots of grit and determination. Don't forget: he didn't jump into this game until he hit forty. And he kept up with it until he was well into his sixties. Not your typical law enforcement career trajectory.

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  5. Your skepticism serves you well in analyzing not only what was written but why it was written--what political or class issues were at work. Through all those veils, though, he sounds very possibly like a great guy. Loyal, yes. Strong, yes.

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    1. Mariann, I am just loving those subtle hints I'm gleaning from these newspaper reports. The context obtained from the historic newspaper collections is invaluable in reconstructing a sense of what life was like for our ancestors.

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