First Issue


BPD History



Early Photographs

Early Appointments

Early Chiefs

Related Badges

Gift Shop
& Collectibles

State Police
Highway Patrol
Early Badges




A Brief History of the Boston, MA Police Department.

April 12, 1631
The local court ordered that "Watches be set at sunset, and if any person fire off a piece after the watch is set, he shall be fined forty shillings, or be whipped".

April 14, 1631
A Court of Guard was created. "We began a Court of Guard upon the neck, and between Roxburie and Boston, whereupon shall always be resident an officer and six men." This was an organization of the first Boston Watch; and although it partook more of the character of a military guard than, it was well adapted to the wants of the people, as all police arrangements should be; and was probably continued, with greater or lesser numbers, till the organization of a watch by the selectmen.

September 1, 1635
The Town of Boston, MA records the name of William Chesebrough as a Constable.

February 27, 1636
The Town assumed the prerogatives of appointment and control of the Boston Watch.

Edward Palmer was employed to build stocks (a place in which to set criminals for punishment); when completed, he presented his bill for his services. The bill was thought to be exorbitant, and Edward Palmer got placed in his own stocks and was fined five pounds.

A cage and watch house is built near the market.

At town meeting "Watchmen are enjoined to be on duty from ten o'clock till broad daylight. They are to go about silently with watch bills, not using any bell, and no watchmen to smoke tobacco while walking their rounds; and when they see occasion, to call to persons to take of their light."

John Barnard built a watch-house for the town at North End, with a sentry box on top of it; and another near the powder-house on the common.

Three hundred pounds appropriated to support the watch. Twelve watchmen were employed at 40 shillings a month. James Thornby and Exercise Conant, overseers of the watch. Watch rules and regulations adopted.

Watch increased to fifteen. They also petition for leave to prosecute those who abuse them while on duty.

Fortification rebuilt on the neck, composed of brick and stone, across Washington at Dover St. as now named, extending to the sea on the east, and south to where is now Union Park, having a parapet on which to place a cannon, with gates for teams and foot passengers at the street. Watch-boxes set up in various parts of the town.

Watch increased to seventeen. The watchhouse near the townhouse to be removed, "and set by the schoolhouse in Queen Street, and that a cage be added." Also ordered, that "the whipping-post be removed thereto."

There were four watchhouses; one in Clark Square, one near the schoolhouse, Queen Street, and one at South End, with about four watchmen at each. The watch went on duty at nine p.m. in the winter and 10 p.m. in the summer remaining till daylight next morning, at forty shillings per month. There were two overseers.

Boston population stands at 10,670. The watch is reduced to twelve men; the south watch is discontinued.

Five divisions of the watch established, and called the "Old North, New North, Dock Watch, Townhouse Watch and South Watch. The names indicated the locality. The South were supposed to be located in a narrow, one story brick house in Orange Lane. There were five watchmen at each house. They were ordered "to walk their rounds slowly and silently, and now and then stand still and listen."

Boston cast 530 votes. Among the town officers are sixteen constables and twenty-five watchmen.

Selectmen authorized to award faithful watchmen "not exceeding ten shillings a month."

Application was made to have Mathew Young appointed watchman, "that he and his children do not become town charge."

Watchmen "Ordered to cry the time of night and state of the weather, in a moderate tone, as they walk their rounds after 12 o'clock,--One o'clock, clear, and all's well." Boston divided into twelve wards, names dropped, and numbers used instead. Thirty shillings a winter allowed each watchhouse for coal.

Watchmen reduced to sixteen and watchhouse reduced to four. The badge of the overseers to be "a quarter pike;" one watchman to attend each watchhouse door all night, to inspect persons.

The overseer of the watch petitioned to have a coal-hole door to a watchhouse repaired. The watch ordered "to look out for disorderly Negroes and Indians."

Able-bodied watchmen allowed seven pounds, ten shillings per month, but fined twenty shilling for getting asleep on duty.

Written rules prepared for the government of the watch.

Thomas Williston appointed Captain of the Watch.

Captain Semmes, of the South watch, reported that "Negro Dick came to the watchhouse and reported rowdies under his window. Watchmen were sent, and met a gang of rowdies, one of which drew a sword. The watch cried murder and fled to the watchhouse, and the rowdies escaped."

In consequence of existing difficulties, the watch were ordered "to patrol two together", "to arrest all Negroes found out after dark without a lantern." Sheriff Greenleaf was ordered to "cause a new gallows to be erected on the Neck, the old one having gone to decay."

A code of Town Laws is published. Captain John Ballard, William Billings, Christopher Clarke, and Mr. Webb, appointed Inspectors of Police.

Colonel Josiah Waters, the newly appointed Inspector of Police, gave notice that he "enters upon the duties of his office with much diffidence, and he asks the assistance of the citizens in executing the by-laws."

May 14, 1796
The legislature passed a code of laws relating to Watch and Wards of Towns, under which the Boston Watch was soon reorganized. Under the new regulations, the selectmen, or the constable, were to charge the watch, to see that all disorders and disturbances are suppressed, to examine all persons walking abroad after ten o'clock at night, who they have reason to suspect, to enter houses of ill-fame, to suppress disturbances, and to arrest all violators of law or disturbers of the peace. Watchmen are to walk their rounds once an hour, to prevent damage by fire and to preserve order." Constables, to superintend the watch were to be appointed for each house, and the Selectmen were the appointing and supervising power. Under the new organization, there were five Watchhouses: One on Ship near Lewis Street, one at Town Dock, one at Town House, one on Orange, near Eliot Street, and one near where the Revere House now stands, with one Constable and about six watchmen at each house, at a salary of sixty cents per night for the Constable, and fifty cents for the watchman, while on duty. The watch went out at nine o'clock evenings in winter, and ten o'clock in summer, remaining on duty till sunrise, one half going out alternately every other night, carrying with them their badges of office, a hook with a bill, and the rattle, an appendage added this year.

Among the town officers were One Inspector of Police, Twelve Constables, Four Constables of the Watch, and Twenty Watchmen. The watchhouses have been reduced to four, One on Ship Street, one near Market, one in Orange Street, one near the State House.

March 12, 1801
Charles Bulfinch, Esq. chosen Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, and soon after Inspector of Police.

March 10, 1807
The town was divided by State and Court Streets into two police districts, each under the supervision of an officer.

March 21, 1810
The Town of Boston selected one Inspector of Police, two assistant police officers, seventeen constables, and thirty watchmen. Watchhouses at Ship Street, at the Market, Mount Vernon Street, and the corner of Elliot and Washington Streets. Boston had 33,234 inhabitants.

August 31, 1812
The town appointed one hundred special watchmen to patrol the town. "In case of riot, they are to toll the bells, and in case of alarm, all well-disposed citizens are requested to place lights in all their front windows, and all military companies, magistrates, and constables will hold themselves in readiness; and all boys or apprentices who do not wish to be considered rioters, will remain in doors." The permanent watch was also increased to forty-six, consisting of three divisions; the North, Centre, and South, as follows: at the North, fourteen men; Centre eighteen men; South fourteen men, and two constables at each house. A Captain was also appointed, whose office was at the centre house, and who had general supervision. One constable and half the watch being on duty alternately every other night, all night. "Watchmen are not to talk loud, or make any noise, nor suffer any one to enter a watchhouse without a certificate from a Selectman." Constable's pay seventy-five cents per night; watchman's pay, fifty cents per night.

A committee of the Selectmen made several visits to the watchhouse in the night time, and reported as follows: "January 5. Visited several watchhouses, and found them in good condition." January 12. Another visit. Find too many watchmen doing duty inside." January 20. One o'clock, night. South watch doing good duty, but the two constables are asleep. At North Watch constables awake. At Centre Watch, found an intoxicated man and a abandoned female in the Lockup." February 3. Another visit made by the Inspector of Police. He said, "At one o'clock, visited South Watch; constable asleep. One and one-half o'clock, at Centre Watch found constable and doorman asleep. Two o'clock at North Watch found constable and doorman asleep, and a drunken man kicking at the door to get in." The Inspector recommends "that the doorman be required to wake the constable when necessary." Constable Reed arrested several persons for keeping a gambling houses. One was fined $150.00 for keeping "a new French game called Quino."

May 31, 1819
At Town Meeting, the watch and their friends remained at the polls till near the close, till others had left, and then passed a vote to pay watchmen seventy-five cents instead of fifty cents per night. The vote was rescinded next Town Meeting.

June 17, 1819
Freeman Backhouse was sent to State Prison for three years, for picking the pocket of Flavel Case, a watchman.

March 13, 1820
The North watchhouse, for many years in Ship Street, was removed to Fleet Street, near Moon Street. The Centre watchhouse was in the east basement of the Town House. The South was at the place long occupied on Washington, near Eliot Street. West watchhouse, corner Temple and Hancock streets. Number of Watchmen 55. Constables of the Watch, 8. Captain, 1.

May 25, 1820
Watchmen were served with a certificate of appointment.

May 23, 1821
A new Captain of the Watch appointed, and a long list of instructions given. "Watchmen are not to walk or talk together on their beats. They are to go to their rounds, and return to their box, and there wait till the time arrives to go around again. They are not to cry the time of night in a vociferous voice."

May 1, 1822
The Town of Boston became the City of Boston at the stroke of midnight this day.

June 20, 1822
The new Police Court held its first session. Honorables Benjamin Whitman, Henry Orne, and William Simmons, Judges; Thomas Power, Clerk; William Knapp, Assistant. They held criminal sessions each day, and civil sessions twice each week.

May 13, 1823
The Office of Superintendent of Police abolished, and Benjamin Pollard appointed City Marshal, and James Morgan, Captain of the Watch. The North Watch was removed to the Hancock Schoolhouse, in Middle Street. The Centre Watch was at the Town House, the West at Derne Street, and the South at the Old House on Washington Street. There appeared to be little alteration in watch regulations, except that they were increased to about sixty.

May 1, 1824
Watch appropriation $8,800.00

March 26, 1825
The city voted the following "Watchmen found asleep, to be discharged."

June 4, 1825
The City Marshal gave notice that he should execute the laws.

December 12, 1825
Watchman Jonathan Houghton killed on State Street, by a ruffian named John Holland.

January 29, 1826
James Morgan, Captain of the Watch, died, and Flavel Case was soon appointed.

March 3, 1826
John Holland hung on the Neck for the murder of Watchman Jonathan Houghton.

May 6, 1826
The Mayor of Boston fined for fast riding.

November 4, 1828
The Centre Watch petition for beds, but don't get them.

January 19, 1829
The pay of the watch increased to sixty cents per night.

February 15, 1830
The Franklin Schoolhouse having been sold, was repurchased, and the South Watch soon removed thereto. The watch detailed as follows: North Watch, house in Hancock Schoolhouse, 2 Constables, 25 men; Centre Watch, in Kilby Street, 2 Constables, 25 men; South Watch, Franklin Schoolhouse, Common Street, 2 Constables, 22 men; West Watch, Derme Street, 2 Constables, 24 men; 2 men at South Boston. Flavel Case, Captain of the Watch.

May 1, 1830
City Marshal's salary $1,000; Captain of the Watch, $800.00; Watch Appropriation $11,400.00.

February 27, 1832
Centre Watch removed from Kilby Street, to basement of Joy's Buildings.

May 1, 1832
Hezekiah Earl appointed Deputy City Marshal.

June 11, 1832
The watch to be set at ten o'clock the year around.

August 9, 1832
A constable to patrol South Boston on Sunday.

June 3, 1833
A fight between constables and gamblers on the Common.

June 17, 1833
House of Corrections, South Boston, opened.

June 28, 1833
New Watch arrangement; the men to go out, one division one half the night, the other division the other half, commencing at six o'clock winter, and seven o'clock summer, remaining out till sunrise. The force increased eighteen men. Constable's pay one dollar. Watchmen seventy-five cents.

February 4, 1834
Constables detailed to attend fires.

September 19, 1834
Hair beds furnished for the watch.

June 30, 1835
Special Constables appointed for July Fourth.

December 31, 1835
Watch Appropriation $27,210.00. Special Constable Appropriation $3,630.00.

December 20, 1836
Benjamin Pollard, who had been City Marshal for fourteen years, died, and Daniel Parkman was appointed in his stead.

May 11, 1837
Ezra Weston appointed City Marshal.

August 21, 1837
A watch of four men detailed for East Boston.

February 3, 1838
The City Marshal made a descent on gamblers in Milk Street, arresting twelve men.

May 21, 1838
The Legislature having passed a law giving the Mayor and Aldermen of Boston power to appoint "Police officers with any or all of the powers of Constables, except the power of executing a civil process." The Board this day organized a Police force for day duty, to be under the direction of the City Marshal, and six officers were appointed, drawing pay when on actual duty, the new department having no connection with the Watch. There were four watchhouses in the city proper. North Watch, Hancock Schoolhouse, 2 constables, 23 men; East Watch, Joy's Building, 2 Constables, 28 men; South Watch, Common Street, 2 Constables, 22 men; West Watch, Derne Street, 2 Constables, 28 men. The South and East Boston Watch were combined, having 2 Constables, and 9 men, with temporary accommodations at each place. Watch Appropriation, $30,000.00. Police Appropriation $3,637.00

December 31, 1838
The Police force increased to thirteen during the year.

May 1, 1840
James H. Blake appointed City Marshal, James Barry, Captain of the Watch. Police Appropriation $4,500.00; Watch Appropriation $40,000.00; Marshal's salary $1,000.00; Captain of the Watch $1,000.00; 14 Police, 110 Watchmen. Police pay $1.75 per day; Watchmen's pay 90 cents per night.

March 28, 1841
Davis and Palmer's store Washington Street, robbed of $20,000.00 in jewelry. Constable Clapp afterwards recovers the property.

December 31, 1841
The Municipal Court docket for the year showed 569 cases, Judge Thacher having been on the bench 166 days during the year.

November 30, 1843
Centre Watch removed from Joy's building to City building, Court Square. The Captain of the Watch fined for smoking in the street.

July 2, 1844
The South Watch "ordered to be divided, the southern branch to be in Canton Place."

September 19, 1844
A Watchhouse built at South Boston during the fall.

June 23, 1845
Ira Gibbs appointed City Marshal.

June 22, 1846
Francis Tukey appointed City Marshal. During the year under the direction of Marshal Tukey, the Police Department was reorganized. The force numbered 22 during the day, and 8 night officers. The former on duty from eight a.m. till nine p.m. Detailed throughout the city, reporting to the Marshal at eight a.m. and two p.m., at $2.00 per day. The latter a night force, particularly for the detection of thieves, at pay of $1.25 per night. Police Appropriation $12,000.00. Under Captain Barry, the watch numbered about one hundred and fifty, going out half of each night, one half the force alternately, first and last watch at a pay of $1.00 per night. The North Watch was in Cross Street, the Centre under the Court House, the West in Derne Street, Boylston, in Common Street, South at Canton Street, South Boston in Broadway, and a new house building at East Boston.

June 5, 1847
Ship fever raging at Deer Island; large Police force detailed there.

January 7, 1848
Marshal Tukey recovered $1,100.00, stolen from Hughes & Co., by digging in the Public Garden.

April 27, 1848
Watchman David Estes shot in Sister Street, while on duty. Night Policeman James S. Kimball narrowly escaped the same fate at the hands of burglars.

May 2, 1848
Marshal Tukey fined for fast driving.

June 16, 1848
General order to complain for all persons smoking in the streets.

December 27, 1848
The Police number 22 day officers, 20 night officers, and 9 specials for Sunday. A Police Clerk appointed. Police appropriation, $29,000.00; Watch appropriation, $58,000.00

May 21, 1849
Marshal Tukey showing up pickpockets at his office.

January 1, 1850
Francis Tukey, City Marshal; James Barry Captain of the Watch. There are 50 Police Officers, 225 Watchmen, the beat of each man averaging over a mile. The expense of Police and Watch, $113,000.00 per year.

January 1, 1851
Francis Tukey, City Marshal; James Barry Captain of the Watch. City Marshal has one Deputy City Marshal, one clerk, one superintendent hacks, one superintendent trucks, one superintendent of swill, and one superintendent for intelligence. Day officers were paid $2.00 per day. Night officers were paid $1.371/2 per night.

April 23, 1851
Police raid on Ann Street resulted in the arrest of 160 bipeds, who were punished for piping, fiddling, dancing, drinking, and attending crimes.

June 24, 1852
Office of City Marshal abolished in Boston and Francis Tukey appointed Chief of Police.

July 19, 1852
Mayor Benjamin Seaver removed Chief of Police Francis Tukey and the whole night force along with part of the day force. Gilbert Nurse, Esq. was appointed Chief of Police.

January 1, 1853
Gilbert Nurse, Chief of Police, with two deputies, the usual number of office men, and 52 day patrolmen. No night police. The Chief's salary was $1,800.00 and the Police appropriation, $44,200.00

April 11, 1853
six-pointed brass star
A oblong six-pointed brass star is issued to the entire police department. This badge is designed to be worn on the left lapel of the coat.

June 1853
A Harbor Police is organized, consisting of a Captain and ten men; House at head of Sergeant's wharf. They were furnished with row boats, and armed with Colt's revolvers.

December 29, 1853
James Barry who served 14 years as Captain of the Watch resigned his office. William K. Jones was appointed new Captain of the Watch.

May 26, 1854
At 6 PM the Boston Watch and Police ceased to exist and the Boston Police Department came into being. The new department was under the supervision of a Chief of Police, subject to the direction of the Mayor, and consisted of about 250 men, with the following divisions:

Office at City Hall
2 Deputies
1 Clerk
Superintendent Hacks
Superintendent Teams
5 Detectives

Station No. 1
Hanover St.
2 Lieutenants
33 Patrolmen

Station No. 2
Court Square
2 Lieutenants
44 Patrolmen

Station No. 3
Joy St.
2 Lieutenants
23 Patrolmen

Station No. 4
Boylston Market
2 Lieutenants
43 Patrolmen

Station No. 5
Canton St.
2 Lieutenants
24 Patrolmen

Station No. 6
Broadway St. South Boston
2 Lieutenants
25 Patrolmen

Station No. 7
Meridian St. East Boston
2 Lieutenants
19 Patrolmen

Station No. 8
Sergeant's Wharf
10 Boatmen/Patrolmen

Chief of Police Robert Taylor, Esq. $1,800.00 per year; Captains $3.00 per day; Patrolmen $2.00 per day.

October 23, 1854

2nd Issue badge introduced; Silver octagon with an attached five-point star with the words "Boston Police" and rank if required.

January 1, 1855
Robert Taylor, Chief of Police; Police appropriation $188,000.00.

April 9, 1855
Mayor Jerome Van Crowninshield Smith required the Chief of Police to report the "name, age, nativity, residence, time of residence in Boston, former occupation of each member of the department, or applicant for office, and to keep a copy of said list in his office." A Police Committee is also formed consisting of four aldermen.

April 9, 1856
Daniel J. Coburn appointed Chief of Police, with a salary of $2,200.00, and a horse and chaise. Police appropriation $198,000.00; The Police Committee reduced from four members to three. An Assistant Clerk is appointed this year.

March 30, 1857
25 year veteran Deputy Chief Hezekiah Earl passed away. Also this date as an act of courtesy the Police Committee appointed members of the Common Council as Police Officers. The Police Force numbers 266 men. A City Prison created at the court house and a Superintendent appointed.

October 18, 1857
Police Officer Ezekiel W. Hodsdon murdered by two burglars in East Boston while attempting their arrest.

December 31, 1857
Police appropriation $205,500.00. A new station house on East Dedham Street was built for Station No. 5, at a cost of $17,000.00

June, 1858

3rd Issue badge introduced; Silver octagon with the numbers cut through the middle of the badge.

August, 1858
Police Telegraph is established.

November 1, 1858
Police uniform created. Blue coat, police buttons, blue pants, and a black vest, dress coat for Chief and Captains, and frock coat for Deputy and Patrolmen. Police appropriation $214,000.00.

February 28, 1859
Sergeants of Police appointed, two to each station, except the Harbor Police. A new station house for No. 7 is built on Meridian Street, East Boston, at a cost of $16,000.00, and old Hancock Schoolhouse on Hanover Street, is enlarged and improved for Station No. 1, costing some $6,000.00. Police appropriation $229,700.00.

The Police Force increased to 292 men. A Captain of Detectives appointed. A sailboat is purchased for use by the Harbor Police. Police appropriation $228,000.00.

April 15, 1861
Civil War begins. Josiah L. C. Amee, Chief of Police. Rogue's picture-gallery created.

March 1, 1862
Boston Police Relief Associated established, it was dissolved by the members within a year. Police Force increased to 317 men.

August 31, 1862
After the Union defeat at the second Bull Run Battle medical supplies, food, and 20 policemen were dispatched to Washington, DC.

December 1862
New Station House No. 3 on Joy Street is built for $28,000.00.

March 3, 1863
Colonel John Kurtz appointed Chief of Police.

April 6, 1863
Annual Police appointment ordinance is abolished, and all police officers are sworn into their office.

July 14, 1863
The Great Conscription Riot occurs in the North End.

August 17, 1863
A club two feet long carried in a leather belt is issued to all members of the department.

Colonel John Kurtz, Chief of Police. Police Force numbers 360 men. Civil War ends.

This web site is currently under development.

But I am always looking to purchase badges for my personal collection.

Feel free to e-mail me.



Copyright © 2003-2007, all rights reserved.
Duplication of any material contained herein in any form
without the express written permission of the owner is strictly prohibited.

This web site is not produced or endorsed by the Boston Police Department or the City of Boston, MA.