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Pinkerton investigation Into the arson of J. Warren Goddard's properties statements and correspondence


Identifier: 1958-26-0

Content Description

This collection consists of statements and correspondence relating to the Pinkerton National Detective Agency investigation into the arson of J. Warren Goddard's properties on North Lake St., Litchfield, on May 3, 1884. A barn was destroyed and a house was damaged. There are a total of five statements, two of which were made by African-Americans, and five reports signed "Allan Pinkerton" mailed to Goddard. It cannot be determined if Pinkerton actually wrote the reports or if his name was routinely used to close them. All of the documents are contemporaneous copies: two are typewritten and ten are letterpress copies, for which there are transcriptions.

Goddard, a prominent New York City businessman who specialized in tailoring accessories, owned a large property in Litchfield and had planned to hire Italian workers from his native New York City "to make an improvement on his grounds," according to a May 7, 1884, article in the Hartford Courant. It suggested that a motive for arson may have been resentment towards the Italian workers, as the properties that were torched would have provided housing for them. On May 8, The Lichfield Enquirer had an item on the fires, writing, "We also hear threats having been made because it was reported that Mr. Goddard was to send up a force of Italians from New York to grade his grounds instead of employing local laborers." On May 15, the Enquirer reported Goddard had hired thirteen Italians from New York to work on his property.

Goddard employed the Pinkerton National Detective Agency to investigate the fires. The Pinkerton operative in Litchfield, referred to only as "J.S.W.," took statements from five people, two of which, Henry Carter and William Foote, were African-Americans (on their statements, "colored" followed their names). Goddard received five reports, written every few days from June 6 to June 17, 1884, as J.S.W. conducted his investigation. They were quite detailed, and documented his interviews of residents of Litchfield and other towns, the crime scene, possible evidence, and other related matters. The June 10th report contains a hand-drawn map that shows the location of the burned buildings.

A continuing theme in the statements and reports is concern and anger among local Irish residents about Goddard bringing in Italians instead of employing local workers. In some statements and reports, the possiblity of arson or violence towards the Italians was noted. There are several references to the organization of a lodge of the Ancient Order of Hiberians, an action also written about in the Litchfield Enquirer on July 3, 1884.

J.S.W.'s reports indicate he conducted his investigation in Litchfield from June 4 to June 13, 1884. In his June 12th report, he notes that he was ordered to return to New York when he finished and he indicated he would be returing on June 13th. He was unable to determine who caused or set the fires, but he wrote, "I have come to the conclusion that someone was detailed to burn these buildings, who does not live in the immediate neighborhood." It is not known if the case was solved.

Following Goddard's death in 1890, his sons, Warren N. Goddard and F. Norton Goddard, inherited the property. Norton renamed the residence, Fernwood. The property stayed in the Goddard family until it was sold in 1915.


  • Creation: 1884


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown.

Biographical / Historical

Joseph Warren Goddard in 1848 founded, and, until his death on September 18, 1890, was the head of the drygoods house of J. W. Goddard & Sons, one of the largest in the country its specialty of tailoring linings, silks, and mohairs. He was vice-president of the Greenwich Savings Bank, a trustee of the Woman's Hospital, a member of Dr. Bellows's Church and supported the work of the sanitary commission, while, during the Civil War, he was a member of the Executive Committee of the Union League Club. When the threat was made to mob the first African-American regiment organized in New York during the war, he was one of forty members of the Union League Club who marched down Broadway at the head of the troops. Goddard was born in New York City, June 11, 1829, the son of Joseph Goddard, of Brookline, Mass., and Elizabeth, daughter of Birdseye Norton, of Goshen, Conn.

At the age of nineteen he started in the drygoods business in New York. In 1851, his brother, F. N. Goddard, became a partner under the name of Goddard & Brother. For five years they were at 55 Maiden Lane, a Mr. Merrill being a partner for one year. They removed to 20 Park Place in 1857, to 331-33 Broadway in 1801, and to 461-07 Broadway in 1876. F. N. Goddard retired in 1879, while Warren N. Goddard, son of the founder, became his partner, in 1880, under the firm name J. W. Goddard & Son. In 1882 they removed to 516 Broadway. In 1883, the younger son, F. Norton Goddard, became a partner, under the name of J. W. Goddard & Sons. Both sons were graduated from Harvard. [Source: Van Pelt, Daniel. Leslie's History of the Greater New York. New York: Arkell Pub. Co., 1898.]

The New York Times reported in 1905 that in 1890, J. Warren Goddard's estate was valued at $12 million or about $334 million in 2013 dollars.


1 folders

Language of Materials



The records are in two folders and are arranged chronologically. There are transcripts of the handwritten documents.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Rood, Mrs. Charles. Gift

Pinkerton investigation Into the arson of J. Warren Goddard's properties statements and correspondence
Leith Johnson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Litchfield Historical Society Repository

7 South Street
P.O. Box 385
Litchfield CT 06759
860-567-3565 (Fax)