Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.




Immigrants in colonial Pennsylvania generally settled in homogenous communities whose inhabitants shared similarities in religion, occupa­tions, and aspirations. Challenges to peacekeeping were met by a county sheriff or an agent of local law enforcement, an organized militia, or fron­tier justice. The idea of a statewide police force would not become an acceptable measure for Pennsylvanians for more than two centuries after the founding of the Commonwealth in 1681 by William Penn.

The primary obstacles to establishing a state-con­trolled police force in Pennsylvania were two-fold. In a 1970 article for American Heritage, Thomas J. Fleming concluded, “During the years of the Industrial Revolution … police depart­ments were … non-existent. There was a reluctance to organize police in England and the United States because the police looked too much like the king’s army.” An intrinsic American desire to dispense justice locally seemed to prevail.

The second obstacle, under the guise of being constitutional, favored employers and not employees. Judge Patrick R. Tamilia and John J. Hare, co-authors of Keystone of Justice: The Pennsylvania Superior Court, recently released by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) for the Superior Court (see “Bookshelf,” Spring 2001), wrote that the precept of “Liberty of Contract” invalidated police power and declared most labor legislation as unconstitutional. Courts held that a liberty of contract meant that workers, in accepting a job and employers in hiring those workers, had a “constitutional right” to decide working conditions, even if dismal, without governmental interference. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, more than sixty laws to regulate employment relationships were struck down nationwide. Ironically, nineteenth-century state laws for the protection of women and children were invalidated by the Commonwealth’s judges because they held that such legislation provided group advantage and not equality, a violation of the state constitution. Frustrated demands for better pay, work hours, and job safety sowed the seeds of civil unrest and tragedy. TI1e threat of anarchy was evident through growing labor violence and civil unrest.

One could easily have predicted an increase in unlawful behavior. Indeed, a crime wave hit London in 1829 which brought about the first organized metropoli­tan police department. America’s first metropolitan police units were formed in Boston in 1838 and in New York City in 1845, both in response to major rioting. Some historians credit the Texas Rangers as the first statewide law enforcement organization in the United States, but the Rangers were raised in 1823 as a militia to defend against Indian attacks when Texas was Mexican territory. After Texas received statehood, in 1845, the Texas Rangers emerged as a statewide police.

Nowhere was the fuse shorter in the events that would bring about changes in law enforcement and organized labor than in the anthracite (or hard coal) region of northeastern Pennsylvania. After the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was enacted in 1890 to stop restraint of trade by industrial monopolies, mining interests used it to frustrate the formation of unions. Unscrupulous union owners or superintendents engaged in violence to thwart union organizers. The Roman Catholic Church even banned union membership until Bishop Michael J. Hoban of Scranton and James Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore convinced the Vatican to lift the restriction.

With ninety-one percent of hard coal deposits owned by the railroads by 1902, wealthy absentee owners set out to consolidate their interests and turn the anthracite region into an economic colony. Not only were they able to fix the price of coal, but also they were able to control the lives of their labor force. They fermented ethnic and religious divisions by import­ing eastern and southern European workers willing to work hard for almost any wage. The better paying positions in the mining operations were given to English-speaking, native-born workers, causing immigrants to resent their immediate foremen or supervisors rather than company owners or officers.

Living conditions for workers and their families were harsh, especially for the thousands of workers who lived in company-owned housing. Miners were often paid once a month in “scrip” that could only be used at the company store. After paying for rent, groceries, poor medical services, and purchasing their own tools, many workers were actually in debt to the store – and some for life.

Further, the company-hired Coal and Iron Police, many with backgrounds no better than thugs or criminals, made life even more miserable. They frequently responded with violence to the miners who expressed discord or active union involvement. Feudal conditions helped mine owners resist union organization and kept employees and their families trapped in a life of poverty. Nevertheless, a growing movement for unionization persisted. Helping to solidify their resolve were labor leaders such as John Mitchell, president of the United Mine Workers of America (see “The UMWA Wins Ameri­ca’s Approval: John Mitchell and the Anthracite Strike of 1902,” by William C. Kashatus, Summer 2000). Workers felt that concessions were possible at small companies by labor action, but it was going to take a larger organization in order to get anywhere with large companies.

In July 1877, violence erupted among Pennsylvania Railroad workers. Repeated wage reductions, manpower cutbacks, and fears of mass layoffs led to dozens of civilians and soldiers being killed in and near Pittsburgh, fourteen people in Reading, and eight (all of them soldiers) in Johnstown, in addition to millions of dollars in railroad property damage. At the same time, riots occurred in Altoona, Erie, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Sunbury, Meadville, Mauch Chunk, Lebanon, Wilkes-Barre, Marrietta, Hazleton, and Shenandoah.

Another significant event was the 1897 massacre of protesting miners from the Lattimer Mines near Hazleton. There the local sheriff and an estimated ninety deputized men shot and killed nineteen and wounded dozens of unarmed mine workers. Although individuals responsible for the massacre were tried, including the sheriff, none were convicted (See “Massacre At Lattimer – An American Rite Of Passage: An Interview With Michael Novak” by Brent D. Glass, Fall 1997).

The turning point came with the Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902, which lasted from May 12 until October 23, 1902. Governor William A. Stone activated nine thousand National Guardsmen to restore order. The strike disrupted the peace in seven coW1ties and provoked bitterness, harassment, violence, and bloodshed, even between brothers and neighbors. Workers who crossed the picket lines in order to feed their families faced reprisals from strikers. The strike cost miners an estimated twenty-six million dollars in wages and the mine owners forty-six million dollars in production. The railroads lost twenty-eight million dollars in freight charges and the entire nation had to endure a shortage of anthracite coal priced several times the normal cost. Mobilizing the National Guard consumed nearly one million dollars in taxpayers’ money alone.

Faced with increasing pressure to intervene, President Theodore Roosevelt summoned the heads of the railroads and UMWA President John Mitchell to Washington for a conference on October 3, 1902. President Roosevelt was openly angered when John Markle of Hazleton, Luzerne County, representing the independent operators, brazenly lectured the president. “I now ask you to perform the duties invested in you as President,” Markle demanded, “to at once squelch the anarchistic conditions … by the strong arm of the military.”

The President later was reported to have remarked, “If it wasn’t for the high office I hold, I would have taken him by the breeches and the nape of the neck and chucked him out of the window.” When arrogance of the operators was compared with that of Mitchell, whom the president regarded as the only man in the room to be a gentleman, Roosevelt favored the miners.

Although the conference failed to end the strike, for which the public blamed the operators, Roosevelt appointed an Anthracite Coal Strike Commission to investigate and arbitrate the claims of both sides. After hearings lasting three months, that included an impassioned eight-hour speech from miners’ attorney Clarence Darrow, the commission found that Pennsylvania “had shirked her vital duty to enforce her own laws with her own hand … and to protect all her people in the full enjoyment of her peace. Peace and order should be maintained at any cost, but should be maintained by regularly appointed and responsible officers … at the expense of the public.”

The Anthracite Coal Strike Commis­sion accused the Commonwealth of selling its authority to vested interests. For one dollar, mine owners or their agents could purchase from the Common­wealth a commission that conferred to them unregulated police powers. These Coal and Iron Police, estimated to number five thousand, existed solely to protect the interest of the mine owners. The commis­sion’s first recommendation was a clear call for the creation of a state police force.

Early in 1903, newly elected Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker, already commit­ted to such an idea, was temporarily thwarted when the General Assembly adjourned in April 1903 and was not scheduled to meet again until 1905. He showed his distaste for the Coal and Iron Police, which he regarded as unconstitu­tional The year before he came to office, the administration of Governor William A. Stone had granted more than forty­-five hundred police commissions. Governor Pennypacker conveyed only one hundred and eighty-six commissions during the following year.

Senate Bill 278, creating a state police department, was finally introduced March 20, 1905, and passed unanimously. The House of Representatives was not as quick to endorse the legislation. One legislator complained about the five hundred thousand dollar price tag for a state constabulary. The senate version called for ten troopers in each county, for a total of six hundred and seventy, but the size of the projected force caused concern among organized labor. Workers were afraid that a state police force, like the Coal and Iron Police, could be used as a private army against them. Lawmakers compromised with an initial authorization of two hundred and twenty-eight men. Governor Pennypacker signed the bill into law on May 2, 1905, forty-two days after being introduced. Aside from the argument of the Texas Rangers, Pennsylvania’s was the first uniformed state police agency of its kind in the United States and would become a model for similar police organizations around the country and the world.

Commenting on the importance of impartial law enforcement, Pennypacker said, “I looked about to see what instru­ments I possessed wherewithal to accomplish this bounded obligation­ – what instruments on whose loyalty and obedience I could truly rely. And I perceived three such instruments – my private secretary, a very small man, my woman stenographer, and the janitor … So, I made the State Police.”

For the first superintendent of the State Police, the governor tapped a reluctant John C. Groome, then com­manding officer of the First Troop, Philadelphia City Cavalry. Groome had served as a sergeant during the 1892 riots in Homestead (see “‘The Public is Entitled to Know’: Fighting for the Public Memory of Henry Clay Frick” by Brent D. Glass, Winter 1992), as a commander during riots in Hazleton in 1897, and again as a commander in the Hazleton area during the 1902 coal strike. He had commanded two cavalry troops in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War. Pennypacker finally persuaded Groome, but not without a caveat. “If I take the task of organizing the new State Police,” said Groome, “there will be no place in the force for political henchmen or ward politicians, no toleration of wire-pulling in any shape. If, or when I cannot run it on this plane, I shall turn the commission back to the Governor, to dispose of as he pleases.” It was dear to Pennypacker that he had chosen the right man for the job.

Because no other non-militia state police force existed in the United States, Superintendent Groome traveled to Canada, Ireland, England, Switzerland, France, and Germany to study their constabularies. The idea of a uniformed, civil police force came from England’s Sir Robert Peel, the origin of the terms “bobbies” and “peelers.” Groome found the Royal Irish Constabulary the most impressive model for Pennsylva­nia because of its structure, rules, and methods. Ireland’s move to a countrywide constabulary, begun in 1822, was also brought about by riots and a reign of terror, some of it between rival secret societies.

Not long after he returned from Europe, Groome was deluged with more than one thousand applications for the new Department of State Police. As he predicted, many members of the state legislature were appealing for favor on behalf of constituents. He remained immune to political influence and announced that applicants would be considered on their own merits. The initial application requirements were simple: they had to be citizens of the United States, not necessarily of Pennsyl­vania, and between ages twenty-one and forty. An article appearing in the August 29, 1905, issue of The Scranton Times offered some additional clues about ideal candidates: “Men who have served in the regular army, who are physically sound and who are more than five feet six inches tall, stand the best chances of getting appointments on the State Constabulary.”

Only two hundred and fifty applicants passed the rigorous physical examina­tion. After mental examinations, Captain Groome “then took up the question of their moral qualifications, examining their references, army discharges, etc. and from this first lot I selected 185 men.” Candidates represented nineteen states. Ninety percent had served in the regular army. All held honorable dis­charges, many of them having served as non-commissioned officers. The first enlistees signed on for a two-year term with an annual salary of seven hundred and twenty dollars. The new department selected two hundred and thirty horses from the Savage and Conover Ranch of Fort Worth, Texas, which had been providing horses that met the specifica­tions of the U.S. Cavalry.

The men were assigned to one of four barracks: Troop A Greensburg, Westmore­land County, serving the southwest; Troop B Wyoming, Luzerne County, serving the northeast; Troop C Reading, Berks County, serving the southeast; and Troop D Punxsutawny, Jefferson County, serving the northwest. The troopers stationed at the Greensburg Barracks had to build their own barracks facility, including a large barn for the horses.

Training was demanding and con­cerned all aspects of law enforcement, from long hours of mounted drill to enforcing the Game Code. Above all, the troopers were expected to be impartial and above reproach. Hours were typically 6 A.M. to 10 P.M., usually seven days a week. By March 1, 1906, the State Police officially went on active duty. The new State Police force quickly established a reputation for being fair and thorough by controlling mob violence, fighting fires, protecting game, and tracking down criminals. The State Police patrolled sixty­-three thousand miles in rural areas on horseback during its first year. During 1906, detachments of State Police were also detailed to areas of disorder relating to strikes and rioting at various coal mines and other sites of labor upheaval. One detachment went to Essington, near Philadelphia, to stop an illegal prizefight. Superintendent Groome, in a matter-of­-fact manner, informed the governor that, “During the eight months of active service the Force has had two men killed by rioters and ten more or less seriously wounded.”

Private John Henry, was the first trooper killed in the line of duty on September 2, 1906, in the small mining commu­nity of Florence, Jefferson County. Six troopers, including Henry, approached a dwelling where four gang members wanted for murder were hiding. The troopers were met with a hail of gunfire, and three of the six troopers were immediately shot. Private Henry was killed instantly and two troopers were critically wounded. Private Homer A. Chambers, severely wounded in the face, arm, and sides, was wounded repeatedly as he coura­geously went back to the house to retrieve the body of Private Henry. Three other troopers tried again to storm the residence. Private Francis A. Zehringer gained entry to the house, but he was fatally wounded by fugitives shooting from a stairway. He became the second trooper killed in the line of duty.

The house was soon surrounded with reinforcements who exchanged gunfire with the gang members until the next morning. After the outlaws repeatedly refused to surrender, the house was dynamited and all gang members died. A sergeant attending the funeral for the deceased troopers unwittingly summa­rized the spirit of the Pennsylvania State Police. “They taught us to hold the honor of the Force dearer than life,” he remarked. “They gave their own lives to do it, readily and gladly – and that’s all any man can give.”

The spirit and reputation of the Pennsylvania State Police continued to grow as troopers responded to a variety of incidents. In February 1910, six thousand employees of the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company went on strike. The strike turned violent and the strikers went on a rampage. In response, the city police began firing into the mob, escalat­ing a riotous situation that resulted in deaths on both sides. It was at this point that Governor Edwin S. Stuart dispatched a detachment of two hundred mounted state troopers to assist Philadelphia’s three thousand police officers.

A newspaper trumpeted their impend­ing arrival by writing, “The State Mounted Police from the coal regions, hated and dreaded, known as the Black Hussars, are to encamp at dawn this morning at City Hall.” A union leader threatened to call out one hundred thousand strikers and cause one of the biggest walkouts in American history. Philadelphia authorities called on the governor to activate the Pennsylvania National Guard. Governor Stuart’s response was blunt. “When they have eaten up the State Police, then I will give you the Guard.”

The entrance of the State Police into the city’s Kensington section was long remembered by eyewitnesses. Led by Groome, two hundred mounted troopers, dressed in long black coats and dark blue helmets, entered the arena of the violence. The horses advanced at a walking pace, slowly and evenly in columns of twos, troopers looking neither left or right. Suddenly – and without warning – a striker threw a heavy bolt from a factory window, hitting a trooper in the back. A trooper who had observed the incident vaulted out of the saddle and pursued the man through the hostile crowd and marched him back, taking him into custody. The unruly mob quickly dis­persed and the area grew quiet.

“Their first appearance here on any serious business awakened for them the respect and admiration of the whole town,” reported The Philadelphia North American. “They sat in their saddles with a quiet force that stirred a glint of admira­tion in almost every eye that took them in … In the district which they patrolled all day there was not the slightest outbreak, and by nightfall the State Police had inculcated a very friendly and wholesome respect among their observers … the black­-coated police seem to have made a very favorable impression.”

A Philadelphia Ledger editorial summed up the State Police involvement and resolution to the violence in Philadelphia.” It is not their horsemanship, not their revolvers or their riot sticks, that makes this handful of men a terror to riotous law­breakers, an offense to enemies of the social order, and an assurance of safety to peaceful citizens,” opined the newspaper. “They represent no class or condition, no prejudice or interest, nothing but the sovereign majesty of the law. Hostility to them is hostility to the people.”

Theodore Roosevelt thought so highly of the Pennsylvania State Police that in 1916 he wrote, “The Pennsylvania State Police is a model of efficiency, a model of honesty, a model of absolute freedom from political contamination .. .I feel so strongly about them that the mere fact that a man is honorably discharged from this Force would make me at once, and without hesitation, employ him for any purpose needing courage, prowess, good judge­ment, loyalty, and entire trustworthiness.”

The Pennsylvania State Police has also established a proud tradition of service to communities. Since 1906, thousands of troopers, both men and women, have devoted their lives to establishing a reputation for excellence, professionalism, and dedication to duty. While their equipment and uniforms have changed through the years, their goal continues to be service. The Pennsylvania State Police has grown to more than forty-one hundred troopers and more than fifteen hundred civilian employees at fifteen regional headquarters and ninety stations. Their pride, spirit, and commitment to service continue to flourish and are perhaps best exemplified by the “Call of Honor,” which troopers consider to be their most sacred oath and the touchstone that guides them as they serve the citizens of the Commonwealth each day.

From Private John Henry’s death in 1906, to January 13, 2000, when Trooper Matthew R. Bond was killed while assisting a motorist in Erie County, a total of eighty-seven troopers have lost their lives in the line of duty. Those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice are reverently memorialized by the Pennsylvania State Police to remind the public, as well as their own ranks, that they continue to adhere steadfastly to the principles of honor, integrity, and professionalism. In September 2000, a special monument, funded by the retired troopers of Troop D, was unveiled adjacent to the New Castle Station, Lawrence County, to honor Corporal Brady C. Paul, killed in 1929, and Trooper Albert J. Izzo, killed June 13, 1979, both by suspected criminals. At the memorial service, attended by a witness who was just age thirteen when Trooper Paul was murdered, retired Lieutenant John Lechner offered his account.

Lechner said that on December 27, 1929, a new teletypewriter system, in service just four days, alerted Corporal Paul and his partner, Private Ernie Moore, to a bank robbery that occurred in Butler. TI1e two troopers set up a roadblock three miles east of New Castle. Traffic was light and it was some time later when they had stopped only their fifth car of the day. As they approached the vehicle and without warning, Private Moore was shot in the head and Corporal Paul was wounded four times in the chest. Moore later recovered.

“A passing motorist took the two wounded troopers to a local hospital,” Lechner said. “Corporal Paul knew he was dying. Because he had no family in the area, his landlord, Molly Crowell, came to the hospital to be at his bedside. Corporal Paul tried to speak … but could only whisper. As Molly Crowell leaned down to hear his last words, Corporal Brady looked at her and said, ‘Tell the boys I did my duty. I did my best.'” Lechner added, “He lived and died with honor trying to uphold the law and protect the public … we have a proud heritage of dedicated public service.”

(A footnote to this tragic episode: the suspects Glen Dague and Irene Schnoeder fled across the country, robbing more banks and shooting two more officers. They were captured in Arizona one week after shooting Paul and Moore, extradited to Pennsylvania, convicted a month later, and executed February 23, 1931. Schroed­er, at the age of twenty-one, was the first woman to be executed by the electric chair in Pennsylvania.)

The seeds of effective law enforcement and integrity planted by Superintendent John C. Groome have resulted in a modern force that maintains a sense of continuity with its own history. Naturally, there have been many changes in the Pennsylvania State Police over the years. In his report to the governor dated December 10, 1906, Groome cited just one arrest for a traffic law violation. By 1923, the State Highway Patrol was created as a separate agency under the Pennsylvania Department of Highways. The two separate police agencies were merged in 1937 as the Pennsylvania Motor Police. In April 1943, the department was renamed the Pennsylvania State Police.

In one century, troopers who have answered the “Call of Honor” have helped forge the State Police into a benchmark for other police agencies around the world. In July 1993, the State Police became the largest accredited police agency in the world. In order to receive this status from the Com.mission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, the department had to comply with seven hundred and thirty-three professional police standards.


For Further Reading

Boyle, Charles A. The Black Hussars. Bellevue, Wash.: Mabo Publishers, 1999.

Conti, Philip M. The Pennsylvania State Police: A History of Service to the Commonwealth, 1905 to the Present. Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1977.

Mayo, Katherine. Justice to All: The Story of The Pennsylvania State Police. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1920.

Miller, Donald L. and Richard E. Sharpless. The Kingdom of Coal. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985.

Pennsylvania State Police. The Pennsyl­vania State Police: A Brief History. Public Information Bulletin No. 1, 1961.


The editor of Pennsylvania Heritage gratefully acknowledges the valuable assis­tance of Captain David K. Points, who researched the history of the origins of the organization for this article, Captain Michael Simmers, and Marc J. Infantino of the Pennsylvania State Police.


The Pennsylvania State Police will celebrate its centennial in 2005 with the opening of a privately funded Historical, Educational, and Museum Center (HEMC), adjacent to the State Police Academy, near Hershey, Dauphin County. Visit the Pennsylvania State Police Museum website for information about the new center. Historical information may be obtained by visiting the Pennsylvania State Police website.


Colonel Paul F. Evanko of Harrisburg was appointed the seventh Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police by Governor Tom Ridge on February 21, 1995. A thirty-year veteran of the department an.d son of a retired State Police lieutenant, he enlisted in 1970. The author received his bachelor’s degree in education from Millersville University and a bachelor’s degree in police sciences from York College of Pennsylvania. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the FBI National Executive Institute. A member and officer of numerous professional organizations, he is a founder and past president of the Pennsylvania Narcotics Officers Association and currently serves as chairman of the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission. Commissioner Evanko is the recipient of a number of honors and awards, including a “Certificate of Award for Distinguished and Meritorious Service,” presented by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1976, and the “Pennsylva­nia Meritorious Service Medal” given in 1998 by Governor Ridge and General James W. MacVay, Adjutant General of Pennsylvania.