Find of the Month

April 2019 - Teenage sleuth


A young amateur detective named Albert Hartley wrote to the Mayor and City Council in 1894:

Your petitioner respectfully represents, that he is 18 years of age and is engaged in running an elevator for a living; that on the morning of October 4th 1894 he learned that one Bridwell had been murdered by an unknown person at the corner of Main and South 3rd streets in Seattle in a saloon and that for the purpose of procuring information concerning the murdered and to affect the arrest of such murdered a reward had been offered by the chief of police of Seattle in the sum of Two hundred and fifty dollars; that by reason of said reward petitioner made it his business to examine persons of suspicious character and particularly persons of unknown character in the Bay View House on West St.; that petitioner left his work at the elevator during October 4th 1894 for the purpose of ascertaining whether or not a certain person then at the Bay View House was the murderer of said Bridwell and that petitioner by reason of such investigation, came to the conclusion that an unknown person then staying at said Bay View House was the murderer; petitioner not being an officer of the law and not being strong physically notified and informed the officer of the city, to-wit: Dective [sic] Cudihee of all the facts then in his possession and known to him concerning said person suspected by petitioner, and said Cudihee thereupon as an officer of the city, upon the information furnished him by petitioner, immediately arrested said person pointed out by petitioner, who then gave his name as Thomas Blanck, and said Blanck was thereafter convicted of the murder of said Bridwell in the Superior Court of King County and sentenced to be hanged; that petitioner has been advised that upon a strict technicality the city might defeat all claim for reward, and petitioner submits to this honorable body whether or not he should not in some manner be rewarded for the efforts he put forth to effect the capture of said Blanck, and therefore requests that your honorable body will allow him such portion of said reward as may be deemed just and equitable under all the circumstances; petitioner files herewith a petition of many taxpayers and leading citizens urging that the reward be paid.  

A petition signed by about 80 people was indeed attached, asking the council to give Hartley at least a portion of the reward.

Discussion ensued within the two chambers of the bicameral city council. Members of the Board of Aldermen suggested that "a proper adjustment of the matter would be an equal division among all three taking part in the capture - Hartley Cudihee and Corbett." (Corbett was a second police officer involved in the arrest.) However, the City Comptroller noted that the city charter prohibited members of the police force from collecting rewards for work done in the line of duty.

The Claims Committee of the House of Delegates reiterated the charter prohibition on police officers receiving any reward, even though Cudihee and Corbett "exhibited a great deal of courage in the performance of this duty, and that they, if any one, would be entitled to the reward." Given that the payment was "for the capture of the murdered, and not for information leading to apprehension," they recommended no reward be given and that the petition be rejected.

However, two weeks later they apparently had a change of heart and recommended that "an award of $25.00 be given young Hartley providing we have assurance that this full amount will go to A.L. Hartley if appropriated." Ordinance 3710 authorized the payment.