September 9, 1919: “At their eve. Roll Call 5:45 the police men struck…”

Four of the officers who went out on strike on Sept. 9, 1919. (Click to enlarge.)

Four of the more than 1,100 men who went out on strike on Sept. 9, 1919. (2) (Click to enlarge.)

Dorchester resident Anna Muirson Johnson Bellamy’s diary entry on Tuesday September 9, 1919 ends with a brief news bulletin: “At their eve. Roll Call 5:45 the police men struck, laid down their insignia & walked off.” (1)

The Boston police had voted to unionize and were protesting low wages and harsh labor conditions, but the Police Commissioner and the Governor refused to negotiate, the city experienced several days of lawlessness and the State Guard was called in. “The striking officers were dismissed, and once order was restored, the force was restocked with a new, non-union rank and file. The Boston police would not again unionize until 1965.”(3)

Even though the 1919 Boston Police Strike had lasting effects on the City of Boston and helped propel Calvin Coolidge to the presidency, little is known of the fates of the individual officers who risked so much to go out on strike. To fill in this knowledge gap, University Archives and Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston is collaborating with Boston Police Department archivist Margaret Sullivan and community volunteers on a collective research project to document and preserve the stories of the more than 1,100 men who took part in the strike.

Between now and September 9, 2019 – the 100th anniversary of the strike – volunteers from local organizations, classrooms, and the general public will research each of the striking officers, searching for information in census records, vital records, draft registrations, photographs, obituaries, family stories and more. The eventual biographical encyclopedia and research database will be made freely available online.

Organizations or individuals interested in participating in the 1919 Boston Police Strike Project are invited to contact project staff at


  1. Anna Muirson Johnson Bellamy’s diaries have been donated to University Archives and Special Collections by her great-grandson, local historian and Dorchester native Robert Bayard Severy, as part of the rich collection of family papers and artifacts he has gifted to the University. Some of these are processed and open for research (see Bellamy Family Papers (1865-1960) SC-0017), while others, including a number of the diaries, are awaiting processing.
  2. Tappen, G. Arthur. The officers and the men, the stations without and within of the Boston Police, Boston : Twentieth Century Biography Co. (1901).
  3. Herwick, Edgar B. III. “The Boston Police Strike That Impacted Labor For Generations” August 15, 2014.

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email

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