August 3 – “The Felonious Fire Bug of Danbury” 2:00pm at the Danbury Historical Society

Archivist Brian Stevens will give a brief talk on the Danbury “Firebug”.

Danbury, Connecticut in January 1891 had endured most of the preceding three years plagued by arson. Some person or persons determined that setting fires, among the largest the area had seen up to that point, would influence the course of the City. Blame for the fires was pinned on a person or persons the Press referred to as the “Firebug,” but after three years and seemingly no closer to catching the “Firebug,” in 1891, authorities resorted to hiring at great expense an operative from the Pinkerton National Detective Agency to help.

The compelling “Firebug” story percolated throughout area newspapers including the New York Times; even a young Charles Ives wrote to his father: “We are all talking about the fires in Danbury” and seemed to have written the beginnings of a “Firebug” limerick on the same letter. However, the episode was essentially forgotten in subsequent years. This may be due in large part to the fact that James Bailey’s 1894 History of Danbury makes no mention of firebugs or any of the turmoil during this period. Likely the story would have remained forgotten were it not for a small collection in the WCSU Archives of the reports made by the Pinkerton operative that the City had hired which somehow survived the last 122 years.

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