Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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MATSELL, George Washington, chief of police, born in New York city, 25 October, 1811; died there, 25 July, 1877. In 1826 he was apprenticed as a designer in a dyeing and printing establishment on Staten island. From 1837 till 1843 he was major of the 6th infantry of the New York militia, and in 1843 was appointed a police magistrate at the Tombs. He took all active part in politics as a Democrat, was appointed a police justice, and, organizing a band of detectives, took a personal part in capturing many noted criminals. In 1844-'5 the first municipal police force in the United States was originated and organized by Matsell, of which he was chief till 1857, when the legislature passed an act creating the Metropolitan police, as Mayor Fernando Wood had been accused of using the municipal police for political purposes. Upon the creation of the new police force Mayor Wood contended that the act that established it was unconstitutional, and refused to obey the law. Matsell supported the mayor, and the force divided itself into two factions. Matsell, with his municipal police, intrenched himself in the city hall, and on 16 June, 1857, he and his men repelled an attack of the metropolitans. A riot was prevented only by calling out the militia. An armistice followed, both sides agreeing to await the verdict of the court of appeals, which decided that the act was constitutional. On the reorganization of the board of police in 1873 he was appointed superintendent, also police commissioner, and was elected president of the board of police.
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