Samuel Powers Thrasher

National Cyclopedia of American Biography

THRASHER, Samuel Powers, reformer, was born at Cornish N. H., May 9, 1858, son of Samuel Powers and Ann Wakefield (Haven) Thrasher. His father was a building contractor and a member of the New Hampshire state senate. After a public schooling, he went to sea on a whaler, was a sailor for six years, and at twenty engaged in the insurance business in New Haven, devoting much of his time to mission work for sailors. He became active in reform movements, particularly against commercialized vice and intemperance, and for a number of years was secretary and, after 1902, general manager of the Law and Order League of Connecticut. He made a record for vigorous crusading which led to his selection in 1913 as superintendent of the committee of fifteen of Chicago, after Mayor Fred Busse's commission made its report on vice conditions in that city. In the reform program which he undertook to aid the public authorities in law enforcement, he organized an investigating staff, gathered evidence for the prosecution of persons involved in illicit traffic, and succeeded in present cases for trial that admitted no legitimate defense. He was a painstaking student of the laws bearing upon vice conditions and when a existing statute was found inadequate made effective efforts toward securing amendments,

(93) especially in relation to pandering and kindred evils. He fought for the passage of the injunction and abatement law of Illinois, which enabled the issue of injunctions against disorderly houses as public nuisances. Its constitutionality was bitterly challenged before the state supreme court, but it was sustained, and the measure became and effective weapon of reform forces. In hundreds of subsequent cases a notice of intention to institute proceedings served as sufficient warning to landlords. Mr. Thrasher was a pioneer of real law enforcement in this field, and as a practical reformer soon won the confidence of mayors, the police, prosecuting officers and the courts, as well as many non-official bodies, including the Chicago Real Estate Board. His annual reports to the Chicago committee of fifteen were in wide demand throughout the country, and he frequently went by request to other cities to help organize campaigns against commercialized vice. Following the war period he was present of the Marine League and rendered much aid to soldiers and their families. Mr. Thrasher was married, Oct. 20, 1880, to Esther, daughter of William  T. Bristol of New Haven, Conn., and had six children, Bertha Dorcas, wife of A. J. Van Thielsen of Belgium; Ruth Mildred, wife of Dana Washington of Chicago; and Dwight Moody, Paul Skiff, Stanley Powers, and Dana Bristol Thrasher. He died in  Chicago, Ill., September 11, 1925.


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