This nightstick, a type of wooden club, commonly known as a "billy" club used by police forces, belonged to Chicago Police Captain William Ward, who was in charge of the third precinct at the Desplaines Street Station. Ward used it during the Haymarket Affair (aka Riot) on May 4, 1886. He gave it to the Chicago Historical Society the following year.
This nightstick represents the early history of the Chicago Police Department's use of force and their role in labor unrest in the late 1800s. In spring 1886, Chicago became the center of national workers' movements' demands for an eight-hour workday, and strikes occurred throughout the city. On May 4, 1886, strikers and police clashed violently at Haymarket Square when a bomb was thrown into a group of police officers, causing them to fire into the crowd. Captain William Ward, along with Inspector John Bonfield, led 176 officers into the fray. The police force, established in 1858, was a relatively new presence and frequently used violence and weapons such as this club to subdue criminals and crowds.