Adam Apfel

A member of Rochester's Finest who fought city hall - and won

My grandfather Adam Apfel was born in Rochester September 5 1855, one of the many first American-born children of immigrants who settled in Western New York in the middle 1800's.  After working in the family nursery he worked for the New York Central like his brothers John and George.  In 1895 he was appointed Park Patrolman for the city of Rochester which he held until 1900 when the position was eliminated.  The city merged the Park Police with the regular force, and all park patrolmen were guaranteed appointment provided they pass the department physical.

Adam passed the physical without a problem--he performed as well as if not better than some of the younger members of the force.  This was 1900 and at 46 Adam was considered almost elderly.  But Adam was refused an appointment and was without a job--only one month after the birth of their third child, my father Walter.  The reason was with his height of just under 5 foot 6 Adam didn't fulfill the minimum height requirement of the Rochester P.D. 

Adam sued the Police Commissioner and the city of Rochester, arguing that the law combining the Park with regular police guaranteed his appointment to the regular force provided he passed the physical.  The city countered saying he did not pass due to his height.  Yet medical experts testified to the contrary.  He won the first round, the city appealed, he won again and they appealed again.  Over the course of the next two years the two would wage their battle in the courts.  The city tried to wear him down but he wouldn't give in.  Finally both sides agreed to a settlement, Adam received his appointment on March 17, 1903.  In return he would not receive any back pay for the period he was unemployed. 

Adam faced a good deal of opposition because of his age--many felt he wanted to be on the force just to get a pension.  As it turned out, he spent 15 more years as a member of Rochester's finest until he died in November 24, 1918.  During that time the local newspapers carried many stories about Adam's successful execution of his duties as a policeman--from subduing violent criminals to his quick action reporting a fire in the Old Washington Rink which saved lives and property.  


There is a possibility Adam picked up a side job while out of work from 1900 - 1903:  a guard for Thomas Edison's child when a kidnapping was threatened in 1901.  While Adam lived in Rochester, a train ride to the Edison home in East Orange, NJ was not out of the question.   I'm attempting to verify if this is the same Adam Apfel - who was a brawny man, according to newspaper accounts.

George Thomas Apfel

June 14, 2014

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