Montclair Historical Society Presents A Montclair Murder Case

John Armstrong's Death Certificate 1879
John Armstrong’s Death Certificate 1879

Finished binge-watching Making a Murderer and Serial? If you’re looking for another great murder mystery you’ll want to attend the Montclair Historical Society’s presentation of The Banker, the Busybody, and the Irish Coachman: A Montclair Murder Case on March 13.

In the summer of 1879, residents of the sleepy suburb of Montclair were shocked to learn of a deadly altercation on Orange Road, when John Armstrong, an Irish immigrant coachman, was fatally shot by his employer Joseph Blair. In the highly partisan press coverage that followed, and in Blair’s subsequent trial for the murder of his coachman, the victim’s Irish identity was widely discussed and hotly debated.

Joseph Blair's Passport Photo, 1915
Joseph Blair’s Passport Photo, 1915

For defenders of Joseph Blair, John Armstrong was a violent and drunken “desperado,” and an Irish Catholic who was a “bad Catholic” at that. For those championing the cause of Armstrong, on the other hand, the victim was “a poor Irish boy” killed by his arrogant and bullying “parvenu employer.” What did it mean to be Irish in Montclair in the latter half of the nineteenth century? And why was Blair acquitted of the murder of his coachman?

Board of Trustee member and historian Mary Catherine Moran will present the facts and lead the discussion.

The Banker, the Busybody, and the Irish Coachman: A Montclair Murder Case
Sunday, March 13 from 2 pm – 3:30 pm
Crane House and Historic YWCA, 110 Orange Road, Montclair, NJ, 07042
Suggested donation $5

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