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Valuing Lives, Compensating Victims

The night after the explosion, a group of Hartford residents met to establish to a fund to benefit the wounded and the families of the dead. A 50- page pamphlet including a description of the explosion, a transcript of the inquest and a selection of sermons was put together and sold in an edition of 1000 at a price of 25 cents to benefit the fund. The Hartford Daily Courant reported on large donations that came in from various donors out of state, as well as from prominent local businessmen such as Samuel Colt, who donated over $500 along with his workers.


But how would the fund be dispensed? Would the families of the dead receive more than the wounded? Of the wounded, would a disabled hand be valued more highly than a foot? How would such determinations be made? We can begin to answer this question by looking at the account book of how the funds were distributed. It would appear that the money was divided not by degree of injury, but by the stature of the injured.