Who Was R. J. Kinsella?

From "The Names of Hartford’s Public Schools and Other Historical Notes" for Dr. Steven J. Adamowski, Superintendent, Hartford Public SchoolsMr. Matthew K. Poland, Chief Executive Officer, Hartford Public LibraryResearched and compiled byWilson H. FaudeProject Historian, Hartford History Center Hartford Public LibraryJanuary 28, 2011Click here for complete document

Richard J. Kinsella was born in Hartford on October 5, 1857, the son of Helen and Mathew Kinsella. He attended schools in the South District. After graduation he worked for his father as a carpenter in building the state capitol in Hartford. Later he worked as a clerk in a grocery store and as a traveling salesman for a wholesale company. As a young man Mr. Kinsella was known as “Dick Kingsley” In 1866 when he formed a partnership with Thomas A. Smith it was called Kingsley and Smith. They were wholesale and retail dealers in butter and eggs. According to contemporary accounts “everybody knew that it wasn’t his name that, when he went into business, it seemed a good trade name. So, to the day of his death, he was ‘Kinsella’ in private life and in politics and ‘Kingsley’ in business. All but one of the five Kinsella children uses the name ‘Kingsley’.”

He served six years on the Court of Common Council from the old Third Ward in the south end of Hartford. He also served as an alderman. Five times Mr. Kinsella was the Democratic Party’s nominee for mayor: 1916, 1918, 1920, 1922, and 1924. In the 1916 election Kinsella lost to Republican Frank Hagarty by 869 votes. In 1918 Mr. Kinsella beat Mr. Hagarty by 152 votes. In 1920 Mr. Kinsella lost to Newton C. Brainard lost by592 votes. The 1922 contest for the Democratic nomination was a bitterly contested one. In the primary Mr. Kinsella succeeded in getting 3,537 votes, his opponents Mr. Berry 1,283 votes and Mr. McDonough 908 votes. Mr. Kinsella went on to defeat the Republican candidate Anson T. McCook by 3,600 votes. Mr. Kinsella had campaigned on the pledge to lower the street car fares. In 1924 his health had begun to fail, and despite friends’ advice that he should not run he did. He was the Democratic nominee and lost in the election to Norman Stevens, the Republican candidate by less than 200 votes.

For over sixteen years he was a member of the South School District Committee. He was a member of the Hillyer Guard, Company B, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Knights of Columbus and the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Mr. Kinsella was married on February 27, 1830 to Miss Catherine Scott of Hartford and they had seven children. Two of his grandsons were elected mayor of Hartford: James H. Kinsella (1957-1960) and George B. Kinsella (1965-1967.

Richard J. Kinsella died at his home on Wethersfield Avenue on August 12, 1925.

After he lost the 1924 election the Hartford School Board voted to name the new school under construction on Charter Oak Avenue in his honor. His obituary mentioned that “Mr. Kinsella had expressed the desire that he might live to see the opening next month of the new Richard J. Kinsella school . . . the latest addition to the schools of the South District of whose district committee he had long been a member.