Baltimore native helped solve 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Dr. Calvin Hooker Goddard, 'Father of Ballistics,' pioneered system that traces bullets to guns

  • Calvin A. Goddard pioneered research into firearms ballistics.
Calvin A. Goddard pioneered research into firearms ballistics.
February 12, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimorean and Boys' Latin School graduate Dr. Calvin Hooker Goddard, who in his youth developed a fondness for firearms, went on to become known as the "Father of Ballistics" for his pioneering work in developing the system by which bullets can be traced to the weapons that fired them.

Goddard, who was born in Baltimore in 1891, graduated in 1907 from the old Boys' Latin School, which was then located on Brevard Street near Mount Royal Station.

"He was an excellent student and the number one boy in most of his classes. He especially excelled in mathematics and Latin," wrote Lee McCardell "Mac" Kennedy, Boys' Latin director of alumni affairs, in a profile of Goddard.

After graduating from Boys' Latin, Goddard graduated cum laude from the Johns Hopkins University in 1911 and earned his medical degree, also from Hopkins, in 1915. He also was a 1917 graduate of the Army Medical School in Washington.

He was practicing medicine in Birmingham, Ala., when World War I broke out. He enlisted in the Army Medical Corps as a lieutenant in 1917 and served as assistant adjutant at the Army Medical School until 1918, when he was made camp surgeon at Camp Upton, N.Y., where 200 medical officers and 1,000 men were under his command.

Goddard was promoted to major and finally lieutenant colonel. In 1919, he was transferred to United States General Hospital No. 9 in Lakewood, N.J., and then to the base hospital in Koblenz, Germany.

After the war, he returned to Baltimore and resigned his commission in 1920. The next year, he succeeded Dr. Arthur J. Lomas as assistant superintendent at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

He left Hopkins and was working in New York City as director of the Cornell Clinic in 1924 when his study of firearms — he had amassed a large collection of weapons through the years — became a full-time pursuit.

In 1925, Goddard and colleagues C.E. Waite, Phillip O. Gravelle and John H. Fisher established in New York City the Bureau of Forensic Ballistics, an independent criminological laboratory.

Goddard and his associates incorporated ballistics, fingerprinting, blood analysis and trace evidence in their laboratory. He also helped develop the first lie detectors and was editor and publisher of the American Journal of Police Science.

It was Gravelle, under Goddard's direction, who developed the comparison microscope that was used for the scientific study of spent bullets and cartridge cases.

"The Bureau was formed to provide firearms identification services throughout the United States, as few law enforcement agencies had the capability to provide these services," writes Kennedy.

Goddard's forensic ballistics expertise was sought in several famous 1920s-era murder trials.

In the Sacco-Vanzetti case, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were convicted of a 1920 payroll robbery in South Braintree, Mass., after they attacked and killed a paymaster and his guard.

They were convicted in 1921 of robbery and murder. The case, which eventually became an international cause celebre, resulted in Goddard's being called in in 1927 to review the ballistic forensics. It was Goddard's expert opinion that the bullet that killed Alesandro Berardelli came from Sacco's pistol. Sacco and Vanzetti were executed that year.

He also testified in the 1926 Halls-Mills trial, which involved the killings in 1922 of the Rev. Edward Wheeler Hall, an Episcopal priest in New Brunswick, N.J., and Eleanor Reinhardt Mills, a choir singer, whose bodies were found on a rural lane near the Middlesex and Somerset counties border.

Both had been killed by .32-caliber pistol shots to the head, Hall once and Mills three times.

Goddard traveled widely, writing and speaking on the subject of firearms identification. On a 1928 visit to Baltimore, he demonstrated with pictures of microscopic enlargements of bullets and gun barrels that each weapon leaves a characteristic mark on the missile that it discharges.

"Science has shown," Goddard said, "that bullet markings are as valuable as fingerprints."

"This theory," writes Kennedy, "was developed from the fact that no two things in the world are exactly alike. Marks, grooves, lines and scratches determine whether a certain projectile has been fired from a particular firearm."

In 1929, Goddard established a scientific crime detection laboratory at Northwestern University, which he headed until 1933.

George "Bugs" Moran, a gang leader on the North Side of Chicago whose members had been hijacking whiskey shipments bound for Al Capone on the city's South Side, learned that a shipment of bootleg whiskey from Detroit's Purple Gang was being delivered on Feb. 14, 1929, to a garage at 2122 N. Clark St., better known as the S-M-C Cartage Co. Shipping-Packing-Long Distance Hauling.

A Capone informant inside Moran's gang had duped the gang leader into thinking the shipment would arrive that morning. It was Capone's hope that Moran would be among his henchmen receiving the shipment.

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