Of Polo, Ponies and Precedent
By Honorary AQM Jack Thomas Tomarchio No. 2219
One of the big stories in Philadelphia in 1909 was the curious tale of City Trooper John W. Converse, No. 1035 and John L. Douglas, Jr. (or Dougherty, as some papers reported it).
Prior to World War I, Trooper Converse was a wealthy business executive as well as one of the best polo players in Philadelphia. On June 30, 1909, while playing polo in Devon, he ran down nine-year-old John L. Douglas, Jr, who was watching the game with a group of boys 23 feet beyond the boundaries of the polo field.
The ball was smashed towards the boys and the riders galloped in their direction. All of the polo players were able to pull up, except for Converse, whose pony trampled young Douglas causing serious injuries.
The boy’s father sued Converse for negligence. The case was non suited for failure to prove negligence and the plaintiffs appealed to the Superior Court which ruled that spectators in polo matched were entitled to be protected from out of control polo ponies. Given this new precedent, Mr. Converse and his lawyers promptly settled the case in 1915.
Converse gained a bit of fame next year by becoming the first Pennsylvanian to volunteer for duty on the US-Mexican Border when he requested leave from the First City Troop to join a flying column of regular United States cavalry on their first mission into Mexico to hunt for Pancho Villa.
His request was denied and Sergeant Converse had to settle for mobilization to the Mexican Border with the rest of the Troop in 1916. There he served as the Troop’s Stable Sergeant. After the deployment Converse decided to stay in the National Guard, eventually becoming our First Sergeant and later Cornet.
He saw action in France in World War I as an artillery officer. Ultimately, he retired from the Army in 1935 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Honorary Cornet Converse died in 1944