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Louise Gaffney Flannigan Papers

Identifier: 2007-0066

Scope and Content

The Louise Gaffney Flannigan Papers consist of 52 poems and writings written by Louise, mostly in the late 1880s, in her unofficial position as "poetess" of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen Lodge #201 of New Haven, Connecticut. Most of the poems were written in memorial to railroad brakemen who died in the line of duty or in celebration of their work. Interesting items in the collection include an undated jingle Louise wrote in praise of Solution Soap; a report of a visit Louise and her husband Frank made to a Chicago, Illinois, home for "crippled" brakemen, with a request for donations from the members of the New Haven lodge; a 1895 poem written on the "terrible sea disaster of the Steamer Elbe" which sank in the North Sea off of the coast of England; and a ten-page description of a train trip Louise and her husband Frank took in 1897 from New Haven, Connecticut, to California, where she describes the journey in great detail, including her impressions of Indians.


  • undated, 1887 - 1897, 1911, 1915, 1932


The collection is open and available for research.

Restrictions on Use

Permission to publish from these Papers must be obtained in writing from the owner(s) of the copyright.


Louise B. Gaffney Flannigan was born on June 14, 1867, in New Haven, Connecticut, in a house on Portsea Street (possibly 272 Portsea Street). As the sister and then wife of railroad men, Louise was the "poetess" of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen Lodge #201, in New Haven, Connecticut (also referred to as the Elm City Lodge), whose members were employed by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. Louise wrote poems and memorials to those who died in the line of duty, or in celebration of their heroism and fortitude. Some of her writings were published in such magazines as The American Federationist and The Railroad Brakemen’s Journal, and in the local newspaper, the New Haven Register.

A Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen Lodge, #388 (possibly number 336), in Needles, California, was named in honor of Louise Gaffney Flannigan.

Louise married Francis J. Flannigan (Frank), a railroad brakeman, in 1889. Louise and Frank had seven children – Frederick, Isabel, Elvira, Frank, Viola, Rhetta Louise, and Virginia.

Frank Flannigan was born on March 21, 1864, in Ireland. Family legend describes his early life in this way: Frank came to the United States through Canada and was put into an orphanage in New York City. He ran away from the orphanage and "went out west" to join the army. On a train going west he met a man named Dave Medill who befriended him. Medill told him that when he got out of the army to come to New Haven, Connecticut, and he would help him get a job on the railroad, the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. Frank did just that -- when he got to New Haven, Medill helped him find a room and board and sent him to the Portsea Street address where he met Louise.

Frank died in a railroad accident on February 11, 1915. His death is described, again through family legend, in this way: The railroad switched its warning system for incoming trains from bells to electric flashing lights. Frank did not know the switch had taken place that day and was crushed to death by a train. This took place at Union Station in New Haven, Connecticut. Louise would not sue the railroad after Frank's death and the railroad apparently promised to hire her children for jobs with the railroad if they so wished.

Family legend also has it that Louise's brother Fred, known as "Gaff" (and referred to frequently in her poems and writings), went off to fight in the Spanish American War (1898-1899) but came down ill with diptheria and "Louise brought him home to die."

Little is known about Louise's life after Frank's death except that she lived in her sister Isabella's house on Portsea Street and herself worked for the railroad "in the office" until she retired in 1936. Louise died on May 2, 1949. Both Frank and Louise are buried at St. Bernard Cemetery in West Haven, Connecticut.


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Language of Materials



Louise Gaffney Flannigan (1867-1949) of New Haven, Connecticut, was the sister and wife of railroad brakemen, and frequently wrote poems and other writings about railroad workers, particularly those who were members of the Brotherhood of Railroad Brakemen Elm City Lodge #201 in New Haven, in memorial to those who died while in service to the railroad, or in celebration of their good work and bravery. The Papers consist of poems and writings, including about train trips she took to Orlando, Florida in 1888, and to California in 1897.


Series I: Poems and writings (undated, 1887-1897, 1932) consists of 52 poems and writings by Louise Gaffney Flannigan. Most of the writings were written in memorial to railroad men who died on the job, others were written in celebration of their good work and fortitude. Most of the items are manuscript, presumably by Louise, with the exception of the girl's quiz, also manuscript but not in the same handwriting as the other documents (although it is possible that it was written by Louise when she was a very young girl).

Series II: Photographic print and photocopies of photographs (1889, 1911, 1915) consists of one photograph of LGF taken in 1889 and photocopies of three photographs: of Louise and Frank on their wedding day in 1889; of a large group of people in a park, labeled "Family Day of Elm City Div 317, 9-24-'11, from 1911; and of a large group of men and women (including Louise and Frank), all sitting on the steps of what is possibly the New Haven, Connecticut, post office, in 1915.

Acquisition Information

The Louise Gaffney Flannigan Papers were donated in June 2007 by Mr. Timothy F. Flannigan (Louise's great-grandson), of Northford, Connecticut. The Papers were previously held by Mr. Flannigan’s great-aunt Viola, daughter to Louise.

The photographic print of Louise Gaffney Flannigan was donated by Michael Grosso in April 2015.

Location of Copies or Alternate Formats

Digital reproductions of materials in this collection may also be found in the Archives & Special Collections digital repository

Louise Gaffney Flannigan Papers
Archives & Special Collections staff
2007 December
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US