Henry Dorsey, circa 1860
Early in his adult life Dorsey was imprisoned. The experience marked him. Guilt and innocence loomed in much of his thinking. In 1844 he landed in Pawtucket and began work as a sign painter. After inheriting a fortune from the sale of his father's land, he launched a philanthropic career that advocated an unusual cause. He promised any man bail and a defense if he himself could be convinced of the innocence of the accused. He provided an annual turkey dinner to the prisoners of any state that took him up on his offer.