Murder by Moonlight

It was the tail end of the summer in 1937 when these men were arrested in St. Louis, Missouri. They were suspects in a murder that had taken place a few days earlier in Chicago. The photo was taken with a flash, which adds to the film noir flavor of the image. Note that the … Continue reading Murder by Moonlight

The Allotment

Pink Bruner was serving a life sentence at Leavenworth Penitentiary for a murder he didn’t commit. It happened on a Saturday night in early May 1900. The city marshal, Hugh Myers, had ridden on horseback to the western edge of Davis, a small town in Indian Territory, to investigate gunshots. There he found three Black … Continue reading The Allotment

The San Quentin Follies

The follies were a high point in the dreary lives of the prisoners at San Quentin. An annual tradition held near the end of December, the prisoners wrote, directed and starred in each and every act. During the early years, when there were few female prisoners, the men produced and acted in the show, dressing … Continue reading The San Quentin Follies

Sherlock Holmes in a Skirt

After watching The Alienist: Angel of Darkness I wondered about Sara Howard, the protagonist in season two of the show. Did a woman like Howard, who works as a detective, actually exist in New York of the 1890s? Author Caleb Carr said he based the character of Howard on a flesh and blood woman named … Continue reading Sherlock Holmes in a Skirt

The Real Inspector Byrnes

No one who follows this blog will be surprised to find that I’m a fan of The Alienist, currently in its second season on TNT. The show, based on the novels by Caleb Carr, vividly brings to life crime in gritty lower Manhattan in the late nineteenth century, complete with dimly lit saloons, dogfights in … Continue reading The Real Inspector Byrnes

The Chauffeur in the Bedroom with the Lead Pipe

Bess was the wife of Harry A. Nelson, the Deputy Assessor of Alameda County, California. It was the Great Depression, and many people were suffering financial hardship, but the Nelsons were not among them. They lived in a comfortable home at 5314 Boyd Avenue in Oakland with their daughter Jessie and Bess’s mother, Mae Hulett. … Continue reading The Chauffeur in the Bedroom with the Lead Pipe

Freedom Rider Bliss

On the afternoon of July 10, 1961, a well-dressed young woman boarded a bus in St. Louis that was headed south to the state of Arkansas. She was not making the trip for pleasure; in fact it was risky. She was almost certain to be arrested, or even worse, attacked. The newspapers would later describe … Continue reading Freedom Rider Bliss

Lena’s Scarlet Letter

A young woman going by the name of Lena Duarte was sent to prison on Halloween day in 1901. Her crime? Sending an “obscene letter” via the US mail to her friend Mabel Smith when she was in Fresno. This was a felony and Lena’s conviction earned her a sentence of six months in San … Continue reading Lena’s Scarlet Letter

The Divine Miss Devine

She gazes off in the distance with a look of calm confidence on her face. With her hair pulled tightly back from her forehead, a small curl nestling near her ear and delicate lace gloves on her hands, she appears to be the epitome of a beautiful and alluring antebellum woman. It was in the … Continue reading The Divine Miss Devine