Three Mary Graysons

Mary Grayson, Mollie Martin and Louie Vann were charged with “robbing J. Teter at Tulsa." The Claremore Commissioner’s Court in Indian Territory held them for a grand jury hearing on bonds of $300 each. Of the three, only Mary Grayson was convicted of a crime: larceny. She was sentenced to three years in prison on … Continue reading Three Mary Graysons

Sophie Lyons on Criminal Broads

Recently I spoke to Tori Telfer, the host of the podcast Criminal Broads, about my biography of Sophie Lyons. I shared some stories with Tori about Sophie's crazy life and her long career in crime. Here's the link to the podcast, or listen wherever you get your podcasts. Women have often been seen as victims … Continue reading Sophie Lyons on Criminal Broads

Fainting Bertha

A Chicago detective named Clifton Woolridge described Bertha Liebbeke as a “girlish young woman, with the baby dimples and skin of peach and cream, the innocent blue eyes, and the smiles that play so easily over her face as she talks vivaciously and with keen sense of both wit and humor.” Woolridge was clearly smitten … Continue reading Fainting Bertha

The Bank Robber and the Baronet

Harry Featherstone started his bank robbery career in his late teens. By the time he was 22, he had served time in Indiana’s state prison for safe robbery and in the Illinois State Penitentiary for burglary. Harry was born “Henry Featherstonhaugh” and was named for his grandfather. In England, where Grandpa Henry was born, the … Continue reading The Bank Robber and the Baronet

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 Jailbreakers’ Will

It happened in the early hours of the morning on December 4, 1891. Two police officers were standing outside the Broadway Jail in San Francisco when they noticed two men walk into Hinckley alley, a narrow pathway that ran next to the jail building. Wondering what the men were doing there so late at night, … Continue reading The Jailbreakers’ Will

Silent Phil

With a crisp straw boater sitting squarely on his head, the young man doesn’t look like a hardened criminal. His clothes are clean and neat. The American flag pin on his label showed off his support for the American troops fighting in the Spanish-American War when his mug shot photos were taken. His unflinching gaze … Continue reading Silent Phil

Short, not Twain

No one would blame you for taking a glance at the photos above and wondering: “When did Mark Twain get arrested?” The answer is never. The man in the photos was not Twain, but a gentleman who went by the name “H.J. Short.” The photos were taken when Short was booked into Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary … Continue reading Short, not Twain

The Man with the Camera Eye

Don't worry! The man with the outstretched arms is not about to be crucified. His Bertillon measurements are being taken and recorded. The photo was made at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. The St. Louis police had an exhibit at the fair where officers explained to fair goers some of the new techniques … Continue reading The Man with the Camera Eye

Blue-eyed Boston Crooks

I call them the Boston Crooks, though to be honest I’m not sure where they were arrested, but it might have been Boston. Like half the population of Boston in the late nineteenth century, all except one of them have Irish surnames. The guy in the yellow turtleneck, Paul Lemto, is the exception. The man … Continue reading Blue-eyed Boston Crooks

Growing Up among the Rogues

He’s one of the most down-and-out looking individuals in the St. Louis Rogues’ Gallery. His jacket is far too large for him, his shirt collar looks grimy, and his hair is disheveled. His misshapen hat sits on a nearby table, and the expression on his face is one of deep sadness. The arresting officer’s notes … Continue reading Growing Up among the Rogues