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

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

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

Portrait of a Drug Dealer

The first hint of trouble came when Elmer Tuttle deserted from the army. He’d enlisted in his home state of New York for a three-year stretch on September 14, 1901. He made it through just over a year and a half, deserting on April 2, 1902. Captured six months later, he was dishonorably discharged. Four … Continue reading Portrait of a Drug Dealer

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

Black Hand in Baltimore

Antonio Lanasa received a threatening letter in August 1906. A black cross with the inscription “Everlasting Death” was crudely drawn in ink at the top of the page. Below the cross was written: “We of the Black Hand advise you once more and no more, because we have waited too long and don’t intend to … Continue reading Black Hand in Baltimore

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