A Defect of the Heart

Herman Perlmutter had a problem with Esther, his 16-year-old daughter. The middle child of seven, she refused to get a job in a factory like her older siblings had done. With nine mouths to feed, Herman and his wife, Celia — Jewish immigrants who came to America fleeing the pogroms in Hungary — desperately needed … Continue reading A Defect of the Heart

The Jonquil

The women in the mugshots is clearly disgusted. It looks like she just got a whiff of something nauseating and she's angry about it. Given the hair, make-up and clothes, it will come as no surprise that the photos were taken in 1960. The woman was suspected of running a prostitution business out of her … Continue reading The Jonquil

The Lost Chicken

According to the journalist Herbert Asbury, San Francisco's Barbary Coast in the mid-19th century was a place where women were celebrated: There was such a dearth of females in the San Francisco of gold-rush days that a woman was almost as rare a sight as an elephant, while a child was an even more unusual … Continue reading The Lost Chicken

Escape from a Bordello

Fay Bucke was arrested for stealing clothing and furs valued at the princely sum of $540 (worth about $16,000 today) from her landlady in 1904. Despite the dire circumstances she found herself in, Fay took the time to style her hair—the updo she sported in her mugshot is nothing short of magnificent. If you’re wondering … Continue reading Escape from a Bordello

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

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

The Badger Game

Old-fashioned terms for crime can be confusing. When Lillie Bates was arrested in New York City on June 17, 1909, the officers listed her crime as simply “Badger.” Did that mean she was caught mistreating a short-legged, furry, mammal that hunts at night? Probably not. More than likely it meant she was involved in a … Continue reading The Badger Game