Photographing the Rogues: The Police and 19th Century Photography

Before there were mugshots there were rogues' gallery photos. If you're interested in the history of police and prison photography during the 19th century, you're in luck! I'm giving a Zoom talk on the subject this coming Saturday, October 10, 2020 at 1:30 PM EST. The talk will be recorded, so if you have plans … Continue reading Photographing the Rogues: The Police and 19th Century Photography

Scotch Mag

Imagine: It’s a chilly Thursday evening in early November 1859. You’re a middle-aged man, a joiner by trade. You live in Brooklyn and don’t come to the city often because it means a nail-biting ferry ride, but tonight, with cash in your pocket ($8 to be exact), you feel optimistic. As you stroll up Broadway … Continue reading Scotch Mag

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 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

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

Murder in Sacramento

He came up to the room. He had the clothes on his arm. He said that he beat a woman on L street out of them, and finally said he got them off Mrs. Gibson. He said he got her drunk and that he "croaked" her. I do not understand what croaked means. He never … Continue reading Murder in Sacramento

Stealing Butter

James Gaffney was arrested yesterday for the larceny of a tub of butter valued at $10, the property of Mr. George Plummer. — Boston Post, June 4, 1875 The alleged butter heist was part of a list of “Criminal Matters” reported by the Boston newspaper. The crimes, all thefts of various kinds, ranged from Frenchman … Continue reading Stealing Butter

Two Chucks Make One

Pickpockets Arrested…The Mayor has also received information that two men, named John North, Jr., alias Smith, alias Musgrave, alias “Big Chucks,” and John Thompson, alias “Little Chucks,” professional pickpockets, were in the city, loitering and sleeping about the Neptune engine house. They were also arrested and committed thirty days each for vagrancy. On the person … Continue reading Two Chucks Make One

Prison for Boots

Note: This story is excerpted from my book, Captured and Exposed: The First Police Rogues’ Gallery in America. On April 12, 1859, seven cases of kip (work) boots from Biggs, Staples & Co. were loaded onto the wagon of Andrew McCullough in Canton, Missouri, near the Mississippi River in the northeastern part of the state. … Continue reading Prison for Boots