Pictured: Alphonse Bertillon – Archives of Service Regional d’Identité Judiciaire, Préfecture de Police, Paris via Jebulon on Wikipedia
While the photographing of criminals began in the 1840s shortly after the invention of photography, it was not until 1888 that French police officer Alphonse Bertillon standardised the process.
Mug shots, which were typically taken after a person was arrested, allowed law enforcement to have a photographic record of an arrested individual to allow for identification purposes by victims, the public and investigators.
Alphonse Bertillon (24 April 1853 – 13 February 1914) was a French police officer and biometrics researcher who applied the anthropological technique of anthropometry to law enforcement creating an identification system based on physical measurements.
Anthropometry was the first scientific system used by police to identify criminals.
Before that time, criminals could only be identified by name or photograph. The method was eventually supplanted by fingerprinting.
A comprehensive guide to help the unwitting visitor avoid falling victim to the various and nefarious crimes abound in early 19th-century London.
Written by “a gentleman who has made the police of the metropolis an object of enquiry for twenty-two years”, the book is split into six main chapters: “Out Door Delinquencies”, “Inn Door Tricks”, “Miscellaneous Offences”, “House-Breakers”, “Minor Cheats”, and “Of Conspirators and Informers”, containing within them a multitude of sub-chapters including the rather wonderfully titled offences of “Smashing”, “Greeks and Legs”, “Private Stills”, “Bon Ton”, “Box Lobby”, and “Pretenders to Literature”.
The inspiration for the character of Sherlock Holmes.
Doyle said that the character of Sherlock Holmes was inspired by Dr. Joseph Bell, a surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for whom Doyle had worked as a clerk.
Like Holmes, Bell was noted for drawing large conclusions from the smallest observations.
However, some years later Bell wrote in a letter to Conan Doyle: “You (meaning Conan Doyle) are yourself Sherlock Holmes and well you know it.”
Sir Henry Littlejohn, Chair of Medical Jurisprudence at the University of Edinburgh Medical School, is also cited as an inspiration for Holmes. Littlejohn served as Police Surgeon and Medical Officer of Health of Edinburgh, providing for Doyle a link between medical investigation and the detection of crime.
As long as there is something worth stealing it is probably the case with the human race that what that something is won’t be, and will be stolen.
This has been the case forever, and as vigilant as an owner of property might be–whether that bit that stood for labor exchange units was a cow or land or gold or money itself–there will be someone else out there in the anti-vigilant world tempting fate and chance and skill at taking someone else’s belongings away.
We have a little window that has opened to reveal a piece of that world–an unusual one, for the 19th century, anyway.
That is what I saw when breezing through the memoirs of George Washington Wallace (1823-1891), Recollections of a Chief of Police, which was published in 1887.
Wallace was police chief of New York City, making him the police chief (sorry, Chicago), and he had some pretty good recollections to recollect.
(Which is a good thing he recorded this book when he did, because he would be dead four years later.