Vintage Mugshots from the 1920s
The Sifter recently stumbled upon an incredible collection of vintage mugshots housed by the Historic Houses Trust. Many of these intriguing photographs are also accompanied by a description of the person and the crime(s) they have committed. For example, the image above of Mr. William Stanley Moore was taken May 1st, 1925. The caption describes him as: an opium dealer operating with large quantities of faked opium and cocaine. Also a wharf labourer and associates with water front thieves and drug traders.
The images themselves are of excellent quality, beautifully composed and in many cases, quite artistic. Please enjoy this curated selection of 30 photographs along with brief descriptions of each when available.
2. Albert Stewart Warnkin and Adolf Gustave Beutler
18 October 1920
Albert Stewart Warnkin is listed in the NSW Police Gazette of 10 November 1920, as charged with attempting to carnally know a girl eight years old. No entry is found for Beutler, whose picture is inscribed ‘wilful and obscene exposure’.
3. Thomas Craig, Raymond Neil (aka “Gaffney the Gunman”), William Thompson and FW Wilson
January 25, 1928
This photograph was apparently taken in the aftermath of a raid led by Chief Bill Mackay – later to be Commissioner of Police – on a house at 74 Riley Street, ‘lower Darlinghurst’. Numerous charges were heard against the 15 men and women arrested. It was a house frequented by ‘reputed thieves’.
4. Eugenia Falleni, alias Harry Crawford, 1920
When ‘Harry Leon Crawford’, hotel cleaner of Stanmore was arrested and charged with wife murder he was revealed to be in fact Eugeni Falleni, a woman and mother, who had been passing as a man since 1899. In 1914, as ‘Harry Crawford’, Falleni had married the widow Annie Birkett. Three years later, shortly after she announced to a relative that she had found out ‘something amazing about Harry’, Birkett disappeared.
5. Ah Low
May 31, 1928
6. Joseph Messenger
February 15, 1922
Joseph Messenger and Valerie Lowe were arrested in 1921 for breaking into an army warehouse and stealing boots and overcoats to the value of 29 pounds 3 shillings. The following year, when this photograph was taken, they were charged with breaking and entering a dwelling. Those charges were eventually dropped but they were arrested again later that year for stealing a saddle and bridle from Rosebery Racecourse. As an adult Messenger was active in inner-Sydney underworld through the 1920s, and he appears in the NSW Criminal Register (16 July 1930 entry no 171) as a seasoned criminal and gang affiliate.
7. De Gracy (sic) and Edward Dalton circa 1920
8. Frank Murray alias Harry Williams
February 4, 1929
Harry Williams was sentenced to 12 months hard labour on March 1929 for breaking, entering and stealing. Although he ‘consorts with prostitutes’ and ‘frequents hotels and wine bars in the vicinity of the Haymarket’, he is described as being of ‘quiet disposition’.
9. Gilbert Burleigh and Joseph Delaney
August 27, 1920
Gilbert Burleigh on the left is identified as a ‘hotel barber’, and Delaney’s picture is labelled ‘false pretences & conspiracy’. A companion photograph makes it clear that in fact Delaney was the hotel barber – meaning one who books into a hotel, boarding house or residential and robs (or ‘snips’) fellow patrons, usually in the dead of night
10. William Cahill
July 30, 1923
‘SPECIAL PHOTOGRAPHS’ BY NSWPD
These pictures are from a series of around 2500 “special photographs” taken by the New South Wales Police Department photographers between 1910 and 1930. These “special photographs” were mostly taken in the cells at the Central Police Station, Sydney and are, as curator Peter Doyle explains, of “men and women recently plucked from the street, often still animated by the dramas surrounding their apprehension”.
Doyle suggests that, compared with the subjects of prison mug shots, “the subjects of the Special Photographs seem to have been allowed – perhaps invited – to position and compose themselves for the camera as they liked. Their photographic identity thus seems constructed out of a potent alchemy of inborn disposition, personal history, learned habits and idiosyncrasies, chosen personal style (haircut, clothing, accessories) and physical characteristics.”
11. Sydney Skukerman, or Skukarman
September 25, 1924
An entry in the Supplement to the NSW Police Gazette Sydney for Skukerman, (alias Kukarman, alias Cecil Landan) is captioned ‘obtains goods from warehousemen by falsely representing that he is in business’.
12. “Silent Tom” Richards and T Ross
April 12, 1920
13. George Whitehall
February 24, 1922
George Whitehall, carpenter, handed himself into Newtown police after hacking to death his common-law wife, Ida Parker on Thursday afternoon 21 February 1922, at their home in Pleasant Avenue, Erskineville. This photo was apparently taken the following morning at Newtown Police Station.
14. Guiseppe Fiori, alias Permontto
August 5, 1924
No entry for Fiori/Permontto is found in the NSW Police Gazette for 1924, although this photo appears in a later photo supplement, in which Fiori is described as a safebreaker.
15. John Walter Ford, Oswald Clive Nash
16. Kong Lee
November 27, 1922
Kong Lee makes numerous appearances in the NSW Police Gazette as a ‘safe blower’ and ‘thief’, and is noted in the issue of February 1929 as having recently been seen riding trains ‘in the company of card sharpers and spielers’.
17. Ernest Joseph Coffey
June 2, 1922
18. Ernest James Montague
August 29, 1927
19. Walter Keogh
February 9, 1922
Walter Keogh appears in the Photo Supplement to the 1923 NSW Police Gazette (7 February Group 1 p. 4) identified as a pickpocket, and later in 1928 (26 December, Group 4 p. 15) as a ‘suspected person and bogus land salesman’. Keogh was also profiled in exposes in the newspaper Truth in 1928, as a ‘go-getter’, ie a con man who sells suburban building blocks at grossly inflated prices, by falsely leading the buyers to believe the lots may be promptly resold for a huge profit.
20. Thomas Bede
November 22, 1928
21. Masterman Thomas Scoringe
November 29, 1922
22. Patrick Riley
August 11, 1924
Patrick Riley (alias Matthew Edward Riley) was convicted in October 1924 of making counterfeit coins, and of having a coining instrument (ie a mould) in his possession, for which he was sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour.
23. Alfred John (or Francis) West
April 7, 1922
24. Walter Smith
Deember 24, 1924
Walter Smith is listed in the NSW Police Gazette, 24 December 1924, as ‘charged with breaking and entering the dwelling-house of Edward Mulligan and stealing blinds with a value 20 pounds (part recovered)’, and with ‘stealing clothing, a value of 26 pounds (recovered) in the dwelling house of Ernest Leslie Mortimer.’ Sentenced to 6 months hard labour.
25. Sidney “Pretty Sid” Grant
October 11, 1921
A picture of Sidney Grant (alias ‘Pretty Sid’) appears in the ‘Criminal Photographs’ section of the New South Wales Police Gazette, 2 May 1923 captioned ‘Confidence man (notes for gold)’. In his landmark sociological work, The Big Con (first published in 1940) David Maurer describes a con trick known as “the hot-seat”, then being practiced in Europe by “such masters of their profession as Pretty Sid, Snowy T-, Kangaroo John, Melbourne Murray, Devil’s Island Eddie, Slab B[rennan] …” It was not unusual then for the most accomplished Australian con artists to seek fresh fields in Britain, Europe (especially France) and North America, where their skills were held in high regard by fellow professionals.
26. Hampton Hirscham, Cornellius Joseph Keevil, William Thomas O’Brien & James O’Brien
July 20, 1921
27. Sidney Kelly
June 25, 1924
Details surrounding this particular photograph are unknown, but Sidney Kelly was arrested many times and much written about in newspapers during the 1920s, 30s and 40s. He was charged with numerous offences including shooting, and assault, and in the 1940s was a pioneer of illegal baccarat gaming in Sydney. This image appears in the Photo Supplement to the NSW Police Gazette, 26 July 1926, p. 6 captioned, “Illicit drug trader. Drives his own motor car, and dresses well. Associates with criminals and prostitutes.”
28. Harold Price
August 13, 1923
Harold Price was a thief and gunman. This photograph was taken after he was was arrested and charged with committing robbery under arms at a house in Randwick, Sydney, for which he was sentenced to two years hard labour.
29. Frederick Edward Davies
July 14, 1921
The handwritten inscription on this unnumbered Special Photograph reads ‘Frederick Edward Davies stealing in picture shows and theatres Dets Surridge Clark and Breen Central 14-7-21′. Police held sneak thieves in particularly low regard, which may account for the decision to photograph Davies in front of the police station’s toilet stalls.
30. Herbert Ellis circa 1920
The precise circumstances surrounding this picture are unknown, but Ellis is found in numerous police records of the 1910s, 20s and 30s. He is variously listed as a housebreaker, a shop breaker, a safe breaker, a receiver and a suspected person. A considerably less self-assured Ellis appears in the NSW Criminal Register of 29 August 1934 (no. 206). His convictions by then include ‘goods in custody, indecent langauge, stealing, eceiving and throwing a missile.
About the Forensic Photography Archive
In 1990 the Historic Houses Trust rescued a remarkable collection of NSW Police forensic photographs from a flooded warehouse in Lidcombe. Created between 1912 and 1964, the archive contains approximately 130,000 glass plate negatives depicting crime scenes, police activities, forensic evidence and mug shots and may be the biggest police photography collection in the southern hemisphere. The Historic Houses Trust has the job of conserving, repackaging, digitising, researching and cataloguing the archives contents, for which original record systems have been lost.
Major exhibitions featuring the archive have travelled widely, including Crime Scene and Femme Fatale and two books have been produced City of Shadows and Crooks Like Us by Peter Doyle. Ongoing discoveries from the archive are regularly displayed within a dedicated in the Archive Gallery at the Justice & Police Museum. The current exhibition is Collision: Misadventure by Motorcar which depicts car crashes and traffic accidents between 1920 and 1960 as well as the changing streets of Sydney, developments in automobiles and the increasing involvement of police in traffic management.
The Historic Houses Trust continues to explore this fascinating archive, attaching stories to events, histories to scenes, and motives to seemingly inexplicable behaviours. More details about the archive and information about upcoming exhibitions can be found on the Historic Houses Trust website hht.net.au. The Justice & Police Museum is open daily 9.30am – 5pm, cnr Albert & Phillip Streets Circular Quay, General $10 | Concession $5 | Family $20, T 02 9252 1144, books available at shop.hht.net.au.
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