Oct 16, 2013

1920s Fashion Through the Lens of Police Mugshots

 

Between 1910 and 1930, a series of 2500 ‘special photographs’ were taken by the New South Wales Police Department. As curator Peter Doyle of the Justice & Police Museum in Sydney explains:

These ‘special photographs’ were mostly taken in the cells at the Central Police Station in Sydney and are of men and women recently plucked from the street, often still animated by the dramas surrounding their ‘apprehension’. 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.

 

The Sifter first featured images from this fascinating collection back in May 2011 and again in September 2011. In this final installment, we look at both male and female criminals mostly from the 1920s with a handful from 1930. What is most interesting are not only the artistic qualities of the vintage portraits, but the stories and tales of crime that accompany most mugshots below.

If you’re intrigued by this collection, curator Peter Doyle has published two books on the subject entitled, City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photography 1912-1948 (Hardback, 240 pages) and Crooks Like Us (Flexicover 320 pages).

If you’re in the Sydney area, you can also drop by the Justice & Police Museum (Cnr Albert and Phillip Streets, Circular Quay, Sydney, NSW 2000) from now until 30 June 2014 and see the City of Shadows exhibit. Entry to City of Shadows in free with museum entry which costs $10 for adults, $5 for children, and $20 for families.

For more information on all of Sydney’s ‘Living Museums’, visit www.hht.net.au/

 

1. Group of Criminals, Central 1921

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (1)

 

This negative was found wrapped in a paper sleeve on which is written: ‘Group of criminals, Central 1921′. The subjects are not named, but the woman on the left is believed to be Eileen Leigh or Barry (daughter of Kate Leigh). The man on the far right in the back row may be Stephen Doyle, and the man to the left of him Kenneth McLelland (or McCrerrand). The man third from the left in that row may be the pickpocket and three-card trickster known as Frederick Mewson, and the man far left in the front row is likely the pickpocket known as Norman Smith.

 

2. ‘Hayes’, early 1920s

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (2)

 

 

3. Emma Rolfe (aka May Mulholland, Sybil White, Jean Harris and Eileen Mulholland), 1 April 1920

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (14)

 

Emma Rolfe better known as May Mulholland (also as Sybil White, Jean Harris and Eileen Mulholland) had numerous convictions in the period 1919-1920 for theft of jewellery and clothing (all quality items: silk blouses, kimonos and scarves, antique bric a brac etc) from various houses around Kensington and Randwick, and from city shops. She appears as a mature woman in the NSW Criminal Register of 5 December 1934. By that time she is well known for shoplifting valuable furs and silks from city department stores. ‘When subjected to interrogation by Police who are not acquainted with her character’, the entry notes, ‘she strongly protests her innocence, and endeavours to repress her interviewers by stating she will seek the advice of her solicitor.’

 

4. Harris Hunter, 17 September 1924

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (17)

 

Hunter is listed in the NSW Police Gazette, 1924 as charged, along with William Munro, with receiving stolen goods to the value of 536 pounds 4 shillings and 1 penny, the property of Snow’s department store.

 

5. “Mrs Osbourne” circa 1919

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (4)

 

 

6. Alfred Ladewig circa 1920s

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (8)

 

Alfred Ladewig, alias Wallace, John Walker, Atkins; charged on provisional warrant with stealing by trick the sum of 204AUD, at Brisbane, the property of Alfred Walter Thomlinson. Arrested by Detective-constables Matthews and Jones, and Special-constable Bladen, Sydney Police.

 

7. Vera Crichton, 21 February 1924

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (30)

 

Vera Crichton, 23, and Nancy Cowman, 19, are listed in the NSW Police Gazette 24 March 1924 as charged, along with three others, with “conspiring together to procure a miscarriage” on a third woman. Crichton was “bound over to appear for sentence if called upon within three years”.

 

8. William Munro, 17 September 1924

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (31)

 

Munro is listed in the NSW Police Gazette, 1924 as charged, along with Harris Hunter, with receiving stolen goods to the value of 536 pounds 4 shillings and 1 penny, the property of Snow’s department store.

 

9. Elsie Hall, Dulcie Morgan, Jean Taylor c. 1920

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (13)

 

The names inscribed here do not appear in police records for 1920-21, and it is likely the women were photographed simply because they were found in the company of known criminals. A copy of this photograph has been sighted elsewhere in police archives, in which the figure here labelled ‘D Morgan’ is additionally annotated ‘lives with Paddy Brosnan’.

 

10. Ah Chong, 11 July 1928

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (33)

 

Special Photograph no. D62 (Drug Bureau photograph): An ‘Ah Chong’ is listed in the NSW Police Gazette of 21 June 1922, convicted of two charges of receiving, for which he received 12 months hard labour.

 

11. Fay Watson, 24 March 1928

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (34)

 

Although no record for Fay Watson is found in the NSW Police Gazette for 1928, the Sydney Morning Herald (26 March 1928, p. 12) reports her arrest in a house in Crown Street, Darlinghurst, and subsequent conviction for having cocaine in her possession, for which she was fined ten pounds.

 

12. Leslie Louis Bernstein, 29 November 1929

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (20)

 

Bernstein (under the alias “L Berman”) was the subject of a warrant issued in early 1929 charged with obtaining a diamond ring value 14 pounds by false pretences from an Oxford Street jeweller. In April 1930 he was further charged, along with Patricia Irving, with ‘conspiring … to cheat and defraud divers members of the public of divers large sums of money’, for which he was sentenced to 18 months hard labour.

 

13. Ronald Frederick Schmidt, 13 June 1921

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (24)

 

 

14. Valerie Lowe, 15 February 1922

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (29)

 

Valerie Lowe and Joseph Messenger 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. In 1923 Lowe was convicted of breaking into a house at Enfield and stealing money and jewellery to the value of 40 pounds.

 

15. Thomas Sutherland Jones and William Smith, 15 July 1921

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (28)

 

Smith and Jones are listed in the NSW Police Gazette as charged with stealing seven packages of twine (value 14 pounds). Jones was further charged with stealing thirty horse rugs (value 15 pounds) and two bales of kapok (value 20 pounds). Smith was fined 20 pounds; Jones was sentenced to 18 months hard labour, suspended.

 

16. Alfred Fitch, 18 August 1924

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (7)

 

When this photograph was taken Alfred Fitch was a car thief. He appears later in the 1933 NSW Criminal Register, cited as associating with the leading lights of the Darlinghurst criminal milieu, including Kate Leigh, Harold Tarlington and ‘Chow’ Hayes. His entry concludes: (i) may be described as an unscrupulous criminal, who will lend his hand to any unlawful undertaking, irrespective of its nature, and invariably assaults, or endeavours to assault, police effecting his arrest. (ii) Addicted to drink, a constant companion of prostitutes, frequents houses of ill-fame, wine bars and hotels in the city and its immediate surroundings, generally Surry Hills and Darlinghurst particularly.

 

17. Nancy Cowman, 21 February 1924

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (23)

 

Nancy Cowman, 19, and Vera Crichton, 23, are listed in the NSW Police Gazette 24 March 1924 as charged, along with three others, with “conspiring together to procure a miscarriage” on a third woman. Cowman (alias Divvers, alias Denvers) was eventually acquitted. Crichton was “bound over to appear for sentence if called upon within three years.”

 

18. Giuseppe Mammone, 15 February 1930

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (5)

 

Although labelled ‘G Mammona’, the mug shot shows Giuseppe Mammone, who was presumably interviewed and photographed in connection with the stabbing murder of Domenico Belle on Newtown Station, on the morning of 11 February 1930. Earlier that day Belle had attempted to collect a debt of 15 pounds from Mammone, who ran a barbershop in Leichhardt. It was revealed at the coronial enquiry that Mammone had previously served time in Buffalo, New York, for manslaughter. Newspaper stories of the time repeatedly refer to Mammone as the main suspect in the case, although he was not charged.

 

19. Sidney Langby, 9 December 1924

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (25)

 

Sidney Langby, 18, was one of a group of seven young men convicted in early 1925 of a series of break and enters in Sydney. Langby was charged with stealing watches, clothing and money from shops and with stealing a motorcycle and sidecar. He received 18 months hard labour on each charge.

 

20. Jack Samuels (obscured), Howard Fletcher and Michael Patrick Ryan, 1 August 1930

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (19)

 

Samuels, Harold Fletcher and M P (Mick) Ryan were three of twenty men and one woman arrested at an International Anti-Imperialism Day demonstration in Martin Place, Sydney, on 1 August, 1930. A report on the Martin Place demonstration in the Sun tells how police arrested the leaders before the demonstration truly got started (‘REDS IN MARTIN PLACE / POLICE NIP DEMONSTRATION IN BUD’), claiming to have commital warrants against them. Only four of those arrested were subsequently charged however. (The warrants related to a squatting case in Clovelly, which was to be a forerunner to the more famous eviction battles in Newtown, Glebe and Bankstown) The Sun reports that as the police van drove away, ‘lusty strains of the Red Flag were heard from within’.

 

21. Hazel McGuinness, 26 July 1929

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (36)

 

Hazel McGuinness was charged along with her mother Ada McGuiness with having cocaine (in substantial quantities) illegally in her possession. Police described a raid on the McGuinnesses’ Darlinghurst house during which the mother Ada threw a hand bag containing packets of cocaine to her daughter, shouting, ‘Run Hazel!’. Despite that, detectives spoke up for Hazel McGuinness in court, arguing that she had been led into crime by her mother (‘the most evil woman in Sydney’) who had raised her in ‘an atmosphere of immorality and dope’. Hazel was given a suspended sentence.

 

22. Daniel Ligores, around November 1920

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (12)

 

Enraged over his wife’s participation in a Surry Hills based ‘free love religious cult’ (variously called ‘Abode of Love’ or ‘Free Love Mission’ by the newspapers, or ‘Apostolic Faith Mission’ by its leader), Daniel Ligores, Salvation Army cook, of 110 Palmer Street Darlinghurst, shot his wife Gertrude Grace Ligores dead at the mission’s premises in Holt Place, off Elizabeth Street, in late November 1920.

 

23. Spencer Cornford, 9 December 1924

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (26)

 

Spencer Cornford, 19, was one of a group of seven young men (see also Sidney Langby) convicted in early 1925 of a series of break and enters. Cornford was charged with stealing watches, clothing and money from a shop and with stealing two separate motorcycles and sidecars. He received 12 months hard labour on each charge.

 

24. Isabella Higgs, 21 February 1924

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (3)

 

Thomas Bernard Hooper (39), Harold George Hooper (34), Vera Crichton, (23), and Nancy Cowman (19) are listed in the NSW Police Gazette 24 March 1924 as having been charged with “conspiring together to procure a miscarriage” on Isabella Higgs. The women in the case were eventually put on good behaviour bonds. The Hooper brothers received gaol sentences of 12 and 18 months hard labour respectively.

 

25. Albert Sing, 31 March 1922

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (6)

 

On 1 May 1922, a month after this photograph was taken, Albert Sing was sentenced to 18 months hard labour on three counts of receiving stolen goods, including fountain pens, cutlery and clothing.

 

26. Frank McGowan, Robert McFarlane and John Dennis McFarlane, 23 May 1921

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (15)

 

Robert McFarlane (the middle man in this trio) is mentioned in the Police Gazette, 7 September 1921 in connection with the theft of ‘three clocks, two sports coats and other articles’ from the warehouse of Dobson Franks Ltd. He appears in the NSW Criminal Register (24 September 1930) as a ‘thief and petty larcenist’. His MO includes visiting foundries with a horse and cart and stealing ingots of iron copper and tin. He also ‘steals laundered articles from clothes lines’. He is described as being of ‘violent disposition’, ‘addicted to drink’ and is said to associate with ‘the vagrant class’.

 

27. Greta Massey, 26 January 1923

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (16)

 

Greta Massey was an energetic impostor, forger and ‘hotel barber’ whose aliases included the surnames Gordon, Spencer, Crawford, Robins and Simpson as well as ‘Nurse Campbell’ and ‘Nurse Nicholas’.

 

28. Norman Wallace, 29 May 1923

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (38)

 

 

29. Frederick Schmelz, 20 June 1930

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (35)

 

 

30. Barbara Turner, 10 October 1921

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (10)

 

Barbara Turner (alias Tierney, Tiernan, Taylor, Florence Gillespie or Jessi Turner, sometimes known as Barbara Turner Taylor) was a ‘confidence woman’ who operated in Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane and Perth from the 1890s until the 1920s, and possibly beyond. This photograph was taken after she was arrested for defrauding one Henry Placings in Sydney of 106 pounds, by borrowing against a forged cheque, for which she received a year’s imprisonment.

 

31. Alfred Bodmore (alias Podmore), 3 August 1923

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (39)

 

Bodmore appears in the NSW Police Gazette of October 1923 as charged with breaking and entering two separate warehouses and stealing goods and money. The Police Gazette Photo Supplement of August 1925 lists him as ‘Podmore, Alfred. Safe-blower &c’ and he appears again in a photo supplement of 1927 as ‘Podmore, Alfred alias Matthew Campbell. Safeblower.’

 

32. C Smith, Joseph Bezzina, William J Williamson, Aiden Feutrill, George Hodder, William Thorson, 25 January 1928

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (11)

 

This photograph was apparently taken in the aftermath of a raid led by CIB 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. Lessee Joe Bezzina was charged with ‘being the keeper of a house frequented by reputed thieves’, and some of the others were charged with assault, and with ‘being found in a house frequented by reputed thieves’. The prosecution cast the raid in heroic terms – the Chief of the CIB, desperately outnumbered, had struggled hand to hand in ‘a sweltering melee in one of the most notorious thieves’ kitchens in Sydney’. The defence, on the other hand, described ‘a quiet party, a few drinks, some singing … violently interrupted by a squad of hostile, brawling police’ (Truth, 29 January 1928). The gallery was packed with friends of the accused, who loudly jeered the prosecution and police witnesses.

 

33. Eileen May Burt, 3 January 1924

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (40)

 

The NSW Police Gazette of 30 January 1924 mentions Eileen May Burt, 18, being sentenced to seven days hard labour for stealing, but released under the first offender provisions of the Crimes Act, and charged to be of good behaviour for 12 months. Later that year a warrant was issued for her having breached those conditions and a further entry in October lists her as having been arrested and charged, but then released with a caution.

 

34. Harry Chapman, 30 June 1924

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (18)

 

Harry Chapman was charged with stealing a motor cycle and side car (value 175 pounds) and a till containing money, value 17s. 6d, in league with Harold (‘Tarlow’) Tarlington (15) and Alfred Fitch (17). Tarlington went on to become a well-known criminal and was eventually shot dead in St Peters by Myles Henry ‘Face’ McKeon, who was himself later shot dead in Chippendale. Fitch also went on to become an active member of the Sydney underworld (see ‘Mug shot of Alfred Fitch’ in this collection). Chapman was sentenced to two years hard labour for the motor cycle theft.

 

35. May Blake, 1 September 1930

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (21)

 

The NSW Police Gazette 29 October 1930, p. 827 lists Blake as ‘charged with having cocaine unlawfully in her possession.’ She was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment and fined 250 pounds.

 

36. Henry Reid, 7 January 1930

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (37)

 

No entry for Reid appears in the NSW Police Gazette for this date, but he is cited there nine months later as having been released on license following a conviction for assault in January, and for unlawfully supplying cocaine in February. He is described as being five foot seven in height, and of ‘fresh’ complexion; a blacksmith by trade.

 

37. May Russell, 31 January 1922

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (22)

 

 

38. B. Smith, Gertrude Thompson and Vera McDonald
25 January 1928.

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (9)

 

This photograph was apparently taken in the aftermath of a raid led by CIB 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. Lessee Joe Bezzina was charged with ‘being the keeper of a house frequented by reputed thieves’, and some of the others were charged with assault, and with ‘being found in a house frequented by reputed thieves’. The prosecution cast the raid in heroic terms – the Chief of the CIB, desperately outnumbered, had struggled hand to hand in ‘a sweltering melee in one of the most notorious thieves’ kitchens in Sydney’. The defence, on the other hand, described ‘a quiet party, a few drinks, some singing … violently interrupted by a squad of hostile, brawling police’ (Truth, 29 January 1928). The gallery was packed with friends of the accused, who loudly jeered the prosecution and police witnesses.

 

39. Thomas Maria, Arthur Wyatt, and Patrick Dangar (alias Brosnan), c. 1920

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (27)

 

The serial numbers of this and the ‘Mug shot of Elsie Hall, Dulcie Morgan, Jean Taylor’ run in sequence, suggesting they were taken on the same day and, judging from the lighting, at the same time of day. None of the names appears in the Police Gazette except for Dangar, which turns out to be an alias for Owen Patrick Brosnan, (also known as Brosnahan, or Brosner), a false pretender and ‘suspected person’. An earlier mug shot of Brosnan shows him to be not the man on the right in this group of three, as inscribed, but rather the offhand individual in the centre, here identified as ‘A Wyatt’.

 

40. ‘Ah Num’ and ‘Ah Tom’, ca 1930

Vintage Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals 1920s (32)

 

The ‘D’ prefix on the serial number indicates that the photograph was taken on behalf of the Drug Bureau, which in the late 1920s consisted of two men, Detectives Wickham and Thompson. ‘Ah Num’ and ‘Ah Tom’, which may be approximate renderings of these men’s names, do not turn up in the records of the time, and the expectation that they were to be released may account for their obviously elevated mood.

 

 

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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