The cheerful mugshot of murderer George H. Ray, 1890s.
Of all the places to be back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Nebraska was not one of them. I recently came across some “interesting” looking mugshots from that era that struck me as a little odd. What’s odd about them—as the title of the post touts—is that some of criminals, from an unfortunate chicken thief to a couple of murderers, appeared to be smiling in them. Yikes.
Photography was a very scarce occurrence during those early decades and due to that having one’s photo taken was a very serious affair. It was also less expensive than traditional oil portraiture so that even people of lesser financial stature could have own a “portrait” of themselves or their family. In the case of the Nebraska mug shots it’s not hard to draw the conclusion that of all the the occasions to have your photo taken your first mugshot wasn’t really a time to smile for the camera.
Of the bad guys and girls in this post the one I find most unnerving is the flat-out smiling mugshot of George H. Ray (pictured at the top of this post) who must have been pleased that he was about to do ten years in the Nebraska State Penitentiary for manslaughter. Another oddball among these various ne’er–do–wells is the curious case of Bert Martin (below) a convicted horse thief. As it turns out Bert Martin was actually “Lena” Martin—a woman masquerading as a man so she could work as a cowboy.
Bert Martin aka, ‘Lena” Martin, 1901
Murderer Frank L. Dinsmore, 1899
George Leonard, burglary December 23, 1901
Bertha Liebbeke, date and crime unknown
Jake Vohland, chicken thief, 1931
Ruby Fox, vagrant and car thief. Date unknown
The best mugshot of all time goes to vagrant Goldie Williams, 1898. Sure she’s not smiling but she still makes this list
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Bad Girls: Female criminals of the Edwardian era, a gallery of vintage mugshots