One more thing that appears to have gotten its start in New York? The mugshot. The city’s nascent police force began taking photographs of criminals as early as 1857.
“The culprits of New-York, pickpockets. burglars, shoplifters, forgers, and the whole genus of swindlers, owe no debt of gratitude to Monsieur Daguerre,” stated a New York Times article published that year.
Over the next few decades, the Rogue’s Gallery expanded into the hundreds.
Among his other police innovations (like the Third Degree and the Dead Line), Byrnes came up with the idea of taking a photo of every criminal suspect, not just known crooks.
He then cataloged the suspect’s image, along with a physical description and other details that could be used to identify the potential lawbreaker before an offense was committed.
Byrnes’ Rogue’s Gallery was housed in a room on the first floor of police headquarters (above), which was then located on Mulberry Street.
He even published a book in 1886, Professional Criminals of America, which was kind of a portable Rogue’s Gallery containing photos and descriptions of 200 bad characters.
Did the Rogue’s Gallery work? Crime did drop, but it’s hard to know if all the mugshots had anything to do with it.
Read more about the early policing efforts of the NYPD and the pioneering crime-fighting tactics of Byrnes, promoted to police chief in the 1890s, in New York City in 3D in the Gilded Age, in bookstores June 3.
[Mugshot images: Professional Criminals in America]
Tags: Detective Thomas Byrnes, early crime-fighting tactics, Female mugshots, Gilded Age New York crime, New York crime, New York crime 19th century, Professional Criminals in America, Rogues Gallery mugshots, Rogues Gallery NYPD, Thomas Byrnes NYPD, Who invented the mugshot