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About this collection

The New Orleans Police Department records housed in the City Archives include an extensive Mugshot Collection of approximately sixteen hundred mugshot cards. Dating from the late 1890s through 1925, these records give a glimpse into the lives and crimes of individuals arrested in New Orleans at the turn of the century.

 

The crimes represented in this collection are considered petty and are recorded as “criminal occupations.” These include burglar, sneak thief, confidence (con-man), suspicious person, pick pocket, prostitute, and forger, among many others. Perpetrators of murder, racketeering, and other serious crimes are not present in the New Orleans Police Department Mugshot Collection or any other photograph collection held in the City Archives.

 

The mugshot cards measure 2 ½” x 4” and include an image of the arrestee on the front and a description on the back. Cards are arranged alphabetically by the arrestee’s last name. Individually issued identification numbers appear on the front of the mugshot card. The following information is recorded on the back of the card:

  • Name
  • Alias(es)
  • Date photograph was taken
  • Residence
  • Occupation
  • Criminal Occupation
  • Nativity
  • Age
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Build
  • Complexion
  • Eyes
  • Hair
  • Beard
  • Arresting Officer(s)
  • Distinguishing Characteristics (such as scars, tattoos, freckles, teeth, etc.)

 

Accompanying the mugshots deposited in the City Archives were several thousand glass plate negatives used to create mugshot photographs. These negatives offer no identifying characteristics other than the individual’s arrest number and are unavailable for viewing due to their fragile condition.

 

New Orleans Bertillon Card Collection

 

A related collection available for researchers to view is the New Orleans Police Department Bertillon Card Collection. This is a collection of approximately seven hundred Bertillon Cards of varying sizes dating from the late 1890s to 1925. The Bertillon system was created by French criminologist Alphonse Bertillon in 1879 as a way of tracking individuals held in police custody. It is based on the science of anthropometry, the study of measurement of the human body, and includes photographs and physical descriptions of each arrestee. Fingerprints were incorporated into the Bertillon system in New Orleans in 1918 and can be seen on many of the cards in this collection. While much of the complexities of the Bertillon system have since been abandoned, many of its contributions to criminal identification remain. Officers no longer measure an arrestee’s forearm, forehead, and middle finger, but the recording of physical descriptions and mugshot photos continue as standard practice.

 
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