Top 10 Old Mug Shots and the Stories Behind Them

In the mid 1860s, cops started to take old mug shots of the people they captured. These images became very popular during that time, being named after the English slang term “mug”, a word that means face.

Generally, authorities took a full face and profile photo. If charged, men had one other set of photos taken after the hair and beard were shaved off to restrict the risk of head lice. However, women’s hair was not shaved during their prison time.

For the Nebraska photos, the phrase “grand larceny” seems to be often on the opposite. The criminal activity of larceny is to deny another individual his property, and this word is still spread in the U.S., but it was eliminated in England. Larceny “from an individual” represents theft.

Another word that seems to be often used is “mayhem”, this being the permanent disabling or disfiguration of another person. In England, this phrase has now been dropped into disuse.

The responses these men and women had to their mug shots differ. For example, Herbert Cockran had to be taken into a headlock; while Minnie Bradley did not want to look at the camera for her photo. But Goldie Williams showed the most excessive gesture of defiance and Henry Ray, who has been imprisoned 10 years for manslaughter, had a grin.


James Whitewater murdered two people. While in jail from 1872 to 1889, he accepted Christian faith. In 1889, the Nebraska laws approved an act enabling the governor to pardon two prisoners who had “been in prison more than 10 years or whose behavior while imprisoned merited such whim”. When he was released from jail, he stepped through the prison gateways and “rolled all over from joy”.



Albert Johnson came to the Nebraska State Prison having an amazing handlebar mustache. He was sent to one year and six months for aggravated larceny. Because of the prison’s plan to decrease head lice, regulators shaved his head and beard. Specific explanations and mug shots were important to cops and prison regulators. Scammers easily modified titles and had several identities. Generally, three photos were taken of every prisoner. One was before the head was shaved, and another full-faced and profile photo after all hair was eliminated. Women only had their full-face and profile picture. Their hair was not shaven.



Nebraska State Prison. People hardly ever smiled in the 19th century photos. Long exposure time is often held responsible for the very few happy faces found back then. By the end of the 19th century, developments in photography technological innovation decreased exposures to only a few moments, but having a picture taken by the professionals remained a serious and sometimes clean event. Cheerful faces in the Victorian-era photos are rare, so George H. Ray beaming in a prison mug shot is really uncommon. He served 10 years for his manslaughter sentence during the late 1890s.



Goldie Williams crossed the arms in a defiantly way for the Omaha Police Court mug shot. Caught for vagrancy on Jan. 1898, Williams, known also as Meg Murphy, was only 5 ft. high and had a weight of just 110 lbs, according to cops’ information. She had her home in Chicago and her profession was that of hooker. According to her police arrest explanations, the left index finger was damaged and she had cuts below the right hand. Williams had an intricate hat with silk lace and ribbons, also wear massive hoop earrings



Three thieves blew up a safe in a financial institution located in Sheridan, Mo, on the night of February 15, 1898. The burglars got away with approximately $2,400. The lender’s insurance officials employed the popular Pinkerton Investigator Agency and sent their Associate Superintendent F.H. Tollotson to search for the thieves. Tollotson monitored one of the hunted men throughout the state to Council Hills and gradually to a room in the Sheridan Hotel in Omaha. With the help of the Omaha police forces, Tollotson arrested a gun-welding killer after a brief fight. The claimed bank thief told them that his name was Charles Martin, but had some letters sent to him as Charles Davis.

Martin was not identified by the Omaha cops, but some investigators informed the newspapers journalists that he could be the well-known safe blower and bank thief Sam Welsh. During the time of his police arrest, Martin had a silver watch and $550 in cash considered to be his part of the robbery on that day. Martin was sent to the police office where he was measured, had his photos taken and put in the jail while he waited for a transfer to the state of Missouri.



A double killing rocked the small province of Odessa, Buffalo County during the night of December 4, 1899. L. Dinsmore was found deceased in her kitchen of the home in which she and her charming spouse Frank L. Dinsmore lived. Fred Laue, the owner and property proprietor of the residence, was shot in the bedroom. The Dinsmore family had been married for only a year. According to the wife of Sam Laue, Mr. Dinsmore turned to be obsessed with her and tried to seduce her. Disappointed by his marriage, F. Dinsmore apparently plotted to murder his younger spouse and kill Laue too. After she was killed, Lillian Dinsmore’s brothers have accused Dinsmore of utilizing hypnotic abilities on their insecure sister. After listening to the allegation, Mrs. Laue also said that she was a sufferer of Dinsmore’s hypnotic power.

The Dinsmore case turned into a newspaper drama. He emphatically denied all his charges even after his guilty verdict was pronounced and he was sentenced to death by hanging. His attorneys appealed this sentence and the Gov. Dietrich stepped in to change his death penalty to life in jail. Dinsmore showed his best side for the mug shot taken at the Nebraska State Prison dressed in a simple and white-colored cotton clothing, bag coat and striped prison trousers.



Perhaps the oddest adventure is the one of Bert Martin. Being a cowboy, he was caught for horse stealing. In jail, he proved to be very helpful in the broom manufactory at the Nebraska State Prison. After 11 months in the penitentiary, his cellmate told his unusual secret: Bert was in reality a woman named Lena and she was quickly sent to the women’s area and her sentence was reduced to only one year and six months.



Bertha Liebbeke gained the popularity of being one of the Midwest’s most well-known thieves. She would look for out a well-dressed man, preferably with a diamond-studded large pin on his suit. Bertha would then “accidentally” fall into the hopeless victim, acting very weak into his arms. While he tried to help her, she would relieve the man of his valuable items or wallet. This technique gained her the surname “Fainting Bertha”. Regulators from Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska discovered the truth about Bertha and her techniques. Her aliases were Bertha Liebke, Bertha Nixon, Jennie Jennings, Menni Swilson or Bertha Siegel, the exact name on the Omaha Police Court mug shot.



On November 1903, Eli Feasel vanished from his village in the western of Bostwick, Nebraska, at about 15 miles eastern of Red Cloud. His house cleaner, Nannie Hutchinson, said that he went to see his son in Kansas. Feasel’s sibling, Thomas, became suspicious when queries discovered no track of Eli. Researches led the cops to arrest the maid and her young son Charles. With little proof that a criminal activity had been going on, they were released from jail after their hearing. The next spring, Mr. Stanley started farming Eli Feasel’s land. While working in an area, he discovered what seemed to be a recently opened up grave.

Upon other evaluations, authorities found out a human hand, pieces of hair from a man, a coat with empty bottles in its pockets and other pieces of outfits. The police considered that Charles Hutchinson saw Mr. Stanley plowing the land where the grave was discovered. Charles started to be suspicious and, on May 6, he leased a cart. He said was going to help in getting the rig to Starke Farm at Amboy, at about five miles on the eastern side. The next morning hours, Charles came back to the rig to the livery in Red Cloud and gave the regular fee to Amboy. The pair of horses used by Charles seemed to have worked more than just for a trip to Amboy. Stable employees also noticed a dreadful smell coming from the leased cart and seats. They showed little interest to it until Mr. Stanley discovered the grace on Eli Feasel’s land.

With the new proof, authorities easily rearrested Charles and Nannie. Regulators considered that on the evening he leased the cart, he and his mom came back to the place where they had hidden Feasel’s body to be take the remaining parts. The Hutchinson’s had revealing signs behind them: foot prints of a man and woman corresponding to their shoes dimensions. At last, the Hutchinson’s were in prison for second-degree killing.



The story behind many of these pictures is fascinating. Mrs. H. C. Adams with a Victorian personality was actually a hooker who was locked up for blackmail against another woman. “Fainting Bertha” Liebbeke would faint into the hands of a passing man, relieving him of all valuable items as she was going down. Stephen Stock allegedly was recruited in the U.S. military after his release and barely caught the ending of WWI.

A. Holloman was a repeating perpetrator and his sequence of mug shots shows the consequences of time on the face. Alv Lytle was sent to 12 to 15 years for financial institution theft. Then another person admitted the criminal activities and Lytle was set free. He served only two years of the sentence and obtained $2,500 in settlement.

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