Forsyth Murphy, “Drunk, Dis Conduct”, 12 Sep 1944

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The night sergeant in police headquarters from 1907 until 1925 was Gene Buckley, who passed his time composing colourful passages about the arrests of the day in the police docket. An entry from 14 April 1910 reads, “Sam Johnson (a pusson of color) was very much at large last night and in a feverish frame of mind. He had stowed away a considerable quantity of fire water and proceeded to give an imitation of a war dance interspersed with blood-curdling war whoops that made men who had retired for the night make a flying leap for their trousers hanging on the bed posts and grab their revolvers from under the pillow and hasten to the street, thinking a riot was in progress. The officer came at a two-ten clip. Seeing Sam giving a performance that might win him plaudits on the vaudeville stage, but was out of place on the street, he gave him the hook.”

One of Buckley’s later entries reads, “The prisoner and a friend of his went to the carnival on South Mill street and entered the side show. One of them didn’t like the show and amused himself by expectorating on the monkeys. The showman put him out and he got sore and further amused himself by throwing bricks at the showman.” The same carnival provided another entry: “The prisoner was earning his oats by allowing people to throw balls at his head. One of the marksmen hit him on the shoulder instead of the head and he became indignant. He pulled a revolver and threatened to perforate the crowd with bullets.”

After cataracts forced Buckley from the service, the dockets became more formal, recording only the names of prisoners, the property in their possession, the time and date of the arrest, the name of the arresting officer and the crime with which they were charged. The inclusion of only such basic information meant that each docket was capable of recording around ten-thousand crimes before it needed to be replaced. The first docket after Buckley retired lasted four years; each docket in the thirties lasted around three years; and by the forties and fifties, they lasted less than two years.

Forsyth Murphy was the first person to be entered into the fresh docket that was opened on 12th September 1944. He was charged with intoxication, disorderly conduct and “interference with a newsboy”. Nothing further is known of the incident, or of Forsyth.

Sources: New Castle News (15 April 1910, “Sergeant Buckley Blossoms Out As Police Scribe”; 22 May 1922, “Rare History Discovered In City Docket”; 2 Jan 1929, “Four Thousand Names On Police Docket”; 8 June 1934, “Old Docket Started September 30, 1930”; 3 Nov 1937, “Around City Hall”; 12 Sep 1944, “File Police Docket With 10,500 Names”; 24 Aug 1948, “10,879 Arrests In 22 Months”).

5 Comments

  1. Hi Diarmid —

    I know this is really random, but…I’m one of the editors of a literary magazine called Barrelhouse (http://www.barrelhousemag.com). We publish fiction, poetry, essays, and interviews, and we try to “bridge the gap between serious art and pop culture.” In each issue, we include the winners of a themed contest — our last one was “sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” and our upcoming issue is the crime issue. I’m writing because one of the things we like do is publish what we call “pop flotsam,” little pieces of pop culture that somehow relate to our theme. Last issue, we published rock posters. In the issue before that (office life), we published a number of Thomas Allen’s book jacket dioramas (http://thomasallenonline.com/). I’m sure you can see where I’m headed by now — I’m writing to see if you’d be interested in us publishing some of these small town noir mugshots as the pop flotsam in our crime issue. Again, I know this is random, so please feel free to get in touch with any questions — my email is dave@barrelhousemag.com.

    We wouldn’t be able to pay you, but you’d receive full credit and we could include the link back to this site. We usually publish 1,000 issues and are stocked by many of the Barnes and Nobles in the U.S.

    If you’re interested in this, we have two ideas: one is that we’d publish the mugshots along with you brilliant and succinct write-ups. The other is that we’d ask some writer friends to write brief stories/poems/whatever based on the mug shots.

    Anyway, if you’re interested, or if you have any question, please let me know. This site is awesome, and we’d love to include these in some way in the next issue of Barrelhouse. I’d also be happy to send you a few copies if you’d like to check them out first. A review of our last issue can be found here: http://www.thereviewreview.net/reviews/sex-drugs-and-zombies-lit-mag-thats-got-it-all

    Sorry for the super-random post. Please do let me know if you’re interested and/or if you have any questions at all. Thanks!

    –dave

  2. eileen buckley snyder says

    Very interesting! Gene Buckley was my great grandpa. Other than being a policeman and kind man, I know nothing about him. Thanks for the insight:)

    • Hi Eileen – glad to be of service. As soon as I have a decent internet connection again, I’ll send you a few PDFs of newspaper pages with articles about him from the 1920s, including a colourful one in which he reminisces about his life in the station. I’m sure you’ll like them.

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