Small Town Noir is dedicated to recovering the life stories behind mug shots from the vanished golden age of one American town.
The men and women in these mug shots are nobody special, but they saw things that none of us will ever see. They were all arrested in New Castle, a small town in western Pennsylvania, right over by the Ohio border. It was once one of the most industrially productive cities in America, but all that’s gone now.
At the beginning of the 20th century, New Castle was a boom town – its population almost tripled between 1890 and 1900 as thousands of immigrants from Europe and across America arrived to work in its tin plate mills, steel factories, ceramics works, foundries and paper mills. The depression of the 1930s hit the town as hard as anywhere else, but world war two and the Korean war kept its manufacturing base going. The population peaked at 48,834 in 1950, but it was downhill from there. Today, around 28,000 people live in New Castle. The unemployment rate is twice the national average.
The mug shots on this site date from the 1930s to the 1950s – from the temporary slump of the great depression to the terminal slump that followed Korea. Those decades also happen to correspond to the classic era of American crime cinema, from the Warner Brothers gangster movies of the 1930s to the noirs of the 1940s and 1950s, and the faces in the photographs wouldn’t look out of place in the background of any thriller from Little Caesar in 1931 to Touch of Evil in 1958.
I write another blog, The Unsung Joe. It’s about unknown extras and bit-part players in old Hollywood films — the kind of people who played the waiters, the cab drivers, the passers-by in the street. It’s surprising how much you can find out about them, about their hopes for their careers, about their disappointments, their tragedies and their joys. Then again, they lived in Hollywood at a time when it was the centre of the imaginative life of most of the western world, and anything that happened there was reported in gossip columns, magazines and newspapers wherever English was spoken.
That was never the case with New Castle. However, the New Castle News – the local paper, still going today – diligently recorded the goings-on in the town and made sure that its readers knew who had visited whose house for dinner, who had been sent to war, who had drunkenly crashed their car, who had gone to jail. The record is patchy, of course, but it’s possible to piece together some of the stories of the people who were arrested all those decades ago and, in doing so, catch a glimpse of what life was like in that long-gone town.Diarmid Mogg
I was surprised to see a photo (mugshot) of my grandfather, Louis DeLuria here. Can you please tell me how you came about this information, and the story that goes with the photo? I would greatly appreciate any information you can supply. Thank You.
Thanks for getting in touch. It’s always wonderful to hear from a relative of one of the people I’ve researched! I’ll e-mail you with the full newspaper stories that mention your grandfather.
I read the article about Lewis Morphy. He had 2 other children with my aunt Edith. Pat was born in 1928 and was listed in the 1930 census as part of my grandparents household along with her mother and father . this was in Dayton, Tn, I have an old picture/flyer of Lewis and Boots in their western outfits with I believe Boots has a rifle by her side. I wish I could contact Valerie or Lewis Jr. if either one is still living to give this to them.
I wish I could help, Peg, but I can’t find any trace of either of them. Keep on trying — I’m sure they’d want to see the flyer.
Dear Peg, I knew Boots Kaye and the children in Laurel Canyon in the 50’s. I was born in 1942 Boots entrusted me with calling the studios to see if she had work! It’s very sad about Valery and Lewis Jr. I was disappointed that Diamid couldn’t find more information … I was 18 yrs. old living in the San Fernando Valley when I saw the headline that Lewis had done what he did I wasn’t surprised just sad for the children… I hope that somehow they turned out okay.
Wow. I am just now seeing this on May 9, 2017. I am fb friend with Morphy Mike (Lewis Jr.) He lives in Belize and spends time in the states . Valerie is a sculptor and seems to be doing ok.You can contact me on fb.
Iona Mueller are you still around? I hope you read the info about Lewis jr. and Vaiarie,
Lewis jr is on fb as Morphy Mike
I have been a fan on Flickr for a year or so, and now I can become a fan of the blog. Your writing is clear, concise, and powerful; your research is top-notch; and your heart is always open. A respectful journey into, as you say yourself, things that none of us will ever see.
Thanks, Kendall. Very good of you to drop by – it’s always good to know someone’s reading this stuff!
Excellent work, Diarmid! So many of these read like they should be the basis for screenplays, or subplots in screenplays–do you have that in mind down the road, or is it my job? 🙂
Michael – I’d love it if you were to use any of these stories in fiction of any sort. Feel free!
I Love your blog. As someone who does a lot of reading,enjoys good writing and attempts to write some himself the twists your stories take are inspiring.
That’s really great to hear, Rick. Thanks!
Also, I checked out your blog – what a lot of interesting music. I’d encourage anyone reading this to head over there and treat themselves to some good times: http://realdeepblues.blogspot.com/
Hey there, Diarmid,
Thanks very much for all the work that must go into this blog. It’s one of my favorites!
Really? That’s excellent! Keep dropping by; there’s lots more unfortunates still to come – I’ve got an interesting selection of female transgressors that I’ll post over the coming weeks in the interests of evening up the gender balance around here.
Thanks for saying you like the stories.
Fascinating stuff! Are you from New Castle? If not how did you manage to choose my hometown for your blog?
It’s rumored that there is a lot of mob and gangster history in New Castle. Have you ever run into that?
My uncle, who died some years ago, once told me of an incident in New Castle, which he said many believed involved Bonnie and Clyde. Supposedly, they were stopped by police, but fled successfully. He was an armed guard at a mill, and he said he heard about it through law enforcement connections. Have you ever heard that one before? PS I’m enjoying your comments.
Thanks Jim. No, no one’s ever told me about Bonnie and Clyde showing up in New Castle, and I haven’t come across any reference to it anywhere. Weren’t they active a little further west, anyway? It would be strange for them to drive all the way to New Castle, but who knows? I think the case of Irene Schroeder and Glenn Dague is as close as New Castle got to having some sort of Bonnie and Clyde figures. You can read about it here: http://murderpedia.org/female.S/s/schroeder-irene.htm
Not sure what this is exactly, but it is from the New Castle, PA Police Dept. with Clyde’s name on it from Dec. 1929
That blew my mind, but just for a minute. It looks like the arrest cards that are attached to each mug shot, but I reckon it’s actually an all-points-bulletin or be-on-the-lookout card. The dates (1926 and 1929) on the card are intriguing, though. I wouldn’t have thought Clyde Barrow would have been wanted for murder that early in his life. I don’t know, though – I’m no a Bonnie and Clyde expert.
There is an historical marker along the Old State Road in Shenango Township on New Castle’s east side that commemorates a shoot out between police and some gang passing thru maybe in the 20s? We used to stop and look at it when we passed by on our bicycles. I never got the whole story but rumour was it was Bonnie and Clyde. I will try and get a photo next time I am home to visit.
It will be the Schroeder/Dague case from 1929. I haven’t found a connection to any of my mug shots, but I’d love to, as I’d like to write about it. You can read more about it on this website: http://www.lawrencecountymemoirs.com/lcmpages/753/schroeder-dague-crime-spree-new-castle-pa
Glenn Dague and Irene Schroeder, from WV I think, my Brother and I were just talking about that a couple days ago…They got the electric chair, their son just died a few years back.
I’m not from New Castle; I’m from Scotland. I’ve ended up writing about the town mostly by chance – the mug shots from New Castle that you can buy online tend to come with complete arrest information, and the New Castle News archive is full of all sorts of details about the lives of the old townspeople, criminals and regular folks alike. As I started to research the stories, I got more and more interested in New Castle’s history, and finally decided it would make a great theme for a blog.
The full story should be in the New Castle News within the next couple of weeks – a reporter from the paper just interviewed me, and the piece will be published soon. I’ll post a link here when it is…
As for the mob, yes, I found out some stuff in connection with the mug shots of a couple of Italian guys, which I’ll publish later on. If I remember correctly, they were tangled up in numbers running and that sort of thing rather than anything to do with narcotics or violence.
I’m a french art student living in Brussels.
I’d like to thank you for the blog and I ‘d like to know about the status of these mug shot.
I’m looking for this type of mug shots for a work, so I’d like to know if the site content is protected or free of rights.
You can contact me for further informations.
Thom – thanks for writing. I’ll e-mail you to talk about your ideas, but, essentially, you’re welcome to use the photographs in your art. Of course, I’d appreciate it if you were to credit Small Town Noir and/or Diarmid Mogg as the source. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do!
I’ve written you before, long ago, to express my appreciation for Unsung Joe. It is and has always been one of my favorite blogs and I look forward to each entry. Somehow I’d missed the start of smalltownnoir, but I’m looking forward to reading the posts. Most especially because I have a consulting client in New Castle and have spent quite a bit of time there. Thank you for all your hard work.
Thanks for dropping by, Rob – it’s an honour to have you.
hello there diarmid, my name is carlos and just wanted to say that i looove your blog/site,its very addicting,i still have to check the unsung joe one,thanks for all your research, i find all this kind of stuff fascinating,had one question,are some of the articles without mug shots or is there something wrong with my computer? thanks again for posting these great stories!!!!
Hi Carlos – thanks for your comment; it’s good to know you like the blog. There are no posts without pictures, so I can’t think why you’re not seeing some of them. No one else has mentioned it, and I’ve never come across one with a picture missing. Perhaps your browser is out of date or something? Try a different, new, browser and see what happens. If there’s still a problem, let me know and I’ll look into it…
great site, fascinating stories that brings to light stories we would never normally hear, and people who would normally be forgotten. and you bring a good sense of understandingn and insight that gives the town and its people some dimensions. Suprisingly you are not even from small town America.
thanks, keep them coming.
Thanks very much. I have a box full of these photographs, so I should be able to keep them coming for a while yet. Glad you’re enjoying them.
Love this blog! Just found it. I’m from Greensburg Pennsylvania originally, but now live in Ireland (and working as a photographer). You have a great way of writing these people’s stories in a film noir fashion. It should be a book!
Thanks, Lisa. You’re very kind. I hope your memories of Pennsylvania are nothing like the stories I’ve been writing about!
Thank you for this blog. It’s the closest thing to time travel going; history you can project your imagination into.
Once we pulled down a wall in a house and found a newspaper article printed ninety years earlier to the week, a report of a woman who walked into Boston common and slit her wrist. The article hinted at a fall into poverty and despair.
This blog gives me the same sensation as that discovery, a connection to the past through empathy and the human condition.
Sean – I know what you mean about that strange feeling you can get from awful old stories that you stumble across. I’m glad this blog is giving you some of that. Thanks very much for writing.
Great articles. You have referenced my late father, Police George S. Sigler from the NCPD in numerous articles. My father was an officer with the NCPD from 1936 until 1966, when he became Sheriff of Lawrence County. He served as Sheriff from 1966 until retirement in 1989. My mother, Mary Jane Sigler was also an officer with the NCPD from 37 years, retiring in the late 1980’s.
Bette – I’m very glad you wrote. I keep coming across your parents in old copies of the New Castle News and I’d wondered whether they were married, so it’s good to have that confirmed! I expect George will feature in many more stories. I’m pretty sure there are a few mug shot stories that I’ve done some preliminary research on where he, rather than the person who was arrested, is the most interesting character.
This is an amazing site ! It is unbelievable what people will throw away. I have sent a link to some of my old New Castle buddies. Great job!!!
Thanks Scott! It’s always good to hear from someone with connections to New Castle – I figure that, if they like the stories, I’m probably on the right track.
Thanks for putting this together. Good job and I look forward to future posts.
Thanks, John. There’s plenty more to come!
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I just discovered Small Town Noir as well as Unsung Joe. I love it! I have read every last word of both blogs and look forward to reading more. I notice that you haven’t updated Unsung Joe since late last year. Any chance you’ll be picking this up again?
Very glad you like the blogs. The Unsung Joe is on a little bit of an extended hiatus at the moment, as I’m burrowing deep into New Castle lore and everything else, even that wonderful world of golden age Hollywood, seems a little less enthralling than before. But it’s not done with by any means – I’ve got a few interesting old walk-on actors to write up, and I hope to get around to them some time towards the end of the year. (I think of it as season 2…)
Small Town Noir will continue to be updated every Thursday, like normal. Got some good ones coming up.
Thanks again for writing. It means a lot.
I can not find news about a plane crash on the south side of New Castle. It was in the mid 50’s on Hamilton St. A plane crashed into a General Store. I hope you can help me find a news article or something.
Thank you, Chris
Hi Chris – You’re right. A US Air Force T-33 jet crashed into the Wasilewski general store on Hamilton street on the evening of 25 July, 1956. The New Castle News wrote: “The plane sheared off a tree in nearby Gaston Park, plowed through the south side of the Wasilewski Bldg, Carl and Hamilton streets, and burst into flames. Only two walls of the building remain standing today.”
The crew were on a training mission when the aircraft developed generator trouble and lost its electricity and radio system. They said that they searched for a safe place to land until they were almost out of fuel, and ejected after trying their best to ensure that the plane would miss the city. Obviously, their best was not quite good enough…
The owner of the store, Walter Wasilewski, and the only customer at the time, a Mrs Bockum, went outside when they heard the noise of the plane’s engines and were standing by the building when the plane hit it. They were uninjured.
Apparently, several thousand people jammed the streets near the scene of the crash, hampering the rescue and fire-fighting operations. Were you one of them?
I’ll e-mail you the PDFs of the newspaper pages. Thanks for alerting me to the story!
I remember the evening it happened and my dad (USAF man) wanted to go see what it was about . (WKST made it well kown that it had just happened.) We got into the neighborhood, but realizrd we would be in the way and didn’t try to get close, so went back home. I remember the news paper headlines, but was young then. If you have NC News articles, I would love to see them. Thanks for the post!
ED, I googled New Castle News plane crash 1956. I found articles but the only New Castle News article I received was from Diarmid in a PDF file.
Hi Diarmid. I just read the article about you in the New Castle News today. it was very interesting and led me to this site. I was a young boy and playing ball in the street with my friends when we saw the plane go down. We ran to the crash scene to get a closer look. One of the pilots who parachuted out of the plane landed in a ballfield where my brother-in law was playing softball.
That was a day to remember.
Hi! Glad you dropped by after reading the article! I visited the site of the plane crash when I was in New Castle – it seems that nothing was ever built on the plot after the crash. I saw the old steps that must have led up to the front door of the store. It must have been quite something to see it happen as a little kid!
This is not a response to this post, but to your project in general, which I think is terrific.
It brings to mind some other All-American small town narratives:
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (which is really about Clyde, Ohio, home of Whirlpool washing machines).
Spoonriver Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, a play which bears some strong resemblance to yr project,
and Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’, to name a few.
In any case, good luck with this. I hope it flourishes.
Hi John. Thanks for the encouragement. It means a lot, coming from you. And thanks very much indeed for pointing me towards Edgar Lee Masters! I’d come across Winesburg, Ohio (when I was looking for some writing that might help me to get a flavour of life in the part of the world I was writing about, before I visited New Castle), but I’d never heard of the Spoon River Anthology. I downloaded it last night, and I can’t believe nobody mentioned it to me before. It’s quite brilliant. Wish I wrote that well.
I know the Wasilewski family very well and my father has told me this story several times.
I guess it would have made quite an impression on anyone who was around then, wouldn’t it?
I witnessed the actual crash from a field west of the crash site which I’ll never forget. First I heard a boom. I looked out and first saw a parachute floating down then I saw the jet coming down in a 45 degree angle. The sound of the jet just sounded like a thump. All the kids he there started running down the hill towards the crash. The first thing I thought of was how many people would be killed in that heavy populated area and never went down to see. Ironic later working for Walter at his store on Jefferson Street 1962 and 1963 hearing the story from Walter who had a full news paper pined to the wall behind the meat counter.
I came across your blog while researching the death of my grandfather, George J. Shellogg. He lived his whole life in New Castle, PA. He died in early 1956 … I think around March. Our family always claimed that his death was an unsolved murder. He was a New Castle fireman, he worked on the railroad, and he owned a small “mom and pop” grocery store near the old fire station downdown. He lived on Delaware Ave. on the North Hill.
The story goes that he was working as a switchman on the railroad early one Sunday morning. When he failed to pick-up my grandmother, Frances Shellogg, for church that morning, she reported him missing. The police found him dead by the railroad switching station. The family always contended that he was killed for his money by someone who was riding the rails. When the police found his body, his cash was missing (money that my grandmother had given him that very morning), and he had blunt force trauma to the head.
Would you have access to any police or newspaper reports that would describe this incident? I would be most appreciative.
Hi John. I’ve read about the Shellogg case in papers from that year, and I would tend to agree with you that George was attacked. I’ll find the relevant pages and email the PDFs to you early next week.
I am a fan of your unsung joe site. I read your last entry with the link to this site. What a great idea and entertaining content. Thanks.
Good to see you, Marc! Glad you like it here, and thanks for dropping by!
enjoyed your blog great reading..
rab glasgow, scotland.
Good of you to say so, Rab – drop by any time…
just wondering if you heard of floyd monaco from mohoningtown he shot a police officer in a drug raid years ago not sure what year the officer died and i believe floyd got life in prison but has tried for parole but i heard he screwed up filing the paperwork by just a couple days past the deadline. very good job on the blog
Hi John – I haven’t come across that case at all. I’m still traveling in the USA, but I’ll check it out when I get home and see if it connects to any of my mug shots. Thanks for telling me about it!
Floyd M is my uncle.
Sorry I missed your visit to New Castle. There is an interesting news story concerning the shooting of a New Castle police officer in the 1930’s that I would like to share if you are interested. I’ve done extensive research on the officer and I have managed to obtain his badge among other items. Your blog is very interesting and well done and I have enjoyed visiting.
Hi – thanks for writing. I’m intrigued. I guess you’re talking about the murder of either Brady Paul in 1930 or Clarence Campbell in 1932. Or maybe even another one! I’m still traveling in the US, but I’ll e-mail you when I get back home…
Neither of those well known stories sorry to say but headlines none the less. I’ll fill you in completely via email when you are home.
Excellent! I’ll email you when I get back to Scotland.
It’s Diarmid, the writer of the Small Town Noir blog. I’ve made it home from the States, so it would be great if you could write with some details of the police killing that you’ve been researching. I’m very intrigued…
I still remember the night that may Dad was arrested. Before he and his buddy turned themselves in for the 1961 string of Burglaries, he gave me a small red plaster piggy bank and told me that if I worked hard and saved all of my money I could have anything that I wanted in my life. He passed away in 2004 and is buried as a veteran.
He was given the job of being a “nurse” in the prison infirmary while incarcerated and was released early never to be incarcerated again. He accepted the fact that “If you do the crime, you will do the time, nothing in life is free”. My Mother never recovered from the mental stress of those times. She suffered many years with severe mental illness and died 20 years ago as an organ donor extending life for two people with her kidneys.
My red piggy bank crashed to the floor one day but I have saved, became a Psychiatric Nurse and remembered that nothing in life is free, there is always a price to pay.
Can you forward me the information that you uncovered about the burglaries from 3 Aug 1961, 4 Aug 1961, 11 Sep 1961, and 25 Oct 1961 Penitentiary.
Thank You, Thomas Williams Jr.
Thomas – thanks so much for sharing that story with me. It’s remarkable. I’d be glad to send you the articles I’ve found. I’m still in the USA just now, but I’ll email you when I get home.
Diarmid – Thank you greatly for your kindness of sharing your research efforts with me. I have always intended to do this research myself, but I never got around to it. Little Tommy Jr. also may have also appeared in your search as he was hit by a car on Long avenue on his way to school that September 1961 – while his father was in jail. I’m glad that you did something creative with the mug shots that you obtained. There must have been a multi county release of this type old information as I had seen a similar auction for mug shots from Beaver County (south of Lawrence) on Ebay some time ago. I also find these things interesting and wonder about the past lives and what became of these people. I have a set of photos picked up at a yard sale that cover a number of years spent in Africa during the 40’s by a missionary woman – quite an interesting time in the Congo. I hope that you will continue to enjoy your interests.
Best regards Thomas E Williams Jr.
I love this blog!! I’ve always been really interested in old photos, clothing, books etc..This makes it all come to life. I’m going to add this page to my favorites and tell my friends about it.
I’ve lived in New Castle almost my entire life and as you were telling the stories – I was picturing the streets and sights of some of these places.
I think it would be fantastic to contribute to this.
I haven’t looked through all the pages yet but did you write anything about the murder swamp?
Thanks for sharing all the stories you found!!
Thanks Liz – I’m really glad you like what I’ve written. You seem like the ideal reader of the blog! I’ve read all about murder swamp, and I’d like to include it in a mug shot post, if I can find a way to work it in…
Love that someone is interested in these old stories. Is this West Pittsburgh area of New Castle talked about in this article?
Hi Chris. I’ve come across stories that took place in West Pittsburg, but none that feature any of the people in my mug shots – at least, not so far…
This is amazing. I think your work is very powerful on a global historical level. Very important. Thank you for saving this.
Will be in touch.
Very kind words. I really appreciate them.
Hi Diarmid…I wrote to you once and told you my great grandpa was gene buckley, the night desk sergeant who wrote so creatively about the crimes, criminals,and new castle. Sorry I missed you in new castle. Where did you say I could find entries in the police record from him? He was there about 20 years but it was beginning in1907 or so, before most of the crimes/mug shots I am finding now. Thanks if you could help me find it!
Hi Eileen. Good to hear from you again. I think that there’s a very good chance that the police dockets that your great grandpa Gene wrote still exist. If so, they’d most likely either be in the police department’s files or in the possession of the New Castle Historical Society. If you ask the police for the arrest dockets from 1907 to 1925 (and tell them why you’d like to see them!) they’ll probably be able to help. Please let me know if you find them. I’d love to see them some day…
Diarmid – what a unique and mesmerizing blog! I stumbled across it just today. The images and stories are like parting a veil and entering into another world. It’s hard stop reading! I’m a professional editorial illustrator. I also collect vintage photographs (including a small collection of mug shots) and I occasionally including them in my work. I am currently working with an animator, we are combining talents to create moving illustrations. Would you be willing to grant us permission to use some of your posted images in the experimental work we are doing? You can see some of my work at my site http://www.mattwood.net – I am based in Colorado. Every face tells a story… what a great place to come for creative inspiration!
Hi Matt. Sounds good! I checked out your work and I love it. I’ll send you an e-mail…
I am opening a gallery in Newcastle, England / U.K. (a possible reference to the naming of New Castle P.A.?) … would you consier exhibiting your photos and the storys you have found in a show here ? e:mail me your thoughts and we can take things from there
Ali @ Ouse Stret Arts Club
Thanks for writing. I’ll get in touch and we can sort something out.
Your blog is one of my favorite things to read. Your research is the standard of excellence, but your story telling makes this a work of art. I truly love the stories that carry on after the event of the crime – such as going on to be a war hero or growing old with no other incident, or even the ones that get into more trouble. You allow me to follow someones life and see into their souls. Thank you for providing me many hours of enjoyment!
Thanks, Jason! I’m glad to hear you like the stories. Researching the lives of these people is one of my favourite things to do – it’s like a strange, voyeuristic scavenger hunt, and you never know what you’re going to find out next. (Although there’s a good chance that it’ll be pretty depressing.)
Thanks again for writing. I really appreciate it.
Wonderful project! My name is Dennis Mohr from Toronto, Canada. I’m friends with Mark Michaelson and producing an independent documentary film about mugshot photography. I’m wondering if I can talk to you more about the project?
Cheers & thanks again!
Hi Dennis – Thanks for getting in touch. Any friend of Mark’s, and all that…
I’ll e-mail you later on tonight. Speak to you soon!
I’m writing to ask your permission to use some of these mugshots as the basis for an art project I’m working on – please email me and I’ll let you know more details. I will of course credit you, your site, and send you a copy of what I eventually do. Thank you for this fascinating and darkly beautiful pics!
Hi Zoe – Thanks. I’ll e-mail you later today.
Now this is impressive. No sarcasm here, either. Underrated, and not nearly as known as it should be, I feel not unlike a moneyless vagrant desperately longing for an overly-priced candy bar, then stumbling upon a winning lottery ticket someone tossed away.
thanks for the cool site, and the incredible efforts to create/maintain/expand its rule of the www roost.
Now a question: Are there any similar endeavors known, regarding Somerset County, PA, and specifically, the town of Windber?
Stunning site. A treat beyond words.
Hi Rich — that’s a fine colourful lot of praise indeed! Thanks very much!
Sorry to say, I haven’t come across any mug shots from the Somerset County area, let alone any writing about them. The closest I’ve got is the mug shot of a guy called John Franell, who was arrested once in New Castle but was a native of Altoona, which is pretty close to Windber, isn’t it? Anyway, the story’s here: https://smalltownnoir.com/2012/01/19/john-franell-drunk-31-july-1957/
If you come across any old mug shots from Windber, let me know, and I’ll do what I can to help you research them, if you like…
great blog! very interesting! where do you get your sources from? I would love to read the articles of the dates at the bottom of the blog about Ross Paswell. how do I locate each of those articles? thanks!
Thanks Elizabeth. I’ll e-mail you with some details…
I’ve read them all and love the stories…the penalties..amount of money things cost along with the fines. All fascinating stuff from my home town. Thank you for realizing what you have Diarmid,
Thanks a lot, Frank. Now, if only someone would do something like this for MY home town…
Awesome blog! I’m from New Castle and currently live here. One small suggestion I have is the inclusion of the WordPress Search widget. It would be a very useful tool. Keep up the good work!
Thanks, Dave. Good idea – I’ve added a search box in the side bar. Hope it helps!
Congratulations on such a fantastic blog! It’s rare to find such a combination of well presented research and vintage mug shots.
I wanted to touch base because I am the PA Commissioning Editor with The History Press – a traditional publisher of local and regional histories. You might be familiar with some of our titles in the region such as “Kill for Thrill” by Michael Sheetz and ” Legends & Lore of Western Pennsylvania” by Thomas White.
I’d be very interested in speaking with you about doing a book based on your blog. Please feel free to shoot me an email, and we’ll keep the conversation going.
Thanks Hannah. I’d love to talk to you. I’ll send you an e-mail later today.
Your site celebrates the best and worst in the rest of us. Forget Hollywood.
Thanks, John. Who needs Hollywood when you’ve got New Castle PA?
Diarmid…very fun to see NC in print…i am from NC and enjoy reading about it…i will look forward to more. and you are correct…you could write a book…LOL
Hi Ron. Thanks for commenting. Glad you’re enjoying the site — if you stumble across any relatives here, let me know…
I was in contact with you in late 2009 regarding my grandfather, Frank Siegel. You mentioned you may be doing a book. Has this happened? Could you shoot me an email as I am still in China. Blogs and different web sites tend to get blocked; as an example, I can’t access the photos on your blog.
Hi Frank! Good to hear from you again. Hope everything’s going well with you. Yep, the book is coming along — I’m waiting to hear back from people about it… I’ll e-mail you later on today.
Hi Diarmid – really love the exhibition in the Filmhouse right now, the images are very striking and so, so interesting. Fabulous, congratulations.
Thanks! I’m so glad the Filmhouse let me show them there. I figured the arthouse clientele were likely to be among the more appreciative in town…
hey diarmid,this is carlos, i ended up clearing my cache and cookies and that seemed to solve the problem that i was having about not being able to see some of the pictures on your site, thanks for the tip earlier!! the pictures are a absolute must when reading the story.
I’m blown away by this amazing blog. Cool photos and interesting storys. Great job!
Thanks very much, Jenny! There’s a good few more to come…
This site is very interesting. I was working on my ancestory when I found my great uncle on this site. I saw his mugshot and although he was quite young, I remember him clearly.
My father never told me his story but I am not surprised. I didn’t know New Castle was this exciting. I was born there and moved away when I was a child but I lived with my grandparents every summer so it was like home Keep up the wonderful work.
Oh, New Castle’s very exciting indeed. Glad I could help you see that it is! If you’ve got any stories about your great uncle, and you’ve time, you could leave a comment on his page. I’ve no idea who he might be, of course…
First, I would like to thank you for your work. I think this is a very interesting blog. I was wondering if you had any interest in learning more about the cold cases of New Castle? My father told me growing up that New Castle has been known for many unsolved murder cases and at one time, it made national news as a town to “get away with murder.” I am curious if you have any interest or if you’ve come across this part of New Castle’s history?
Again, thanks for your work!
Rachel, thanks for writing. Always good to hear from a New Castleite and, yes, I’m very interested in learning about New Castle’s cold cases. I’ve also heard that the town had quite a reputation for unsolved murders. Whether that’s true or not, I can’t say. There are a few really interesting cases, though. There’s John Blevins, the city treasurer, who was murdered in his office in January 1899. All kinds of suspects were suggested, but no one was caught. My theory is that the killing was connected in some way to the fact that someone (Blevins himself, perhaps) had been syphoning off a load of cash from the city’s treasury. Blevins died just before a visit from an external auditor, who would have no doubt denounced Blevins. Was he killed to prevent him implicating someone else?
Also interesting is New Castle’s murder swamp, which you’ve probably heard about, which was where, in the twenties, headless bodies would be discovered from time to time. There was a suggestion that they might be connected to the Cleveland Torso murders. My guess is that they were something to do with bootlegger turf wars, but that’s based on nothing but a feeling.
However, because of the strictures that I’ve imposed on myself in the writing of this blog, I can only write about those cases, and others like them, if I can find some link (however tenuous!) to one of the mug shots, and I haven’t been able to do so yet. I’d love it if it turned out that some old guy who had his mug shot taken for being drunk and disorderly in the thirties had been identified as a suspect in, say, the Blevins murder when he was a young man. But, so far, that elusive link has yet to emerge.
If you’ve got any particular stories you think might be interesting, please let me know! I’m currently looking into the life of a guy called Frank Costal, who is known as one of the most notorious murderers in New Castle’s history (but who I suspect didn’t actually commit the crime). I have a mug shot that was taken when he stole a bike when he was in high school…
I came across this webpage about the notorious Mad Butcher of Cleveland. It includes the mention of a place called “Murder Swamp” located near New Castle. An interesting coincidence!
Interesting indeed. Here’s a good page on murder swamp: http://www.lawrencecountymemoirs.com/lcmpages/744/murder-swamp-taylor-twnp-pa
I still hope to find some way of working it into the story of one of the people in my mug shots. You never know what’ll turn up…
I just stumbled across your blog and wanted to leave you a note to say I think it is remarkable.
I really appreciate how much effort it must take to research each individual’s records. I’m really interested in history and genealogy so I find these stories fascinating!
Thanks for doing this and sharing it with us.
Thanks for writing. It’s always good to hear from people who like the work. If you’ve done any historical or genealogical research you’ll know it’s hard to stop digging once you’ve started…
I saw an article on Slate earlier today concerning your blog and I just spent the last 3 hours reading it. It was a great way to spend the afternoon.
This is the link to the article…
Thanks for sending the link, Mark! And I’m really glad you thought that was a good way to spend three hours. That Slate article has sent around 30,000 new visitors to the site in the past few days, so I should probably thank them, too…
A couple of years ago, your site had a mugshot of John Dagres, John the Greek. My family was never sure if this was my great-grandfather since the photo didn’t look quite like him and we’d never heard of him getting into any trouble. Now, my mother was cleaning out an old cedar chest and found the letter from 1931 that he wrote from prison to my grandmother who was about 10 years old at the time. The letter is endearing and a little comical because you can tell he must’ve been in some very hot water with my great-grandmother! Thank you for giving us a piece of our family history. Keep up the great work!
That’s great to hear, Michelle! You’ll definitely want to read about James Dagres, in that case. He’s John’s son, so I guess he’d be your great uncle, maybe? It’s here: https://smalltownnoir.com/2014/02/01/james-dagres-b-e-28-april-1934/
And don’t worry — I don’t think I have any more Dagres family members in my collection, so later generations are safe…
Diarmid: A very interesting site. You’ve had a great deal of fun with these and done some interesting research fleshing the people out. I have other New Castle mugs, that appeared on ebay at one time or another, as well as mugs from various other places.
And I think we know some of the same people in the collecting world.
Hi John – i recognise the name wsidejack in your email address. is it the same as your ebay identity? If so, I think we engaged in some bidding wars a few years ago, before eBay anonymised the process. Could that be right? Pretty sure you always won!
Diarmid: Sorry, just saw this reply today. You probably saw my post below.
Yes, back in the day we probably bid against each other on ebay. My ebay handle is wsidejack.
I LOVE what you are doing so much. There is something so beautiful about sharing other peoples’ stories. From the mugshots to the background movie actors… love it. You are an inspiration to this young writer.
That’s very good to hear, Katie. It’s great to hear when people get what I’m doing with all of this stuff. So glad you appreciate it!
Do you mind if I write an article about you and what you do on my blog?
Of course! I’d be honoured.
I stumbled upon your website today. It is great to read. I am an avid fiction reader and writer and was surprised to find something so interesting so close to my own home. I am from Canton, Ohio, but my parents grew up in Sharon, Pennsylvania, right near New Castle. Do you have any mugshots from Sharon (It is a city much like New Castle right down the road). I have a feeling a lot of my family members were probably pinched back in the day. 🙂
Hi joseph, Thanks for writing. I think the only person from Sharon I’ve written about is William Fabian (https://smalltownnoir.com/2010/12/29/william-fabian-burglary-7-jan-1942/). He lived there when he was a kid, in the ’30s, but he moved to New Castle later on. Doubtless other characters were from Sharon (or spent time there) but I don’t know for sure. I don’t have any Grandes in my collection, however, so you’re safe!
I grew up in New Castle in the sixties but I now live in St. Louis, Missouri. I am just completing a trilogy set in New Castle in the late sixties. There is no genre but it is a little bit of everything: noir, mystery, action, romance, detective, etc. I grew up hanging out on the streets and soaked up a lot of the local lore during that period. If you are interested in the Amazon link, let me know. I know a person who just retired from the New Castle police. She was a homicide detective and worked there during the ‘80’s and ‘90’ when New Castle experienced a high crime rate.
Regards, Bruce: Electrical Engineer and Author
Hi Bruce. I’d love to read what you’ve written – please send the Amazon link!
I’m in the process of updating my covers so it should be, at the most, about a week before I get things right on Amazon so you can order it. But here is my author’s link. The portraits are the new covers but the price is screwed up.
Excellent. I’m looking forward to reading the books. Thanks for letting me know about them!
I come from a small town (15,000 in the late 60s) in NWPA that has a rich history which includes Zippo Manufacturing. For being situated far from any big city, we’ve had some of the strangest murders I’ve ever heard of. I think crimes have a lot to do with the gloom and doom mentality in depressed communities. Although there have been booms, most were still poor country folks.
You may be able to get lots of info by contacting ‘The Bradford Era’.
( http://www.bradfordera.com/news/ ) I’m sure they have news dating way back and I have personally seen many photos from the 30s, 40s and on thru. I don’t think the public library has ever thrown anything away, as I’m sure the same is true of many city gov offices.
We had many famous characters such as Tullah Hanley who lived on the square. Frankly, it was a weird place to grow up.
Hi Scott. I just checked out Bradford. You’re right – it’s pretty far from anywhere at all! Looks like an intriguing place that someone could do a pretty good bit of research on. I’d certainly love to read more about it…
I stumbled upon this. My great uncle, and namesake, was Sheriff in Lawrence County., elected in 1941.
I have the key to the now gone jail. I also have his badges and many story’s of New Castle’s past.I have many old papers and items from this.
Interesting. I wonder if he had any entanglements with anyone I’ve researched. Please let me know if you come across anyone on the site who you recognise from your great uncle’s files!
This is pretty wild! I am a new castle native, born and raised! Never thought anyone would be so interested in such a small town, nor thought it would be known overseas and researched! Great stuff!
I love New Castle, but I really think that anywhere in the world will turn out to be fascinating if you manage to find a way to dig deep into its history and the lives of the people who lived there. It’s just pure chance that led me to your home town. Glad you like what I’ve written about it!
Let’s not mince words, as a native of New Castle I am deeply offended by your projects. We writers who grew up and live in New Castle, don’t need you writing about our town. Nor do we need you waxing poetic on us. We, who actually know the place, are entirely capable of doing this on our own. Now for God’s sake, stop it, you’re embarrassing yourself.
Sorry to have offended you, Blake. I understand that it can be annoying when an outsider appears to be laying claim to insights into a community that they’ve little experience of. People are always doing it with the city I live in, with varying degrees of success. I’ve tried to avoid doing that, but it can be hard, sometimes, to strike the right balance between, on one hand, informing the reader and, on the other, not implying a deep knowledge that I just don’t have. I try, though! I try! Thanks for getting in touch, in any case. I appreciate it.
Blake, you are looking at it from a very selfish perspective. Sometimes it helps to have fresh eyes. Residing in a town for many years, you tend to get jaded and can certainly miss the nuances that someone new will pick up on.
Frankly, you are laying claim to something that doesn’t really belong to you. I think you should lighten up and be honored that an outsider is taking an interest. Lets face it, New Castle isn’t a mecca and in many cases an outside interest can bring much needed attention to a community.
My books are out there on Amazon, new covers and all. You have not offended anyone by your efforts to write about a very small part of life in NC. If one is offended by your writing, they would surely be offended by my novel. My novel is FICTION and I choose NC because I grew up there in a very transitional time in the late sixties. I was told by professional writers to write about what I know or, in my case, what I knew. I researched everything I could to make sure that all my information about NC was accurate. I used the NC Newspaper on-line archive and choose to tell it like it was. The topic of the novel is not New Castle, it just takes place there. There have been a few of my alumni who thought it was true, but it is only fiction. NC was only a vehicle to promote the theme of recovering from an abusive childhood. It could have taken place anywhere.
Keep up the good work, Diarmid.
Author of “A Year for Kristine”
Thanks, Bruce. I’m just heading over to Amazon to buy the books now. In case anyone else reading this wants to check them out, here’s the link to the first book: http://www.amazon.com/Year-Kristine-Living-Secret-Life/dp/1477434909
This is a link to the Lawrence County Memoirs site which was created by Jeff Bales Jr.
“Welcome to LawrenceCountyMemoirs.com. My name is Jeff Bales Jr. and this site was designed to document various aspects of the history of Lawrence County & surrounding areas in Western Pennsylvania. New content is being added on a weekly basis. ”
Hope this will prove to be interesting to you and your readers. Don’t know if you have ever run across this guy in your research. The segment about the Black Hand was very interesting.
That’s an excellent site, which I’ve returned to often during my research. I’ve always meant to put up a link to it on this blog, and I’m glad you’ve done it for me. At last!
I just came upon your site. My father grew up in New Castle and I grew up in a small town nearby. I can’t believe someone threw this information away. I am glad that you put it on the internet. How did you come to have them? Do you still have more to put on your site?
Hi Brenda. I’ve got a good few more still to come, and I’m always looking out for more. You can read the full story behind the blog here: http://theappendix.net/issues/2014/4/mug-shots-a-small-town-noir All your questions answered!
This website is what makes the Internet great! Keep up the excellent work!
A kindred spirit (and worthy follow on Twitter):
That looks like an extremely interesting site. Thanks, John. (And that really is a great tintype.)
Fascinating site,I couldn’t stop reading! Have you ever visited New Castle?
Thanks, Melissa. I’ve been to New Castle a couple of times now. I love it.
Hi Diarmid, Yesterday I saw the documentary ” Finding Vivian Maier” http://www.findingvivianmaier.com/ by a young man who buys at auction a chest full of film negatives and is curious about the woman who took this incredible photos. The film is about his search for her, a nanny in Chicago, and bringing this remarkable artist to the world. Reminded me of the kind of work you are doing. Hope you get to see it if you haven’t already. Linda
That looks fascinating – thanks for telling me about it; I’ll definitely watch it. In return, you might be interested in Disfarmer: A Portrait of America. Here’s a trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0yF2ovV-0A
What are the most recent mug shots you have came across or are available to you? I see you have some from 1976, do you think you will get any more recent, say the 80s? Just curious
Interesting blog, by the way
Hi Martin – Those ones from the 70s are most recent I’ve come across, so I think it’s likely that the police department didn’t throw out ones later than that (perhaps because they would still feature people who they might be likely to come across again). Who knows what will show up in time, though – will they throw out more in future years?
Surely there would be no paperwork to dispose of with everything going electronic now-a-days.
I’m sure that will be the case eventually, if not already, but I expect all the 20th-century mug shots will be real photographs.
I am quite stunned by your site : I just discover it this morning (courrier international article) while I have been painting and drawing Newcastle (and other) mugshots for the last 5 years (!!). Dozens of them.
First began with the Least Wanted book then bought them on eBay. Quite fascinating subject I must admit.
I can send you some photos of the paintings if you wish.
Wow, that’s remarkable! I got into mug shot collecting through using them for the basis for drawings and screen prints. I’d love to see your work. I’ll send you an email…
Was looking over your other website The Unsung Joe and read the Irving Cohen story and the follow up bonus screenshots page. Comments were closed there so I’m posting here. Spotted my uncle Joe Gray right next to Cohen in the ‘Criminal Court’ screenshot. They must have known each other, their filmography is very similiar, from Golden Boy right through Some Like It Hot. Joe knew Maxie Rosenbloom and Raft very well so they must have hung out in the same circles in Hollywood. Interesting story.
Thanks for taking the time to comment here! I bet there are some great stories about those guys. Interesting stuff.
I just found this site. I love it! I grew up in New Castle and still have friends and relatives there. I will be following and can’t wait to read more of the accounts. Will check out the other site too, The Unsung Joe.
Maybe you’ll come across someone you know – let me know if you do!
I was wondering if you had any information on the murder of Floyd Ross in the seventies or eighties?
I hadn’t come across it before now, so I don’t think I can help you much. It happened in 1974, in a house at 1219 East Washington street, which seems to have been demolished since. You can click here for a fairly full legal summary of the facts of the case, if that helps. Pretty depressing stuff…
Great Blog. I am from New Castle and go back home often, found the stories entertaining and recognized many surnames. Wondering if you are considering writing a book?
It always makes me happy when someone who knows New Castle approves of the blog, so thanks! I’m hoping to get a book out soon – a manuscript is currently out with publishers, so it’s up to them…
Hi, just wanted to say I love this blog. I keep coming back for more of these little windows into the past and into peoples (hard) lives. I find them oddly inspiring (in a non-criminal sence!). Great writing. (Not from the area by the way, as you would have noticed from my writing – I live in The Netherlands…)
Excellent! It’s great to know that people across the world find these lives interesting. I can’t help but wonder what these people would have said if you’d told them that, in the 21st century, people in places like the Netherlands would be reading about them. Thanks for writing, Remco!
Diarmid – Many thanks for this blog…I have to admit that I look forward to your monthly installments.
We moved to New Castle of our own volition (we’re ‘outsiders’–but no one from NC has ever made us feel that way–they are just mystified why we picked this place :)) , and we love the history here–good, bad, and ugly. The big take away from your stories is just how relatively innocent everything was way-back-when. And, how much we’ve progressed…the story about Harry Scott is a perfect example. He was a homeless teen. Today, there are many resources in New Castle, with agencies and non-profit groups. We’ve been quite impressed at how much infrastructure there really is here–if a citizen is willing to poke around a bit. Regardless of how much we’ve progressed as humans, human nature seems to remain constant: Greed, Jealousy, Fear, hunger…all motivators then and now. Keep up the good work. – Deb
Thanks, Deborah. I absolutely recognise what you say about people from New Castle being mystified about why you’re there — whenever I’ve visited, people can never understand why I’d want to spend time there when I could far more easily get to Paris or some other interesting European city with thousands of years of wonderful history to absorb. What can I say? I think New Castle is fascinating. And I bet it’s a great place to live, too.
The Lawrence County Historical Society just put the book funding announcement on their Facebook page, so I came here after my payment (so excited). I love this idea, it’s just the type of thing that interests my husband and me. I come from a long line of family historians on each side (paternal and maternal), and one of my lines is from New Castle. I love reading the New Castle newspapers (the late 1800’s in particular). Thank you so much for sharing these stories.
Thank you so much, Jean! Here’s hoping the funding campaign works out — it should be an excellent-looking book!
I know what you mean about the late 1800s New Castle papers. They’re really entertaining, aren’t they? There were some first-rate writers on the staff back then, and the amount of detail they put into things like reports of trials is just astounding.
I find it really interesting to read the differences between the decades. The reporting went through the salacious, gossip sop to some good research! And as a researcher I’m particularly happy that eventually married women had proper first names when noted. My great-grandmother’s parents both died when she was about 6, I guess. She left a note with partial names, remembrances, etc.and I finally solved a lot of that mystery two years ago. ‘Jake’ Kaufman, her grandfather, used to go down to the editor’s office and get a small mention here and there about his giant vegetables. His obituary was an amazing tribute. So nice to have something to connect to. And New Castle is to be commended for their archive work, truly!
I just was at my parents house this past weekend and saw a story in their New Castle News paper about the book you are trying to make. I told my mom how I had been in touch with you before. Sounds like a wonderful idea. I hope it comes to pass.
Me too! Thanks!
I come from a small town in Pennsylvania called Shamokin and I think that this project is simply brilliant. I just pledged money so I will get a copy of your book when it is published. I had never heard of New Castle before this but it sounds very familiar to my hometown. Great job promoting this! I am very excited about the forth coming book!
Thanks! I’m sure Shamokin has faced many of the things that New Castle has dealt with over the past hundred years. Never seen a mug shot from there, though!
Could you please send me the mugshot of William E . Jenkins I think this is my stepfather . Thank you
I’ll get in touch so you can send me your details.
William E Jenkins……..Drunk……..Jan 3 1947……..Aged 23 Could you send me his mugshot ? I think this is my step father .
Hi Georgia — I only just found this comment in the “pending” folder, where it must have been lying for over a year. Sorry about that! I’ll get that mugshot out of the files and send you a photograph of it so you can check that it’s the right man before I send it on.
I actually have a fair sized batch of old mug shots from New Castle PA. I noticed that among your 300 or so that you do not have a story on, there are several under the age of 21. Care to swap those for some of mine, giving you new ammunition and me some more youngsters for my collection? Thanks, John
That’s a great idea, John. I’ll email you today.
I am looking for information on Domenick Carusone (1888-1966). He lived in New Castle and was in prison in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Would love to know if you had a story or photograph of him!
Hi Todd – I don’t have any Carusones in my collection (so far, anyway…), but I’ll keep an eye out for the name. I had a look on newspapers.com to see if I could find any stories, but all that comes up is the obituary in 1966. It’s strange that a New Castle resident being sent to prison wouldn’t make the local paper, but, then again, there are lots of mugshots in my collection that I can’t find out anything about. I’ll let you know if anything comes up.
Hi Diarmid – I originally found these photos on Flickr, but came here looking for contact info for you. Great blog – love the stories. I’m retired law enforcement and current forensic artist, so booking photos are a great resource for me. When doing a composite sketch with a victim, forensic artists use booking photos to help people describe features of the suspect in their crime.
I also teach forensic art. To do this, I need good quality booking photos for students to use as resource photos. Of course I don’t want to use any recent photos for privacy purposes. I’d like to use some of the photos you’ve got here. Is that possible? Do you have restrictions? I’d be glad to credit you. Thanks!
Hi Natalie – No problem at all! I’m glad to know the pictures will have yet another afterlife. I looked up your website (here, in case anyone reading this is interested), and your work is fascinating.
Robert Burke I found several articles about him and another fellow stealing a watch. I used Newspaper.com
Hi Gwen — Yes, there’s some tantalising details out there about a few of these folk, but only bits and pieces… It can be quite frustrating!
I like this site but love The Unsung Joe. I have a huge (my wife thinks bizarre) interest in British film extras such as Fred Woods, Victor Harrington and Guy Standaven) Will you ever post on the Unsung Joe again?
Hi Marcus — thanks for writing. I don’t think it’s likely that I’ll regularly do more Unsung Joe posts, but I always check out the extras when I’ve watched an old film, and I’d definitely write a post with any interesting stuff I came across, so sign up for notifications! Glad you like the stories, and thanks for letting me know.
This is all about my hometown! I find it interesting that you’re fascinated about our town. What made you want to learn all about little old New Castle? If you ever get the chance to visit again, the town is slowly improving and slowly growing.
Hi Kelsey. I’m glad to hear what you say about New Castle, a place I love dearly. The full story of my accidental entanglement with the town can be read here: http://theappendix.net/issues/2014/4/mug-shots-a-small-town-noir Thanks for writing!
Diarmid – Please be sure to let us all know if you ever plan to return to New Castle. We’d love to have a party for you.
That would be great — I’ll do that!
Is there going to be any mention about the New Castle Torso murders that were never resolved? It sees that there was plenty of crime going on in that town at the turn of the century. I have read several books about The Butcher of Kingsbury Run in Ohio and some authors have speculated that the same killer has struck in New Castle; do you have any ideas regarding those strange crimes that occurred near the railroad tracks?
Hi Robert — Believe me, if I ever come across a mug shot of someone who has even the merest, most tangential and flimsy connection to the torsos that were found in what the town came to call “murder swamp”, I’ll be on it like a shot. I’d love to have something about that strange case on the website. For what it’s worth (not much, obviously!) I’d be willing to bet that the first bodies were related to organised crime turf wars during prohibition. The later bodies might be connected to that, too, or it might be that once a place has a reputation for being a good place to lose a body, anyone with a body that they want to lose will take a trip out there.
My family hails from the New Castle area. Actually Neshannock, which is right next door. They emigrated to the US back in the late 1930’s. In the 1950’s the Mooney Brothers (sons of immigrants) had a successful Concrete and Trucking company, now closed down due to the same reasons that many other businesses in that area shuttered. One of the apocryphal stories of family history that was passed down was the day the Mafia came knocking on the doors of the Mooney Bros.Trucking Company.
You may wonder why the Italian Mafia would be wanting to connect with an Irish family. Well one of the quirks of history is that my family is actually Italian. Papa Mõne was from Northern Italy, and had his name changed to “Mooney” upon landing in America. So the Mooney family from New Castle is actually a bunch of Italians.
The story goes (as related to me by my Grandfather) That two Mafiosi visited one day, with the classic “Offer that you can’t refuse”. Apparently none of them were aware that refusal wasn’t allowed as the eight Mooney brothers not only refused, but they then bodily picked up the two mafiosi and physically threw them out of the company building, warning them never to return. Now, I’d imagine this was “sanitized” quite a bit for my childhood’s benefit as physically picking up a likely armed mafioso is no mean feat. I also expect there was probably some kind of police report about it. I have never been able to independently verify the story, and have always wondered what more there was to it, or of Grandpa was just spinning a tale to entertain his grandchild. (although he wasn’t given to tale telling. Rigid honesty was always his policy, so I have never had reason to doubt the veracity of the story.)
Unfortunately I don’t have a date or a year when this happened but if you come across anything in your records, I would love to know about it.
Hi Matthew — thanks for writing such a detailed recollection. I have no difficulty believing your grandfather’s story, as the Mafia, or the Black Hand, as they seem to have been known locally, were involved in just that sort of protection racket. There must be more to the story, though, as you suspect. I doubt they’d have gotten rid of the threat so simply. I’ve just done a quick search on newspapers.com, and there are many mentions of Mooney Brothers — mostly advertisements, sadly, rather than any juicy stories of run-ins with the Mafia, but I’ll keep my eye out for anything good…
Thanks for looking into it. The 79th family reunion is coming up, and while my Grandfather is no longer with us (he passed with his wife by his side 2 years ago at the ripe old age of 98) there should be other family members that remember the story and can perhaps add more detail. Sadly, none of them will be Mooney Brothers, as my Grandpa (Ralph) was the last of the brothers left alive when he passed. But no doubt many of the stories filtered down to other sons and daughters and they may know more about it.
Hello Mr. Mogg I am from the Lawrence County Historical Society, and we are currently working on a crime exhibit for New Castle and the surrounding area. Seeing that you have done a fair share of research we would be very appreciative if we could collaborate and possibly share some of your sources and documents that may help with our current research. Cheers!
Volunteer at LCHS
Hi Andrew – that sounds great. I’ll email you.
Just came across your site and I’m fascinated. Both of my grandparents are from New Castle and lived there in late 1800’s – early 1900’s. My grandmother was Alice Bailey and I know she had many brothers (so perhaps related to your reports on Baileys.) My grandfather was Eugene Young and known in the town as “doc” as he was an optician and a jeweler. Glad I found your site and will stay connected to it. Good luck.
I contacted you Sept 6 2016 about using some of your images in my forensic art workshops. I don’t see any other way to contact you except through this comment section. Can you email me regarding further permissions for some of these photos? Thanks!
Of course – I’ll email you right now.
Hi Diarmid! Heard about your website from Luc Sante who was my tablemate at a recent dinner at Bard College. When he asked where I was from and I said “a small town in western Pennsylvania, you’ve probably never heard of it”, he immediately directed me here. Thank you so much for doing this work, such an inspiration in my pursuit of narrative and experimental history!
Hi Grace! That’s absolutely fantastic. Thanks for getting in touch, and I’m so glad you found the site inspiring in some way. It’s very nice to think about being discussed over dinner at Bard, I must say. I hope you enjoyed meeting Luc — one of my favourite writers!
I think it’s ok to post this…Wonder if this is little Lee, the 3 year old son of Anna Mae McNiel…Honored for serving in WW2, Korea and Vietnam…The math works…
I can’t read the article, as the New Castle News site doesn’t allow access from Europe — incroyable! I’ll have a little dig around the archives and see what comes up. Might be an interesting lead — thanks!
Diramid – Do you have an update on your book’s release?
Hi Deborah. It’s a no-go on the book, I’m afraid. We managed to get about a third of the backers we needed to publish it, so we closed the fundraising campaign.
You will have been sent an email from Unbound telling you that the campaign had ended and that you could get your money back, but you may well not have read it because, by that time, you had received loads of emails from them telling you about books you weren’t interested in, and you had probably started to automatically delete any Unbound email without reading it.
Don’t fear — your money is still there, and you can get it back by logging on to the unbound website ( https://unbound.com ) and going to your account. Let me know if you need any help.
Thanks again for supporting the book in the first place. I haven’t given up on getting it published one way or another. I hope you’re still doing well in New Castle!
I don’t recall getting an email from Unbound. I don’t seem to remember my email address that I used, so at this point, it’s not worth hunting it down.
How annoying for you! You should send Unbound an email. They seemed to be pretty helpful people. I’m sure it won’t be hard to get the money back that way.
You should look into Lulu.com for publishing the book. Not sure if that would work for what you want to do, but I don’t think there is a cost unless someone orders it.
Thanks Brenda. That’s not a bad idea, and I’ve considered it. You never know…
We came across the photograph of Norman Garfield (hung in Woodstock, Ontario in 1921) on your Flickr account and we are curious to know where you acquired it. Thanks so much! – staff of Oxford County Archives
Hi Liz – I’m pretty sure that would have come from eBay. I can’t remember who the seller was, but I’ll have a look and see whether there’s a record on the site. I’ll email you today.
The James Grinnen and Robert Kirkwood you wrote of are both my Great Uncles.
I had never heard this story before.
Love the site… Keep it up.
Thanks for writing, PJ. I didn’t know that James and Robert were related, so that’s interesting to hear. Glad you liked the story.
Have an article from New Castle News 03.14.30 about a murder of Clark Rea. One of the accused William Grimm was my Uncle and he did some time in Moundsville for this. I have been trying to find out more information or a mug shot. Any suggestions? Cindy
Hi Cindy. Thanks for writing. I guess you’ve seen the “William LaRue Hill” story where I mention the Rea murder. What I say on that page is all I know about the murder, which is taken from the coverage in the New Castle News, which I suppose you’ve read. I have stories about Robert Grim and Francis Grim, too. I also have a mug shot with no story, of a guy called Norman Grimm (Details: Intox Driver…Aged 30…Nov 26 1940 … Aged 30) Are they relatives of yours?
Hi Diarmid, i think my grandfathers brother is on your “Missing Stories” list. His name is “Walter M Druschel……..Suspicion……..Nov 21 1949……..Aged 27”. Can you please send me his mugshot and i will try to get his story from my family. Thanks in advance, Robert P Druschel
Hi Robert. No problem. I’ll email you to get your details.
Hello – I found this site just a few days ago. The concept and execution are excellent. Are you on hiatus and planning to continue or has the blog reached a natural end?
Every life is a series of stories within stories. Small Town Noir has captured that reality.
Your work recalls the collection of poems called Spoon River Anthology by the American Edgar Lee Masters. Are you aware of it? Each poem is the the imagined epitaph of an inhabitant in the boneyard of the town called Spoon River. Another great concept. The style of the poem writing there might seem quaint (to some) now but the deeper one reads in it the more interesting it becomes.
Hi – thanks for those very kind words. You’re right to suspect that the blog has reached some sort of natural end. There are fewer and fewer New Castle mug shots around these days, so stories are harder to come by than they were when I could pick up a dozen of these at a time for only $10 or so. I still keep an eye out for new ones, and I’ll continue to add stories as I come across them.
Thanks for comparing it to the Spoon River Anthology, which is magnificent. It was recommended to me a few years ago by a reader who thought, like you, that what I was doing had similarities to it. I was surprised I’d never heard of it before, as it’s exactly the kind of thing I like…
thx for your work….i found you by the Unbound kickstarter (very sad that didn’t reached it’s goal)……i became interested in vintage mugshots by The Sydney Justice & Police Museum collections….do you know similar works like yours?….i’m hopeful for more stories (if is posible) or a publication of this compilation
Thanks, Salvador. I’ve researched all the mugshots I have, and have written up all the ones I could find out anything about. I’m always on the lookout for more, though! If you want more like this, you should check out Peter Doyle’s books of those Australian mugshots you mention (you’ve probably already seen them) and Arne Svenson’s book “Prisoners”, which has beautiful photographs from one Californian town, and has the unedited newspaper stories about each of the criminals. It’s great. Of course, there’s “Least Wanted” by Mark Michaelson, which got me into all this in the first place — no stories, but the most incredible photographs. And there’s “Wisconsin Death Trip”, which has vintage photographs, not mugshots, but gives me that strange feeling of the absolute otherness of the past that I’ve been trying to convey in Small Town Noir.
Floyd was my uncle
New Castle, PA has an amazing amount of cold cases and unsolved murders. I remember my aunts and uncles discussing how New Castle was a “dumping ground” for the Youngstown mafia. Who knows what the real story is, but growing up in Lawrence County always did seem to have a strange feeling about it. Why didn’t our city flourish?
It almost seemed that something stopped business from coming into town…almost like a crazy Stephen King novel…as is something sinister pulsed below the surface. It seems like all my life (I’m now almost 60) crimes and murders seem to find this small town more so than others of the same size. New Castle has a lot of good hardworking people and you would think it was a good place to raise a family.
I don’t know what the real story is…but it really does stand out to me that New Castle will never get out of its sinister slump.
Quite a few people have said something similar to me over the years. How did New Castle go from being the fastest-growing city in America at the start of the 20th century to — well, what it is now? Obviously, there are loads of factors, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the root of all the trouble is the decision of the local industrialists in the closing years of the 19th century to sell the town’s industry to JP Morgan, which later became US Steel, and were apparently encouraged or required to invest their money anywhere by New Castle.
I think New Castle was deliberately stifled by US Steel. When JP Morgan/US Steel took over the Bessemer steelworks, it produced 67% of the steel in the USA; by the time US Steel dismantled the plant in 1935, that had declined to less than 10%. in 1937, US Steel shut down the Greer tinplate works — arguably the foundation of New Castle’s early success. In the 1920s and 1930s, the city constantly petitioned US Steel to set up new works there, and was always refused–in 1937, it built a massive strip mill in Irvin despite the fact that New Castle had thousands of unemployed skilled workers who desperately needed work. I think US Steel had decided that, strategically, it was better that their other interests didn’t have a close geographic competitor. I think it bought up New Castle’s industry to stop other people developing it. And I think that the reason why New Castle was chosen for the strangulation treatment instead of some other town might be because of the high level of union activism in the early 20th century and the election in 1911 of Walter Tyler as a Socialist mayor, along with a Socialist city council–I’m not certain about that, but it probably played into the general plan.
My thoughts about all of this stuff are shaped by an article in the January 1940 edition of Harpers Magazine: “War and the Steel Ghost Towns–What Will Become of New Castle, Pa.?”, which is well worth reading if you can get hold of it…
Diarmid, your “Small Town Noir” is singularly amazing. I wander through the internet as I used to do through a library and can’t even remember how I ended up here, but what a find, on many levels.
Travlinsam, the best is saved for last, indeed. You put into words what I also feel and had felt, i.e., that “growing up in Lawrence Co always did seem to have a strange feeling about it” and the awareness of that “sinister” pulse below the surface, “almost like a crazy Stephen King novel.” Very apt!
Interesting that Diarmid is quoted elsewhere as saying his traveling to New Castle was like “finding yourself in a place you thought only existed in one of your recurring dreams.” Because speaking of dreams, I intermittently end up in a New Castle-esque place, very very dark, foreboding, walking up North Hill amongst mansions between the Scottish (!) Cathedral and the old high school, driving through the steel mills, wandering on the dark South Side behind St. Francis Hospital, and taking the road across the bridge to West Pittsburg…. (Even my mother had had recurring nightmares of the sub-basement at NeCaHi where the secondary gym was…)
As a counterpoint, I had oddly spent half a year in one of your small towns, Grangemouth, some years back.
Thank you for your extraordinary work, Diarmid, and you also, Travlinsam, for finding just the right words.
Thanks Grace! It’s great when people stumble across this site and respond to it in just the way you describe. It means a lot to me that you liked what you read. I wonder how on earth you came to spend a year and a half in Grangemouth, of all places. I’d love to do a Small Town Noir site exploring the lives of people who were arrested there, but all of Scotland’s mug shots are closely guarded by the National Archives and can’t be accessed for a hundred years after the person’s death, unlike the States, where — well, where it seems very different.
I’ll be danged: I’ve been wandering for hours among the stories, and searching maps…
Two movies capture some of the feel of New Castle in the 60’s and 70’s, in my opinion. If you’ve time, have a look at the beginning of the movie, “The Deer Hunter” (1978, US portions filmed just west of Pittsburgh): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7q1SjVdsNk (first 30 sec of the clip apply), and “All the Right Moves” (1983, filmed in the Johnstown area): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHgc1Hj_3BA , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CIcysKTgt8 .
Both military service and football were ways out of a life working in the mills.
Those are great recommendations — thanks. I haven’t seen the Deer Hunter in years (ages before I’d heard of New Castle) and watching that trailer was weird – you’re right: those houses and that view of the factories — very like New Castle. I’ll watch it again. And I’ve never seen All the Right Moves but, again, that clip reminds me very much of New Castle. I’ll watch it soon. Thanks again!
I am a producer for a TRVL Channel show that is researching a location in New Castle, PA. I would love to speak with you if you have a time to talk, please email me at the address included in this comment box awollman (at) gmail (dot) com at your earliest convenience. Thank you!
No problem. I’ll get in touch soon.
Hello Diarmid, your Small Town Nior blog was posted on the ” New Castle Pennsylvania is my hometown” website – so I’m seeing it for the first time. It’s fascinating! I was wondering if you had any mugshots of George Cameron or John Cameron (brothers). John was my great grandfather. The family always described them as trouble makers, so I’m guessing they got arrested at some point. thanks in advance!
Debbie, I do a lot of research (internet) on New Castle as my ancestors were from that area. I found at least one reference to Hillis and George from 1907. I’d be glad to send them to you via email. Just send me one at email@example.com.
It looks like this hasn’t ben updated in a while, but I’m looking to confirm a photograph we found is the relative of a (non-tech savvy) friend of mine, but we only have the photograph from the 1950’s and arrest # — no name! Is there any way to reverse search this information to confirm? I’ve been scrolling through the old newspapers but since we think he was a minor when arrested we’re not sure if the name would have been published.
Hi Siara. I have no way of looking up people by their number. The police office in New Castle might still have its old arrest books (I’d love to see them). If they don’t, they probably gave them to the Lawrence County Historical Society. Those books are a sequentially numbered record, so you could match the photograph you have with a name that way. I’ve seen the picture that you sent to the producers of the Mugshot documentary (they just sent it to me), so I know the date of arrest. I’ll have a look in the papers for that day and email you with anything I find.
Hi Diarmid, were you able to find out any information for Siara? I grew up in a small town about 15 minutes from New Castle. My father grew up in New Castle. My parents still live there. I could call the Historical Society or police office to see what I could find out for her if she would like me to. I was just at my parents for xmas, but probably won’t be back until the summer.
Siara, let me know if you would like some help.
Love this website and really hope you can keep it going / start another similar project. I’ve no connection to New Castle, but I’ve loved reading about it, and learning about the rich and, in some ways, multicultural and cosmopolitan stories that these small industrial American cities once had. Although the mugshots are inherently visual, have you ever considered turning some of these stories into a podcast?
Thanks, René. I’d enjoy doing a podcast, I think, but I always thought it would be weird hearing a guy with a Scottish accent telling these American stories. Who knows. I’m doing a similar project in my home city of Edinburgh just now, which you might be interested in. It’s here: http://www.tenementtown.com
Nice. I’ve fantasized about making a kind of interactive map website that would collect stories like this, associated with individual addresses. (I’m a town planner in Canada and spend a lot of time looking at specific buildings). Would be neat to allow people to upload their own stories and family photos about particular addresses, although perhaps hard to vet whether or not they were accurate.