Author: Diarmid

Ernest Pokersnik, “B E Larceny”, 7 May 1946

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Ernest Pokersnik’s father left Slovenia at the turn of the century and worked for forty years in Bessemer’s brick and cement factories. Ernest’s mother died when he was young, and he spent some time in Morganza reform school for larceny. His sentence was lengthened when he broke into the Croatian club to steal two bottles of beer while on parole. He became a mechanic. During the war, he repaired fighters and bombers in an air […]

James Dagres, “B & E”, 28 April 1934

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In 1930, when James Dagres was twelve, his father, John, was given eighteen months to six years for breaking and entering and larceny, and so may not have been around in 1934, when James planned a robbery of his own. One of James’s friends from school, Jack Cook, lived around the corner from an unoccupied furnished house on the north hill. Over a period of weeks, James, Jack and a third boy, LeRoy Shoaff, removed […]

Anthony Naples, “Murder”, 10 May 1937

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Anthony Naples had been a sickly child until he was eight or nine, and his mother told people he was always a good boy who did whatever she told him. In May, 1937, when he was eleven years old, he took his father’s pistol to school. At lunchtime, in a field opposite the school on Pollock avenue, he shot a colored classmate, Robert McDowell, in the face. Robert died in hospital half an hour later. […]

Everett Ayersman, “Intox driver”, 4 May 1954

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Everett Ayersman was arrested in 1954 for driving a truck while drunk. He was assigned the number 8017 and photographed before the police discovered that they already had him on file as prisoner 3362, the number he had been given in 1940, when he had taken a dollar bill from a cash register in Murphy’s store and the shop girl had wrestled him to the ground and sat on him until the police arrived. He […]

John Saul, “Disorderly Conduct”, 28 July 1957

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Two weeks after divorcing his first wife, citing indignities against his person, John Saul got married again. His mug shot was taken seven months later, when he was arrested for disorderly conduct just three days after he began divorce proceedings for the second time. He was thirty-one years old, and he never remarried. He left his job at Bruce-Merrilees Electric and went to work for his friend, Gedio Filigenzi, of Gedio’s TV Service, as a […]

Harold Kelty, “Holdup”, 16 March 1934

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On the back of Harold Kelty’s mug shot, a police officer wrote, “With Bill Harlan and John Hawk, stuck up Hutchinson Gas Station near New Wilmington, Pa.” The ink growing thin, he dipped his fountain pen in the ink pot, and continued a moment later, in darker script: “Age 17 at time. Married Capt Smith’s daughter—Golf Course. Much family trouble.” Harold’s family trouble began early in his life. His mother and father lived with his […]

Oakey Jackson, “Larceny by Trick”, 22 September 1959

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A sixty-five-year-old woman named Margaret Ashby was standing near the cab stand on Washington street one afternoon when a young woman she had never met before struck up a conversation with her. After they had spoken for a while—the woman was excited about the money she stood to get from a new job in Pittsburgh and Margaret had somehow found herself talking about how much money she had saved up—they noticed a man picking up […]

Robert Grim, “Worthless Check”, 26 February 1940

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Volant, about ten miles up the Neshannock creek from New Castle, was a little market town that had grown up around an old grist mill. Robert Grim’s family had owned land there since before the civil war and was among the most respected in the borough. By the time he was twenty-five, with a wife and three children, Robert was the town tax collector, local auditor and high constable, and served as the catcher on […]

Francis Grim, “Burglary”, 24 August 1940

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No record remains of the incident of burglary for which Francis Grim was arrested in 1940—six months after the arrest of his father, Robert, for passing a worthless check—or of the circumstances around his 1937 conviction for adultery, fornication and bastardy, other than the fact that he was ordered to pay the mother of his illegitimate child $2 a week for the care of the baby. He died in 1990, at the age of seventy-eight. […]

Small Town Technicolor

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There has been a huge decline in the artistic quality of mug shots over the past hundred years, from the beautiful studio portraits that can be seen in the collection of Arne Svenson, for example, to the flat, poorly lit snapshots you can find on sites like The Smoking Gun. The four pictures below, taken just after the New Castle police department switched to color film, represent a mid-point in the decline of the art […]