Author: Diarmid

Harry Curry, “Intox Driver”, 4 August 1935

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Harry Curry’s father, William, was a boy of fourteen when he left Ireland in 1840. He worked in Wilkinsburg and Greensburg, earning enough money to buy some land outside of New Castle on which he set up a farm and raised a family. Harry was his third son. In August 1899, when Harry was nineteen, the congregation of the Mountville U P church in Perry township, east of New Castle, were listening to a lecture […]

Gerald McCluskey, “Carrying Concealed Weapons”, 10 February 1949

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When he was twelve years old, Gerald McCluskey won an award for excellence in the YMCA cadet Bible club. His father died of a heart attack the following year. A few months later, he and an eighteen-year-old boy from his street, Donald Pontius, were walking through their neighborhood when they noticed a young girl, around Gerald’s age, walking alone on the road ahead of them. It was a dark winter’s evening. A light snow was […]

How Small Town Noir came to be

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People often ask how I found these mug shots and why I chose to write about them, and I’ve usually given what I feel are rather inadequate answers (I suppose because I’m more interested in the stories behind the mug shots than the story behind the blog).  However, when the editors of the history journal, The Appendix, asked me to write an article for them about my research, I took the opportunity to set out my […]

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 […]