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“My Colorful Past”

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Matt Loughrey, an Irish photographer and digital artist has been doing good work colorising black-and-white photographs of criminals from 19th century, immigrants on Ellis island and heroes of the Irish rebellion and other famous and obscure historical figures. (You can see more of his work here.) He recently got in touch to let me know he’d colorised some of the mug shots I’ve posted on Small Town Noir, and he sent a video showing the transitions from black-and-white to colour. I’ve taken […]

Sophia Lyskooka, “Abduction”, 2 Feb 1946

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James Stone was a manager at Johnson Bronze. He and his wife lived in a large Victorian house on North Mercer street with a four-year-old girl named Helen who they had adopted the year before. About 5 o’clock one February in 1946, Mrs Stone answered a knock at her front door, Helen following just behind her. Two young women stood there. One of them knocked Mrs Stone down and the other grabbed the child. They […]

Robert Tipper “Susp”, 17 July 1943

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Robert Tipper married Josephine Mills in the summer of 1939. The week before their fourth anniversary, at one o’clock on a Sunday morning, Josephine hit Robert with a meat cleaver, splitting his forehead and his nose. They had been drinking. The police found Robert in the street by the post office. They took him to the hospital, where he remained for two weeks. When he was discharged, he was arrested on an open charge of […]

James Aeschbacher, “Larceny Auto”, 3 April 1945

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Late one Monday night in 1945, James Aeschbacher stole a car from a garage on Beckford street. The police found him in the car about a mile away a few hours later. The battered face in his mug shot suggests he resisted arrest. The following year, James stole a car in Midland, near Pittsburgh. Two days later, he drove it to Butler, fifty miles away, to meet a friend. The friend suggested that they pick up […]

Richard Bartley, “Breaking and Entering”, 7 April 1938

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Although it was April, thick snow had fallen throughout the day, turning to slush by the time Richard Bartley was arrested, at two in the morning, on the roof of Book’s shoe store. He’d been seen by a man walking home, and police had surrounded the block. The officer who caught him also found some large empty blue bags and a screwdriver, wrench and pliers wrapped in a bundle of rags lying on the stairway […]

Daisy Gray, “Material Witness”, 14 May 1951

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When Daisy Gray was a young girl—Daisy Watkins, then—she lived with her family on Preston avenue, close to the tin mills. One night in 1934, Daniel Laws, who lived a few doors away, entered her home and beat her with an iron poker because she wouldn’t have sex with him. She was able to stop him only by stabbing him with a butcher knife. Both were so badly hurt that they ended up in hospital. […]

Anna Mae McNeil, “Murder”, 5 February 1933

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On the day Anna Mae McNeil shot her husband dead, heavy snow fell across New Castle. The three young men who always practised basketball shots behind the wool warehouse on Moravia street had built a bonfire so they could keep playing through the snowstorm. Four other boys had been seen roller skating on North Cedar street around the same time, as though it were summer. A family in the south of the city had stopped […]

Henry Bell, “Intox driver”, 28 June 1947

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On the twenty-seventh of May, 1939, four police officers went to Henry Bell’s home above the meeting hall of the Pentecostal Apostolic Faith church on Moravia street. Henry was later taken to the hospital to have stitches in his head before spending a night in jail on a drunk charge. The next morning, after Henry was released, the mayor was visited by several colored men who complained that Henry had been assaulted. They were sent […]

George Wheale, “Susp. Breaking”, 9 July 1937

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George Wheale was innocent. He was picked up on Long avenue after a report that the window of the state liquor store had been smashed, and was released after police discovered that the damage had been done by a wheel that had somehow come off a car. The possibility of the arrest resulting from a police officer mishearing “a wheel” as “George Wheale” is entertaining, but unlikely. George worked for Standard Steel Spring, part of […]

Joe Ritter, “Viol Fire Arm”, 2 January 1949

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Joe Ritter’s brother, Otto, was twelve when Joe was arrested in January, 1949. He’s in his late seventies now and lives just outside New Castle, the only one of Joe’s family who’s still alive. We’ve spoken on the phone a couple of times. It took a while to convince him that I really was writing a book about people like his brother—ordinary people in a collection of faded photographs that just happen to have been taken by […]