A stack of old Salt Lake City Police Department “mug” books long supposed destroyed have surfaced after nearly thirty years and now are part the department’s historical archives. And while the circumstances surrounding their recovery are sketchy, the records are real and plans are underway for preservation of the documents, according to Lt. Steve Diamond, department historian.
In a bygone era they would have been called “Rogues Gallery” books, because they are made up of photographs of persons arrested or sought by law enforcement agencies. For example, entry No. 318 is George Cassidy, alias Butch W. Parker, age 27, 5 feet, 9 inches; 165 pounds, dark flaxen hair, blue eyes, small and deep set. He is erroneously identified as a native of New York, with an explanation that he was born and raised in Circle Valley, Scipio, Utah. The record shows he had two cut scars on the back of his head, a small red scar under the left eye; a red mark on the left side of his back and a small brown mole on the calf of his left leg. A bullet scar was evident on the upper part and right side of his forehead. Cassidy was sentenced from Fremont County, Wyoming, July 15 1894, for grand larceny. And penciled in another handwriting: “Pardoned by Governor Richards.” Evidently Cassidy’s photo?a duplicate of his Wyoming prison picture?was included in the gallery as a matter of information on an outlaw, probably from a Wyoming police circular, not as a Salt Lake City record of arrest. He was never arrested in Utah.
On page 597 is an unflattering profile and front view of Joe Hillstrom, alias Joe Hill, booked January 14, 1914, for murder. Hillstrom, a labor organizer and songwriter, was arrested and charged with the armed robbery and murder of a Salt Lake grocer and his son. The arrest record lists Hillstrom’s identifying marks and scars: two scars on the right side of his face, “dim vax” [vaccination] scar visible on his right arm, a large scar on the back of his right forearm, and a large scar on left side of neck. Finally, the terse notation: Shot IWW, presumably meaning Hillstrom was executed. IWW is the abbreviation for Industrial Workers of the World, who took up Hill’s cause and demonstrated unsuccessfully to have his sentence commuted. Hillstrom’s trial and execution were a sensation in 1914-15.
The mug books (there are fifteen in all) represent just one facet of a continuing effort by Diamond to chronicle the activities of the department since its inception in 1851. According to Diamond, the books were turned over by a former police officer who was to have destroyed the records in 1966 as a consequence of the move from the police station at 105 S. State to headquarters at 244 E. 400 South, and ultimately to the Metropolitan Hall of Justice, “because there was no room for that kind of outdated stuff.” Instead of incinerating them, the officer stored the volumes and forgot about them.
Recently he told Diamond of their existence, and the records were transferred to the police museum. The books include several thousand police identification pictures dating from 1892 through the 1940s. The lieutenant’s collection of police-related history contains some interesting sidelights. One concerns a special officer assigned to the railroad yards: Times were really tough in 1903 and Ed Burroughs couldn’t find the kind of employment in Parma, Idaho, that would earn a living for himself and his wife, Emma.
He had tried gold-dredging the Snake River in Oregon, but that didn’t work out. So when the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company offered a job in Utah, the couple pulled up stakes in April 1904, and took rooms at 111 N. 5th West, Salt Lake City. As a special railroad policeman he would work, but not on the city payroll, Oregon Shortline would have to pony up his wages. The city would, however, provide a blue uniform, bright brass buttons and a truncheon. Ed also acquired a used six-gun.
He would later recollect those days this way: “My beat was in the railroad yards where after nightfall I rambled and fanned bums off the freight cars and the blind baggage off the Butte Express. Kept good hours and always came home with fifty pounds of high grade ice, which I swiped while the watchman slept. I was always a good provider. This regime was not very adventurous, nor encouraging for a man of ambition. The bums and yeggs were seldom as hard boiled as they are painted and only upon one or two occasions did I even have to flash my gun.”
Nevertheless, it was a jungle out there–the Burroughs’ were so poor Ed half-soled his own shoes and even bottled his own beer. In a letter home to family in Illinois, he confided: “Can’t say I am stuck on the job of policeman.” After five months, Burroughs resigned. He and his wife left for Chicago. Perhaps a man of ambition and imagination could catch on there. And he did. In fact, he went on to become a famous writer of fantasy adventure stories. Most folks are apt to recognize his full name: Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan of the Apes, the most celebrated hero in American fiction.
The other fourteen record books seem to cover turn-of-the-century arrests. One is “specialized,” being limited to “bunco artists and con men” and another is devoted entirely to females arrested for offenses ranging from prostitution, drunkenness and arson to larceny. The collection of criminal photos is immense: there are 702 pages of arrests in one volume alone, with three entries and photographs to a page. No. 1 is Tom Kelly, 38, arrested 1892 for receiving counterfeit money.
Suspect No. 213 was Billy McCarthey, 42, 5-foot, 8; florid complexion, red hair. And the notation: “Killed at Delta, Colorado, while robbing a bank Sept. 7, 1893.” Then there is the matter of James Ransom, 40, alias Jim the Pete. [Pete is underworld slang for a safe, or safecracker.] Jim the Pete was arrested and sentenced March 12, 1892, to “two years in county jail at Ogden for having [blasting] powder and burglary tools.” The remaining mug books also contain several thousand photos.
Was it Special Officer Edgar Rice Burroughs who later said of life: “It’s a jungle out there.”