Crime and Punishment
“First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: What is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?”
- Hannibal Lecter, 'Silence of the Lambs'
Something that will always invite simultaneous fascination and horror is the workings of the criminal mind. For centuries, authorities have worked tirelessly to piece together the most harrowing crimes by expanding their methods, processes of documentation and ways of approaching what most would consider unapproachable. Modern day films like 'The French Connection,' 'The Untouchables,' 'The Silence of the Lambs' and 'Se7en' are driven by the detective’s relentless and often infuriating pursuit of criminal masterminds, depicting grueling investigations in which the authorities are forced to apply different approaches to solve the crime.
This kind of work requires exhausting efforts and constant change, especially in the face of trying times. The 1920s and 1930s birthed some of the most challenging circumstances our economy has endured: Prohibition and the Great Depression. These times erupted with rebellion, opposition and extreme survival tactics, giving way to some of the most fearless criminals plotting the most outrageous heists - train hijackings, bank robberies, burglaries, larceny, forgery - forcing authorities to delve deeper into the psychology behind these violations.
Our Crime and Punishment collection traces the earliest days of law enforcement, documenting its evolution from the turn of the century through the 1960s by way of legendary gangsters, John Dillinger; the well-known mob kingpin, Arnold “The Brain” Rothstein (a figure who is also featured in the Emmy Award-winning HBO series, 'Boardwalk Empire') and kidnapper and murder Nathan Leopold, Jr., who’s story inspired such works as Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 film, 'The Rope.' Also featured are original police booking sheets (including authentic, full sets of fingerprints and mug shots), individual sets of mug shots, vintage wanted posters, and various FBI and law enforcement-related ephemera, including announcements from the renowned Pinkerton National Detective Agency, the largest private law enforcement organization of its day.
Hailing largely from the collection of Police Chief Michael Webb, who served with the Vinita Park, Missouri, police force from 1974 through 2009, this gathering forms a cumulative map comprised of the raw materials law officials collected, applied and reapplied. The significance of these items lies within the glimpse they provide into the workings of both the criminal and authoritative mind, bridging an important historical and psychological gap between those who are determined to break the law and those who strive to preserve it.
Authentic post-mortem headshot of John Dillinger
Plume murdered 7 people, including his wife, on a Blackfoot Indian Reservation in 1903
Original Wanted Notice, Two Burglars, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, $10,000 Reward
Original Wanted Notice, William Gillespie, Bank Robbery, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, 1928
"Wanted for murder of a member of the Bing Kong Society"
"Frederick C. Sommers - Wanted for Forgery and Uttering"
Wanted Notice Flier, "$20,000 Reward!! Hold Up," Los Angeles, California 1921
Extracted scrapbook page with three affixed wanted sheets