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Metal Bertillon drawer with 51 catalogued mugshots on cards, each offender labeled as a pickpocket, and with locations ranging from Brooklyn, to Philadelphia, to Washington D.C., and Norfolk, Virginia.
Swann Galleries - New York
Auction, 12 Dec 2013, Sale no: 2335, Lot: 31
Silver prints, each approximately 2 1/2x5 inches (6.4x12.7 cm.), mounted to form cards with a Bertillon number, the crime, a name (along with potential aliases), the location, physical characteristics, and a date, in ink. Acme Card System Co. drawer, measuring 22x9 inches (55.9x22.9 cm.), the cards hinged and rest flat.
Alphonse Bertillon invented a system for cataloguing arrests and criminal identification in France in the late 19th century. Bertillon took measurements of certain portions of the body, including the skull width, foot length, and left middle finger. These measurements, along with hair color, eye color and front and side view photographs, were recorded on card forms measuring 6 1/2x5 1/2 inches. By dividing the measurements into small, medium, and large groupings, the cards could be easily put into 243 categories, allowing for the system to be easily searched upon arrest (and determining whether a criminal was a repeat offender). The system was adopted in the United States around the turn of the century and later replaced by fingerprinting.