Pretty Girl Charged with Clever Swindle

Focusing solely on women captured by police camera, this exhibit examines how mug shots offer a fascinating window into the lives of women in early 20th-century New York.

Various or unknown photographers appointed by New York City

Presented by

NYC Municipal Archives

DORIS_Logo_Transparent

Pretty Girl Charged with Clever Swindle: Women and Crime in Early 20th-Century New York City

The mug shot, or criminal portrait, is one of the earliest uses of police photography. Used primarily to identify known criminals, its use was not without controversy and mis-identification was common. In addition, mug shots were often used as a form of public shaming. These images capture a rich cross-section of the city’s population, depicting dress and social status in addition to possible criminal behavior. Focusing solely on women captured by police camera, this exhibit examines how these unique portraits offer a fascinating window into the lives of women in early 20th-century New York.

ARTIST BIO

Established in 1977, the Department of Records and Information Services preserves and provides public access to historical and contemporary records and information about New York City’s government. Open to the public, the Municipal Archives preserves 200,000 cubic feet of original documents, photographs, ledgers, maps, architectural renderings, manuscripts, and moving images. Nearly one million historical photographs are accessible online via the agency website; 10.5 million birth, death, and marriage certificates provide essential documentation for family research; and world-class mayoral, court, and city department collections are unequaled by any other city in the nation.

ORGANIZATION BIO

The NYC Department of Records and Information Services’ mission is to foster civic life by protecting, preserving, and providing access to the historical and contemporary records of New York City’s government. It ensures that city records are properly maintained following professional archival and record management practices, and makes materials available to diverse communities both online and in person at the city’s municipal library, archives, and visitor center.

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