St. Louis Takes Credit for First Mug Shots

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – St. Louis can claim an interesting first. In 1857, St. Louis’ police department became the first in the nation to create and use mug shots.

The term ‘mug shot’ hadn’t been invented yet. Instead, they called it a ‘rogue’s gallery’. Author Shayne Davidson came upon a treasure-trove of rogue’s gallery photos at the Missouri History Museum archives, accidentally, while she was looking for photos of German immigrants in St. Louis in the 1850’s. Davidson says in that era, being photographed was a big deal, so people dressed up, but folks in the rogues gallery look a bit disheveled, not very happy, and some have very rosy cheeks.

“Those rosy cheeks were added because hand coloring photos was something that was often done back then, and I have no idea why they would have done that to these photos, it seems bizarre to me,” Davidson says.

Davidson’s new interactive e-book, “Captured and Exposed: The First Police Rogue’s Gallery in America”, features all 191 mug shots in the collection.

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