During the Victorian era, kids as young as eleven received adult sentences for minor crimes. Here's an assortment of children's mugshots taken in Newcastle, England during the early 1870s. If some of them weren't labeled "PHOTOGRAPH OF PRISONER," you might mistake these portraits for yearbook photos.
These photographs — which were shot between December, 1871 to December, 1873 — come to us from the Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums' Flickr page. They depict convicted criminals who spent time in the Newcastle city jail. Many of these prisoners were incarcerated or sentenced to hard labor for petty theft — purloined wood, beef, and waistcoats are among the objects that got them into trouble.
The mugshots of these children are particularly heartbreaking. Even though we don't have the specifics of each convict's life history, the poverty, squalor, and lack of opportunity in Victorian England assures that some of these were crimes of desperation.
(Note: We've also included an older convict whose offense was seemingly penned by a random phrase generator.)
"At the age of just 16, this young man had been in and out of prison, but on this occasion he was sentenced for 2 months for stealing some shirts."
"Mary Catherine Docherty was sentenced to 7 days hard labour after being convicted of stealing iron along with her accomplices [...]" [Note: Those are two of her accomplices at the top of the page.]
"[12-year-old] Henry Leonard Stephenson was convicted of breaking in to houses and was sentenced to 2 months in prison in 1873."
"At the young age of 14, Henry Miller was charged with the theft of clothing and sentenced to 14 days hard labour for his crime."
"This is William Harrison. He was born in Durham and worked as a porter. He was convicted of obtaining oats by false pretence. He was sentenced to 12 months in Newcastle City Gaol in 1872."
"Michael Clement Fisher was 13 in this photograph [...and was] charged with breaking in to houses and sentenced to 2 months in prison. Michael was born in West Hartlepool."
"James Scullion was sentenced to 14 days hard labour at Newcastle City Gaol for stealing clothes. After this he was sent to Market Weighton Reformatory School for 3 years."
"Margaret Cosh was convicted of stealing a coat, she had no previous convictions and served 2 months with hard labour."
"Richard Rimmington was convicted of stealing a pipe from a shop and was expected to serve 14 days with hard labour. He was spared his sentence when his parents agreed to pay costs and the resulting fine."
You can see more of these photos here. And for more vintage mug shots, see this series of photographs shot between 1902-1916 in North Shields, England and this strangely artistic selection from Sydney, Australia in the early 1900s (left).
Finally, no discussion of weirdo old-timey mugshots would be complete without a hat tip to Pep the Dog, who — according to conflicting historical accounts — was either A.) sent to Pennsylvania's Eastern State Penitentiary to serve as a morale-boosting mascot; or B.) was condemned to the big house for feline murder. As the Penitentiary elaborates:
"Pep, The Cat-Murdering Dog" was a black Labrador Retriever admitted to Eastern State Penitentiary on August 12, 1924. Prison folklore tells us that Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot used his executive powers to sentence Pep to Life Without Parole for killing his wife's cherished cat. Prison records support this story: Pep's inmate number (C-2559) is skipped in prison intake logs and inmate records.
[Via The Presurfer]