Bertillon cards (identification photographs), 188--1930

New York (N.Y.). Police Department Detective Bureau


31 cubic feet.
Series consists of 3 1/4 x 5 1/2 inch Police Department Detective Bureau physical description identification cards. The front displays a profile and full-face photograph, or mug shot, of the criminal. The reverse shows Bertillon measurements for height, outer arms (extended), trunk, head length, head width, left foot, middle finger, little finger, and forearm. Individual identification information is provided as follows: name, alias, crime, age, height, weight, build, hair, eyes, comp. (complexion), moustache, born (country of birth), occupation, date of arrest, officer, and remarks.
The individual cards, numerically identified, were filed in durable blue envelopes which may also contain police or court records and clippings about the criminal or the crime.
French criminologist Alphonse Bertillon (1853-1914) applied the principles of anthropometry, the science of measuring the human body, in formulating the first scientific system of criminal identification. Formally adopted in France in 1888, the Bertillon System employed 10 body measurements to distinguish the individual criminal. The system, eventually superseded by fingerprinting, another Bertillon innovation, however, survives in contemporary police files, the full-face and profile identification photographs called mug shots was discontinued by the NYC Police Department in the 1910s.
New York (N.Y.). Police Dept. Detective Bureau. Bertillon Cards, 1888--1930. NYC Municipal Archives.
Container list.

Related Resources

View this description in WorldCat: