As we discussed yesterday, the West Midlands Police just released a collection of early mugshots from their archives this month, including what is believed to be the oldest mugshot in British history. We previously discussed Isaac Ellery, who was convicted in March 1853 of stealing “gig’ cushions. Today’s Victorian convict is Sarah Ann Cooper, who was charged
Her pictures was taken at the Moor Street public office in Birmingham which was the first police organization in Britain to take mug shots.
12 thoughts on “Early Mugshot: Sarah Ann Cooper, Door Knob Thief”
Bells and Doorknobs. Sounds like a Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera.
I wonder what her story was. The situation for the poor was pretty grim in those days, especially for women. There were not a lot of professions open to them. Once sacked, someone often could not find employment again. They inexorably slid down to starve in the hedgerows.
Some criminals are victims of circumstance, while others are just antisocial. Stealing doorknobs sounds like a desperate and sad attempt to make a living.
Throughout history, there has been no path forward out of poverty. No education available. No chance to better yourself. You were more likely to suffer from industrial disease, such as the fluff in lungs mentioned in Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South.
Opportunity and a strong economy are vital shields against misery, as is the safety net. However, even with billions spent on benefits, education, and welfare programs, we still have thousands of homeless starving in the hedgerows right here in the US. Many of them are either drug addicts and/or mentally ill. They won’t come in to shelters, won’t accept housing, won’t accept free rehab. They have told my husband that they like living on the street and don’t want anyone telling them what to do. (Translation, they don’t want to go to the shelter where they won’t be allowed to do drugs or poop on the sidewalk.) Their Medieval lack of hygiene creates Medieval levels of disease. They leave out used needles with blood borne pathogens. I was walking into a store with my kid the other day, and a deranged homeless person was bobbing and weaving, apparently have a fight with himself. When you go to cities and more populated towns, you get used to edging around deranged people, looking out for human feces and dirty condoms and needles on the sidewalk, and you realize that they are going to start a fire, again, in those dry riverbeds and hillsides where they camp, and that people are going to lose their homes, or their lives, or get sick from the infectious detritus. When the rains come, the human waste and used needles wash down to the beach, where little kids play with bare toes.
So, as advanced a society as we are, we still struggle with what to do with the thousands of unwashed, miserable human beings in poor health camped out in the bushes and on sidewalks.
This makes me think of Black Panther, which I thought was a loose sketch of the Thug Vs The Civilized Man, both a product of their circumstances. They could have been close friends instead of adversaries. (I liked the movie but had some complaints about its execution.)
In your initial, brief paragraphs, you acknowledge that Victorian Britain was a heartless place for the poor. Then you cite the behavior of contemporary homeless people to suggest society is under siege by filthy vermin. As a resident of Los Angeles, I know that street people are a menace on many levels. They sometimes infiltrate my building and sleep in the stairwells.
But America is rich enough to provide social safety nets for the elderly. We don’t have to privatize Medicare and Social Security. We don’t have to obliterate Obamacare to ‘save’ the healthcare system. The general scheme of Obamacare was, and is, much cheaper than socialized medicine. And again, America is rich enough that Obamacare should be no threat to our fiscal solvency. It was, in fact, bringing down deficit spending.
Yet Republicans continue to wage war against Obamacare. Just this week the Justice Department announced that it will ‘not’ defend a suit by certain Red states to strike Obamacare provisions prohibiting inflated insurance rates for older Americans and people with pre-existing conditions. If successful the suit will take us back to the pre-Obamacare era when insurance was unobtainable for many people.
With regards to seniors, it was announced quite recently that Medicare could run out of money in the next 10 years. That’s disturbing because Baby Boomers are still retiring. Yet the Republican congress is taking no action whatsoever. Though outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan has always wanted to privatize Medicare and Social Security. In any event, the giant tax cut passed by Republicans last fall will sap the government’s ability to stabilize safety nets.
Today’s Republican party sees our future in Victorian England; a cold-hearted society where the poor are on their own. Republicans insist this vision is correct to head-off ‘creeping socialism’. But statistics strongly suggest that inequality is a far more urgent issue.
Both of these cases sound like the issue of employers grassing up domestic servants.
La Belle Dame sans Merci
Bells and door knobs??? Sounds like she was acting out on some Latent Lesbian tendencies.
Squeeky – in 1861, both doorbells and door knobs were or could be very ornate.
Just as today, She stole knobs and bells because they were probably made of brass. Many a poor people in Britain starving in Victorian times. This was a way of making money. She probably sold them either to pawn shops or to metal recyclelers.
Wonder if she had an accomplice? All that heavy and probably loud metal stuff would have been hard to transport back in the day. She actually looks better than most people look in mug shots today.
The metal is probably brass and it was worth some coin. I am disappointed that we didn’t get a sentence with this one that we could complain about. 😉
And people have been stealing scrap metal ever since.
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