Victorian Mugshots: Dick The Devil

We have been looking at the early mugshots from West Midlands, England.  This photo is from a different archive and contains one character called “Dick the Devil” who was sentenced to 21 days of hard labor. It is not clear where the nickname came from or what was the underlying crime.

This captures the abject poverty of the times.

4 thoughts on “Victorian Mugshots: Dick The Devil”

  1. It’s really hard for a modern day American to imagine the hopeless misery of being poor over a hundred years ago. You weren’t getting out. Ever. No matter how hard you worked, there was no upward class mobility like there is today. Disease was everywhere, and you were used to friends dying since you were a little kid. You could starve in the hedgerows and no one would help you, except perhaps the Unitarians. If you didn’t have the right accent or an education, you were doomed. If you had a job, it was probably under grueling and dangerous working conditions. If he lived in Birmingham, his hair might be green from the particular gases from industrial fires, and the smoke was so thick breathing has been described like eating it. Keeping anything white inside a home was a never ending battle with all that soot outside, as well as from the gas lamps inside…which occasionally burned down whole blocks.

    From the look in his eyes, I cannot imagine the sadness he’s felt in life.

    I have long been interested in the influence of nature, nurture, and circumstances, like the locus of an xyz plane. What would his life have been like if he’d had one of those upper middle class Victorian upbringings, where the over protective mothers swooped in at every discomfort and swathed their babies in lace.

  2. I don’t think that shabby jacket held together with a safety pin will survive 21 days of hard labor. It’s sad, really.

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Res ipsa loquitur – The thing itself speaks
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