As many of you know, I have a certain fascination with early mugshots, particularly those from the Victorian period. These photos give an insight into life in the 19th Century with striking and often haunting realism. I recently stumbled across a cache of American mugshots from the Nebraska State Historical Society. I wanted to share a few. This picture is Goldie Williams who was arrested for vagrancy on Jan. 29, 1898.
It is difficult to find much about these riveting suspects. However, Bertha Liebbeke (below) was known as “Fainting Bertha” and was apparently a pickpocket of some notoriety. She would pretend to faint into the arms of well-dressed men, who would then be relieved of watches, money, and anything else at hand.
The photos leave you wanting to know so much more. For example, the smiling image of George H. Ray belies the fact that he served 10 years for manslaughter in the late 1890s.
Likewise, I would really like to know more about why Nora Courier stole that horse in 1901. We only know that she was better known as “Red Nora” and “was 22 years old and stood 5 feet, 3 inches tall. She had slate blue eyes and a scar on the center of her forehead.”
We know a bit more about Ruby Fox, below.
The Historical Society discovered the following:
“Ruby Fox and Myrtle Hetrick met while incarcerated at the State Reformatory for Women in York, Nebraska. Ruby was serving time for breaking and entering and Myrtle for vagrancy. Unhappy with their treatment, Ruby and Myrtle engineered an escape. With the aid of an unnamed man, the two girls fled Nebraska in an automobile. Authorities in Casper, Wyoming, captured the fugitives.”
This Thelma and Louise couple was ultimately given a year in the Nebraska State Prison, which appears to have been at their request rather than return to the state reformatory. It is not clear what conditions led to their flight from that institution.
One mugshot also stood out and came with quite a tale. This is Frank Dinsmore and he was a notorious killer.
We have accounts of the crime as well as a published opinion. He was accused of not one but two murders. Dinsmore was recently married when he moved into a boarding house with his wife, Lillian Dinsmore. He then fell in love with the wife of the owner, Fred Laue, and “seduced her.” He told her of a plot to kill both their spouses and make it look like a murder-suicide. He carried it out on the night of December 4, 1899. According to the historical society, “Lillian Dinsmore’s brothers accused Dinsmore of using hypnotic powers on their vulnerable sister. After hearing the accusation, Mrs. Laue also claimed to be a victim of Dinsmore’s hypnotic influence.”
Dinsmore was sentenced to be hanged but the governor commuted the sentence to life. It is not known if he was also under the spell of hypnosis.
This and many other tales are awaiting you at the excellent Nebraska Historical Society website.