Did you catch Mugged! Facing Life at Leavenworth at the National Archives at Kansas City this summer?
The exhibit may be closed now, but you can learn more about the prison, its inmates, and its records in this new article from Prologue. And it’s not too late to see some more mug shots from the exhibits. Check out the album on the National Archives Facebook page.
Located twenty-five miles north of Kansas City, the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth opened its doors in 1895 as the nation’s first Federal penitentiary. Since it was a Federal prison, the National Archives at Kansas City has many of its records.
The prison is still in use today. While mustaches may not be in fashion for modern inmates, a hundred years ago there plenty of hats, facial hair, and startled expressions. Among the many featured mug shots of prisoners are many fine examples of facial hair: the three below feature mustaches.
Charles E. Billingsley, #7183. Billingsley was sentenced to seven years and five months for violating the National Banking Law in 1908. Mrs. Billingsley made every attempt to obtain a pardon for her husband by asking men of status to write to the warden of Leavenworth testifying to his character. Mr. John Thomas of the Code Commission of Oklahoma wrote, “I am not personally acquainted with Mrs. Charles Billingsley, but her letter is a cry from the heart of the disconsolate wife-the sorrow oppressed mother-who, in her loneliness seeks to ameliorate the condition of her life’s mate, now suffering the penalties denounced by law against those who violate its provisions.” Billingsley served until 1913. RG 129, National Archives at Kansas City.
Charles Davis, #7657. Davis was sentenced to three years for housebreaking in 1911. When asked about his crime, he replied, “I was charged with breaking a pane of glass in the Levi’s store in Washington, D.C. and taking a suit of clothes to which I pleaded not guilty. I was drunk at the time this crime was committed and was not aware I had committed a crime.” RG 129, National Archives at Kansas City.
Charles H. Miller, #4852. Sentenced to three years for embezzlement and fraud in 1905, Mr. Miller was admitted to the jail hospital upon arrival at Leavenworth for “suffering with tertiary syphilis, numbness of left leg and foot from above the knee down, stuffiness of left knee, syphilitic ulcerations on tongue and in throat, and severe disease of the heart.” The doctor asked to have him released so he did not get anyone else sick and was denied. RG 129, National Archives at Kansas City.