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Mug Shots – Where They Came From and How They Work

I’m pretty sure that a lot of you reading this article today have probably seen a mug shot, whether on the news or from a movie, or even on the posters posted around the supermarket and outside of the building where you live. Those of you who believe you have never seen a mug shot have probably seen one before, but just didn’t recognize the term for the two part photographs of criminals taken right after they have been arrested.

Also known as booking photographs or police photographs, mug shots are primarily composed of two photographs of the accused, one photo of the criminal’s front view and another of his/her side view. After they have been taken, mug shots may then be used as a photographic record of the criminal, which may then be used for identification purposes by both the victims and investigators of the criminal case. The mug shot of that individual may then be stored in the police force’s mug book, which along with numerous other mug shots will help to determine the identity of each and every criminal.

The term mug shot was derived from the 18th century English slang term for face, which is mug. It was the19th century U.S detective Allan Pinkerton that took and invented the first ever mug shot. This detective’s agency, known as the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, then begun making use of all of these different mug shots on the Wanted posters of the multiple criminals during the days of the Wild West. Soon, around the year 1870, this detective agency then managed to collect and record the largest compilation ever of mug shots in the United States.

Mug shots, like mentioned before, comprise of two pictures, one with the criminal staring directly at the camera and one with him/her looking off to the side for a photograph of the accused’s profile shot. It may have been Alexander Gardner’s 1865 prison photographs of the accused conspirators in the Lincoln assassination drama that inspired this two part idea of the mug shot. These prison portraits were composed of two full body photographs of the criminals, wherein in one of the photos, the accused were asked to turn their heads to the side for a shot of their profiles.

Sometimes, criminals may be asked to hold up cards with various information such as their names, booking IDs, height, weight and place of birth written on them. Nowadays, these mug shots may be stored in the police force’s database as digital photos, wherein they will be filed away along with information regarding the criminal and his/her case, such as what crime was committed, who arrested him/her, how many people were injured or harmed during the crime and even the name of the investigator who handled the criminal’s case.
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January 21, 2013 This post was written by Categories: CriminalsPicturesRecords Tagged with: CriminalsMugshotsPhotographs
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