(Roughly) Daily

There are eight million stories in the Naked City…

From 1910 to 1930, police photographers in New South Wales took over 2500 “special photographs,” mostly in the cells at the Central Police Station in Sydney.  Their subjects, men and women recently plucked from the street, seem to have been allowed– perhaps invited– to position and compose themselves for the camera as they liked…

William Cahill, 30 July 1923, Central Police Station, Sydney

Group of Criminals, 1921, Central Police Station, Sydney

Mug shot inscribed 'Hayes'. No details known. Early 1920s, presumably Central Police Station, Sydney

These and many more “portraits” were exhibited at the Justice & Police Museum in Sydney from November 2005 to January 2007, then collected by Peter Doyle with Caleb Williams into their book, City of Shadows: Sydney police photographs 1912-1948.  Readers can find them– and dozens of other historic police photos online at Historic Houses Trust.  Down Under never looked so… well, down under.

As we note that no continent has a corner on crime, we might recall that it was on this date in 1922 that Los Angles police were summoned to the home of silent film director William Desmond Taylor by a call about a “natural death” that had occurred the night before.  When they arrived they found actors, actresses, and studio executives rummaging through the director’s belongings… and Taylor lying dead on the living room floor with a bullet in his back.

Mary Miles Minter, a teenager, had become a star in Taylor’s films and had fallen in love with him– much to the dismay of her mother,  Charlotte Shelby.  After Taylor’s murder, a love note to Taylor from Minter was found in his home, along with her nightgown in the bedroom.  Then other damning facts came to light: Minter had once tried to shoot herself with the same type of gun used in Taylor’s murder; Shelby had previously threatened the life of another director who had made a pass at her daughter; and most portentously, Shelby’s alibi witness received suspiciously large sums of money after the murder.  Still, no one was ever prosecuted for Taylor’s death– the case remains officially unsolved.

Mary Miles Minter and William Desmond Taylor (source)


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