The NYC Department of Records has released a treasure trove of old NYPD evidence photos,
and uploaded to their website, which is here. The images range from mildly interesting (such as the pictures of 1915 automobile engines and instruction booklets on how to find out where the hell all that oil is coming from) to gruesome and detailed images of murder scenes, victims still present, on roads, in beds, a couple of dead guys tossed down an elevator shaft, and other unsavory locations. Such as the Bronx, where people were just tossed under railroad bridges, apparently.
Those who are really adventurous can take a peek at the bloated corpse of a ship captain murdered by his own crew… he’s naked. And not at all pretty.
If you’re a little less adventurous, you might want to take a peek at the “Intelligence / Psychology Tests”, which apparently consisted of playing with cubes and putting together puzzles of “head shapes”.
Despite, and perhaps also because of, the gruesome details, we get an almost unprecedented look into police procedure in the early 1900’s, as well as a look into the horrors that the NYPD officers faced back then. It’s safe to say, I think, that that horror hasn’t abated, and that’s why this collection of images will perhaps make you think twice about a cop’s everyday duties in big cities. It’s not all roses, people.
Many of the crime scene photos are take as an overhead view, to facilitate reconstruction of the crime scene, and to provide an easily understandable overview of the setting to officers looking at the photos. It does, unfailingly, provide all that, but for those of us who have only rarely, if ever, seen crime scene photos before, the gritty reality of violent death is also communicated in an especially cold, matter-of-fact and unflinching way that we guarantee that you’ve never seen on any of the CSI franchises.
In the picture aboce, the stilts for the overhead camera are clearly visible, positioned in a triangle around the woman, lying in a pool of her own blood. In other images, the camera “legs” aren’t quite as clear. In yet other, the photographer’s own feet have been included, or police officers are seen crowding around a newly found body in a car or street.
Other interesting photos from the collection of PD Evidence from the early 1900’s:
Being a police officer has always been a hard line of work, and that was true when the 1900’s were young, too. Among all the images of murder victims, there are also mug shots, drivers licenses, document copies, street scenes and some very interesting views of what the city looked like back then. Even if you’re just interested in photography, these images are worth taking a look at.