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V13 2010 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 18, May 2, 2010, Article 18

BOOK: SMASHERS: PHOTOGRAPHS OF VICTORIAN COUNTERFEITERS

Jon Radel forwarded a link to this interesting item related to counterfeiting for sale at uniqueorrare.com. -Editor

BOOK: Smashers

This English pocket photograph album, dating from around 1855-65, contains the identification portraits of eighteen known or suspected counterfeiters. 'Smashers', lettered in gilt on the front cover of the album, was a 19th century term, first recorded in 1811, for those who issued or passed counterfeit coinage or notes (Oxford English Dictionary).

The album, 90mm x 68mm in size, holds 18 albumen photograph vignette portraits, 14 of men, 4 of women, many in prison uniform. The first 11 portraits are sewn-in to the album as single images without backing and interleaved with blank paper; the final 7 portraits are cut and pasted on to blank bound-in pages at some period following binding. Although the final 7 photographs were added to the album after it was bound, and thus with the original 11 photographs already in place, stylistic evidence suggests they pre-date the images earlier in the album.

Smasher2 Smasher1

The origin and purpose of the album can only be a matter of conjecture. Prior to the early 1870s, criminals were photographed on an infrequent and casual basis, there being no official policy in force countrywide. In 1854, James Anthony Gardner, Governor of Bristol Gaol, had a photograph made of every prisoner in his charge and sent a copy to every prison in the country to obtain evidence of any earlier offences. His plan succeeded as certain men being treated by him as 'first offenders' were discovered to have held previous convictions elsewhere. In December of the same year, he issued a circular recommending the adoption of this plan at all British prisons.

To read the complete article, see: SMASHERS: Photographs of Victorian counterfeiters (www.uniqueorrare.com/uor-1934.htm)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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