Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Domestic Violence Prevention Programs at the NLEM: Part II

As we’ve seen in Part One of this blog post, our nation’s law enforcement officers are profoundly affected by the number in their ranks who are killed, assaulted, or experienced trauma each year as a result of having to respond to incidents of domestic violence (DV). And since part of the mission of the National Law Enforcement Museum is to tell the story of American law enforcement and contribute to a safer society, the rationale for the Museum to be involved in developing DV prevention programs is clear.

In recognition of this, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund—the organization building the Museum—received a generous grant from the Verizon Foundation in May 2009. As the Museum’s Community Education Specialist, I am responsible for helping to develop and evaluate the grant’s two DV prevention projects, both of which are designated as “Socially Responsible Education Programs.” The Domestic Violence Prevention Advisory Committee—a diverse group of more than a dozen experts from the fields of DV prevention, law enforcement, and public and museum education—has been brought together to ensure that these two programs are innovative and effective.

K-12 students and their families will visit the Museum for kIDsafe, an interactive, monthly family day event during which they will learn about general safety topics by participating in a variety of activities. The DV component of the event will focus on increasing the visitors’ use of DV prevention strategies. For example, young children could create a list of people to turn to for safety and teenagers might learn to recognize, early on, the signs of an unhealthy relationship. On the other hand, the “DV Awareness and Prevention Program” will be a certification program that will enable teachers, school counselors, and administrators within the Washington metropolitan region to identify and prevent domestic violence among the student population. And by collaborating with their school resource officers—those law enforcement personnel who are school-based—these professionals will be able to create a protocol to help their colleagues vigorously address the issue when it arises.

By developing these programs, the Museum hopes to decrease incidents of domestic violence and to ultimately increase respect, trust and confidence between law enforcement and domestic violence victims, their families and the general public. In mid-October, we were happy to welcome onto our staff Smita Varia as our DV Prevention Specialist, and we view her addition as another step forward on the way to achieving these objectives.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

December Artifact Detective: Cartoon Cop

Artifact Detective logo with magnifying glass
Please help us uncover some of the stories behind our objects. Leave a comment with anything you may know about the featured item. We welcome all information, and we’d appreciate sources and citations when possible. Thanks!

Hand-painted cartoon cell of a Flintstones police officer from the NLEM collection
Flintstones police officer, original artwork, hand painted cell, c 1960. 2007.118.1. Gift of Dick Wenig. Collection of the NLEM, Washington, DC.

What we know:
This is a hand-painted cell of a Flintstones cartoon police officer character.
William Hanna & Joe Barbera produced the cartoon show.
The Flintstones ran for 166 episodes. It premiered on ABC on September 30, 1960, and ran for six seasons. The final episode aired on April 1, 1966.

What we want to know:
What was this character’s name?
What years did he appear on The Flintstones?
Do you have, or do you know someone who has, objects related to law enforcement characters?
Who are some of the other cartoon and comic book officers that you remember from your childhood?

If you have any information about this object or own an object similar to this, leave me a comment!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bringing the Museum Into Your Home: The NLEM’s Online Catalog

The National Law Enforcement Museum is one of only a few museums that has decided to catalog ALL of its collections—from books, manuscripts, and photographs to oral histories and three-dimensional artifacts—in one database, thus allowing access to all kinds of information about similar materials held by the Museum. In addition, because of rapid changes in technology, the Museum’s catalog will provide access to images, electronic files, video, and other kinds of materials usually only seen in-house. By joining forces with other international online catalogs, the NLEM truly will be a national museum by reaching a broad audience of individuals interested in law enforcement history who might not otherwise know that the NLEM exists.

The Museum’s catalog is now live. We have over 700 books and over 145 oral histories from former Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation now available, and we have an ambitious plan to have complete information—from the history of an object, a photograph of it, and other information that we may have—about the majority of our collection (books, oral histories, photographs, uniforms, badges, etc.) online by the end of 2011.

Wynne James wanted poster, c.1940. 2008.40.20.What kinds of “stuff” does a Museum have? Could we help you identify something that you’ve had in the family for years? The Museum’s catalog might be able to help you answer those questions. It is keyword searchable, so you can type in the words you think might be related to an item. If you want to see what we have related to wanted posters, type those words in and you will see a list of books on wanted posters, as well as historical wanted posters from John Dillinger to Patty Hearst. If you are interested in the Barbara Mackle kidnapping, type in those words—you'll get “hits” on oral histories and a book about the kidnapping. We also have prepared some “canned” searches specifically for the FBI oral histories. We intend to add similar searches for other important topics as well, as we add more of our artifact information to the catalog.

Take a look—the direct link is http://research.nlem.org/.

We would love to hear what you think.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Many Perspectives, Different Paths, One Common Goal

Talk about rewarding. To work with a group of committed professionals on a project, not just any project but a really important project, is incredibly meaningful. To arrive at work in the morning and know that I’m going to learn something from one of our bright young professionals keeps daily routines interesting. I find myself reflecting at the end of the day on some bright idea that one of my Generation X or Y colleagues has had about an innovative approach to exhibiting and interpreting the interactive law enforcement vehicle that will become part of the Museum or how to engage our Education Advisory Committee in an interactive judgment simulator session. I realize how much I appreciate their contributions.

At the other end of the experience spectrum (not too far at the other end, mind you!) there’s the wisdom and knowledge that our department senior director brings to the team. She provides the kind of insight and thoughtfulness that we need to be able to build a “world class” institution. She has ideas about caring for artifacts, accessing the collection and building relationships that may not make our lives easier, but, in the end, we know it’s the right way to approach the creation of an institution that's "Built to Last."

What’s especially fun, though, is when we disagree. That’s when the sparks fly and passions ignite. You immediately see that every one of us is doing this work because we care. I’m happy to say that we’re all still idealistic enough to think that this project might make a difference. Imagine achieving the mission we set out to achieve. What a privilege to be able to say someday, “I helped to make that happen.”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Try Our Newest Family Activity: Build a Badge

Our latest NLEM Insider newsletter features NLEM’s Build a Badge family activity designed for elementary-age students. We hope you’ll take a minute to share it with your children. Encourage them to create their own law enforcement badge with symbols that reflect who they are. Mom and Dad (aunts and uncles, grandparents—you can share, too!), once they’ve finished, refer to the “Build a Badge” activity guide’s Conversation Starters on page 4 to talk more about the topic. Then please take a minute to post a comment below related to what you learned or talked about together!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Link Between the NLEM & Domestic Violence Prevention: Part I

Whenever I tell someone that the National Law Enforcement Museum is currently developing domestic violence prevention programs, their initial reaction is one of enthusiasm. Frequently, however, a look of wonder soon overshadows their face: “That sounds great,” they reply, “but why domestic violence? Why is it important for the National Law Enforcement Museum to focus on domestic violence prevention?”

Each year, an estimated 1.3 million women will be physically assaulted by an intimate partner according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. This fact alone demonstrates the magnitude of the public safety problem that domestic violence (DV) presents for law enforcement. And every day, officers play a pivotal role in trying to manage it. As noted in a Department of Justice-funded report (p. 12), officers are often the first contact for violence-prone families, provide a “free” service, in the sense that the costs are not immediately apparent, and intervene as visible authority figures. The same report quoted the finding of Buzawa & Buzawa that in such cases, the police are “likely to be the only public agency in a position to provide rapid assistance on a 24-hour basis.” What many people do not realize, however, is that DV takes a heavy toll on the nation’s law enforcement community as well.

DV calls are among the most dangerous calls that law enforcement officers respond to. The situations can be extremely volatile since the individuals involved are often emotionally charged, and weapons may be involved. Since 1855, 663 officers have lost their lives while responding to domestic disturbance calls in the United States, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Far more officers are assaulted during domestic disturbance calls than during any other circumstance. In 2007, 32 percent of the 59,201 assaults on police officers occurred during domestic disturbance calls, according to the FBI. The next highest category, “attempting other arrests,” resulted in only 15 percent of total assaults against officers. And these statistics say nothing of the vicarious trauma that may be experienced by the responding officers—those negative changes that can happen to humanitarian workers over time as they witness other people’s suffering and need.

In this light, it is easy to understand why DV has been and will remain a critical issue for American law enforcement. And since part of the NLEM’s mission is to tell their story and contribute to a safer society, there is a clear rationale for the Museum to be involved in developing DV prevention programs. Now, the obvious question arises: what DV prevention programs are being developed by the Museum? More to come on that in Part II.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

November Artifact Detective: Nothing improves your driving like a ticket

Artifact Detective logo with magnifying glass
Please help us uncover some of the stories behind our objects. Leave a comment with anything you may know about the featured item. We welcome all information, and we’d appreciate sources and citations when possible. Thanks!

Pin saying Nothing improves your driving like a ticket Pin. Collection of the NLEM, 2007.73.48.

This is a first for the Artifact Detective, as we know virtually nothing about this object. So if it looks familiar or if a department near you or your own department used a slogan like this, let us know.

We are interested in learning more about historic “drive safely” campaigns; if you know of any, please leave a comment!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My Changing Perceptions of Law Enforcement

One of the important parts of the National Law Enforcement Museum’s mission is changing public perceptions of law enforcement. Big task, right? Well, I’m a good example of an early Museum success story. When I started working here over two years ago, I didn’t have a bad perception of law enforcement, and I generally liked the idea that they are here, but I definitely didn’t think about the job officers do and the risks they take.

After I started working here, my perceptions began to change. I began learning about the profession through exhibit designs that reinforce the great things law enforcement officers have done and still do to keep us safe. As a member of the Memorial Fund staff, I attended a wreath laying ceremony for fallen officers at the Memorial. The speakers, both law enforcement and survivors, touched me. Then during Police Week, I got to talk to many law enforcement officers and their loved ones. This gave law enforcement a more human face and really made me appreciate how the job affects not just the officers but also their families.

I was surprised by how quickly my perceptions of law enforcement changed. I went from passing a cop and praying that they wouldn’t pull me over to wanting to walk up to officers on street corners and talk to them about who they are and why they became an officer. I hope that the educational programs and exhibits we’re creating for the Museum will be able to alter the public’s perceptions for the better, like working here has changed mine. Even if we don’t manage to change our visitors’ feelings towards law enforcement, I hope that we will be able to open up positive dialog between law enforcement and the public they protect.

For me, learning about and being involved in law enforcement events has changed my perception of law enforcement. I’m interested to see if anyone else has had a similar experience. If so, please share it!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Memory and Tribute: the Relevance of the NLEM’s Memorial Collection

In the past several weeks, I have spent part of my time focusing on NLEM’s Memorial Collection. Since 1992, visitors to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial have demonstrated their emotional connection to and regard for law enforcement’s fallen by leaving tribute objects. It is those objects—some commonplace, some unique, but all holding meaning for those who left them—that comprise the Museum’s Memorial Collection. Wishing to gain a deeper understanding of this eclectic and evocative collection’s role in our Museum, I have explored some of the ideas that inform American memorial institutions.

The July/August 2007 issue of Museum News published an interview with Elie Wiesel, Auschwitz survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and founding chair of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Wiesel reflected on the nature of memory and memorials, speaking powerfully of the need to maintain the threads connecting us to those lost and to the events surrounding that loss. He said,

I believe—and I still do, in spite of everything—that memory is a shield. If we remember what people can do to each other, then we can help those who tomorrow may be threatened by the same enemy to do something. . . . I believe that he or she who listens to a survivor becomes a witness.

This quote resonates with me, because it speaks to the relevance and importance of such institutions of the NLEM and the NLEOMF. For me, the objects in the Memorial Collection are physical reminders that help me understand the importance of the sacrifices they memorialize. The objects left as tribute serve to express the memory of past sacrifice and can serve to remind the larger community of witnesses of the vital role that law enforcement has in civil society.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stories from an American Postcard

As a child I collected post cards. My parents traveled a lot and sent me pictures from where they visited. I saved them all. As I got older, I began to buy postcards as remembrances of my trips. Post cards continued to interest me as an adult, and in my current position, they help document the work of law enforcement. But I had forgotten the amazing stories a post card can hold—especially one without a picture!

In the NLEM collection is a run-of-the-mill postcard mailed by the Chief of Police in Sacramento to the Chief of Police in San Francisco in August 1880. The card, originally one of many such cards sent to Chiefs of Police (and most likely Sheriffs), described at length the items taken during a robbery. But with a little more research, the post card brought to life two important California citizens: the man who sent the card—Matthew Karcher—and the man who received it—Patrick Crowley.

Geo. Bates and Co. robbery postcard, 1880. 2006.79.1. Collection of the NLEM, Washington, DC.

Matthew Karcher was an American success story. Born in Baden, Germany, in 1832, he emigrated to the United States and eventually made his way to Sacramento. That same year, 1851, he opened a bakery which he ran for 14 years until it was destroyed by flood and fire. Having a family and no work, he was offered a position on the Sacramento police force and accepted it. Apparently he did well, running for and being elected Chief of Police for almost 10 years. He later served as a deputy sheriff.

Patrick Crowley, the San Francisco Chief to whom Karcher sent the card, is an even larger figure in western law enforcement history. In a 1929 article on her father, Kate Hays Crowley stated, “the story of my father’s life as chief of police of San Francisco is the story of the organization of the department and its development into an efficient unit of protection of the life and property of a great city.” Crowley was elected Chief in 1866 and served until 1897; his tenure as Chief saw many changes in the city. His daughter wrote, “He was chief of less than a hundred men in a community where interested citizens believed it their duty to get out and take an active, and often violent part in righting the wrongs or wronging the rights of their time.”

Little did the Museum staff know when we acquired the post card that it would shed light on two important settlers, as well as important California peace officers. Karcher, the immigrant who realized the American dream , and Crowley, an individual who experience the dramatic growth of an American city—captured on a small postcard.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Object Lesson: Tractors as Life

How is museum learning different from learning in other settings? There are many answers to that question, but one important answer is that museum learning focuses on objects, not just ideas. It’s a unique approach, and it happens more often in daily life than you might think.

Here’s a case in point. A couple of months ago, I saw an antique tractor pull at the Montgomery County (MD) Fair. As I watched the tractors chug across the arena, I wondered whether any of them resembled the tractor my Great-aunt Leslie accidentally backed into the side of a barn when she was learning how to drive more than 60 years ago. She and my Grandpa (her brother, who repaired the damage) still laugh over the incident.

Back home, I called Grandpa to ask what kind of tractor his family owned on the Ewing farm. He told me it was a 1943 Farmall Model H, and then launched into a conversation about tractor manufacturers. My Grandma, who doesn’t like to talk about her childhood on the farm, volunteered that the early John Deere tractors were called “put-puts,” because of the sound the two-cylinder engines made.

Later, my parents and I talked about tractors. Dad remembered working with Grandma’s father, driving the tractor when he was 12 or 13 years old. I learned more about the serious accident that injured Great-grandpa just a few years later and about how a farm family without insurance or workers’ compensation survived.

A few weeks later, Grandpa attended an antique tractor show and snapped a photo of a tractor just like the one he’d used growing up. 1943 Farmall H tractor just like the one Grandpa drove thousands of hours “I drove it thousands of hours!” he related in the caption.

And I learned all of this because of a tractor.

You may have had a similar conversation over a box of items saved from high school or with a child about the toys they loved as a baby. One object can spark conversations about many topics, and you talk about them because the object has meaning for you. As a museum educator, I’m committed to creating ways to allow visitors to talk about the Museum’s objects, not because they’re in the collection, but because they mean something to our visitors.

Friday, October 2, 2009

October Artifact Detective: Wild Bill Hickok Items

Artifact Detective graphic with magnifying glass
Please help us uncover some of the stories behind our objects. Leave a comment with anything you may know about the featured item. We welcome all information, and we’d appreciate sources and citations when possible. Thanks!

Collection of the NLEM, 2006.493.12c and a

What we know:
The badge pictures Wild Bill Hickok (Guy Madison) and Jingles (Andy Devine)
Both items relate to the television and radio show, The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, which ran from 1951-1958.

What we want to know:
Was this sold as a cereal item?
Who made this?
What year is it from?
Are there any others like this out there?

Did you have one of these, or an item like it? What are your memories?

We are also looking for information and items related to portrayals of law enforcement in movies, television and radio. So, if you have an object or have any information, leave me a comment!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Perspectives from the Donor of the William Benson Collection

This post was written by a friend of the Museum, Officer Eric Stolzman, (Retired #490), Yale Department of Police Services.  Officer Stolzman served in New Haven, Conn. and donated his collection to the Museum in 2006.

Collecting has always been a passion of mine, instilled in me by my father when I was only nine or 10 years old. After he passed when I was 15, I felt the full influence of my father having belonged to the “Greatest Generation,” a generation defined by beliefs in honor, duty, and patriotism. Stories about my father and other contemporary family members abounded. I had one uncle in particular who served in the submarine service during World War II. Later, he worked for the CIA and shared his stories about traveling through Europe during the Cold War. I also vividly recall the individuals from national and international police agencies that were often at his home. My uncle was a collector of police memorabilia, and I would eventually strive to follow in his professional and collecting endeavors.

Photograph, Benson and his two daughters, Collection of the NLEM 2006.488.139

One of the most important groups of items I have ever collected reflects my desire to honor the memory of past officers, as well as explore the social mores of the past and how the lives and experiences of officers from several generations ago are still relevant to today’s officer. I discovered an officer named William Benson who started his career in 1888 with the Brooklyn Police Department in New York, which eventually merged with other boroughs to become the New York Police Department (NYPD).

Through contact with his family, I was able to obtain his Brooklyn uniformed photograph, appointment certificate, valor medals from two separate occasions, numerous NYPD police items , and a number of personal items, including his death certificate and a letter written about him by one of his daughters. With further investigation, I learned things about this man that even his relatives knew nothing about. You can imagine my pride as I shared this additional information with his family generations later. Benson retired in 1912 and died in 1935, but the memory of his service lives on because of the Museum’s vision to create a venue for displaying the history of men like him.

When I learned about plans to erect a museum representing the history of law enforcement, I contacted the National Law Enforcement Museum. Being informed that some 300,000 to 400,000 visitors per year are expected to visit the museum, I am honored by the inclusion of my collection and its contribution to our profession. The lives of officers, like Officer William Benson, can live on and teach others what I believe are the principles of our nation’s finest.

Friday, September 11, 2009

September Artifact Detective: "We Chirp for the Cleveland Press" Button

By Jeni Ashton, Associate Curator

The National Law Enforcement Museum has collected more than 8,000 artifacts to-date, so we can’t always devote as much time to researching individual objects as we would like. Please help us uncover some of the stories behind our objects. Leave a comment with anything you may know about the featured item. We welcome all information, and we’d appreciate sources and citations when possible. Thanks!

Button, c 1896,Collection of the NLEM 2008.34.1
What we know:
Produced circa 1896
“We Chirp for the Cleveland Press”
Made by The Whitehead & Hoag Company, Newark, NJ
Patented April 14 & July 21, 1896
Cleveland Press was an afternoon newspaper published in Cleveland, OH, from 1878-1982
We checked in with the Cleveland Press Collection at the Cleveland State University. They felt sure that this had something to do with the Cleveland Press but could not find a reference to any promotion like this button. The Special Collections Librarian there suggested that “maybe it was for some sort of early community watch? Or for kids as part of a news reporting feature from the juvenile crowd? The button has SOMETHING to do with reporting news to the Cleveland Press.”
According to the Cleveland Press Collection’s Dictionary of Slang, Jargon & Cant by Charles Godfrey Leland (Ballantyne Press, 1889), the word “chirp” means “to inform or snitch.”
What we want to know:
Why were these buttons produced?
Who wore them?
What is the cause that the officer is chirping for?
Do any other pins like these exist?
We are also looking for information about the use of law enforcement images in the American media or law enforcement involvement with American newspapers. Please leave a comment if you have anything to share.

Monday, August 31, 2009

An Educator’s First Visit to the NLEM’s Collections Facility

By Dean MacLeod, Community Education Specialist

Have you ever been invited into the inner sanctum of a special place where you once might have suspected you’d have no business going? In early June, I made my first visit to the NLEM collections facility, just 30 minutes from our offices in downtown DC. There, I saw numerous artifacts that made me proud to be helping to build the NLEM: all manner of handcuffs, prisoner-made shivs and shanks (weapons) once seized as contraband, decades-old mug shots, Al Capone’s bullet-proof vest, and the box that holds Peter Weller’s Robocop 2 suit!

Okay, okay, I know you’re thinking, “It was just the box!”—but as an educator who doesn’t often see this side of museum practice, it was still pretty neat. It’s great to know that the Museum will be a place where we can tell the stories behind the material culture of our law enforcement officers, and in turn, demonstrate the important role they play to uphold the Constitution and shape our society.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thoughts on the Memorial Collection

By Vanya Scott, Registrar/Collections Manager

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is a powerful public commemoration of the fallen from those who make up the Thin Blue Line that protects American civil society. The message of the Memorial, acknowledging the honor and sacrifice of fallen law enforcement officers, resonates most powerfully in the individual stories that objects, photographs, and written messages reflect.

Dear Uncle Mark, I miss you. I fondly remember that fall when we picked the giant pumpkins in your garden. Todd can ride a 2-wheeler now. I love you. Love, Emily (1996)

Memorial items left during Police Week 2009Police Week 2009 was the first National Police Week I was privileged to attend. I found the profusion of objects of all types, including stuffed animals, patches, t-shirts, photographs, pins, plaques, flowers, candles, coins, figurines—the variety seemed endless—to be quite evocative and powerfully emotional. The National Law Enforcement Museum preserves objects from the Memorial wall that are left during National Police Week remembrance activities each year, carefully storing them in a secure and climate-controlled facility for future study. Police Week memorial collection objects have been saved since the 1990s, and after my experience at Police Week 2009, objects collected in earlier years suddenly hold new meaning for me. Each object bears witness to the mourner’s loss and has its own unique message, a message of private mourning placed in public context.

Jeff – It angers me that you died possibly thinking that no one was coming to help you. It angers me that you bled to death…the system failed you. It angers me that I have learned so much about you, through your wife, after your death…We never formally met, but I am your friend. We will do, and I will speak for all L.E.O.’s, anything and everything to see to it that the “Jeffrey Tackett Bill” will pass. You’re missed by many, many people. (1996)

As I moved through the Memorial during my weekly duties, I had a chance to meet many Police Week visitors. Several had attended the Memorial event year after year, and used this time to renew bonds with friends and colleagues. For others, Police Week 2009 was the first they had attended, and they were, without fail, greatly moved by the fellowship and goodwill they found here. What was interesting to me as a museum professional was how they all used this time at the Memorial to revisit and renew their bonds with the friend or loved one they had lost. Though not all chose to express this by leaving tribute objects or written messages, many, if not most, folks did. Sometimes the meaning of an object was a bit obscure, known mainly to the family or friends who placed it there. Other objects had messages that were quite clear in their commemorative intent. All, though, were unmistakable in their need to maintain the thread of affection with the one they lost.

Jimmy – You are my son, my friend. I will love and miss you forever. Mom (2007)

Memorial items left during Police Week 2008The objects collected from 2009 Police Week will join the objects collected from previous years’ commemorations. The Museum approaches the collection of tribute objects from the Memorial in a thoughtful, respectful way. Objects are preserved to make sure they remain intact and accessible for future generations to study and contemplate. The Memorial exists to honor the fallen heroes of law enforcement, and an important part of what the Museum does is to preserve the legacy that exists in tangible form.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July Artifact Detective: .32 Colt Revolver from the Late 1800s

NLEM Artifact Detective

By Jeni Ashton, Associate Curator

Help us learn more about our collection!

With the sheer volume of artifacts that have been acquired by the National Law Enforcement Museum – more than 7,500 to date – we can’t always devote as much time to researching individual objects as we would like. So we are calling on you to help us uncover some of the stories behind our objects. On a regular basis, I will post pictures and any information we have on specific objects in our collection. We want you to tell us anything you may know about the item. All information is welcome; sources and citations are requested when possible. Please email Jeni Ashton at jeni@nleomf.org. Thank you.

1896 .32 Colt New Police Double Action Revolver Collection of the NLEM 2007.125.1

Inscribed “"New York Police" on butt, "Colt's Pt. F. A. Mfg. Co. Hartford, Ct. US.A. Pat. Aug. 5.84.Nov.6.1888", "1438"”

What we know:

Weapon was produced between 1896-1907
Approximately 49,500 were produced
NYPD purchased and issued around 4,500
President of the Commissioners of Police, Theodore Roosevelt, authorized the purchase and issue
Weapons were factory stamped ‘New York Police’ on backstrap
Two stamped badge numbers 2318 and 4777

What we want to know:

Who do the badge numbers belong to?

We have seen that the first "officially carried" weapon of the NYPD was the Colt .36 5-shot percussion revolver. But I’ve also found references to Roosevelt having problems with poor marksmanship and back firing weapons after this weapon was adopted. After conducting tests, the NYPD decided to issue the Colt New Police as the standard revolver for the NYPD. Does anyone have any insight on this?

We are also looking for information on the standardization of law enforcement equipment in the late 1800s. So, if you have an early-issue police weapon or know of information when police departments began issuing standardized weapons, let us know.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Public Enemies: An Academic Look Behind Hollywood’s Next Blockbuster

Collection of the NLEM 2006.220.3

By Jeni Ashton, Associate Curator, National Law Enforcement Museum

With the recent release of "Public Enemies," I began to think about the legend of John Dillinger (played by Johnny Depp) and wondered how the movies would treat his story. Often 'historical' mainstream movies gloss over some of the little details that can make a difference in how the public reads the main character (in this case Dillinger). Now it is true, as the movie depicts, that in real life the public rooted for and avidly followed Dillinger in the newspapers and on the radio, despite his murders. He and his gang were responsible for killing 12 law enforcement officers, and generally wreaking havoc.

When I was looking through our collections catalog this morning, I came across this newspaper article from April 23, 1934, titled, “Dillinger Again Escapes Police under Gun Fire, 4 Killed, 3 Shot” (above). The article describes the chase, shootout, and escape of Dillinger and many of his cohorts, and notes the death of FBI Special Agent W. Carter Baum in Eagle River, WI.

I was happy to find that this scene and Special Agent Baum’s death are shown in the "Public Enemies" movie. In this specific scene, this seems to be a small step forward in making a somewhat accurate historical blockbuster movie, even if there are moments in the film that are slightly exaggerated.

Our intern Anna found that Special Agent Baum left behind a wife and two daughters. Anna wrote, “Can you imagine becoming a single mother in the middle of the Great Depression?” This question made me pause for a second. The movie did give a nod to law enforcement; but, it might have been nice if the movie showed the effects of Dillinger’s rampaging across the Midwest. It could have given the law enforcement officials a little more depth, and hopefully gotten the viewers to think beyond the fast action bad guy stuff.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Welcome to our blog!

We, the lovely staff of the National Law Enforcement Museum, are kicking off our first Museum blog ever, and we're pretty excited about it!

Stay tuned for interesting articles about artifacts we've acquired, research we're conducting for future exhibits, and educational programs we're putting together for school children.

Visit us again soon!