Bridgewater: Massachusetts, 1923-1960. 136 gelatin silver, black-and-white mugshot photographs, most about 5" x 3." Spread across, and typically mounted to, more than 200 different typed and manuscript documents, recording 106 different inmates. Materials loose. Fit into individual archival sleeves and housed in an approximately 10" x 13" x 3" cloth clamshell box. Very good overall. Item #22837
A substantial archive of so-called mentally defective criminals. More than 200 documents and over 125 mug shot photographs — apparently kept by a parole agent — documenting crimes, charges, psychological evaluations, etc. of more than 100 inmates from the Defective Delinquents section of the State Farm correctional center at Bridgewater, Massachusetts from the 1920s to the early 1960s. Massachusetts was for better or worse a national leader in the consideration of mental illness in criminal matters. They were the first state to pass legislation on the subject of the “mentally defective” criminal in 1911, a mandate that evolved into the “Defective Delinquents” statutes widely adopted by many American penal institutions and maintained well into the second half of the 20th Century. Commitment papers for multiple inmates represented here (Forms No. 121 and 124: ORDER[S] OF COMMITMENT – DEFECTIVE DELINQUENT) provide specific language on those offenders deemed “Defective.” "[…] has shown himself to be (shows tendencies towards becoming) an habitual delinquent, that such delinquency is (or may become) a menace to the public, that said […] is now mentally defective, and is not a proper subject for the schools for the feeble-minded or for commitment as an insane person." Recurring crimes and offenses include alcoholism, violence, larceny, sexual offenses (with at least several inmates who seem guilty of nothing more than homosexuality), and the like — with much of the documentation uncommonly and often uncomfortably revealing. Indeed, the archive is substantially more in-depth than a mere collection of salacious mug shot photography. For example, the wrenching story of a George Whidden (above, middle), whose confessed crime of incest is frankly described in a manuscript statement of October 1932: "'My grandmother never told me what was right or wrong in regard to sex problems and I got in wrong with my sister. I had never been out anywhere because of my crippled condition and my sister did not refuse and this is the only time that I ever did anything wrong of this nature. My sister was 16 years of age at the time and when the baby was born she told my grandmother that I was to blame for her condition. The officers came to the house and arrested me.' [...] This inmate of dwarf size, crippled to such an extent that it is hard for him to walk around very good, was very attentive, very frank in his answers and he full realizes his predicament." Parole documents add significant substance, as inmates are frequently tracked over the course of several years — with photographs (see above, left), documents, and often writings from the offenders themselves recording progress (or lack thereof) in rehabilitation, recidivism, etc. Subjects range from serial and repeat offenders to those who appear, on paper at least, simply abandoned and/or troubled teenagers. One James Cahill of Chelsea, for example, was sent to State Farm after a single conviction for larceny (auto theft) in December of 1932, at age 18, and judged by his examining physician with the State Department of Mental Diseases as having an I.Q. of 56.8, and to be: “Good natured and well intentioned but unable to form any resistance against the temptation to steal.” Cahill, whose mug shots upon intake and release are present here, was held for nearly 10 years on the charge before being released in May of 1941. One of the more sensational of the files, those of a Harvey Baker, details his October 1955 arrest for performing an illegal, attempted abortion: "She came from Connecticut. She was met in Boston by a woman she does not know and driven to a Winter Street, Lawrence, address where she met a Mr. and Mrs. Baker. Patricia gave Mr. Baker $350.00 and was told to go into the bedroom. Before going into the room she saw Mrs. Baker sterilizing instruments on the gas stove. Later Baker came in and told her to take off her panties and lay on the bed. He then put an instrument inside of her and injected some liquid into her stomach. […] She was to have another injection Monday night but changed her mind Monday noon and came to the station where she told her story." Overall a remarkable collection of materials with relevance to multiple areas of interest and study. A more detailed spreadsheet inventory is available upon request.