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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Mug Book

Mug Book

GRHC - September 9th, 2009

Grand Rapids Historical Commission and the Community Media Center present Glance at the Past, a local history radio project. This week's episode tells of a artifact rescued from the old Grand Rapids Police Department.



Over the course of a 140 year history, the Grand Rapids police department has used various “tools of the day” to manage information. One preserved artifact gives us a glimpse from the days long before computerized records.

In 1892, the GRPD moved into their new headquarters at Crescent and Ottawa NW. This building was home to police operations until the mid-nineteen sixties, when it was demolished in the name of urban renewal. During the demolition, most old records were discarded, but an old Mug book was rescued from a dumpster by a concerned citizen.

The standard Mug book was sixteen inches square, eleven inches deep, and held together by long iron bolts. Each page contained records for three individuals and included their personal information, reason for arrest, photos, and other incident detail. It also included very specific physical descriptions.

Using the popular Bertillon system of criminal identification, detailed measurements were gathered and recorded. Among these measurements were width of the head, size of the foot and length of the forearm and reach. Also included were the size of the ear and detailed descriptions of teeth, nose, forehead and the left eye. These detailed measurements were combined with photos and fingerprints, to create “state of the art” records for criminal identification.

Long since replaced with more effective methods and new technology, the preserved Mug book now resides the Grand Rapids city archives.

Full Details

TitleMug Book
KeywordsGlance at the Past, mug book, radio, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission
Pubdate StringSeptember 9th, 2009

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