From the Spring 2015 Newsletter

We are always expanding our special collections which document criminal justice, broadly and deeply. This is a selected list of recent acquisitions.

Rare books

Jennaway Pearson, Sum of our Parts: An Examination of Death Rituals in America. Washington D.C., 2014.

We recently acquired this beautiful book by the book artist Jennaway Person; the book is based on her MFA Thesis project. It exists in four copies, one in the artist’s collection and one is at the Library of Congress.  This book features silkscreen, zinc plate etchings, letterpress, on handmade cotton rag paper, with audio recording in a custom built pine box inlayed with one of the zinc etching plates. Each sheet features the name and prisoner history of a selection of prisoners executed in Texas 1982-2013.  An MP3 player holds recordings of each prisoner’s last words. One interesting aspect of this book is that the ink used to portray barbed wire was infused with ground glass. 

Images from a recent exhibit of Sum of our Parts by Jennaway Pearson


Suringar, Willem Hendrik and Moreau-Christophe, L.M., Translator. Considerations Sur La Reclusion Individuelle Des Detenus. Precedees d’une Preface et Suivies du Resume de la Question Penitentiaire. Paris: Chez Mme Bouchard-Huzard, 1843. 

A discussion on Pennsylvania’s system of separate confinement, which influenced European penology at this time. The authors were leading prison officials in Holland and France.

The Great Canals Scrip Fraud, Minutes of the proceedings and report of the evidence in the investigation of the case, by the grand jury of Sangamon County, Ill. At the April term of the court of said county, 1859. Springfield, Illinois: Daily Journal Steam Press, 1859. 

This pamphlet describes the investigation into the issue and cover up of ‘canal scrip’ fraud, which implicated then Illinois Governor Matteson for larceny for using state funds to purchase these bank note substitutes. Boxes of this scrip had apparently been purchased, allegedly with state funds and then stored in the State Capital Building and discovered much later. Although the Governor was cleared of all charges, the Grand Jury voted to publish the proceedings of the trial. This item is an addition to our existing Fraud and Swindles Collection. Only eight copies are known to exist of this pamphlet, none in New York State. 

Image: Illustration of a canal scrip, from John M. Lamb. (Nov. 1977) “The Great Canal Scrip Fraud.” The Magazine of Illinois 16/9: 57-60


An Illustrated Catalog of Knowles Improved Fire Pumps. New York and Boston, 1885.

This trade catalog features many illustrations and descriptions of pumps which supplied water to fire suppression systems in large buildings. According to this pamphlet and to an advertisement in American Machinist, Knowles pumps were dependable and the industry standard. This will be a great resource to those researching early urban fire prevention systems. We are now the only library on record that holds this pamphlet.

Image: Advertisement for Knowles Steam Pumps in the front pages of American Machinist 9 (1882) from Google Books


Report of special committee to the Prison Association of New York on convict labor. 1885

This report is an early criticism of the system of prisoner labor in New York State, which it characterizes as akin to slavery. Our recently digitized Annual Reports of New York State Prisons, available on the Internet Archive details what work the prisoners were assigned inside and outside the prison grounds. In just a few pages, this small pamphlet reviews an issue in corrections that still resonates today. Consider for example this statement on page two: “…on the broadest grounds of public policy, the convict’s reformation is more profitable to the State than his prison labor can be.” Only five libraries are known to have this report. 

The life of Anson Bunker : “the bloody hand,” the perpetrator of no less than fifteen cold-blooded murders, amongst which were the great Nathan murder of New York City, and those of his three wives, and several others in various parts of the country: his horrible confessions and terrible doom. Philadelphia 1881.

A sensational and lurid first person account of fifteen murders committed by Anson Bunker, including all three of his wives. We are one of the few libraries that hold this edition.

Images: Two of the many illustrations in The Life of Anson Bunker from an earlier edition available digitally from Harvard Libraries


Manuscript collections

William Preston Papers — (40 linear feet) Bill Preston was professor and chair of John Jay’s History Department from 1973-1988 and the author of Aliens and Dissenters: Federal Suppression of Radicals, 1903–33. We thank Bill’s children, Michael, Margo, Evie and Lauren for donating his papers to the Lloyd Sealy Library. We will be processing this collection soon; a preliminary inventory is available from the Library’s Special Collections Subject Guide

Records of the Town of Brookhaven Police Department (Suffolk County) — (½ linear foot) This collection is also the papers of Edward E. Bridge who organized and oversaw this town’s police force from 1937 to 1959. On January 1, 1960 Brookhaven, along with many adjacent towns, joined forces to create the Suffolk County Police Department. A finding aid is available from the Library’s Special Collections Guide.

Journal of Kansas City Police Matrons Miss Anna W. Taggart and Elizabeth Burns 1904-1909 (one volume) — This journal records the activities of female police officers working in Progressive Era Kansas City. Daily observations and activities include arrests of prostitutes, burglars, murderers as well as interactions with abandoned infants, runaways, drug abusers, domestic violence survivors and much more.  

For more information or to make an appointment to see any of these in our Special Collections Room, please contact Professor Ellen Belcher.

Ellen Belcher

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