CLICK THUMBNAILS TO ENLARGE
Each item offered here is an original
document. The description of the item provides the name (if known) of the person
sought, the location and issuing authority "P.D." = "Police Dept."),
the date issued, and the size of the item in inches (horizontal dimension first).
Unless otherwise stated, the item is an unmounted paper document. In some instances
(so indicated), the item is a glossy photograph of the underlying record, but
is nevertheless an authentic document from police files.
Police departments did not treat wanted flyers as objects of art or treasured memorabilia. They were documents to be perused in haste and rapidly filed. They were often folded, spindled, stapled, cropped, and perhaps glued into albums, and they suffered for it. They also frequently acquired rubber stamps of the receiving authority and annotations in pencil or ink. These marks add to their interest just as the blemishes add to their charm.
In describing the condition of these items, we note major defects only. All items are sold with our usual money-back guarantee.
WHO BUYS WANTED POSTERS AND WHY
Once only wanted posters featuring the "rich and famous" were considered collectible. Auction houses tended to feature only the standard FBI posters for Dillinger or Bonnie & Clyde--which were almost invariably "Hoover souvenir" items never issued for law-enforcement purposes. Posters for lesser criminal lights were disdained, if for no other reason than that the typical 8"x8" Post Office flyer issued by the FBI was visually unattractive and colorless in its description: fingerprints, physical dimensions and prior arrests were its sole components, beyond perhaps a formulaic "armed and dangerous" warning.
The famous names of criminal history remain highly sought after. But earlier posters featuring the lesser known have found an audience. In pre-FBI times, as represented by many of the items listed here, fingerprinting was unknown and local authorities put their own individualistic stamp on the format, often couching the personal descriptions of the wanted or missing in engagingly descriptive terms. Collectors of this genre are attracted by the politically incorrect descriptions of former days ("long Jewish nose") or by an interest in the criminal heritage of their local city or county. Imaginative collectors are also alert to the decorative possibilities of a wall of posters matching their family name. What family named Prescott would not be proud to display a putative ancestry that included a John Prescott who was wanted for murder, an Uncle Bill Prescott who was a child molester, and a Grandma Emma Prescott who worked the badger game?
As part of our service, we are happy to watch for criminals matching the location, occupation, ethnic group, or surname of interest to you. Don't be without the criminals of your choice.
Early Al Qaeda terrorist. Lal Singh. FBI ID Order 5005, Feb. 18, 1986. 8x8. Hole-punched card. Singh, who received training in Alabama, escaped an FBI dragnet, fled to Canada and later Lahore. He has been implicated in the downing of Air India 182 and the plotting of the murder of an Indian minister, and may be linked to the murderers of Daniel Pearl. w176. $70.
Alcatraz escape. Thelma Kyle. FBI ID No. 1513, April 23, 1938. 8x8 card, mailed. Thelma was the sister of Arnold Kyle and the wife of Joseph Cretzer, two bank robbers and murderers who were later to serve time on The Rock and make a bloody bustout attempt in 1946. On this flyer Thelma is accused of harboring and concealing Arnold. w178 $100
1909. Sheetmusic & wanted flyer combined. Billy Whitla, the Kidnapped Child. Words by Sam Bullock, music by W. E. Krepper. Bee Key Music Co., Cleveland. 6pp., 11x14. Billy Whitla, 8-year-old son of a wealthy Sharon, Pa., couple, was kidnaped and held for ransom. This extraordinary sheet music, whose front cover offers a $1000 reward, was issued before the fate of the boy was known. "The sun was shining brightly one morn in early spring. A little school boy hastened, he heard the school bell ring. The class was soon assembled, no thought of danger there. The little ones were safe from harm under the teachers' care. But soon a messenger arrived, they bore the child away. And thousands searched the country wide in vain by night and day. . . . [chorus] I want to go home to my mamma. Oh won't you please take me away. I want my dear daddy to hear me when I kneel down to pray. I know that they both will be grieving, they heard not his pleading cry. I'm so lonely alone, won't you please take me home, where they call me their sweet Billy Boy." The front cover describes Billy (his prominent ears are mentioned four times) and his apparel. A composite photo shows Billy's head grafted onto the picture of a same-sized boy wearing clothes identical to Billy's when he was abducted. w155 $200.
1852. Horse theft. $50 Reward! West Troy, New York. 12x9.5. Issued by the victim, Lemuel Sherwood. Paper delicate, small marginal void, folds, foxing, irregular margins. A stylish doctor robbed of his horse, wagon and harness. His horse is "a sorel roan, 8 years old, ... well proportioned, good action, light limbed ... a fleet traveler, well broke, well bred, good bottom, and highly valued for his good qualities as well as good looks. The carriage was purchased new ... at $165. Color dark; running part striped with white, plaited bands on the ends of the hubs, panel seat, leather top, inside trimed [sic] with drab broad cloth and lace." Lest he be considered an idle rentier, Doctor Sherwood would like it known to "all M.D.'s that the above described horse and carriage were kept by the subscriber for his use in practicing his profession." A bold poster that will display well. w001 $250
1910. Larcenous Swedish student sought worldwide. Ernst August Emanuel Malmborg Beat bank out of 25,000 crowns. Stockholm Police Department. 8.5"x11" Halftone photo. Folds. Provides descriptions of Ernst in French, German, and English. w137 $35
Acid-throwing Stalker. James Treanor.
Garage mechanic. San Francisco Chief of Police, 8x10. Printed in red and
black. "Waylaid and deliberately squirted a syringe containing vitriol
acid in the face of Miss Ruth Wilson, seriously disfiguring her face and
affecting the sight of the left eye. This man had annoyed the girl for a
period of two years, and, angered by the girl's refusal to accept his attentions,
inflicted this cowardly revenge." Mounted. w055
"Claims to have rich relatives and tries to create the impression that he is a person of means, but in reality is a faker." An unusual two-color piece and the only poster for an acid-thrower that we have seen.
1919. California barn burner. Suspicion rests on J. J. Burke. Issued by the sheriff. Stamped on back, "received by the captain of detectives." 6x9. Folds. The arson took place in Yuba City, later home to serial killer Juan Corona. w150. $30
1918. Utah State Prison. Escaped first-degree murderer, William McVey. Issued by warden. 6x9. Folds. w151. $35
"Expert and Traveling Criminals." Scotland Yard. 8pp., 7.5x11, Vol. VII, No. 21, Oct. 15, 1920. Removed from ledger but complete; edges frayed. With official annotations in black and red ink. Confidential supplement to Police Gazette. Consists of coversheet of mug-shots of 6 bad guys followed by 4 pages describing their m.o.'s and 2 pages of short notes on other criminals. Bad Guy 338, for example, "engaged lodging with working class people by representing ... that he was a discharged wounded soldier, ... remained the night and absconded with cash, etc." Female Bad Guy 340 defrauded merchants, aided by such attributes as "lady-like deportment, refined, Scotch accent; fond of dress, the society of men of good position and theatrical people." These confidential supplements, which portray not only criminal methods but the subtleties of the British class system, rarely come to market. w174 $35
1907. Bank runner pocket-picked of $1052. John Shevlin & others. Hapless runner "recalls being crowded by four or five men. ... Kindly have all crooks and suspicious persons having a large sum of money in their possession overhauled ..." Chief of Police, District of Columbia. 5x7. Folds; closely cropped at top; extraneous pencil marks on back. w153. $25
1918. Teen-age girl vanished on way to "Shades of Death." Verla Wood "Dissappeared! [sic]" A "girl of the very best character." Terre Haute, Indiana. Folds, 8x11. w158 $35