The Confidence Men of Paris, Circa 1900

The Met Museum has posted some images from a book called the Album of Paris Crime Scenes, collected between 1901 – 1908.

Apparently, it belonged to Alphonse Bertillon, the fellow who invented modern mugshots. Actually, Bertillon’s mugshots are more detailed than a modern mugshot, with measurements of the body, evaluation of teeth, etc. This mugshot is from New Orleans in 1914 and is a good example of Bertillon’s method.

Back to the Album of Paris Crime Scenes. The photographs are interesting but most are quite gruesome so I’m not going to share those here. If you want to see them, you can view them here. I do think you might appreciate some of the criminal photos though. The Paris police arrested a lot of women, but today we’ll just look at the men– not just any men. There are several guys in the album who are obviously down on their luck, but it’s the well-dressed ones that I find most interesting.

One thing is clear. Bowler hats and elaborate mustaches were the trademark of the fashionable Parisian man. I didn’t realize at first that these were actually two separate people. 

A cruel face…


Missing the hat but the mustache is intact


You may have to zoom in to see it, but it’s worth it to see a guy who was so deadly serious about his mustache

My guess is, these aren’t the kind of guys who are thugs. They won’t break into your house or mug you in an alley.

But they might be the kind of guys who would take out a life insurance policy on you and then pay someone else to murder you. Confidence Men didn’t get their hands dirty. Instead, they got people to trust them and then swindled them.

What do you think? Do they look honest? Would you have trusted any of them to be your accountant?

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