Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Identifying Criminals Before Fingerprinting Was Used

Susan Page Davis here. Last month I told you about the history of fingerprinting for identification. But what did law enforcement officers use before fingerprinting became widespread?
Alphonse Bertillon

The Bertillon method of identification was devised in 1892 by French anthropologist Alphonse Bertillon. It involved using body measurements by which to classify individuals and thus identify them.

The formula uses measurements of people’s body parts and paved the way for the modern, computerized methods of facial and body recognition. These measurements were recorded on a card with the person’s photographs, and it became known as the Bertillon System.

Bertillon was born in Paris in 1853 and became a police officer. He studied biometrics, or body measurements and applied anthropology to crime investigation. The discipline became known as anthropometry. Up to this time, only a person’s name and photographs identified him.

Bertillon is also the inventor of the “mug shot,” where criminals are photographed from both the front and the side. He standardized this process about 1888. He advanced many other forensics techniques as well, including the method of comparing fingerprints, method of photographing a crime scene, and a new way to preserve footprints.

In his method of measurements, the five primary ones used were: head length, head breadth, length of the middle finger, length of the left foot, and length of the forearm. Other measurements were taken in each of these categories, and results were recorded on standardized cards with the photographs. Also recorded were eye color and length of the little finger. He also created a cross-referenced method of filing the cards so that the information was comparatively easy to retrieve.

Examples of the facial measurements Bertillon used.

The Bertillon System of indemnifying crime suspects was widely used before fingerprinting became standard. Its accuracy was questioned when, in 1903, a now-famous case emerged: the case of William West and Will West.

At the Leavenworth, Kansas federal prison, a man named Will West was incarcerated. After he entered, he taken to be photographed for mug shots, and his Bertillon measurements were taken. The clerk asked if he had been there before, but West said he had not.

These photos are used by the FBI in training. From the National Law Enforcement Museum.

After the process was finished, the clerk took the new card with his measurements and went to the files. He returned with another card. The man pictured on it looked remarkably like Will West and had nearly the same name (William West). They also had almost identical Bertillon measurements.
Will West insisted that the card the clerk showed him was not him. The clerk turned it over and read that the man on the front, William West, had been convicted of murder in 1901 and was then in the prison serving a life sentence.

It has never been determined whether these two men, Will West and William West, were related, but from then on, their fingerprints were used to conclusively identify them. Law enforcement officials and courts agreed that fingerprinting was more reliable than the Bertillon System. This case has long been used in training investigators.

If you would like to be entered in a drawing for your choice of one of Susan’s books, leave a comment below, including your contact information.

Susan Page Davis is the author of more than seventy novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, and historical romance genres. A Maine native, she now lives in western Kentucky. She is a winner of the Carol Award, Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award, Will Rogers Medallion, and more. Visit her website at, where you can see all her books, sign up for her occasional newsletter, enter a month book drawing, and read a short story on her Romance page.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Stage Door Canteen

By Marilyn Turk

In my next book, Shadow of the Curse, one of my characters plays in a band at The Stage Door Canteen. I thought you might like to know a little bit about the place ahead of time.

The first Stage Door Canteen opened on March 2, 1942, in the basement of the 44th Street Theatre in the heart of New York‘s theater district. Started and directed by the American Theatre Wing, War Service, Inc., the canteen offered servicemen entertainment, refreshments, and dancing. The canteen provided civilians in the entertainment industry with a way to “do their part” for the war effort and repay servicemen for the sacrifice they were making.

Capacity for the Canteen was 500, but tickets were issued to servicemen for one hour each, so in one night, as many as 2000 servicemen might pass through the doors. On opening night, entertainers included a comedian, ballet dancers and several popular actors of the era. The canteen was so popular, servicemen, many who had left home for the first time, stood in long lines outside the building waiting for their turn to enter.

Bette Davis serving at the Stage Door Canteen

The G.I.’s were allotted one sandwich, one dessert, and one drink (tea, coffee or milk). No alcoholic beverages were allowed. The main draw was the entertainment, not only on the stage, but the servers were often stars from the theatre or movies. Only at the Canteen could a serviceman see someone like Red Skelton, Marlene Dietrich or Bette Davis in person for free.

Another attraction of the canteen was the young hostesses. These young women were selected to socialize and dance with the servicemen. They were identified by the red, white and blue aprons worn over their sensible dresses. 

Hostesses were not allowed to date any of the servicemen and were supposed to ration their time with each, not spending too much time with one man. They were also expected to be friendly and dance with any serviceman who asked, regardless of age, rank, or race, showing equal treatment to all.

The Stage Door Canteen received favorable publicity in newspapers and magazines across the United States as the place where stars of stage and screen did their humble best to support servicemen.

Stage Door Canteen, U.K.

Other Stage Door Canteens opened in Hollywood, Boston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Cleveland, San Francisco and Newark. Before the war ended, Canteens also opened in London and Paris.

Stage Door Canteen Radio Showwith Shirley Temple

The Canteen was also the subject of a popular radio variety show, and a successful musical film in 1943, “Stage Door Canteen.”

The Canteens closed at the end of war, but the National WWII Museum in New Orleans has revived their tradition with a replica Stage Door Canteen, with food and entertainment of the era.

Have you ever heard of the Stage Door Canteen? Did you have any relatives who either went to them or worked at them? I'd love to hear your story.

Marilyn Turk loves to study history, especially that of lighthouses and the coast of the United States. She is the author of Rebel Light, a Civil War love story set on the coast of Florida, The Gilded Curse, a historical suspense novel set on Jekyll Island, Georgia, in 1942, and Lighthouse Devotions - 52 Inspiring Lighthouse Stories, based on her popular lighthouse blog. (@ Shadow of the Curse, the sequel to The Gilded Curse, will be published in 2018.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Four Notable Cats From History

Posted by:

Cats are often thought of as the pets in the background. They’ll let you know when they want attention but don’t often call attention to themselves. Stories have been written about dogs who were faithful to their masters until the end. But what about cats? What cats have had their stories told? I found there were quite a few. I’ll begin with one from around the 9th century A.D.

By Isasza - Own work, CC BY 3.0,
Perhaps Pangur Ban looked something like this inquisitive feline.
An Irish monk sat bent over his work in the scriptorium of an abbey in Germanic territory. Near his feet scrambled his feline friend preying on an unsuspecting mouse. In the companionable silence the anonymous monk composed a poem for his cat, which he’d named Pangur Ban, translated “white fuller.” Here is the first verse of a modern translation of the monk’s ode to his pet:

The Scholar and His Cat, Pangur Ban

(Translated by Robin Flower)

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night . . .

The rest of this sweet poem can be found here:

The page on which Pangur Ban was written.
By The original uploader was Dbachmann at English Wikipedia - T
ransferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.,
Public Domain,
From 1799 to 1804, Trim was the brave seafaring cat of Captain Matthew Flinders. Captain Flinders was on the first voyage to sail around Australia. He also drew the first accurate maps of the island continent and the one who first called it Australia. For such an explorer only an extraordinary cat would do.

Matthew Flinders' account of his voyage.
By State Library of New South Wales, CC BY-SA 3.0 au,

Trim was born on the ship Roundabout as it sailed around the Cape of Good Hope. Flinders was taken with the kitten who was black, except for a white chin, a star on his chest, and four white paws which looked as though they were “dipped in snow.” The captain thought Trim was quite vain about his snow white paws as he would stretch out his front paws in front of him as the crew marched by. Trim quite enjoyed their admiration. 

The kitten, who sometimes fell overboard, liked to swim and when a rope was thrown to him would “grab it like a man and run up it like a cat” according to Flinders. The crew trained Trim to lie on his back with his four feet in the air until given a signal to roll over and stand. He even walked forward and backward on command.
By en:User:PanBK -, CC BY-SA 3.0,
A statue memorializing Trim
Trim also would sit politely on the ship’s dining table, waiting for everyone to be served. He would then put out his paw and go to each a of the crew for a morsel he felt was due to him. When Trim wasn’t obliged he would take it from the crewman’s fork when he least suspected.

This intelligent cat went on to survive a shipwreck with Captain Flinders and returned to England. But in 1804 Trim met his demise on Mauritius while Flinders was accused of being a spy and imprisoned by the French for several years. Once Flinders was released he wrote a biographical tribute to his well-loved kitty and also wrote journals recounting his voyages before he died in 1814. You can find his tribute of Trim here.

By Rodney Burton, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.
Trim the Cat, at the feet of his master.
Long before the famous Socks of the Clinton White House of the 1990s, Abraham Lincoln kept the first “official” White House cats. When leaving Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln felt it best for his dog, Fido, to be left behind. Some time after arriving Washington, D.C. William Seward presented Lincoln with two cats, who became known as Tabby and Dixie. 

President Lincoln was very fond of cats and was known to hold the cats on his lap, wipe their eyes with his handkerchief, and talk to them for up to a half hour. After Tabby and Dixie had grown into adult cats they continued to keep the president company. During the war and his first term, Lincoln said of Dixie that she “is smarter than my whole cabinet” and observed that the cat didn’t talk back either.

President Abraham Lincoln by
Alexander Gardner {PD}
Lincoln continued to dote on the cats and one time fed Tabby at the dining table during a formal White House dinner off of a gold fork. When Mrs. Lincoln scolded the president out of her embarrassment saying that what he’d done in front of the guest was “shameful,” he told her, “If the gold fork was good enough for former President James Buchanan then it is good enough for Tabby.”

Abraham Lincoln’s love for cats extended beyond Tabby and Dixie as he was known to take in strays. I would say Tabby and Dixie had indeed found a loving home.
Next month I will share three heartwarming cat stories from World War II.

Kathleen Rouser is the award-winning author of Rumors and Promises, her first novel about the people of fictional Stone Creek, Michigan, and the novella, The Pocket Watch. She is a longtime member of American Christian Fiction Writers. 

Kathleen has loved making up stories since she was a little girl and wanted to be a writer before she could even read. She longs to create characters who resonate with readers and realize the need for a transforming Savior in their everyday lives. She lives in Michigan with her hero and husband of 35 years, and the sassy tail-less cat who found a home in their empty nest. Connect with Kathleen on her website at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter @KathleenRouser.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Solving a Mystery on an Indian Reservation

This post is brought to you by Janalyn Voigt.

Traveling the Oregon Trail Backwards, A Road Trip Adventure, Part 9

Along with a female family member and our children, I was headed to Missouri for a family reunion. It seemed fitting that an exploration of my national heritage should dovetail into the celebration of my personal heritage. The reunion was of my mother's relatives, but I hoped to solve a mystery on my father's side of the family when I stopped at the tribal seat of the Sac and Fox nation of Missouri. My grandfather, whom I’d never known, came from the Iowa branch of this tribe, also known as the Meskwaki, which means ‘people of the red earth.’ I wasn’t sure I could find out anything about ‘Eddie’ (the only name I had for my grandfather), but I wanted to try.

The road led through farm lands from the Sod House Museum in Nebraska to Reserve, Kansas, headquarters of the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Nebraska and Kansas. The unprepossessing town boasted a small museum. This seemed the logical place to inquire about my grandfather. A local man held the door for my family group as we entered the museum. He listened without apology while I explained to the woman behind the counter the circumstances surrounding my father’s birth. He introduced himself and his interest seemed friendly, so I didn’t mind.

I explained that my Scottish grandmother, Minnie, fell in love with a Meskwaki man at the tender age of sixteen. Her straight-laced father refused to allow his daughter to marry an Indian. Eddie and Minnie decided to force the issue by conceiving a child. This did not work out as they planned. Minnie was sent off to live with an aunt in Springfield, Missouri. She later told my father that her brothers had tarred and feathered Eddie and run him out of town on a rail. During my teen years, Dad confided to me that when my grandfather realized he would never marry the woman he loved, he committed suicide. When I mentioned this story to other family members years later, none of them had heard it.

By then, there was no one to ask for clarity. Grandma had guarded her secrets, even from her son. She died when my father was fourteen. Now Dad was gone too. Mom couldn’t verify what my father had told me. My grandmother’s family held the ‘filthy Indian’ who had ruined her in a contempt that, unfortunately, extended to my father. He’d once looked up his aunt. She’d ordered him off the porch and warned him never to return. I’ve come to believe that Dad wasn’t sure he knew the truth about his father. He died without ever solving that mystery, despite making several trips to the reservation in Iowa.

I've always thought that my father, Carl Thomas Weise (named for his step-father), resembled Chief Black Hawk of the Sac tribe in the image on the right from George Catlin [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The tragedy of his birth shaped my Dad’s life and, in some respects, my own. Racial prejudice comes up repeatedly as a theme in my writing. I dedicated Cheyenne Sunrise (Montana Gold 2) to my father's memory and gave the hero, Nick Laramie, my father’s and grandfather’s struggles. Nick, the son of a French trapper and Cheyenne woman, belongs to neither of his parent’s people. He resists falling in love with Bryanna Brennan, the beautiful Irish widow traveling West for a fresh start, certain he can never marry her.

Back to my visit to the museum. The Sac and Fox tribe is actually two interconnected tribes combined into one. The close relationships this would seem to indicate may be why I thought the southern tribe would know about members of the northern branch, two states away. The woman in the museum (whose name I’ve since forgotten) told me gently that they didn’t. Apparently, many people contact the museum trying to prove a genealogical connection to the tribe. I was just one more. Considering the prejudice my father encountered in his lifetime, it’s ironic that having Native American ancestry is now glamorous. The woman explained that most of the claims of Sac-Fox ancestry she fielded didn’t pan out, and researching them added to her workload. She hastened to add that my story had the ring of truth. Given the sparse information I was able to give her, she probably couldn’t find out anything to help, but she gave me her contact information. The man who had listened silently pressed me to buy a sweatshirt emblazoned with the tribe’s logo. This seemed important to him, and my throat clogged when I understood his intent. He wanted to give me a shred of the heritage I’d lost.

The logo that graces my sweatshirt comes from the flag of the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Nebraska and Kansas.
It struck me as I drove away that I no longer needed to search for my grandfather. With their small kindnesses, the two people who had shared my story in the museum had given me what I’d been searching for. In Cheyenne Sunrise, Nick Laramie’s yearning to belong echoed my own unrecognized desire.

I purchased one of the tribal sweatshirts before leaving town. Whenever I wear it, I remember the small kindnesses given to me that day. Whether the tribe ever acknowledges me no longer matters. I've adopted them.

Cheyenne Sunrise releases February 1, 2018. 

About Janalyn Voigt

My father instilled a love of literature in me at an early age by reading chapters from "The Wizard of Oz," "Robinson Crusoe" and other classics. When I grew older, and he stopped reading bedtime stories, I put myself to sleep with tales I "wrote" in my head. My sixth-grade teacher noticed my storytelling ability and influenced me to become a writer.

I'm what is known as a multi-genre author, but I like to think of myself as a storyteller. The same elements appear in all my novels in proportions dictated by their genre: romance, mystery, adventure, history, and whimsy.

 Escape into creative worlds of fiction at

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Oklahoma History: Old Fort Reno: Not Just Another Fort - Part 2

Fort Reno, Oklahoma

By Alanna Radle Rodriguez and Judge Rodriguez

In last month’s article, we discussed the history of Fort Reno, located just outside of current day El Reno, Oklahoma. We spoke of the influence of the cavalry soldiers who lived at the fort and how Fort Reno was one of the most influential forts in the state of Oklahoma history.

Buffalo Soldiers at Fort Reno
After the Spanish-American War in 1898, the fort was lightly garrisoned with the 9th, 25th (African American), and 30th Infantry until its closure as an active military post in 1908.

That same year, the Department of the Army reactivated the fort as a remount station, providing a location for the cavalry to train new horses and mules. Under new leadership, the post was refurbished and expanded, with room for the thousands of horses and mules being trained and groomed for use during both World Wars and the Korean War.

Cavalry Barracks 1934
This turned the fort into 1 of 3 locations in the U.S. specifically designated for this role. During the time that Fort Reno was serving its role as a remount station, they housed many notable visitors, which included Amelia Earhart and Will Rogers. The principal remount units were the 252nd and 253rd Quartermaster Remount Squadrons, as well as the “Fort Reno Cowboys”, who actually broke and trained the mounts for all branches of the military. During these years, the U.S. cavalry trained in not only cavalry tactics but also in the game of polo.

Cavalry Stables
In the role of remount station, Fort Reno provided one of the most well-known “riderless horses”. Black Jack was foaled on January 19, 1947 and was named after General “Black Jack” Pershing. He was the “riderless horse”—the equine attendant for the carriage at the state funerals for Presidents John Kennedy, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson, and General Douglas Macarthur. After a distinguished twenty-nine-year military career, he passed away on February 6, 1976, and was cremated and interred at Fort Myer Virginia. He was the 2nd horse in history to have received those honors, the only other one being Comanche, the mount of Gen. George Custer, the only cavalry survivor of the Battle of Little Big Horn.

The troops and their horses from the remount station often traveled to other parts of the world during the conflicts in which they served.

Chapel built by POWs, May 28, 1944
During World War II, a portion of the fort’s lands had been set aside as an internment camp for over 1300 Germans and Italians. While they were housed at this camp, they were tasked with creating the chapel on the grounds of the remount station. At the cemetery, seventy prisoners of war are buried, who, according to the fort’s museum, came from different camps. The prisoners that died at this camp were moved to other camps to be buried. A number of Germans and Italians have made special trips to the fort to pay respects to their fallen family members.

The tranquil gravel road leading to the Fort Reno Cemetery

The main Fort Reno Cemetery, the final resting place for soldiers, family members (including infants), several Indian Scouts, Unkowns, even a Chinaman

The back part of the Cemetery, sectioned off for POWs. It shares the back wall, there is a staircase that goes over, and it has its own entrance

Many of the POW headstones have the flags of their nationality

In 1948, the Army Quartermaster Remount Station was officially closed, though they sent mounts out until 1952. In 1949, fort ownership was transferred from the Department of the Army to the Department of Agriculture, which in coordination with the Oklahoma Agriculture and Machine University (later renamed Oklahoma State University), established a livestock and forage research center.

This historic fort has been manned since 1949 by the USDA and OSU faculty. However on the grounds, Historic Fort Reno Inc., maintains a presence. They tend the grounds, have numerous cavalry competitions every year, and have a chapel. The chapel is available for weddings, which helps the corporation to provide funds for the site.

Inside the chapel, a beautiful piece of workmanship by WWII POWs

As of 2015, a museum exists on the grounds, and Suttlery (or shop that sells trinkets such as belt buckles, cords, pins and such necessities for reenacting) dedicated to the US Cavalry Association. Several times a year, Fort Reno hosts the “Ghost Tours,” which allows outsiders to hear many stories of the fort and its inhabitants from the people who maintain the grounds. While the fort is open to the public most days, the guided tours should be scheduled and are quite worth it.

If you are in the area of central Oklahoma, it is well worth the time and effort to make a trip to the site of Historic Fort Reno. This fort is a rich, vibrant slice of Oklahoma history. Join us next month, and we will outline the only active military fort left in Oklahoma: Fort Sill.

Born and raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, Alanna Radle Rodriguez is the great-great granddaughter of one of the first pioneers to settle in Indian Territory. Alanna loves the history of the state and relishes in volunteering at the 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse in Edmond. Her first published story, part of a collaborative novella titled Legacy Letters, came out September 2016. Alanna lives with her husband and parents in the Edmond area. She is currently working on a historical fiction series that takes place in pre-statehood Waterloo, Oklahoma.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Olympic Oaks or Hitler's Oaks

With Nancy J. Farrier

1936 Berlin logo
Wikimedia Commons
Imagine the hesitation of many athletes in 1936 when the Olympics were to be held in Berlin. The venue had been chosen years before Hitler came to power. The athletes had been training for years for this competition. What were they to do?

Parade of Nations
Bundesarchiv_Wikimedia Commons
Many of those prepared to compete in the 1936 Olympics considered boycotting the games because of the Hitler mindset and his agenda. Staying home seemed to be the safer option. Yet, they had worked hard to attain their status and didn’t want to give up the dream. In the end, most chose to go to the games and do their best, ignoring the Aryan agenda on the rise in Germany. They wanted the chance to show the world what they could accomplish.

Fornax_Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, Adolf Hitler had a fascination with oak trees. He admired them for their strength and endurance. He used oak leaves in some of his insignia and symbols to show his power and his desire to accomplish much. Because of his love of oak trees he chose to give each gold medal Olympian an oak tree to take home with them.

The games began with Hitler present and willing to shake hands with the winners. He presided over the games until Cornelius Johnson won the high jump for the United States. Johnson not only won the high jump, he set an Olympic record that day. When the time came for him to receive his medal and congratulations, Hitler left the stands and refused to shake hands with him. The Olympic committee talked with Hitler and told him he needed to shake hands with all of the gold medal winners or with none of them. Hitler chose to refrain from shaking any more hands rather than shake the hand of someone he considered inferior.

Japan's Hideko Maehata w/Oak Tree
WIkimedia Commons

Of the more than 130 oak trees given out at the 1936 Olympic games only a few are still known to exist. Some were cut down because of the association with Hitler. Others were allowed to grow when people realized the oak tree was not to blame for what Hitler did.

Jesse Owens_Wikimedia Commons

One of the oak trees that is accounted for is the tree planted by Cornelius Johnson. I attended a talk given on the Olympic Oaks and the speaker told the story of find this tree and working to propagate new seedlings. Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics and planted his trees in the Midwest when he returned home. I don’t know where all the living trees are, but the story he told was fascinating and something I had never heard before.

One last note that he shared was Hitler’s desire to make a mark led to the planting of trees in a large forest in Germany. The larch trees he planted in a forest of evergreens would only show during the fall when they changed color and the symbol could only be seen by air. His strategy wasn’t discovered until the early 1990’s when a plane flew over doing an aerial survey in the fall. The trees Hitler had embedded in that forest, known today by some as the swastika forest, changed colors in the shape of a swastika. Many of those trees were cut down to eliminate the symbol. I find that sad to destroy the trees, but I do understand the reason.

Have you ever heard of the Olympic Oaks? Had you heard of the swastika forest? These were new to me, but a part of fascinating history.

Nancy J Farrier is an award winning author who lives in Southern California in the Mojave Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. Nancy and her husband have five children and two grandsons. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: