Photo Essay – Antique Mug Shots, Leavenworth.

by Amy Collier

Charles Wille

This item is the prison photograph of Leavenworth inmate Charles Wille, register number 9437. Wille spent more than a year in prison for violating the Oleomargarine Act of August 2, 1886.

Lizzie Cardish, 1906

Fifteen year old female convicted of arson. Received a life sentence, later commuted to confinement until reaching age 21.

John L. McMonigle

Leavenworth inmate John L. McMonigle, register number 8468. McMonigle spent nearly a year in prison for violating the Oleomargarine Act of August 2, 1886.

Mary Grayson, 1900

Nineteen year old African-American woman at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary convicted of larcency.

Al Jennings, 1902

A gunman, leader of a notorious gang, college graduate, lawyer, prosecutor and friend of cowboy film star William S. Hart. Convicted of assault with intent to murder.

Mary Snowdon, 1900

Twenty-one year old Indian woman convicted of assault with intent to kill.

Joseph Wirth, 1886

Leavenworth inmate Joseph Wirth, register number 7452. Wirth spent more than three years in prison for violating the Oleomargarine Act of August 2, 1886.

Dan Tso-Se, 1909

Approximately 12 year old Indian boy called “Nature Boy;” apparently grew up “in the wild” knew no language; began his education in prison; convicted of murder.

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Above is a fascinating batch of turn of the century mug shots from what was then a freshly constructed and now notorious Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary located in the heartland of the United States at Leavenworth, Kansas. All images are sourced from the National Archives.

You will notice a few of these folks were sent to the hoosegow for violating the Oleomargarine Act, a tax on oleomargarine. I have not yet found a concise description of the original 1886 tax law but here is an excerpt from the amended 1902 version:

There is such a distinction between natural butter artificially colored and oleomargarine artificially colored so as to cause it to look like butter that the taxing of the latter and not the former cannot be avoided as an arbitrary exertion of the taxing power of Congress without any basis of classification, taxing one article and excluding another of the same class.

The Oleomargarine Act of 1886, 24 Stat. 209, as amended by the act of 1902, 32 Stat. 93, imposing a tax of one quarter of one percent on oleomargarine not artificially colored any shade of yellow so as to look like butter and ten cents a pound if so colored, levies an excise tax, and is not unconstitutional as outside of the powers of Congress or an interference with the powers reserved to the States, nor can the judiciary declare the tax void because it is too high nor because it amounts to a destruction of the business of manufacturing oleomargarine, nor because it discriminates against oleomargarine and in favor of butter.

Where a manufacturer of oleomargarine uses as an ingredient butter artificially colored, he thereby gives to the manufactured product artificial [p28] coloration within the meaning of the Oleomargarine Act a amended in 1902, and the product is subject to taxation at the rate of ten cent per pound.

McCray v. United States (No. 301), Cornell University Law School


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