Great photos of great detectives, no. 6

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Jun 18, 2013

There isn’t a great deal to post about this one, but I like it and feel like sharing. Ellis Parker and one of his (many) grandchildren:

Ellis Parker and a grandson

Ellis the family man

There’s something adorable about this stocky, gruff-looking bald old cop gently taking the hand of this innocent little tot. Definitely a glimpse of the kind man whose reputation as such was, unfortunately, dinged up by failing judgement in late-life. Frankly, if there were ever a Parker statue, this wouldn’t be a half-bad image to use.

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Great photos of great detectives, no. 5

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Jun 1, 2013

Allan Pinkerton, and Abraham Lincoln. How much more do you even need to say?

Allan Pinkerton, Abraham Lincoln and John McClernand

Photo by Alexander Gardner; Smithsonian Collection

…I suppose an alternate caption might have Lincoln saying something like “guys, really, the whole ‘posing with one hand jammed into your coat’ thing was never that cool to begin with; it’s 1862 now, neither of you is Napoleon, and you just look silly…”

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Great photos of great detectives, no. 4

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Apr 3, 2013

You’ll have to go offsite for this one*, but it’s well worth a look: the only known surviving photo of Jonathan Whicher.**

It’s a novel artifact, beyond just Whicher’s appearance in it. The photo is an example of the carte de visite format, once an internationally popular means of swapping images in the dark ages long before Twitter or Hipstagram, but now nearly forgotten. The composition and style seems strange: despite the small format of the image, the “frame” is pulled back some ways from Whicher, who appears in some sort of large country house backdrop. Whicher himself, rather than facing the camera, gazes off at something to his left with an expression of utter insouciance.

Perhaps the only regular instance of a similar style, in our own era, is the staged high school senior picture… but then, these are probably also one of the few surviving legacies of the carte de visite phenomenon, too. (Or were, as of the mid-1990s; it would not surprise me if these are going the way of the yearbook as young people just stick with social networking sites instead.)

The Whicher portrait is credited to Powell of Charing Cross, who has something of an interesting background himself; in the updated edition of Suspicions of Mr. Whicher that includes this photo, Kate Summerscale relates a bit of Powell’s story, as well.

All told, meanwhile, the survival of this photo of Whicher is remarkably fortunate, as well as a reminder that Whicher really was a figure of some note; it’s worth recalling that this photo is from a time not long after the President of the United States could serve one full term and part of another and leave behind scarcely 130 photos…

* This photo appears in Brilliant Deduction, but only under a limited license, so I’ve not posted it anywhere on the web site.

** One may read of, or even see an image purported to be, a second photograph of Mr. Whicher. Without going into details that it may not be my place to reveal, I will say only that I have very, very good reason to believe that any such claims are inaccurate.

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Footsteps of Paddington Pollaky

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Mar 20, 2013

Though Ignatius Paul “Paddington” Pollaky, once one of the most remarked-upon detectives in the English-speaking world, is mostly forgotten there are a few people still taking an interest, beyond my own humble efforts.

One such chronicler has thoughtfully posted a photo of the great detective’s one-time headquarters (and perhaps the third-most famous address in detective history), 13 Paddington Green, at flickr. This is particularly considerate as, per the notes on the photo, Number 13 was pulled down just in the past few years after standing proudly for at least a century and a half.

A correspondent of this blog has kindly supplied another image of the site, post-demolition:

Fare thee well, old friend

Fare thee well, old friend

A bit sad. (Though time does move on, and in fairness much of central London strikes me as almost a Monument Valley, so I can’t get too worked up about the past being carelessly discarded.)

Pollaky’s final address, meanwhile, has also been photographed and shared on the interweb, for those interested. Though IPP actually spent more time in Brighton, during his long retirement, than at Paddington Green, he apparently returned to the general area for his last rest at Kensal Green Cemetery.

I can’t help recalling one of the many memorable lines in a story of certain other much-remarked figures in Victorian London criminology, Moore and Campbell’s From Hell. “That’s all done with though. That’s all gone. All that’s left is what people can read about. Chapbooks and tombstones… chapbooks and tombstones.”

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Great photos of great detectives, no. 3

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Mar 14, 2013
William Burns and family with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

William Burns (at right) and family with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Great photos of great detectives, no. 2

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Feb 21, 2013
William and Robert Pinkerton

Wee William and Robert Pinkerton, c. 1855. Library of Congress.

Adorable. I can just imagine that beginning in the early 1860s, this is the photo that Bill and Bob just dreaded Mom getting out in front of their friends. Luckily for them, Facebook wouldn’t exist for about 150 years, at least.

(Library of Congress photo)

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Great photos of great detectives, no. 1

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Jan 26, 2013

Inspired by Mark Evanier’s “Great Photos of…” series, I’ll drop an interesting picture into the blog now and then.

Pat Connell, William Pinkerton and Sam Finley

Pat Connell, William Pinkerton and Sam Finley, c. 1880. Library of Congress photo [ LC-DIG-ppmsca-10781]

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