The Joliet Prison Photographs
1890 to 1930

        "There's a storm that's always screaming under the skin of the world, sometimes it comes looking for you . . . " 
Historical Collage, circa 1900, 5 x 8 inches, glass plate
#15, "Collage," circa 1900, 5 x 8 inches, glass plate.
The photographs in this exhibit were made by inmate photographers, although their identities still have not been determined. Prison records from 1915 indicate that there were five convicts who listed their previous occupation as photographer. Reports also document that there was a room in the prison designated as the "Photograph Gallery" and that the current warden, Edmund M. Allen, had an annual budget for photographic expenses of almost $1000, approximately three times greater than that of previous administrations. Many subjects illustrated by these prints, such as the Honor Band, did not exist prior to Allen's administration. These public relations photographs were taken by an anonymous series of inmate photographers under official direction. It was not necessarily their purpose to create a clear understanding of what prison is and what it does to the minds of those who live there, but it was their purpose to illustrate the progressive changes which were taking place during an era of penal reform which lasted until the beginning of World War I, when public and political attention was then diverted to other areas.

The photographs represented here were preserved and exhibited by Richard Lawson as a professor at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, in 1981. Currently, there are now over one hundred prints available for private collections.
 1  Birds-eye view of the Joliet Prison
 2  Celebrating Fourth of July. A group of 1500 convicts
 3  The punishment cell. Handcuffed to iron door
 4  West Cell-House. 500 Cells. Capacity 1000 convicts
 5  East Cell-House. 400 cells. Capacity 800 convicts
 6  The “lock-step” convicts marching
 7  Along the North-wall.
 8  Wall Gate and Sentry Box. West side.
 9  Female convicts at work
10  Armed guard in front of prison door
11  “Cage” and entrance to the East cell-house
12  Frank Rande. The famous bandit and life convict Details
13  Suicide of Frank Rande in the “solitary”
14  A glimpse into the prison yard on Sunday morning
15  “Samual” Wild Arapahoe Indian Sent to prison from Wyoming for killing cattle
16  “Beaver” Wild Arapahoe Indian Sent to prison from Wyoming for killing cattle
17  A Wall tower, at corner of yard
18  Unhonored graves. The prison cemetery
19  Gangs of convicts marching up for dinner
20  You cannot guess who this is
21  This man was once the “prison poet”
   Musée du Louvre, Paris: Colloque "Photographie, prison, pouvoir: politiques de l’image carcérale", November 9, 2005

   Musée du Louvre, Paris: Liste des manifestations Colloques Musée du Louvre, November 9, 2005

   Sydney police mug shots, 1912-1930:  "Public eye, private eye: Sydney police mug shots, 1912-1930" by Peter Doyle, Media Department @ Macquarie University, Sydney

  This project was funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Illinois Humanities Council, The Illinois Arts Council and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.  
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