Tag Archives: Inmate photographs

- Mug Shot Monday: Theodore Gibson, No. 32872


Photograph of Theodore Gibson, #32872, 25 October 1934, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 23, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

[Editors Note: Yes, we know it is not Monday. The Out of the Box staff had a technical glitch this afternoon and accidentally published Monday's post today. We will have a new, non-mug shot post on Monday.] Welcome to Mug Shot Monday! This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate mug shots in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.  Theodore Gibson’s mug shots caught my attention because they showed how much he aged in prison.  When I researched his case, I was shocked by what I found.

In the early morning of Thursday, 18 October 1934, William H. Woodfield, a 71-year-old night watchman for the coal yard of W.A. Smoot and Company in Alexandria, was murdered.  Woodfield’s skull was crushed with a hammer.  No money was stolen but Woodfield’s watch was missing.  On Tuesday, October 23, acting on an anonymous tip, the Alexandria police arrested 25-year-old Theodore Gibson.  He  confessed to the killing two days later.  Gibson stated that he was walking through the coal yard when he was accosted by Woodfield who ordered him to leave the yard.  Woodfield struck him, Gibson claimed, so he grabbed a small sledge hammer and hit Woodfield in the head twice.   Gibson dragged the body 50 feet and fled.

The speed of Gibson’s legal proceedings, according to the Washington Post, was “believed … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday (Halloween Edition): Benjamin Gilbert


Photograph of Benjamin Gilbert, 5th person executed at the Virginia Penitentiary, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 23, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday (Halloween Edition)!  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.

At 7:15 A.M. on 19 March 1909 , Benjamin Gilbert, age 19, was electrocuted for the 23 July 1908 murder of Amanda Morse in Norfolk.  Gilbert and Morse dated briefly.  After Morse ended the relationship in the spring of 1908, Gilbert made frequent threats of bodily harm to her.  On the evening of 23 July 1908, Gilbert approached Morse and several of her male companions on the Campostella Bridge.  When Morse refused to speak with him, Gilbert pulled a revolver and fired three shots, hitting Morse twice in the back.  She died the next day.  Gilbert was convicted of first degree murder in October 1908 and sentenced to death.  Virginia Governor Claude Swanson granted Gilbert two respites to allow his attorney to appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court.  The Court refused to grant a writ of error and the death sentence was carried out at the Virginia Penitentiary.

After Gilbert’s execution, the Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch reported on an effort to revive him.  Dr. J.P. Jackson of South Norfolk wanted to revive Gilbert with a respirator, an invention that he claimed could restore life if used immediately after death in cases of electrocution and asphyxiation. The 19 March 1909 … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: Bob Addison, No. 35074


Photograph of Bob Addison, #35074, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 26, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday!  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate mug shots in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.

On 16 May 1936 at 8:15 PM, Bob Addison, #35074, a prisoner assigned to Camp 16 of the State Convict Road Force located in Fauquier County, escaped.  Addison used a fake shackle to fasten himself to the chain that bound all the inmates together at night.  He quickly used an iron bar to open the back cell door, fled into the night and disappeared without a trace.  Addison remained a fugitive for the next 30 years until his past finally caught up with him.

Bob Addison was born in Tazewell County in July 1913.  In May 1932, at the age of 19, Addison was convicted in Tazewell County of assault with a knife and sentenced to four years in the Virginia Penitentiary.  He served 2 1/2 years and was released.   Addison got in trouble again in 1935 in Russell County.  He was arrested for cutting another man with a knife but escaped prior to his trial and fled to West Virginia.  He met a girl, Edna Sanders, whom he married in October 1935.  Addison used his real name during the ceremony and was captured five days later.  He was tried in December 1935 in Russell County and received … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: Edith Maxwell, No. 38599


Photograph of Edith Maxwell, #38599, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 32, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday!  This is the first in a series of new weekly posts highlighting inmate mug shots in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.  This series will include inmate photographs of the famous (or infamous), photographs that document the aging process of long-term prisoners, and any other photographs that I found interesting while I processed the collection.  Each Mug Shot Monday entry will include the prisoner’s mug shot, prisoner register entry and a brief overview of their case.  It is not meant to be a definitive history.  The intention is to highlight the collection and encourage additional scholarship.

The Virginia Penitentiary began photographing new and existing inmates sometime in 1906.  The collection contains approximately 50,000 prisoner images (negatives and/or prints) from 1906-1914, 1934-1961, and 1965-1966.  The mug shots also reflect the changes in photography.  The Penitentiary used three different types of negatives:  glass plate, 1906-1914; nitrate, 1914-1934; and acetate, 1934-1960s.  Nitrate negatives are very flammable; only about 100 nitrate negatives from 1914 have survived.  Acetate or safety film can degrade overtime producing a strong vinegar odor; channels form between the base of the negative and emulsion as it deteriorates.  Most of the inmate negatives from the 1930s to early 1940s show evidence of deterioration.  The remainder of the collection is in stable condition.

Edith Maxwell, a 21-year old teacher, was convicted … read more »

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- Doppelganger: Double Trouble

There is an old saying that everyone has a double somewhere. To my surprise, I found mine in a most unlikely place: the Virginia State Penitentiary Collection. While processing the 47,000 prints and negatives of prisoners from 1934 to 1961, I suddenly found myself staring at a picture that looked remarkably like me when I was 18.  Intrigued, I conducted further research on my doppelganger.

Prisoner 34402, David Armbrister, was an 18-year-old farmer from Wythe County, Virginia. On 14 August 1935, he was admitted to the Virginia Penitentiary in Richmond to begin serving his one-year sentence for statutory rape. At the time of Armbrister’s conviction, the Code of Virginia defined statutory rape as consensual carnal knowledge with a female child between the ages of 14 and 16 years and who also was not “an inmate of a hospital for the insane, or an inmate of an institution for the deaf, dumb, blind, feeble-minded, or epileptic.” However, if the man married the female and did not desert her before her 16th birthday, the charges would be dropped. Apparently Armbrister opted for prison instead of marital bliss. He was released in 1936 and died on 23 January 1943 when the ship he was traveling on from Scotland to the United States was sunk by a German U-Boat.

These records are part of the Virginia State Penitentiary Collection, read more »

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