These mugshots show the downside of the American dream – Irish emigrants who ended up on the wrong side of the law and were arrested for vagrancy or burglary. One of my favourite books is Low Life by Luc Sante which outlines the seedier side of New York between 1840 and 1919. I imagine that the lives led by this trio would be very similar to those described by Sante.
Two of the above mugshots originate from Newcastle, Pennsylvania. This was a boom town from the 1880s until the 1920s with many factories, mills and a railway hub. Diarmid Mogg recreates the stories behind other Newcastle mugshots from the same period. He has also produced some great screen prints based on them.
The New York Public Library holds an early collection of Irish prison photographs. The Larcom albums date from 1857 and 1866 and these powerful portraits show inmates of Mountjoy Jail, Dublin. The later album contains mostly political prisoners. An interesting article by Gail Baylis provides an overview of this collection and discusses how the transfer of such images to digital archives changes their context.