Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Camera back home

Last week, one of our retirees, Marvin Morgan, visited Lincoln from his home in Texas. Lt. Morgan retired in 1988, after years heading our Identification Bureau--the police lab. He brought a couple of items with him: two cameras that he had saved from the trash bin in the waning years of his career. The first was a Crown Graphic, a classic Graflex medium format camera. The second, however, was even more impressive: a very old mugshot camera. Mounted on an impressive oak tripod, the camera has a sliding front that allowed two half-frame shots on the 4 X 5 film sheet: one facing, and one profile.

The identification plates on the camera and tripod show that it was manufactured by the Folmer & Schwing Division of Eastman Kodak. A little research on the Internet reveals that Kodak acquired Folmer & Schwing in 1907, then renamed the "division" to the "department" in 1917. Thus, our new camera was manufactured within that ten year time period.

This was the Lincoln Police Department's mug shot camera for around fifty years. The Folmer & Schwing took thousands of classic mugshots of gangsters, bookies, burglars, bootleggers and murderers from World War I through the mid-1960's. It is now esconced in a display case at headquarters, where it looks quite marvelous.

Several employees have been amazed that this antique was still being used for mug shots in the 1960's. I pointed out that we might have some equipment today that's been in regular use for fifty years. I suspect that some of those IBM Selectric typewriters that seasoned officers have squirreled away all over the place are pushing 40. Heather Christensen, our Records Unit Manager, nominated our microfilm camera, which looks like a yellowed prop from 2001 a Space Odessey. I wouldn't be surprised if there are several Remington 870 shotguns in our inventory that top the half century mark. Parkerized and retrofitted with synthetic stocks, they may look like their grandkids, but lots of them were here when I started and in need of refinishing then.

But the winner (so far) was nominated by Captain Terry Sherrill. It's a note pad in the Duty Command office that uses a roll of cash register tape. It's still used all day every day, and I don't think you could pry it away from the Duty COs. It must have seen five or six decades of service by now. Long before the 3M Post-it note, these rollers were used by the desk sergeant, criminal division commander, the traffic commander and others to record their notes. At the end of the day or the week, you could just tear off the length you'd doodled on, roll it back up, stick a paper clip on it, and toss it in the archive--the lower left desk drawer. More than once I've seen Lt. Ideen thumbing through twenty feet of an archived roll, searching for some name or number from last week, last month, or last year.

As you can see, I've upgraded this model with a USB 2.0 interface which allows a direct download.


Anonymous said...

Very very interesting

Anonymous said...

Speaking of manual data entry of old paper records into the computer system, do you still have a lot of those old, paper-clipped rolls around there in boxes? How about the older pre-computer arrest records and such paper thing? Low-priority data entry that's waiting for all the higher-priority stuff to get out of the way.

Typewriters still beat the pen for legibly filling out government-mandated multi-part paper forms, especially if one's handwriting, (like mine) appears to be some sort of undecipherable intergalactic alien script.

Anonymous said...

This is off topic and I think it is a good question though. On the LPD crime stopper page could you start to post more cases. I know Lincoln has a lot of unsolved cases and a few more Pics of those unsolved suspects may get a few leads on those "cold" cases.

one of the little guys at the bottom said...

The little note pad with the cash register tape in it works better than my MDT does now since there has been another 'upgrade'. Are you going to put them in the cars to replace the non-functioning MDT's?

Tom Casady said...

Sorry you're driving such an oldie. We've been harping at the Teams for several years about the need to mile out the older cars and equalize mileage in their fleets for this very reason, and everyone has been warned well in advance (like years). Can't have a 2007 that's piling on the miles while a 2004 is not, because this is the result. This should be a major factor in car assignments for teams.

pass the buck.... said...

I think I have the little brother to that camera in the trunk of my cruiser. It takes good pictures of crime scenes but it's hard to keep the flash powder dry between uses. It does work better than my MDT though.

Anonymous said...

I am a personal friend of Sgt. Morgan. I have the privilege of owning one of his wood carvings. Chief Cassady I admire you for the wonderful job you and the rest of the people working under you do for the city of Lincoln. Please continue to do just that in good health. Thank you for a job well done!