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Underworld: Mugshots From The Roaring Twenties the workhops rail museum

Underworld: Mugshots from the Roaring Twenties The Workshops Rail Museum

Underworld: Mugshots from the Roaring Twenties is a fascinating photographic exhibition revealing the dark side of the 1920’s, on display at The Workshops Rail Museum from September 15, 2018 until February 24, 2019.

The Roaring Twenties was a golden era for criminals.  Rapid changes in society created opportunities, especially for the criminal elite, and generated new challenges for police on the beat.

Underworld: Mugshots from the Roaring Twenties The Workshops Rail Museum

On loan from Sydney Living Musuems, this compelling collection of over 130 mugshots, taken by New South Wales Police between 1920 and 1930, is unlike any found elsewhere in the world.

Underworld: Mugshots from the Roaring Twenties The Workshops Rail Museum

Known as ‘the Specials’, these candid images were never intended for public viewing.  Unique among international criminal portraiture, the suspects smile, laugh, snarl and sneer at the camera with each image suffused with the sitter’s personality.

Underworld: Mugshots from the Roaring Twenties The Workshops Rail Museum

Discover Sydney’s infamous underworld figures from illegal alcohol and drug dealer Kate Leigh, brothel madam Matilda ‘Tilly’ Devine, and club owner and sly grogger Phil ‘The Jew’ Jeff.

Underworld: Mugshots from the Roaring Twenties The Workshops Rail Museum

This captivating exhibition will be enhanced with local stories.  “On display are glass plate negatives from the Queensland Museum collection and visitors have the opportunity to hear rail justice stories from the era.”  says Dr Thompson, Queensland Museum Network Acting CEO.

In addition, a monthly Speakeasy Saturday series will complement the exhibit with talks and workshops on true crime, police forensics and photography.    

Nice to know - The museum will transform into a speakeasy night spot on Friday, September 21 for a Prohibition Party.

Need to know - Entry to the Underworld exhibition is free with general admission tickets to The Workshop Rail Museum. *Closed on Christmas Day & Boxing Day.

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By Deb Lidster

Image credits from top to bottom:

  • Arthur Caddy, 6 March 1929, Suspect, offence unknown,Special Photograph number 1714, NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive, Sydney Living Museums
  • Sidney Reilly, Kenneth Whittaker and Kenneth Bruce Lewins, 19 July 1921, Suspected of break, enter and steal, Special Photograph number 443, NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive, Sydney Living Museums
  • Athol Smith, 13 March 1929, Suspected of illegally using a motor car, Special Photograph number 1752, NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive, Sydney Living Museums
  • Olga Anderson (alias the Marchioness de Falaise), 11 November 1929, Suspected of blackmail, Special Photograph number 1884, NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive, Sydney Living Museums
  • Arthur Edward Murray, 14 March 1928, Suspected of being concerned in an attempt to intimidate customs officers, Special Photograph number D9, NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive, Sydney Living Museums

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