About a week ago, I finished researching and updating the last of the 204 criminal profiles included in Thomas Byrnes’s 1886 edition of Professional Criminals of America. This had been a year-long project, and one that I undertook thinking that the result might be adapted to print format. However, after evaluating the bulk of material that was collected and presented, I’ve realized that there is enough text and images for two or three print volumes–more than anyone would want to publish or buy–and that the online version has many advantages. So it will stand as a WordPress site indefinitely.
There were many surprises–and many great stories–but few of these men and women came to good ends, and the majority of them spent huge stretches of their adult lives in prison. The few moments of cunning, ingenuity, humor, sentimentality and excitement did not balance the immense waste of human potential.
None of the 204 stories were as compelling as that of the forger I have previously researched, James B. Crosse; but now I can return to my manuscript on Crosse and revise it with much more confidence in my knowledge of the subject matter, and how much Crosse differed from even the most infamous outlaws that came after him.
There are many ways in which the Professional Criminals of America REVISED project could be expanded, but I may not be the one to take that on.