Photo and caption featured in reporter Ida Tarbell's article "The Scientific Method In Use In France" (1894).
"Bertillon's system was based on five primary measurements: (1) head length; (2) head breadth; (3) length of the middle finger; (4) the length of the left foot; (5) the length of the "cubit" (the forearm from the elbow to the extremity of the middle finger). Each principal heading was further subdivided into three classes of "small," "medium" and "large." The length of the little finger and the eye color were also recorded."
Anthropometry became difficult to implement due to defective measuring tools, high costs, and its inability to compensate for aging.
Photo from Charles E. Felton's The Identification of Criminals and caption from The Shelf's article "The Latest Crime Prevention Methods in the 19th Century.
Video exerpt from fictitious movie Marie Galente (1934) depicting racial prejudices in anthropometry against African Americans.
"The Iberians are believed to have been originally an African race, who thousands of years ago spread themselves through Spain over Western Europe... [They] are supposed to have been of low type and descendants of savages of the Stone Age, who, in consequence of isolation from the rest of the world, had never been out-competed in the healthy struggle of life, and thus made way, according to the laws of nature, for superior."
Caption and photo from Harpers Weekly (1899).
"...it became apparent that the children of immigrants of Polish and Italian origin, and of Negroes, did not do as well as children of other stocks...on intelligent tests, [as discovered through anthropometry]."
Bertillon Anthropometry became popular among criminal investigators because it eliminated the use of barbaric methods of identification, such as the dismemberment of convicts.
“The Bertillon system was introduced in the U.S. in 1887 by R.W. McClaughry, Warden of the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet...its use in the States became quickly and widely accepted. The Bertillon system continued as the dominant criminal identification method both in the U.S. and Europe for almost three decades.”
After being initially convicted, a criminal's mugshot and Bertillon measurements were recorded on an index card, then manually filed into an organized system for future reference if the same person were to be convicted again.
Photos and captions from Visible Proofs' The Bertillon System and Artifacts' Photo Galleries (1893).
Anthropometry was also problematic because it allowed investigators to practice scientific racism due to personal biases they held against blacks, immigrants, and Jews. These biases resulted in inaccurate convictions and stereotypic assumptions about these races' intelligence and criminal nature.
Photo from University College (1885).
"[When asked] what is to become of the black men, [investigators] call on the growth rate...the crime rate and the anthropometry of the black man to answer. The answer is doom..."
Photo from American Philosophical Society (1999).