Friday, August 28, 2015

Photograph: Identifying a Police Officer

I found the photograph below in a small box that belonged to my grandmother. There's an 'X' by the feet of one of the police officers, and on the back is just a surname: "Scheppner."

My great-grandfather was a policeman, and he married Christina Schoeppner in 1921 after his first wife died. So my first thought was that this was her father. But all records for Joseph Schoeppner showed that he was a laborer.

Christina also had three brothers--Joseph, Herman, and Michael Schoeppner--so I took a look at each of them. The younger Joseph was a mill worker and then became a grocer. Herman died when he was 16 years old. Michael was a steel worker in the 1900 census, and I couldn't find him in 1910.

So I put the photo away and forgot about it.

But then when I was recently searching for the surname Schoeppner on, I came across an article that reminded me of that photograph:

The Pittsburg Post, May 11, 1905

I pulled up Michael's record in my database and saw that I didn't have a record of his death. I searched the Pennsylvania death certificates on and found out that he died on December 22, 1913 of influenza and pneumonia. Michael's occupation? Police officer.

It's such a great feeling to be able to identify family members in old photographs!

Note: A report on Pittsburgh, which included an evaluation of the city's police force, was published in 1913, the same year Michael Schoeppner died. It was titled, The City of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania: Report on a Survey of the Department of Public Health, and I found this section very interesting:
"Policemen receive no training whatever for their work. The moment a patrolman has been appointed he is assigned to duty and little or no instruction is given him. He is required to learn the duties of his office as best he can or, as the authorities in charge of the bureau put it, 'by experience.' He is not even placed under the charge of an older patrolman or required to perform duty with him for a definite number of days so as to become familiar with the merest routine. ... Policemen are given revolvers to use without a single lesson in target practice."

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