Browsing Electronic Theses (Proquest) by Issue Date "2023-05-01T13:05:45Z"
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- ItemGilding the Evidence: Perceptions of Personal Effects in True Crime Journalism, 1870-1900Cox, DanielleBy examining a sample set of over two hundred articles from a variety of news sources, each of which includes a description of personal possessions carried by someone who came into contact with the law, trends appear that reveal how true crime reporting portrayed different groups of people, and how the things they had with them reflected their involvement with crime and justice. The Gilded Age coincides with an explosion of print media and sensational journalism, which provides some of the only primary sources for something like pocket and bag contents, which are so mundane as to be rarely recorded. This type of evidence provides particularly valuable insight into the lives of illiterate and/or marginalized people whose written records either did not survive or never existed in the first place, but it tends to be underutilized in historical scholarship as a whole due to the priority placed on written documents. These same people who tend to be underrepresented in other types of historical sources also tend to be uniquely portrayed in true crime journalism, as depictions of immigrants, racial minorities, and women generally fell into common patterns of criminality and victimhood that adhered to other societal expectations of their behavior. Studying these depictions alongside descriptions of personal effects provides a unique and untapped insight into how certain objects reflected on the people who owned them and vice versa. While these personal items contribute to historical understanding of how Gilded Age audiences perceived the people described in criminal reports, these articles also show how contemporaries understood the objects themselves as subtextual information about the subject. The personal effects that appear in these true crime reports relate the changing roles of immigrants, racial minorities, and women to popular anxieties and cultural assumptions surrounding crime and victimhood.