Crime in Spokane: A view from the Past

One of the perks of going to EWU is that the eastern Washington branch of the Washington State Archives is located on campus. In addition to being one of the first  archives built ground up to store digital records it also stores state, city and county paper records of the eastern most counties in Washington. We toured the paper archives this past week and afterwards we examined an interesting excerpt from the archives.

What we looked at were some random pages taken from the city of Spokane’s Prison Registry from 1896-1900 which sheds some light on criminal activity during this period. The page that I saw was from February 2nd to the 26th  of 1900. The most common charges were larceny, grand larceny, carrying a concealed weapon or assault/battery. Most of those arrested seem to be from working or lower class, common occupations are laborer, blacksmiths, messenger, machinists, salesman, cooks, and tramps. Almost every person who was arrested was male, typically aged from their late teens to their late thirties. Charges usually resulted in fines which were then either paid, commuted or dismissed. A minority of required a transfer to Superior Court or to the county Sheriff. Spokane during this period seems rowdy where everyone was packing and out to take what was not theirs.


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