Division of Criminal Justice Services

Edward Parke

Edward Parke maintained that he was the first person in the United States to take up serious study of fingerprints. He places the date at which he first read Sir Henry and Sir Galton's books at 1901 which, if true, would justify his claim.

Edward Sherman Parke was born in Whitehall on November 8, 1880, the second and last child of James and Cora Parke. When the family broke up, Edward was still a minor. He moved with his father to Auburn, NY, and worked as a milliner until poor health caused him to leave his job. During 1900, Edward was confined for several months to Auburn City Hospital.

Sometime during 1901 or 1902, Edward and Captain Parke moved to Albany and received the books on fingerprinting from Charles Baker. When the State Prison Department decided to initiate a fingerprint file, Edward helped his father set up a filing system and work out a simplification of Henry's classification formula.

Manuscript Edward found work as a broker while living in Albany, but continued to assist his father in attempting to capitalize on their fingerprint system. Throughout 1904 and 1905, Edward wrote several chapters of a book detailing their classification method.

During this period, Captain Parke confided to a friend that he was training a possible successor to take over the criminal fingerprint work which was beginning to become too much for him; that successor may have been his son.

In August of 1906, Edward got a job with the Prison Department, working for a short time as a parole officer in Auburn Prison. In September of 1907, he took a position in Sing Sing's Bertillon Identification Unit, which allowed him to use his fingerprint expertise. Although Bertillon measurements were still being taken at all State prisons, Edward's job was to fingerprint arriving inmates, file one copy for the prison and forward a duplicate to his father in Albany.

While at Sing Sing, Edward rose to head of the Bertillon Bureau and, on October 25, 1912, married an Ossining socialite named Jessie Mae Baker.

On May 14, 1913, after a ten-year trial period, the State Legislature passed a law requiring New York's prisons to record fingerprints. Captain Parke's central file had, by that time, become neglected and nearly useless. On June 26, 1913, Edward was transferred to the main office and assigned the daunting task of straightening out his father's fingerprint collection.

8x8 Inch Fingerprint Card The first thing Edward Parke did was the first thing James Parke had wanted to do: give up the large paper fingerprint sheets. He set to work immediately designing an 8-by-8-inch form of stiff cardboard upon which the inmate's fingerprints, Bertillon measurements and photograph could be recorded. The form was completed after a few months, and on October 1, 1913, the New York State Prison Department's Fingerprint Bureau officially opened.

The old fingerprint sheets were gradually phased out. On May 1 of the following year, Superintendent John B. Riley notified all state facilities that, after the first of June, the central office would no longer accept inmate prints unless they were recorded on the new fingerprint form.

NYS Bertillon Bureau - 1914 Bertillon measurements were not discontinued, however, and the Bertillon files continued to play a major and active role in the Identification Bureau. While Edward Parke single-handedly attempted to organize the thousands of fingerprint sheets left to him by his father, six women staffed the Bertillon Unit which, by 1914, contained nearly 200,000 cards.

Before long, the work became too much for Edward to handle alone. In November of 1913, Thurza Myers, one of the Identification Bureau's six Bertillon Indexers, was assigned to the Fingerprint Unit as Edward's assistant. Thurza became the first person outside of the Parke family to learn their system of fingerprint classification. Edward became the leading authority on fingerprint identification in the State of New York.

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