Division of Criminal Justice Services

The Fingerprint Company of America

Ferrier's return to England left his fledgling fingerprint converts bereft of expert guidance. Captain Michael Evans and sons turned to Parke, whom they regarded as the resident North American expert, to fill this void, courting his advice and assistance on such matters as classification and file arrangement.

Early in 1905, Parke received from Captain Evans two cartons of filed fingerprints, which Parke reviewed, corrected and returned. Evans was quick to spot the disadvantages in the large, English fingerprint slips and, encouraged by Parke, converted to an 8-by-8-inch fingerprint card which has since become the standard format.

The Evanses also negotiated for Parke to do some private fingerprint consultation for the Thiele Detective Agency of Chicago, and noted that he was the only person in the country qualified to formulate questions for an upcoming Civil Service Fingerprint Operator Examination.

Parke continued to promote his fingerprint system through official means, but also began looking at his invention as an investment opportunity. As soon as his formula was finalized, Parke applied for a patent, claiming his unique system provided a simple and secure method of proving identification.

Throughout 1905, he and his son Edward wrote several chapters of a book detailing Parke's fingerprint classification system and Parke himself began attempting to interest banks, hotels and other businesses in "The Fingerprint Identification Company of America."

All of this came to nothing. Negotiations with the Thiele Detective Agency fell through, the US Patent Office rejected his petition, the book was never completed, and no one bought into Parke's Fingerprint Identification Company.

Parke was reprimanded by Superintendent Collins for his activities. He was not chosen to attend the Chiefs' Convention in Washington, DC, and when the Chicago Civil Service Commission decided to organize the first Fingerprint Examiner Test, Parke was completely ignored in favor of Mrs. Holland and Mr. Brennan, two of Ferrier's students.

Police agencies who at first contacted Collins for advice on setting up identification bureaus were advised to wait for Captain Parke's monograph on fingerprints; in later correspondences, purchase of books by Henry and Galton was recommended.

Finally, the Evanses themselves questioned Parke's expertise, noting that, had they used his system to calculate answers for the Civil Service Fingerprint Operator Exam, they would have been incorrect.

By 1906, the Henry System had been adopted by numerous police agencies and prison departments throughout the country. Captain Parke and his fingerprint system had lost their advantage.

On January 1, 1907, three years after rejecting Parke's suggestion, the US Navy adopted fingerprints and subsequently hired the first professional Fingerprint Trainer in the United States: Mary Holland

Ironically, although Parke had successfully encouraged other organizations to drop Bertillon measurements in favor of fingerprints, New York's Department of Prisons continued to use Bertillonage as their official means of identification. Parke's fingerprint file operated merely as an auxiliary within the Bureau.

Gradually, Parke was returned to his official duties as parole statistician. With no one available to take over his fingerprint work, Parke's files became neglected.

On October 1, 1914, Parke resumed his residence in Whitehall and transferred to Great Meadow as a prison guard. Poor health forced him to retire in October 1916. He lived the remainder of his life in his family home, a reclusive, bitter man.

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