Division of Criminal Justice Services

The Henry System in America

Inmates at the Ossining Facility constructed cabinets for the Prison Department's identification exhibition. In a short time, "an ornate installation of solid oak, handsomely carved," was built, transported to St. Louis, and erected in Block 5, Section 10 of the Education Building.

On opening day, May 1, 1904, fingerprint expert Captain Parke and Bertillon Indexer Emerson E. Davis demonstrated their respective methods of identification. It was said that this was the first public demonstration of fingerprint identification in the United States.

Willing visitors at Parke's exhibit had two sets of fingerprints taken. One set, containing name and address, was classified and filed in Parke's extensive collection. The other set, containing no identifying marks other than the fingerprints, was given to their owner.

At some later date each visitor would return to Parke's exhibit and, without introduction, present their fingerprint sheet to Parke. The prints were then classified and the matching set located.

Throughout his seven-month stay at the fair, Parke conducted daily exhibitions of his filing method, provided formal fingerprint training and instruction in the use of his classification system, and continued his letter writing campaign.

John K. Ferrier Also at the fair, housed in a building not far from Parke's fingerprint exhibit, was a display of the British Crown Jewels. Among the contingent of Scotland Yard Officers sent to guard Queen Victoria's Collection was Detective Sergeant John Kenneth Ferrier, who had been hand-picked by Sir Henry and sent to America with a bundle of fingerprint slips and a secret agenda--to convert the Americans to the Henry System.

Although Parke had an elegant display and the backing of the nation's largest identification bureau, he was, in actuality, little more than a bookkeeper who dabbled in fingerprints. Ferrier, on the other hand, was a police officer and qualified trainer, formally schooled in all aspects of fingerprint science. He was not, as Parke was, tied to a stationary exhibit, and, while Parke was aged and reserved, Ferrier was young and possessed by a frantic energy.

Ferrier quickly gained the reputation of an eccentric, yet persistent, pest. Those who could not escape his incessant patter about the wonders of fingerprints eventually became convinced, and, as his credibility grew, so did his converts. During his stay the indefatigable Ferrier published articles, gave lectures and provided training to hundreds of interested parties. More importantly, however, he gathered a small, devout group of followers and taught them to teach others.

Mary and Phil Holland of the Holland Detective Agency, Edward Evans (Superintendent of the National Bureau of Identification) and his brothers, Emmett and William, all studied extensively with Ferrier during his stay in St. Louis. Before returning to England at the end of November, Ferrier saw several police agencies adopt fingerprint identification. All of them used the Henry system.

Parke earned a Grand Prize for his exhibit at the fair and the friendship of Captain Michael P. Evans (father of Edward, Emmett, and William), but gained no converts and made no progress toward establishing Albany as the nation's center for criminal identification.

On November 14, 1904, shortly before the end of the fair, Parke received a terse communication from Collins, reprimanding him for extravagant use of his expense account and ordering his return to Albany.

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