In 1906, the District of Columbia played host to “Handcuff King,” Harry Houdini. The great magician and his wife were visiting Washington, DC for Houdini’s performances at the Chase Theater when Metropolitan Police Chief Major Richard Sylvester invited the escape artist to test the Metropolitan Police’s metal.
At precisely 12:01 p.m., a huge explosion rocked the New York Financial District. It shattered windows for blocks around, throwing shards of glass in all directions along with heavy lead slugs believed to have been used as shrapnel in the bomb. The blast killed 38 people and injured hundreds more.
For a long time, if you entered any police or sheriff’s department in the country, you would be greeted at the front desk by a sergeant presiding over a large bound book. Everyone who came into the station, every call patrolmen answered—it was all documented in that book, called a blotter.
Michael S. Smith was a 22-year-old corrections officer when, on September 9, 1971, a group of inmates overtook Attica Prison in rural New York City. Officers and civilian employees of the prison were taken hostage as the inmates and state officials negotiated. Three days into the negotiations, Corrections Officer William Quinn died from injuries sustained on the first day of the riot. Quinn’s death made the inmates’ central demand for immunity impossible, and heightened the anxiety both inside and outside the prison.