Crimes of the Century is a website about the homicides in Chicago from 1870 to 1930. It is an informative historical website seeking to bring about awareness and information regarding crime in Chicago for that time period, primary of purposeful murders, but also of other kinds of killings committed by men and women.
The content of the website has PDFs of the primary sources of the crimes, trial records, and other resources. There are secondary accounts, and images of the victims, murderers, newspapers, Chicago at the time, and people involved with the court. The images and newspapers are all cited as well. There are videos of historians, professors of law, and even a rare footage of a person alive at the time, discussing the cases, books they’ve written, and articles they’ve published.
The website is bring awareness about these crimes, the victims, and the motives behind the acts. There is some information about the things going on during the time, to give some insight into why some of these crimes may have happened. I think the website does do a good job of succeeding in its goal.
Insights to what the past is like hasn’t changed much for me. Humans have always been violent and all these crimes are still very much like the ones still happening. People are taught to hate so there’s hate crimes against people of other color, of the opposite sex, etc. And the same issues of drinking, mental illness, and general crime are all involved just as they are still today. The main thing that is different is prohibition was happening at the time, and there were less laws to govern people in certain areas, and the mafia had quite a bit of power in Chicago at the time.
Northwestern University School of Law operates the site and Leigh Bienen is the director of the website, and appears to be the primary author of it. She is an authority because she is a graduate from Cornell University and Rutgers-Newark Law School, and has written several books and essays on crime and other subjects.
Any biases there are I can’t pin point them. Obviously, people will always attack the killer more than the victim, so any cases where the killer had an actual reason to kill someone will ignore their side more.
It’s easy to navigate and is coherent. The main thing that concerned me is my computer said it was an “unsafe” website and gave me some trouble getting to it. That may be due to being older or something, but it was annoying and hopefully won’t cause future problems.
Obviously, more images of the cases, crime scenes, etc. would be nice, but those may not exist due to the time these crimes happened. Films are always nice because they give a better sense of the crime scene, the interaction, and emotions, but given how it’s murder many may not want to see a reproduction of it.
Yes, it is a useful site. And that means it can come in handy for writing papers, learning more about these crimes, and gathering the actual documents without having to go to places that you have to pay like JSTOR or something. Free is always better!