1888 – Ignorance Of The Law Was No Excuse

It is true that archivists are a form of non-destructive bookworm. I prefer to think of myself more as an old pioneer panning for gold in the cold stream of time. In that spirit, I submit something I ran across recently; from an 1888 version of the booklet “Police Guide And Directory Of St Louis”. Here, on page 43, a helpful table of petty crime a stranger might wish to avoid in the Lafayette Park neighborhood.



     A stranger in a large city is apt to offend against laws of which he is ignorant. For this reason, I have made  a list of the offenses which he is liable to commit unwillingly. All these are punishable by fines, and in some cases, as in that of carrying concealed weapons, the fine is very heavy. The following are all offenses against the law:

Fast driving on the street

Riding or driving an animal with bell or bells

Driving a sleigh without bells

Playing ball or indulging in any other sport on the street that may frighten horses

Driving fast over the big bridge

Representing oneself as an officer of the law

Resisting or interfering with an officer 

Disturbing the peace by loud noises

Rude or indecent behavior in or near a house of worship

Loitering on street corners

Refusing to “move on” for a police officer

Turning on a false alarm of fire

Ringing a bell, or sounding an instrument to attract attention to an auction or anything else

Serenading in the street

Carrying concealed weapons, billy, slungshot, revolver, and lead or brass knuckles 

Drunk on the street

Swimming in the river or any city pond

Putting advertisements on property without the owners consent

Tying horse to lamp post

Frequenting a bawdy house, or being found in a house of ill-repute

I got tripped up on the warnings about sleighs and bells. If you have a horse-drawn sleigh, do you have to put bells on the sleigh, making sure to keep bells off the horse? And if you’re taking that sleigh to an auction, are you then fined for the bells, regardless of where they are? Would disturbing the peace by drunken serenading in front of a church merit a ticketing grand slam?

Still, a helpful guide for the time traveling resident. 

Thanks To The April 8 and December 27, 1888 St Louis Post Dispatch for the year-specific police drawings.