LAPD: Dating an Early Photograph, Part II

LAPD Officers
An undated photo of LAPD officers from, which reposts images from all over the Internet (including mine), often without acknowledgement.

In case you just tuned in, we’re examining an early photo of LAPD officers, often misidentified as dating from 1876 or 1869. In the last post we narrowed the date of this photograph to between 1887 and 1890. The men are wearing the Series 1 badge, which was replaced by the Series 2 badge in 1890, and Officer Henry W. Marden (third from right) was with the LAPD from 1887 to 1901.

Let’s see if we can do any more detective work:

LAPD Officers
Officer Henry W. Marden in an undated photo of LAPD officers, above. And, at right, in an 1889 photo posted by the Los Angeles History Museum. Notice the No. 21 on his helmet. Also notice the helmet.

Let’s take another look at our photos of Officer Henry W. Marden, who was on the LAPD from about 1887 to 1901. Notice that in the left photo he’s wearing a brimmed hat and in the right photo he’s wearing what was then described as a French-style helmet.

On Feb. 16, 1888, The Times reported:

Feb. 16, 1888, Police Helmets
This certainly describes Marden’s helmet, which tends to confirm the photo’s date as 1889.

We also find an Oct. 20, 1897, article in the Herald reporting on the proposed switch to the “French make of police helmet,” well after the switch to the Series 2 badge.


It seems to be a safe conclusion that the photo was taken between 1887, when Marden joined the department, and 1888, when the department went to the style of helmets being worn by the New York Police Department.

What else can we learn from this photo?

LAPD Officers LAPD Officers

Five of the men in the photo, including Marden, right, are wearing coats with a single row of buttons. The officer on the left, however, is wearing a coat with two rows of buttons. Presumably, this would designate a superior officer.

LAPD Officers LAPD Officers

Notice also that the officer on the left has three buttons on his sleeve while Marden has none. Once again, this is likely to indicate a superior officer.

LAPD Chief John Glass
Police Chief John Glass, courtesy of Wikipedia.

It seems likely that in uniforms of this era, the chief might have worn stars on either side of the collar, as seen in the photo of Chief John M. Glass (July 17, 1889-Jan. 1, 1900). So it seems safe to assume that whoever the superior officer is, he’s not the chief.

We do find a similar uniform with two rows of buttons on the website worn by an LAPD sergeant. Notice that this gentleman is also wearing a hat rather than the helmet adopted in 1888.

It would be fun to try to date this photo even more precisely, but we will have to leave it for others. So many stories, only one Larry Harnisch.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1890, LAPD, Photography and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply. Note: Your IP is logged with your comment so a fake name and email address are useless.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s