Homicide Trends in America: 1850-1950
Modern mass communication plays a large role in solving today’s most violent crimes. Televised news stories, newspaper articles and law enforcement databases all aid in spreading information about crime, and today’s police departments across the country are more able to work together. In the 1800s, however, technologies that we take for granted today had not yet been discovered or widely used in solving crime. Innovations like fingerprinting, ballistics, hair and fiber analysis, and blood evidence had not yet been developed, and crimes were solved quickly or not at all. As America became more urbanized, crime rose steadily, with only a few noteworthy increases or decreases in the national homicide rate. In response to the rise in violent crime, the U.S. spent more money on law enforcement in the 1840s than almost any other country in the world. Despite this increase in funding, these systems were unable to curb the steady rise in violence that continued until the late 1930s. I will examine many of the trends in homicide and attempt to assess popular theories on the changes in homicide rates.