Missouri prison life in 1800’s

J-Walk points us to what appears to be a book online. The Twin Hells, by John N. Reynolds, claims to be “A Thrilling Narrative of Life in the Kansas and Missouri Penitentiaries.”

I haven’t read the entire account yet but will share this excerpt about the Missouri penitentiary:

“The inmates of the Missouri penitentiary are well clothed. In this respect, this prison has no rival. All the prisoners presented the appearance of being cleanly, so far as their clothing is concerned. All are dressed in stripes. None are exempt. Here are nearly two thousand men on an equality. None of them can look down upon others, and say, I am more nicely dressed than you. I never saw a convict dude in the entire lot. The prisoners are well fed. For breakfast, the bill of fare consists of bread, coffee, without milk or sugar, and hash. There is no change to this bill of fare. If the prisoner has been there for ten years, if not in the hospital, he has feasted upon hash every morning. Boiled meat, corn bread, potatoes and water makes up the dinner, and for supper the convict has bread, molasses and coffee. The principal objection to this diet is its monotony. Whenever a change of diet becomes a strict necessity, the prisoner is permitted to take a few meals in the hospital dining-room. Here he receives a first-class meal. This is a capital idea. A great deal of sickness is prevented by thus permitting the convict to have an occasional change of diet. On holidays, such as Thanksgiving day, Christmas, etc., an extra dinner is given, which is keenly relished by all. I have before me a statement of the expenses for a Sunday breakfast and dinner. There are only two meals given on Sunday. The hash was made up of 612 pounds of beef, 90 pounds of bacon, and 30 bushels of potatoes. Fifty-one pounds of coffee were used, and four and a half barrels of flour. The entire meal cost $68.38.”

It appears the account above is from the late 1800’s. I have not idea of the time period represented by the postcard below (from Bob Priddy’s extensive collection of Missouri postcards)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *