In the Old West, did city marshals and county sheriffs have what we now call a police blotter?

Lawrence Ripplinger

Grafton, Illinois

Each city marshal had his own way of keeping records of arrests, and it was important to keep good records. Marshals were often paid by the number of arrests, and many of their expenses were reimbursed. City officials kept track of meals delivered to the jails to feed the prisoners. Local reporters, like today, gathered information from these various journals for news stories. On the federal level, U.S. marshals had to keep up with all kinds of paperwork; their deputies had the glory of chasing the bad guys (although even they had to file reports). In reality, Gunsmoke’s Matt Dillon would have spent most of his time shuffling papers instead of pursuing outlaws and sipping suds in Miss Kitty’s saloon.

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