Iowa History Daily: May 21 - Oskaloosa Fingerprints Everyone

Iowa History Daily: On May 21, 1934, the Oskaloosa City Council voted to require fingerprinting of all local citizens. The vote made the Mahaska County seat the first American city to fingerprint all town members.

As the country continued to climb out of the Great Depression, local officials in Oskaloosa including the Sheriff and City Council started to consider creating a database containing the fingerprints of all local people. Citing a concern over crime, a local official commented:

“We know these people, and eventually, one of them is going to either steal a chicken, tell an underaged pig that she’s loved, steal the mayor’s moonshine that's stored behind his outhouse, or rob a bank. Just give it time and once it happens, we’re going to be glad we’ve got these fingerprints stored away.”

Editorials in local newspapers sought to persuade the townspeople to register their fingerprints, and supporters argued the old ‘those with nothing to worry about need not be concerned.’ Although the measure passed the City Council, actually completing the task proved more difficult.

No available newspaper resources suggest the program successfully fingerprinted the citizens, and the lack of mentions in the years following suggest the idea never got off the ground. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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