From Kurt Cobain to Martin Luther King Jr., see some of history's most famous mugshots and learn why these iconic figures were arrested in the first place.
Arrested after a performance in Rochester, New York along with three other people (including fellow musician Iggy Pop) for marijuana possession. March 25, 1976.
The charges soon disappeared, but Bowie never performed in Rochester again.Public Domain
Arrested in Medellín, Colombia in connection with drug crimes. 1977.Wikimedia Commons
Arrested in Aberdeen, Washington for trespassing onto the roof of an abandoned warehouse while intoxicated. May 25, 1986.Public Domain
Arrested for her role in the boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama. February 22, 1956.Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images
Arrested in El Paso, Texas for carrying hundreds of pep pills and tranquilizers in his luggage across the border as he returned from a trip to Juarez, Mexico. October 4, 1965.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Arrested by the Tsarist Secret Police in St. Petersburg for revolutionary activities. 1911.Wikimedia Commons
Arrested in connection with the August 9, 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and four others at her home in Los Angeles. December 2, 1969.
Manson was convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder and remains in prison to this day.Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Martin Luther King Jr.
Arrested for his role in the boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama. February 24, 1956.Don Cravens/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Several years before he became the frontman of The Doors, Morrison was arrested in Tallahassee, Florida and charged with petty larceny, public intoxication, disturbing the peace, and resisting arrest after drunkenly stealing a cop's helmet and then not going quietly once he was caught. September 28, 1963.Wikimedia Commons
Arrested in Hackensack, New Jersey on charges of adultery and seduction for "carrying on with a married woman." November 26, 1938.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Arrested for driving without a license and failing to stop at a stop sign. December 13, 1977.Public Domain
Lee Harvey Oswald
Arrested for the murder of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. November 23, 1963.Wikimedia Commons
Shakur poses for a mug shot for the New York State Department of Corrections after his conviction for the sexual abuse of a female fan
in November 1993. March 8, 1995.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Arrested, following a car chase, for the murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman in Brentwood, California. June 17, 1994.Online USA, Inc./Getty Images
John Wayne Gacy
Arrested in his hometown of Norwood Park, Illinois where he killed at least 33 people between 1972 and 1978. December 22, 1978.
He was ultimately executed on May 10, 1994.Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images
Arrested in New York for the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. December 8, 1978.
The Sex Pistols bassist died of a drug overdose (some say intentionally) before he could stand trial and the police subsequently dropped the case.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Arrested in Miami, Florida on charges of grand larceny after stealing $5,000 from a business partner. December 20, 1971.Wikimedia Commons
Arrested in St. Petersburg for revolutionary Marxist activities. December 21, 1895.Wikimedia Commons
Arrested for arrest for drunk driving and speeding on in Anchorage, Alaska. June 22, 1972.Wikimedia Commons
Arrested for narcotics possession at Toronto International Airport. May 3, 1969.Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
March 9, 1934.
The Depression-era gangster served time for assault, robbery, and murder before dying in a shootout with police in Chicago on July 22, 1934. NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
Arrested on suspicion of being an anarchist at age 20 in Bern, Switzerland. June 19, 1903.Wikimedia Commons
Arrested in Boston, Massachusetts at age 18 on charges of larceny. November 1944.Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images
Arrested in New York on a slate of charges (including murder, loansharking, and tax evasion) that would soon land the mafia boss in prison for the rest of his life. December 11, 1990.Wikimedia Commons
David Berkowitz (a.k.a. "Son of Sam")
Arrested in Yonkers, New York in connection with the serial killings of six people. August 11, 1977.
He was ultimately convicted of murder and remains in prison to this day.Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Arrested for drug smuggling and kicking a policeman during the scuffle at an airport in Cleveland, Ohio. November 3, 1970.
However, the actress/antiwar activist was only carrying vitamins, not illegal drugs, and insists that she was targeted by the Nixon White House because of her anti-establishment political convictions.Public Domain
Arrested in Milwaukee in connection with a string of brutal rapes, killings, and dismemberments that ultimately left 17 dead. July 23, 1991.
Dahmer was soon convicted and sent to prison, where a fellow inmate killed him on November 28, 1994.Curt Borgwardt/Sygma via Getty Images
Charles "Lucky" Luciano
The notorious gangster, known for being the father of the mafia in America, poses after being arrested for assault in New York. February 2, 1931.Wikimedia Commons
Held in Florida in connection with a string of brutal serial killings that would ultimately tally at least 30 throughout the 1970s. February 13, 1980.
Bundy was convicted several times over and eventually executed at Raiford Prison in Starke, Florida, on January 24, 1989.Wikimedia Commons
Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel
The infamous gangster poses while being held in New York. February 12, 1928.Wikimedia Commons
Arrested along with Rolling Stones bandmate Keith Richards for attacking a paparazzo and obstructing a police officer who intervened in Warwick, Rhode Island. July 18, 1972.Public Domain
Arrested after receiving oral sex from a prostitute in his car in Los Angeles. June 27, 1995.Public Domain
Arrested as he was trying to enter Miami, Florida by city police who were trying to keep the notorious gangster out. May 8, 1930. Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images
If you believe that people only truly reveal themselves when the proverbial chips are down, there may be no truer form of portraiture than the mugshot.
A staple of Western police procedure dating back to the mid-19th century, the mugshot captures its recently arrested subjects at their most angry, vulnerable, defiant, or defeated — and therefore perhaps at their most honest.
Unlike the posed and polished studio portrait, the mugshot tests the mettle of its subjects during the very moment at which they've been backed into quite a corner.
This makes the mugshots of famous historical figures all the more interesting, as their commonly-seen portraits have often been edited to the nth degree.
In spite — or perhaps because of — their raw nature, the mugshots may also affirm what more traditional portraits of these iconic men and women have led us to believe about them.
If you think that, say, Martin Luther King Jr. was resolute courage personified, you'll find that in his 1956 mugshot. If you believe that Jim Morrison was a bumbling drunk, you'll likewise find that in his 1963 mugshot. Or if you believe that Bill Gates really is just a huge dork, you'll find that too.
As you look through more and more famous mugshots of notable artists, leaders, celebrities, and celebrity criminals of decades past, you indeed start to suspect that you're learning something about these people that most other kinds of photographs could never truly teach you.
After this look at famous mugshots, allow these historical mugshots to show you the birth of the booking photo all the way back in the 19th century. Then, read up on six famous acquittals of well-known and powerful people who probably got away with crimes like rape and murder.