Unusual Family Mementos: Granddad’s FBI Wanted Posters

The FBI wanted poster for Fred Walter Lennon—a.k.a Fred Knorr, Floyd Knorr, Charles Murphy and “Corky”—was sought for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution and armed robbery in California in 1950.

Years ago, I came across a bunch of FBI wanted poster cards from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. I thought that these were the most interesting pieces of ephemera I had ever come across in all my years of dealing antiques and collectibles. The poster cards were rather large, and each card had the name of the person the Federal Bureau of Investigation was looking for, along with picture, fingerprints and a description of the crimes they were accused of committing.

While I thought this would be an interesting conversation piece for people who collect law enforcement memorabilia, I never envisioned what occurred next. I listed the poster cards in our online store at GoAntiques.com, and since we also sell at outdoor markets in New York City during the spring and summer months, I also took them with us for our outdoor sales. The very first time I displayed these items I had people swarming our table at the open air market.

To my shock, customers were sorting through the lot of poster cards, looking for their relatives! I will never forget the first time I sold one of the poster cards to a lady who was in New York City on vacation from Canada. The card was of a convicted thief from 1952. He had escaped from prison and was wanted by the FBI on various charges, including menacing and burglary. The customer told me that this particular poster card was important to her because the person pictured was her grandfather. I remember being stunned into silence, which, for me on any given day, is unbelievable.

The FBA wanted poster for William Swift Conroy, issued in 1950. Conroy was accused of attempted burglary and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. He was to be considered armed and dangerous.

After that, I started getting inquiries online from folks asking if I had a card in my inventory of a relative of one kind or another. The number of inquiries I received was stunning. The most fascinating of all was a lady from the United Kingdom who bought two particular cards. She said had created a memorial to her father in her house with some of personal belongings and memorabilia. To complete the collection she said, she needed the two cards I had listed in our store. The poster cards were of her father and uncle, both wanted criminals for arson. She said when she saw the cards in my store she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. It was a perfect finish to her shrine.

Over the years, I have had many a piece of interesting memorabilia, but none will ever match these particular law enforcement documents that created such a stir. If you look online at our online store, perhaps you will find one of your ancestors to complete your family history, but of all that I bought, I only have three left!

GoAntiques vendor Laura Trueman runs Truetiques and RVT’s Primatives.


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