Missouri State Archives
Missouri State Penitentiary: 1836 - 1931

The Missouri State Penitentiary was the first state penal institution west of the Mississippi River. It opened its doors in 1836 and operated continuously until 2004. The Missouri State Penitentiary, also called MSP or the Walls, was a notoriously brutal prison. In 1967, Time Magazine named it “the bloodiest 47 acres in America.”

MSP Search
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Searching by Name will look for a match of Offender, Father, Mother, and/or Spouse. Searching by year requires the entry of four digit years.

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Search by Keyword
This searches the nativity, offense, discharge (i.e. escape, pardon, died), and notes fields. You may limit your keyword search by including a year range. The format is keyword#YYYY#YYYY. Example: died#1900#1910
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The Collection

Missouri State Penitentiary entrance

The Missouri State Penitentiary Database indexes the Register of Inmates Received 1836–1931 and the Register of Military Prisoners, 1864–1875. The register of inmates received includes information about the prisoners, their crimes and sentences, as well as when they entered and were released.

To find a penitentiary record outside the 1836-1931 time span, submit a research request to [email protected]. Include the inmate’s name and approximate date of entry into the penitentiary. Other identifying information, such as a year of birth, county of crime or parents’ names is helpful but not required.

Inmate photographs (mug shots) became a required part of inmate reception in 1928. New prisoners had their photograph taken when arriving at the penitentiary. Inmates who entered the penitentiary prior to 1928 did not have mug shots created.

There are approximately 120 surviving plate glass negative mug shots taken from 1909–1926. These mug shots cover inmate numbers 9634–30276, but it’s a very incomplete series. These have been linked in the inmate’s register entry.

Additional Records

For additional records such as commutations, pardons, Bertillon measurements and escape records, contact the Reference Room at [email protected].

Ordering a Copy

To request a print copy of a penitentiary register, please mail a copy of the citation to:

Missouri State Archives
PO Box 1747
600 W. Main Street
Jefferson City, MO 65101

Please include a check or money order for $1.00 made payable to the Missouri State Archives. Orders must also include a #10 business size, stamped, self-addressed envelope with each request. Please submit only one photocopy request at a time.