Today's Wow Photo gets both a "Wow" and an "Ow" - the photo shows disciplinary action taking place at Canon City State Penitentiary in about 1890. The prisoner is bent over what was called the "Old Gray Mare," a kind of a worktable of punishment, keeping the victim in place and allowing the guard ample access to his backside with a hinged paddle. The bucket on the ground was full of water, used to dip the paddle in, making sure that its effects were as painful as possible.
Horrifying by today's standards, this kind of thing was not uncommon, though photographic evidence is rare. We have 321 photos in our digital collections from the Canon City Penitentiary, showing the gas chamber when it was brand new, prisoners in striped suits, cell interiors, and other shots of prison life, and documenting the riots in 1929, and the 1947 prison break that was commemorated in the movie "Canon City." These photos are an interesting, sobering and fascinating part of our collection and a marked departure from cowboys, Indians and architecture.
"Wow Photo Wednesday" celebrates photographs in the Denver Public Library's Digital Collections that have "The Wow Factor" and that highlight the myriad delightful nuggets in our database.