U.S. Department of Justice



Date of this Version



Federal Bureau of Investigation Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (1931)


Letters to J. Edgar Hoover about the identification of Jesse James

Please refer to the letter I have prepared addressed to X concerning the claims of an individual now residing in that city, to the effect that he is the original JESSE JAMES.

Of course, Jesse James fingerprints never were taken. It follows that any identification would have to be made upon the basis of physical characteristics and photographs. The photograph of the younger person transmitted by X no doubt is a wood cut of the original Jesse James. After examining this photo, or cut, it is the opinion of X, who has specialized somewhat in Portrait Parle, and the undersigned, that the person now claiming to be Jesse James is an imposter. It is realized, of course, that the wood cut may not have been a perfect likeness. It is realized further that the facial appearance of any individual changes with age, but we base our conclusion upon the following:

There is a marked dissimilarity in the appearance of the ears, particularly in the outer depression. In the case of the original Jesse James, this is very wide at the top, with the result that the inner depression is narrow. In the case of the person claiming to be James, both depressions are elongated. Other dis-similarities are that the original Jesse James seems to have an elevation over the eyes not noticeable in the photographs of the later James; that the nose of the individual claiming to be James is elongated and inclined to be humped, whereas the nose of the original James seems to be somewhat short and uplifted on the end giving a retrousse aspect; that the jaw of the original James is much squarer than that of the present claimant and that the bald spot on the head of the original Jesse James recedes to a point now covered by the hair of the present claimant. It is noticed also, that the claimants eyes are crossed.