You can still step outside your door right now and have your pocket picked (or the modern version, having your iPhone snatched right out of your hand while you’re talking on it). But as these 19th century-early 20th century illustrations suggest, pickpockets and muggers used to be the pressing concern of the day.

In the above drawing, dated 1910, a robber chills out (while a cop snoozes!) and lets his “mugging machine” take down three targets at once.


Here’s a chap wailing on a pickpocket, with yet another ineffective cop providing background action. This drawing ran in the Illustrated Police News on April 30, 1887.


And who could forget the swift-fingered ladies? Here’s an illo dated 1830, showing a “diving belle” going for the wallet of a man who’s none the wiser.

From top: photo by Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images; photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images; photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images