Here we have two notebooks full of 105 composite sketches of suspected criminals from the Reno Police Department. The sketches were created by a well-known composite artist, Harlan Embrey, who lived from 1924 to 1997. This is a very rare and unique listing, which we are excited to finally share with the world.
Harlan Embrey was highly regarded in his trade, and was often “loaned out” to other jurisdictions and agencies. He spent time working for various police departments and sheriff's offices, as well as for the FBI and DEA. Each drawing includes the corresponding case number. We knew that at least one case in the notebooks was extremely high profile, and still has a cult-like following (do a search to read more about the Keddie murders, a high-profile, unsolved American quadruple homicide).
The notebooks read "CITY OF RENO POLICE DEPARTMENT OPERATIONS MANUAL" on the front. The first section of the first notebook contains letters of recommendation and thanks to Harlan Embrey from various chief of police, attorneys, sheriffs, detectives, and investigators. As you continue through the first notebook, you will find photographs of some of the original sketches next to the captured criminals (I believe these were taken to show the accuracy of Mr Embry's drawings, and their assistance in a successful arrest). Next in the notebook begins the collection of 105 hand drawn criminal sketches, complete with the date it was drawn, the artist signature, the case number, and sometimes more.
We took these notebooks to Antiques Roadshow in 2015 where they were appraised by Colleene Fesko from Boston, Massachusetts. She is a fine art and antiques appraiser and broker. She has recently worked as a consultant with Christie’s American Painting Department. She called the drawings “outsider art”. She said that, in a way, they were deeper and more personal than “normal” art. They were drawings of an actual person who had, in many cases, been accused of a horrible crime.
While at Antiques Roadshow, our appraiser and the show's producers wanted to share our sketches on TV, but they were nervous about the sticker in the front of the book which reads: “Evidence. Property of the Reno Police Department. Do not remove.” They were of the opinion that, though we purchased them legally from an antique shop, it is possible our ownership would still be questioned. This was a concern of ours initially as well, but that all changed a few months later when we were contacted by the granddaughter of the composite sketch artist, Mr Harlan Embrey. She had looked through "our" notebooks full of sketches in her grandparents' old home many a time. Her grandfather's sketches always showcased the traits she appreciated most - his attention to detail, his desire for quality, and his innate ability to listen.
Some of the details are unclear, but there is agreement between the remaining family members that Harlan Embrey was given the notebooks containing his sketchesupon his retirement from the police department. It has also been said that, after the passing of Mr. Embrey, his wife attempted to return the notebooks to the RPD, and was told to keep them. They were "a gift". Regardless of those details, Diane said this about her grandfather's artwork: "The most important thing is that it's not lost."
We have always felt a strange connection with these notebooks. They carry so much mystery, pain, passion and depth.
These notebooks and their contents are in great condition overall with normal signs of age and use. The binders have some wear and general soiling present from years of sitting on shelves. The sketches themselves have some yellowing, mostly along the edges of the pages, as well as some general, light wear. Each has been 3-hole punched and placed in a protective plastic covering. Please see the pictures for more details, and feel free to ask questions if you have them.