The wooden head was carved to resemble the real-life repeat Lansing inmate Mike Ryan, alias William "Flatty" Ingram, whose prison mug shot is shown at right.
Made by Prisoners
"Flatty" was made by the prisoners between 1910 and 1920 as a humorous gift for Bedford Wood, a career police officer from Wichita, Ryan's hometown. On more than one occasion Wood had been the officer responsible for gathering the evidence that led to Ryan's arrest, conviction, and incarceration at the State Penitentiary. It seemed to the other prisoners that as soon as Ryan was released, he would break the law again and be sent back to Lansing. With the warden's consent, the doll was presented to Officer Wood so he would always have "Flatty" where he could watch him.
The prisoners took special care to make the doll resemble a prisoner of the time period. "Flatty" wears the rough striped cloth that was used for the uniforms worn by all Lansing inmates until about 1905. The uniform and the cloth body were made by the convicts in the prison tailor shop. The head, with real hair glued to the scalp and face, was carved in the prison carpenter shop, and the leather shoes were created in the prison shoe and leather shop.
William "Flatty" Ingram
Records indicate that Mike Ryan (or William Ingram) was born in 1867 in Illinois. He moved to Wichita with his parents when he was about two years old, attending school there through the 8th grade. At age sixteen he left his parents' home, working as a railroader and printer.
Ryan's first known criminal conviction was in 1894 at the age of 27. He was found guilty of grand larceny for stealing a diamond scarf pin from a man in Wichita, and was sentenced to two years at the State Penitentiary at Lansing. After the completion of his sentence, around 1896, he apparently married and returned to the Wichita area. By late 1900, however, he was again imprisoned at Lansing, once more for grand larceny. Between 1901 and 1921, he was arrested at least seven more times in south-central Kansas and in Oklahoma and spent approximately half of that period in prison. His crimes included disturbing the peace, receiving stolen property, burglary, vagrancy, and possession of morphine. When Ryan was asked the cause of his downfall during his later incarcerations, his reply was consistently "Dope."
This doll was donated to the Kansas Historical Society in 1972 by Bedford Wood's son K. A., who stated that his father would not exhibit the doll as long as Ryan was alive, for "he would never knowingly or intentionally belittle or hurt anyone—even a convict."
Entry: Prisoner Doll
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: April 2010
Date Modified: December 2014
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