Image via Unsplash.com- George Prentzas

The 5-Year-Old Twins Fingerprinted By The Police To Avoid Having The Wrong Child Spanked

In 1935, an Illinois parent felt so badly about having spanked the wrong child that he took drastic measures to keep track of his twins

Andrew Martin
3 min readNov 28, 2023

--

Having identical twins can prove to be trying times for parents. Not only is there double the work, but keeping track of two children who are alike in just about every way is mentally taxing. Finding new ways to navigate such challenges can be a game changer. However, that may or may not have been the case in 1935 when parents arranged to have their five-year-old twin daughters fingerprinted by the police to avoid the wrong one from being unfairly spanked for the actions of the other sibling, after the father discovered he had administered such a punishment to the wrong girl.

William Bortkiewicz was reported as the father of five-year-old identical twins Dolores and Dorothy in Rockdale, Illinois in the February 1, 1935 issue of the Chicago Tribune. The trouble began one evening when he returned from work to find that one of the girls had misbehaved. They had dipped into the sugar bowl and helped themselves to a number of sweet treats. The father decided to mete out punishment to who he believed was the guilty party after conducting a rudimentary investigation. Unfortunately, his judgement was not sound and he determined the wrong girl to be culpable, leaving him feeling awful. He explained:

“I feel terrible. Yesterday, one of the twins did something naughty. When I got home, I spanked Dorothy. Later, I found out that Dolores was the real offender. They look so much alike that I can’t tell which, so I want them fingerprinted.”

That’s right, in order to prevent the wrong child from being punished in the future, Bortkiewicz decided to have his daughters fingerprinted so there was a record of how each child could be identified. Although, it’s unclear if the police were willing to dust for fingerprints the next time a cookie came up missing out of the cookie jar, or somebody left the back door ajar, they agreed to move forward with the request.

Chief Nicholas Fornango oversaw the precocious wannabe criminals being printed. He later explained that although…

--

--

Andrew Martin

Dabbler in history, investing & writing. Master’s degree in baseball history. Passionate about history, diversity, culture, sports, investing and crypto.