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Monday, July 16, 2018

Yuma Territorial Prison- INMATE CRAFTS

After hours, the inmates were allowed to produce crafts which were sold or traded at a monthly craft fair that was open to the public. A share of the profit was saved and given to the inmate when he left the prison.

The following is from the Arizona Sentinel, February 6th, 1892.

Some very fine lace is also made, which commands their prices. The money received from the sale of these articles is placed to the credit of the prisoners, who, in many cases, accumulate quite a handsome sum of money by the time their term of imprisonment expires.

A lifer, who spent most of his sentence at the Yuma Territorial Prison for murdering a man. C. E. Hobart spent most of his days making adobe and quarry rock to build a new prison cell. He was put in solitary confinement numerous times for violating prison rules and tried to escape twice. But during his free time, Hobart knitted beautiful lace.

Left, C. E. Hobart, #1113

Infant dress with knit lace yoke and sleeves
Top: Knit piano scarf; bottom: knitting needle used to make lace.
Also from the Arizona Sentinel, February 6, 1892.

During their leisure moments, their prisoners are permitted to work for themselves. They carve many beautiful bits in onyx, many of them very useful as well as ornamental.

(The photos are mine. However, many of them were taken of display materials at the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park. Most of the information in this blog post comes from the same source. If you missed May’s post about the Yuma Territorial Prison, you may read it by CLICKING HERE.) If you missed June’s post about women inmates, you may read it by CLICKING HERE.

Anyone who has not yet read my Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series which takes place just on the other side of the Sierra Nevada mountains from Columbia and Sonora, you may enjoy my first two books in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series. You may find the first book in the series, Big Meadow Valentine, by CLICKING HERE, and the second book, A Resurrected Heart, by CLICKING HERE.

The third book, Her Independent Spirit, touches on Independence Day, 1884. More importantly, it touches on the efforts of two women in the gold mining town of Lundy to declare their own independence from their current circumstances. It also includes an event in Lundy’s history that changed the dynamics of the town from that point forward. You may find this book by CLICKING HERE.


  1. Who knew convicts produced such fine work? Before I started reading I thought it might be female prisoners. Interesting and informative.

  2. Beautiful artifacts. Crafts and hand-work would certainly make the time go by faster, if there is such a concept in the prison setting. I imagine 'busy hands' helped the prisoners keep from going completely stir-crazy while they served their time. Knowing they'd receive a portion of what their crafts sold for was probably a good incentive, too.

  3. I never would have guessed that a criminal would craft lace items. That's such a surprise.
    I think it's a good idea to employ the talents of prisoners into useful items to be sold and for the prisoners to earn money for the day when they are released.

    1. Having worked in "the system", today very few would be trusted with knitting needles. However there are some programs across the country where prisoners knit hats for newborns and preemies. It depends on how progressive the state system is and how compassionate the warden is.

  4. Thank you for showing these beautiful pieces of work. A number of people who are incarcerated are very talented and intelligent. Over the years I worked in juvenile detention the artwork and creativity of the youth would astound most people. They just were either perfectionist and detroyed what they created or were afraid to show their softer side. Still, you wouldn't want to meet some of them in a dark alley.

    Wonderful post, that brought back some interesting memories. Thank you. Doris

  5. Great post, Zina. I had no idea Yuma prisoners had such worthwhile activities.

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  7. do you know of any place i can actually purchase this book? thanks