Sunday, 11 March 2018

We have moved to WordPress at 

Please come and find us there 

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Mugshots. The 19th Century Invention Still Used Every Day

C.A. Asbrey

 A female Suffragette being forced to pose for her mugshot. Note the an's arm around her throat, although most of him has been removed by the photographer. 

It was the idea of Robert Evan Roberts, the governor of Bedford Prison in the 1850s, who became concerned that too many habitual criminals were getting away.

The police had previously relied on written descriptions to help capture criminals, but he believed these methods were too unreliable.

                                              Men were known to refuse to cooperate too

Instead he commissioned a photographer to take pictures of offenders, so they could easily be traced if they committed further crimes. These poses were vaired and often immitated portraiture. It was the French policeman, Alphonse Bertillon, who standardised the poses to the full face and profile pictures which are still in use today. Bertillon also pioneered anthropological technique of anthropometry to law enforcement creating an identification system based on physical measurements. This method was later overtaken by the use of fingerprinting. This pioneer of crime detection also created many other forensics techniques, including the use of galvanoplastic compounds to preserve footprints, ballistics, and the dynamometer, used to determine the degree of force used in breaking and entering.

These are often posted as mugshots of children, but in reality this is a picture of little Francois Bertillon being photographed by his criminologist father to show the value of the poses he introduced. The full facial and profile then became the gold standard for mugshots around the world. The one below is the same child a little later.

The term 'Mugshot' comes from an old English slang word for face - the Mug. And so the mugshot was born.

Looking at the faces from long-gone prisoners is fascinating, not only to students of clothing and wardrobe of the period, but to the those of us fascinated by social history. The pictures provide clues to social standing, hunger and need, as well as cruelty and the ethnic mix of new immigrants starting to show up amongst the poorest in society.

In one of the first formats for mugshots the ruggedly handsome, George Bennett (Alias Harry Simpson), clearly wanted to show his best side when he was arrested for poaching, for which he had a long record. It is even given as his profession in his records.   

The crimes themselves are also telling. Ragged children are arrested for petty thefts, gaunt women picked up on prostitution charges, and men are involved in crime less common today such as poaching and sucking beer straight from the barrels. Overall they show the desperation born of grinding poverty and hopelessness.

Mary Catherine Docherty was 14, but looked far younger, when she was arrested for stealing iron. he for 7 days hard labour.

 7 year old Edgar Kilminster was arrested in 1870 for stealing 'sweet meats', which could have been sugary treats. It's more likely they are the 19th century slang of offal which was quite a treat to the almost starving in 1870. Edgar was given a week's hard labour and twelve strokes of the birch. He was only 3'10" and was almost certainly malnourished. A normal 7 year old boy is around 4'2" today.  

Today I'm showing you some of the more unusual mugshots which make up 19th century criminal records. At the other end of the scale we have 79 year old William Lord who was sentenced to six months hard labour for stealing wood. He was pardoned by the queen due to ill health.

George Henry Charles Perry, who was arrested for posing as a vicar to con people. The 32-year-old is seen still wearing his fake dog collar

An early attempt to record different profiles involved a mirror. Prisoners were often obliged to show their hands as missing digits, tattoos, and identifying scars were used to help cut through aliases. Thomas Wallace was first sentenced to a month's imprisonment for larceny in 1856. On release he offended again almost immediately and was sentenced to three months for a similar crime. On April 10th, 1871 he was sentenced to seven years penal servitude for stealing cloth. He began his sentence in Leeds prison but on May 29th he escaped and went on the run. He next appears in court in December the same year and is sentenced to seven years for receiving stolen goods; sentenced to twelve months in 1881 for escaping from prison; and sentenced to ten years penal servitude for another offence of receiving stolen goods in November 1882.  

Leon Lampord, convicted of fraud at Manchester Assizes in July 1878 and sentenced to 15 months imprisonment.

$10,000 may seem a huge reward for this escaped prisoner in the 1870s, but William M Tweed (known as Boss Tweed) was no small fish. He is alleged to have stolen between 25 and an amazing 400 million dollars from the taxpayers of New York City via various corrupt methods.

On January 29, 1898, Goldie Williams (also known as Meg Murphy) was arrested by the Omaha Police for vagrancy. At the time of her arrest, she was described as 5 feet tall and 110 pounds, her left index finger was broken and she had a cut below her right wrist. Williams listed her home as Chicago and occupation as a prostitute. In her mug shot she is seen sitting defiantly with her arms crossed sporting an elaborate hat with satin ribbons and feathers and wearing large hoop earrings.

Daniel Tohill (incorrectly labelled as Daniel Lohill), born in 1881 in New Zealand. Charged with theft and sentenced to 4 months hard labor on 2 March 1908 in Napier. Photograph taken on 11 June 1908 by the New Zealand Police; image via the archives  of the New Zealand Police Museum. He could give George Bennett a run for his money for the title of most photogenic Victorian Criminal. Tihill's short criminal career coincided with the arrival of three children one after the other, so it appears he was struggling to support his family.
It's harder to find 19th century ,mugshots of photogenic women as female prisoners were mostly grindingly poor, emaciated, and rarely well-groomed. Hellny Eklund, 1898, Sweden fits the bill though. The reason for her arrest is not known. She’s described as 1.64m (5′5″) with dark brown hair and blue eyes.
                 Sigrid Viktoria Nilsson's mugshot  from 1900, Sweden also shows a very photogenic prisoner. The reason for her arrest isn't available either.
Let's end with the mugshot of one of the world's most prolific serial killers. Amelia Dyer was a baby farmer; a woman who took in unwanted babies and who either murdered them or allowed them to starve to death. This crime was rife for centuries, if not millennia, as a way to dispose of unwanted children. Dyer is suspected of killing at least 300 babies over a 30 year period. She was hanged 11 June 1897 at Newgate Prison, London. 

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service
Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Monday, 26 February 2018

The Victorian Pregnancy Tests And Superstitions  

C.A. Asbrey

So how did women know they were pregnant before modern tests became available? Given enough time it becomes pretty obvious, but in an age when doctors were male and loath to perform intimate examinations on female patients, how did they confirm their condition in the early stages?

Doctors were unwilling to investigate too much into the subject either. Waiting to be sure was kind of your only option other than superstitions and the Victorians had a myriad of them, which we'll look at later. Mid-century, Dr Pye Chavasse, author of Advice to a Mother on the Management of Offspring (a book so popular it was still in use at the turn of the century) and other similar works, gave the signs of pregnancy, in order of appearance, as ‘ceasing to be unwell’ (i.e. menstruation); morning sickness; painful and enlarged breasts; ‘quickening’ (which would not have been felt until the nineteenth week); increased size. That meant that no woman could be absolutely certain she was pregnant until around the fifth month.

As early as the 1830s it had been known to doctors that the mucosa around the vaginal opening changed colour after conception, yet this useful piece of information did not appear in a lay publication until the 1880s, and the doctor who wrote it was struck off the medical register – it was too indelicate, in its assumption that a doctor would perform a physical examination. Neither doctors nor their patients felt comfortable with this.

                                                                  Jane Ellen Panton

From Kitchen to Garret: Hints for Young Householders by Jane Ellen Panton, at the end of the 1880s, felt she could ‘only touch lightly on these matters [of pregnancy]’ because she didn’t know who might read her book, From Kitchen to Garret: Hints for Young Householders. Her advice revolved around refraining from activity and preparing clothes and linens for the new arrival. Kipling, from the male point of view, was very much of his time when he wrote, ‘We asked no social questions – we pumped no hidden shame- We never talked obstetrics when the Little Stranger came – ‘”

Pregnancy was something the Victorians (well, at least middle-class Victorians) were desperate to hide away. And this shouldn’t be a surprise to us, as this was still common practice well through the 1950s. Hollywood actresses (even ones who were married) taking an enforced temporary retirement once the pregnancy was discovered. They did not do red carpet events, they tried not to get photographed, and they most certainly did not continue to work until after the baby came. Some male actors were also annoyed by the fact that females co-stars got time off while menstruating too. This, of course, was something only stars enjoyed. Chorus girls just had to slog and hoof their way through like everyone else. 

This is not to say that just because the Victorians weren’t comfortable having pregnancy discussed, published about, or seen in society, that it means they didn’t know anything about sex and pregnancy. There was often a very great divide between what one could publish and what one could discuss. Girls did not get all of their information purely from published material. In fact, it was much more likely that most girls had frank discussions with their mothers, aunts, older sisters, and female cousins about sex and pregnancy. The odd story you hear about a Victorian girl not understanding sex until her wedding is definitely reflection of a cloistered minority.

Dr. John West explains in his 1887 book Maidenhood and Motherhood explains that women should wear loose-fitting clothes. "The French term enceinte was originally applied to pregnant women from a habit of laying aside the belt or girdle which they were otherwise accustomed to wear; hence, the term enceinte means to be unbound, and has come to be applied to women in ante-confinement motherhood"

While there is no demand that the mother make an undue advertisement of her state, which would be as immodest as the attempts at its concealment, it is eminently desirable that her dress, especially about those parts of her body which are the regions of procreative life, be worn quite loosely.”

Even the hair was subject to advice. In her 1896 book Preparation for Motherhood, author Elizabeth Scovil “The hair should be parted in the middle at the back, firmly braided in two tails and tied so it will not come unloosed.  It is then no great matter if it cannot be brushed or combed for several days.  It will be found smooth and untangled when it is unplaited.
                                                           1882 Silk Maternity Dress.


Not all the tips passed on were worth knowing though and some have persisted through to the present day. One of the most persistent is the myth of 'maternal impression’, which once gained serious scientific credibility. This is the belief that the appearance and character of a child is influenced by a powerful emotional stimulus experienced by its mother during pregnancy. Birth defects and congenital disorders were consequently explained. Many believed the popular story that the mother of Joseph Merrick, known as the Elephant Man, was frightened by an elephant while she was pregnant. Only this could explain his striking deformity. Every freak show which toured included an invented backstory in which someone's mother had been scared by some animal or been affected by something she saw or ate. There were some folk remedies though. "If a pregnant woman sees a hare in her path, she must immediately stop and make three tears (rips) in her petticoats lest the child be born with a hare-lip" c.1875

Hairy dark patches were reputed to be caused by mice, and food cravings were to be pandered to so as not to disadvantage the baby.

Very often a young wife would suspend her wedding ring by a thread and whichever way it swung would indicate whether the baby was a boy or a girl. The trouble is, no-one can agree which direction is applicable to which sex.

Expectant parents were careful not to draw too much attention to the wife's condition in order to avoid unwanted consequences. They were warned not to boast or to make claims about good fortune regarding the baby for the same reasons. A pregnant mother was advised never to tell of her pregnancy until after the first trimester was safely passed as an ill-wish could cause her to lose the baby.

If bad luck and an ill-fated pregnancy were to be avoided then it was paramount not to bring baby clothes, a cradle, crib, cot or a perambulator into the house before the baby was born. To do so would be tempting fate. It was also an absolute no-go to rock an empty cradle for fear of causing the death of the baby if already born, or adversely, to cause the woman of the house to become pregnant again too soon.

The first born child should never be put into a new cradle. A cradle was always borrowed for the oldest child in a family. A cradle was always supposed to be completely paid for before a baby could be laid in it. Otherwise the baby will be debt-laden all his or her life.

A child born with a 'caul' (part of the amniotic sac) over their head and/or face were, and still are, thought to be kept safe from harm - for as long as the caul itself is looked after. As the owner of a caul was immune from physical bad luck, there was once a roaring trade in cauls, particularly in times of warfare, and advertisements, 'caul wanted' and 'caul for sale', were common sights in newspapers and shop windows.

After a child was born it was the practice that the first person to take the baby away from its mother would carry him or her upstairs, or up three steps of a ladder. This was so the child started off right, i.e. on his or her way up in the world. This tradition continued into the 20th century.

Another, rather unsanitary, practice was not to wash a baby's hands until its first birthday for fear of washing away good fortune. This tradition varied - sometimes it applied only to the right hand and sometimes it was only up to the date of christening. The way a baby held his or her hands during the first few weeks of life was also duly noted. A tight, closed fist meant that the baby was capable of holding onto money and was considered a good thing. Similarly, babies were given silver coins to hold at the christening celebration and in Scotland and Ireland it was the custom to put coins in a baby's cot at the first introduction for luck. This even extended to slight acquaintances and a parent taking a child out in a pram for the first time could accumulate a decent amount of cash from everyone they met in the street.

The choice of first person to kiss the baby was considered very important as it would affect the baby's character for the rest of his or her life. A good tempered, easy-going person was preferred. This was known as 'tempering' the child.

It was important to dress the child appropriately. In many cases the appropriate garment for a newborn was an old flannel petticoat or nightshirt. The reasons for this are unclear but among those put forward are to prevent pride in adult life and to provide protection, particularly if the garment belonged to the baby's father. Dressing the baby in a garment belonging to someone of the opposite sex was said to make the baby more attractive to potential partners in adulthood.


When childbirth was riskier for both mother and child, it was of paramount importance that baptism should take place as early as possible. There were two main reasons, firstly that an unchristened baby would not make it into heaven and secondly, that the child was vulnerable to being cursed by witches and fairies. Parents were warned not to take an unbaptized child out of the house in case the fairies took it and swapped it for a changeling. Baby could not be addressed by his given name until the ceremony had taken place.

Christening also had the power to cure ill-health and to correct the temperament of a miserable baby. It was important that the baby cry during the ceremony to indicate that the Devil had been cast out from his or her little body. If the baby didn't cry then it was whispered that the child would not have long to live.

If twins of both sexes were to be christened or if there was a multiple christening, the boys were always baptized first in order that they would grow up to have a beard. It was 'unmanly' to be second in line to a female.


Churching was, and still is, a controversial subject. The idea that a woman was unclean after the birth of her baby until she had been 'churched', i.e. made her first visit to church sits uncomfortably with modern views of equality. There was even a distinction between having given birth to a boy or girl. Apparently having a boy baby was less 'dirty' than having a girl. If you had a boy then you were considered unclean for seven days after the birth. A girl, however, kept you mucky for two whole weeks. Many communities stipulated that an unchurched woman could not leave the house; others said that she could go out but required that she must not enter another home or even look another person in the face.

In some parts of the world, an unchurched woman was not protected by law and could be attacked and killed without the perpetrator answering for his crime.

In some circles, the time after birth was seen as more positive and cause for celebration and relief for the mother, and was when women got together and men were kept away.

Baby's First Year

There were many superstitions surrounding baby's life up until his or her first birthday. One concerned fingernails. Mothers were adjured not to cut their baby's fingernails until the year was up to prevent their child from becoming 'light-fingered' or, in other words, a thief.

               19th century sterling silver baby whistle rattle and red coral gum teether

To help the baby cope with the pain of teething various necklaces were placed around its neck. Material used included human teeth, animal teeth, glass beads and deadly nightshade berries (!) among other things. The most common was a necklace made of coral. Coral also protected against witchcraft. If a baby was born with teeth or if he or she teethed early, then it meant that another baby would soon be on the way. Other superstitions decreed that an early teether would die young or even grow up to be a murderer.

One last superstition was a belief that the baby should not be weighed until its first birthday to prevent premature death or, at best, future weakness and ill-health. This one has been all but laid to rest due to increased monitoring and healthcare but was still adhered to by some as late as the 1930s.

From Kitchen to Garret: Hints for Young Householders
Dr. John West 1887 book Maidenhood and Motherhood
Preparation for Motherhood,author Elizabeth Scovil 1896

Friday, 16 February 2018

Poison In The Pot – The 19th Century Whistleblower and the Poison Squad

Accum’s book “A Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons”. A spider lurks in the middle of the web over its prey, and a skull crowns the entire collection with a caption: “There is death in the pot”

From the 2008 Chinese milk-tainting scandal, 2013’s “Horsegate” in the UK to salmonella powdered milk, the adulteration of food has been in the news a fair bit recently.  Back in the 19th century, a German scientist Friedrich Accum not only denounced the use of chemical additives as poison but named the companies that were doing it.

The modification of food is as old as the selling of it.  Fines for adulterating food appear in Sanskrit laws dating back to around 300 BC. Warnings about peddling risky foodstuffs filter into the Bible, including a very pointed passage in Leviticus about bad meat. Similar warnings occur in Chinese writings dating back to the second century BC, as well as in the literature of the ancient Greek and Romans. Pliny the Elder wrote sadly of wine purveyors who “I regret to say, employ noxious herbs” to color wine, creating both a more beautiful and more toxic drink.

What changed is the 19th century was a drastic increase of additives used in the industrial preparation and packaging of foods.

                                                                  Friedrich Accum

Friedrich Accum explained to his readers that there was a high lead content in Spanish olive oil, caused by the lead containers used to clear the oil, and recommended using oil from other countries such as France and Italy, where this was not practiced. He warned against bright green sweets sold by itinerant merchants in the streets of London as the color was produced with “sapgreen”, a colorant with high copper content. “Vinegar”, he explained to his readers, “was frequently mixed with sulphuric acid in order to increase its acidity.”

Accum paid particular attention to beer, introducing the subject with the comment: “Malt beverages, and especially port, the preferred drink of the inhabitants of London and other large cities, is among the items which is most frequently adulterated in the course of supply.” He claimed that English beer was occasionally mixed with molasses, honey, vitriol, pepper and even opium. Among the most shocking customs he pointed out was the practice of adding fishberries to port.

Accum was the first to point out the dangerous use of additives and the profiting thereof:

The man who robs a fellow subjectof a few shillings on the high-way,is sentenced to death; while he who distributes a slow poison to a whole community, escapes punishment.

Only a year after publication Accum left England after an improbable lawsuit was brought against him.

Theft of paper :14 pence

A librarian called Sturt reported to his superiors at the Royal Institution that on November 5, 1820, a number of pages were removed from books in the reading room, books Accum had read. On the instructions of his superiors, Sturt cut a small hole in the wall of the reading room to watch Accum from an adjoining room. On the evening of December 20, Sturt claimed to see Accum tear out and walk off with a paper concerning the ingredients and uses of chocolate. The paper had been in an issue of Nicholson’s Journal. Accum’s premises on Old Compton Street were searched on the order of a magistrate for the City of London.  They identified what was probably waste-paper as pages from the books.

The Magistrate after hearing the whole of the Case observed that however valuable the books might be from which the leaves found in Mr Accum’s house had been taken, yet the leaves separated from them were only waste paper. If they had weighed a pound he would have committed him for the value of a pound of waste paper, but this not being the case he discharged him.

The Royal Institution committee that met on December 23, 1820 was not, however, satisfied with this judgment, and decided to issue a lawsuit against Accum for theft of paper valued at 14 pence.  Two of his friends were included in the indictment: the publisher Rudolph Ackermann and the architect John Papworth. These three appeared in court and paid altogether 400 pounds sterling as surety.  Accum, apparently frightened and depressed, did not make an appearance at the court session. He had fled England and returned to Germany.

It would take another forty years and the work of other equally outraged scientists—including the discovery that arsenic was rather lethally being used to color candy, resulting in poisoned children—before Britain passed its first law regulating food safety in 1860.

But no such legislation existed in the United States, even into the first years of the twentieth century.

The Poison Squad

The following menu was for a rather unusual 1902 Christmas dinner party.

Apple Sauce.
Borax. Turkey. Borax.
Canned Stringed Beans.
Sweet Potatoes. White Potatoes.
Chipped Beef. Cream Gravy.
Cranberry Sauce. Celery. Pickles.
Rice Pudding.
Milk. Bread and Butter. Tea.
A Little Borax.

This particular menu was designed to test the toxicity of food additives. In these tests, groups of volunteers—popularly known as “Poison Squads”—agreed to dine dangerously in the interests of science, working their way through a laundry list of suspect compounds.

Building on Accum’s work, Harvey Washington Wiley wanted to use the Poison Squad to persuade the U.S. government to step in and protect the nation’s food producers.

Borax came first on the list, partly because it was so widely used by meat processors. It slowed decomposition and gave rotting meat a more shapely appearance!

Wiley actually had a range of alarming compounds on his test list beyond borax, including formaldehyde (used to slow the souring of old milk) and copper sulfate (used to restore color to canned vegetables).

To avoid doing real harm, Wiley selected young men for his experiments. He thought they would be healthy enough to withstand a daily dose of poison.  However, once the borax trials got under way, the squad members began losing weight, some complaining of stomach pains and severe nausea. Two years later, when Wiley began testing benzoic acid on another group of twelve recruits, only three lasted until the end; the rest became so ill that they had to withdraw.

The Poison Squad was also memorialized in songs and advertisements (pdf). The most famous was probably "The Song of the Pizen (Poison) Squad," by poet S.W. Gillilan, a poem that exaggerated the squad's exploits::

For we are the Pizen Squad.
On Prussic acid we break our fast;
We lunch on a morphine stew;
We dine with a match-head consommé
drink carbolic acid brew

                                            The poison squad bravely tucking into a meal

The human lab rats were "twelve young clerks, vigorous and voracious." All were graduates of the civil service exam, all were screened for "high moral character," and all had reputations for "sobriety and reliability." One was a former Yale sprinter, another a captain in the local high school's cadet regiment, and a third a scientist in his own right. All twelve took oaths, pledging one year of service, promising to only eat food that was prepared in the Poison Squad's kitchen, and waiving their right to sue the government for damages -- including death -- that might result from their participation in the program.

Squad members needed a lot of patience. Before each meal, they had to weigh themselves, take their temperatures and check their pulse rates. Their stools, urine, hair and sweat were collected, and they had to submit to weekly physicals. When one member got a haircut without permission, he was allegedly sent back to the barber with orders to collect his shorn locks. Most of the squad members didn't get extra pay for their hazardous duty: in return for their patience and obedience, they received three square meals a day -- all of which were carefully poisoned.

There was one more rule: although many of the most prominent food crusaders were women, squad members had to be men. An outspoken misogynist, Dr. Wiley was prone to referring to women as "savages," claiming that they lacked "the brain capacity" of men. His staff was similarly inclined: when the program replaced Chef Perry with a female cook, one worker griped that ladies were not fit for cooking — or poisoning. "A woman! Tut, tut. Why the very idea!," he reportedly said, "A woman can potter around a domestic hearth, but when it comes to frying eggs in a scientific mode and putting formaldehyde in the soup -- never."

Wiley had other quirks. A Civil War veteran and graduate of Indiana Medical College and Harvard, he was among the first professors hired at Purdue University. He was also one of the first fired, an unfortunate turn of events that occurred when he scandalized the University administration by playing baseball and buying a bicycle -– a mode of conveyance that, in the words of one of the University's trustees, made him look "like a monkey … astride a cartwheel."

                                                           Harvey Washington Wiley 


At Purdue, Wiley experimented with food additives, testing each chemical by, in his words, "trying it on the dog." Soon after getting hired by the Agriculture Department, he waded into the pure food fight, pushing for federal regulation of additives. In response, high-paid lobbyists from the packing and canning industries went on the offensive, shutting down each of Wiley's proposed bills.

To show the physical costs of food additives, Wiley designed the table trials -- and convinced Congress to give him $5,000 to fund them. Officially, the goal was to "investigate the character of food preservatives, coloring matters, and other substances added to foods, to determine their relation to digestion and to health, and to establish the principles which should guide their use." Unofficially, Wiley hoped to use the table trials as a springboard to enact widespread food regulation.

Wiley's first target was borax. One of the most common food preservatives in 1902, it tightened up animal proteins, giving the impression of freshness; consequently, packers often used it to doctor decomposing meat. From October 1902 to July 1903, Wiley's squad ate it with every meal, as was demonstrated by a Christmas menu published by the Poison Squad's kitchen: "Apple Sauce. Borax. Soup. Borax. Turkey. Borax. Borax. Canned Stringed Beans. Sweet Potatoes. White Potatoes. Turnips. Borax. Chipped Beef. Cream Gravy. Cranberry Sauce. Celery. Pickles. Rice Pudding. Milk. Bread and Butter. Tea. Coffee. A Little Borax."

The Poison Squad soon became famous for its borax consumption, and Wiley became popularly known as "Old Borax." Before long, the group determined that borax did, indeed, cause headaches, stomachaches, and other digestive pains…in addition to imparting an unpleasant flavor to food.


Borax defeated, the poison squad moved on to test other common additives, including sulfuric acid, saltpeter and formaldehyde. One of their targets, copper sulfate, was especially disturbing: used by food producers to turn canned peas a bright shade of green, it also caused a host of health woes, including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, liver damage, kidney damage, brain damage, and jaundice. Today, it's commonly used as a pesticide.

Even after Wiley's squad managed to demonstrate the negative effects of several additives, he still had to fight against the powerful food lobby. In fact, the Secretary of Agriculture himself suppressed several of the Poison Squad's reports; the one on benzoic acid only got out because a staffer misunderstood his orders and sent it out to print while the Secretary was on vacation.

But while lobbyists could suppress Wiley's findings, they couldn't control newspapers, which breathlessly reported on the group's menus and members, its poisons and their effects. Afraid that the press might trivialize his efforts, Wiley tried to stem the tide, instituting a blackout and threatening to fire any member of the squad who leaked information. This didn't keep stories from appearing in the papers: denied access to facts, reporters printed rumors and made up elaborate tales. Eventually, Wiley relented, and began to actively publicize the squad. As he later bragged, "My poison squad laboratory became the most highly advertised boarding-house in the world."

Since that time, really dangerous food—the term food poisoning, even—has tended to refer to bacterial contamination issues rather than toxic chemical contamination.

Still, the public continues to worry about pesticide residues, preservatives, genetically modified food and food dyes.  But thanks to the work of Accum, Wiley, his valiant poison squads, and a host of other crusaders, we aren’t likely to be killed by arsenic-dyed candy or formaldehyde-improved milk.

Lapham Quarterly

Saturday, 10 February 2018

St. Valentine's Day - Love and Vinegar In The 19th Century

C.A. Asbrey

The custom of celebrating St. Valentine’s Day came to America with European immigrants. Handmade valentines were exchanged up until the 1850s until mass-produced cards began to be produced. In this week's instalment we will look at how St. Valentine’s Day was celebrated in the 19th century as as well as looking at cards and newspaper coverage of the time.

I’ve collected a few Valentine’s Day news items from Regency England, Victorian England, and the USA.  Some are reminiscent of “lonely hearts” adverts, others are amusing and sweet and,  predictably for the Victorians, some are dark and unpleasant.

The first item is from an 1819 edition of Saunder’s News-Letter and was posted by an anonymous gentleman – a self-described “man of the strictest honour” – seeking his missing Valentine.

 From the Aurora & Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), February 20, 1829.

"We have been requested to state, for the benefit of this inquiring age, the origin and antiquity of the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day, or St. Valentine’s Eve – a celebration which appears to have experienced such a revival during the last few years in several of our cities and country villages. For the benefit of the ladies, and only for them, have we expended a little research on this highly important subject….

The feast corresponding with our St. Valentine’s Day was called Lupercalia by the Romans. A number of very singular ceremonies were observed by the ancients during that celebration, and many of them were uncouth and barbarous, though congenial to that age. It is said by some writers that Lupercalia was the name given to it, from the circumstance of a wolf being immolated on that occasion. Perhaps in these ancient days they considered a raw bachelor, just looking out for a spouse, as rude and rugged as that animal is known to be in the forest. The bachelors of the present day are, however, as respectable, agreeable, polite, attentive and gallant a set of animals as ever existed. The splendid preparations made for the ladies during the last week, in proving this, does them immortal honour."

Europe had mass produced cards far earlier than the USA. Here is an example from 1830

The Macon Telegraph (Georgia), January 30, 1830 (reprinting an article from the New York Courier) tells us of The Batchelor's Ball.

"We have ascertained the fact that the bachelors are moving around the city and actually making preparations for the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day…. They have positively crawled out of their flannels – trimmed their whiskers – shaved the growth of ages – straightened the vertebrae, and bound them up in cloaks, ten yards wide, to keep the cold weather at a distance during the approaching festival.

We had the greatest difficulty in the world to worm out of these fellows their movements. A love intrigue – a political movement, is as easily plucked out of the steeled hearts of the beau monde, or the costive heads of the politician. Yet we managed the matter to a miracle. It was done in this way. Several of the bachelors got married last summer. They actually went over to the enemy, as they call it in their fantastic language, ‘bag and baggage – scrip and scrippage.’ The awful ceremony of separating the button from the badge was performed before the blushing face of beauty. The committee, clad in the deepest mourning, with white kerchiefs and long faces, assembled on the occasion, and went through the official act with fear and trembling. ‘Have mercy upon us!’ said one shrivelled youth of forty. ‘Don’t spill blood!’ said another. ‘Spare the innocent victim,’ said a third. ‘The very heavens weep a few sad drops,’ said a fourth….

Around the room – or rather the chancel of the temple – were assembled the gay youth, the lovely maiden, the venerable parent, the aunt that writes her nieces’ birth day on the first leaf of the Bible, and the uncle that buys a drum on New Year’s day for his nevey. To them it was amusement and sport. Not so to the poor bachelors. They were losing their comrades by that fell ravager upon single blessedness – matrimony. They cut the button and turned their bleeding brother loose upon the world of nuptial love and blessedness. Yet they entreated the fair conqueror to permit the conquered to remain until their ranks could be filled up with recruits – for there are vacancies in the committee. Out of the abundant goodness of the female heart – the heart which is worth a kingdom, an empire, a continent – nay, the ‘great globe itself – they were permitted to stay on the committee during the present year. Accordingly, we desired a cousin to ask another cousin who had a second cousin who had married one of the committee, to worm out of her husband what the rogues – or as Mrs. Royall would call them – the delightful rascals were about. She coaxed and pleaded … and prayed and scolded…. It was done, and here is the result of her pious labour.

A regular meeting of the committee has been held, and their names called over – their strength mustered and marshalled for next month. A sub-committee has been appointed to taste the ‘wine and WITTLES,’ another to provide the music, another to decorate the ballroom of the City Hotel, another to prepare badges and devices, another to get up tickets and small arrangements. In short, everything is under way, and they are now gallantly marching onward to the ‘eighteenth.’ The beauty and splendour – the neatness and elegance of the occasion are to be of a superior order to any preceding one. We give the ladies fair warning to hold themselves in readiness. The picked youth of the city, such as will make loving husbands, kind fathers, and happy grandfathers, are to be present, if God prosper them. Every useful and elegant attraction will be collected in one choice spot; and every disagreeable banished to the unhappy desert of would-be good society. So the fair, like the ‘gallant Invincibles,’ are requested to ‘make ready."

           The Cork Examiner seems to think this advert from 1868 (previously published in an earlier edition) was merely someone being facetious.  What do you think?

Laredo Times in Texas printed several personal messages for Valentine’s Day, 1897.  They range from the generic to the bizarre. Some of the nicknames are wonderful.

Vinegar Valentines

Vinegar Valentines are a peculiarly Victorian phenomenin which has died out. They range from the midly amusing to the downright cruel and were ditributed by both sexes - often to a rejected suitor or a rival-in-love. There was no better way to tell someone they were unwanted and unloved to the 19th century mind than an insulting poem, caricature or poem about the "type" to which the recipient belongs—spinster, floozy, dude, scholar, etc. They enjoyed popularity from the 1840s to the 1940s.

These cynical, sarcastic, often mean-spirited greeting cards were first produced in America as early as the 1840s by a variety of printing companies, including Elton, Fisher, Strong and Turner. By the 1870s, other entrepreneurs such as New York printer, John McLoughlin, and his cartoonist, Charles Howard were creating their own lines of cards. While different European companies also produced the humorous cards in the early 19th century, one of the most prestigious firms to create them around 1900 was Raphael Tuck & Sons, "Publishers to Their Majesties the King and Queen of England."     

Sold in the United States and Britain, these cards featured an illustration and a short line or poem that, rather than offering messages of love and affection, insulted the recipient. They were used as an anonymous medium for saying mean things that its senders wouldn’t dare say to someone’s face—a concept that may sound familiar to today’s readers. Scholar Annebella Pollen, who has written an academic paper on vinegar valentines, says that people often ask her whether these cards were an early form of “trolling.”

“We like to think that we’re living in these terrible times,” she says. “But actually if you look at intimate history, things weren’t always so rosy.”

People sent vinegar valentines as far back as at least 1840. Back then, they were called “mocking,” “insulting,” or “comic” valentines—“vinegar” seems to be a modern description. They were especially popular during the mid-19th century, when both the U.S. and Britain caught Valentine’s Day fever, a time talked about as “a Valentine’s craze or Valentine’s mania,” Pollen says. “The press was always talking about this phenomena … These were new, kind of mind-boggling quantities, these millions and millions of cards,” both sweet and sour.

Some warded off unwanted suitors, while others made fun of people for drinking too much, putting on airs, or engaging in excessive public displays of affection. There were cards telling women they were too aggressive or accusing men of being too submissive, and cards that insulted any profession you could think of—artist, surgeon, saleslady, etc.

So specialized were these cards, particularly those sold in the U.S., Shank writes, that they actually “documented the changing shape of the middle classes.” Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, their subjects shifted “from sailor, carpenter, and tailor to policeman, clerk, and secretary.”

And who could blame them? Just as card makers today sell valentines targeted for siblings, in-laws, grandparents, or pets, manufacturers during Valentine’s Day’s heyday saw these insulting messages as a way to make money, and it’s clear that consumers liked what they were selling. According to the writer Ruth Webb Lee, by the mid-19th century, vinegar valentines represented about half of all valentine sales in the U.S.

Not everyone was a fan of these mean valentines. In 1857, The Newcastle Weekly Courant complained that “the stationers’ shop windows are full, not of pretty love-tokens, but of vile, ugly, misshapen caricatures of men and women, designed for the special benefit of those who by some chance render themselves unpopular in the humbler circles of life.”

Although scholars don’t know how many of them were sent as a joke—the someecards of their day—or how many were meant to harm, it is clear that some people took their message seriously. In 1885, London’s Pall Mall Gazette reported that a husband shot his estranged wife in the neck after receiving a vinegar valentine that he could tell was from her. Pollen also says there was a report of someone committing suicide after receiving an insulting valentine—not completely surprising, considering that’s exactly what some of them suggested.

“We see on Twitter and on other kinds of social media platforms what happens when people are allowed to say what they like without fear of retribution,” she says. “Anonymous forms [of communication] do facilitate particular kinds of behavior. They don’t create them, but they create opportunities.”

Compared to other period cards, there aren’t very many surviving specimens of vinegar valentines. Pollen attributes this to the fact that people probably didn’t save nasty cards that they got in the mail. They were more likely to preserve sentimental valentines like the ones people exchange today.

These cards are a good reminder that no matter how much people complain that the holiday makes them feel either too pressured to buy the perfect gift or too sad about being single, it could be worse. You could get a message about how everyone thinks you’re an ass.


Saturday, 3 February 2018

The Cleveland Street Scandal 

Tim Alderman

The Cleveland Street scandal occurred in 1889, when a homosexual male brothel in Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia, London, was discovered by police. At the time, sexual acts between men were illegal in Britain, and the brothel’s clients faced possible prosecution and certain social ostracism if discovered. It was rumoured that one client was Prince Albert Victor, who was the eldest son of the Prince of Wales and second-in-line to the British throne, though this rumour has never been substantiated. The government was accused of covering up the scandal to protect the names of any aristocratic patrons.
Another client was said to be Lord Arthur Somerset, an equerry to the Prince of Wales. Both he and the brothel keeper, Charles Hammond, managed to flee abroad before a prosecution could be brought. The male prostitutes, who also worked as telegraph messenger boys for the Post Office, were given light sentences and no clients were prosecuted. After Henry James FitzRoy, Earl of Euston, was named in the press as a client, he successfully sued for libel. The British press never named Prince Albert Victor, and there is no evidence he ever visited the brothel, but his inclusion in the rumours has coloured biographers’ perceptions of him since.
The scandal fuelled the attitude that male homosexuality was an aristocratic vice that corrupted lower-class youths. Such perceptions were still prevalent in 1895 when the Marquess of Queensberry accused Oscar Wilde of being an active homosexual.

Male brothel

          Illustration of Inspector Frederick Abberline from a contemporary newspaper

In July 1889, Police Constable Luke Hanks was investigating a theft from the London Central Telegraph Office. During the investigation, a fifteen-year-old telegraph boy named Charles Thomas Swinscow was discovered to be in possession of fourteen shillings, equivalent to several weeks of his wages. At the time, messenger boys were not permitted to carry any personal cash in the course of their duties, to prevent their own money being mixed with that of the customers. Suspecting the boy’s involvement in the theft, Constable Hanks brought him in for questioning. After hesitating, Swinscow admitted that he earned the money working as a prostitute for a man named Charles Hammond, who operated a male brothel at 19 Cleveland Street. According to Swinscow, he was introduced to Hammond by a General Post Office clerk, eighteen-year-old Henry Newlove. In addition, he named two seventeen-year-old telegraph boys who also worked for Hammond: George Alma Wright and Charles Ernest Thickbroom. Constable Hanks obtained corroborating statements from Wright and Thickbroom and, armed with these, a confession from Newlove.[1]
Constable Hanks reported the matter to his superiors and the case was given to Detective Inspector Frederick Abberline. Inspector Abberline went to the brothel on 6 July with a warrant to arrest Hammond and Newlove for violation of Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. The Act made all homosexual acts between men, as well as procurement or attempted procurement of such acts, punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment with or without hard labour. He found the house locked and Hammond gone, but Abberline was able to apprehend Newlove at his mother’s house in Camden Town.[2] In the time between his statement to Hanks and his arrest, Newlove had gone to Cleveland Street and warned Hammond, who had consequently escaped to his brother’s house in Gravesend.[3]

Notable clients

                                         Caricature of Lord Arthur Somerset, 1887

On the way to the police station, Newlove named Lord Arthur Somerset and Henry FitzRoy, Earl of Euston, as well as an army colonel by the name of Jervois, as visitors to Cleveland Street.[4] Somerset was the head of the Prince of Wales’s stables. Although Somerset was interviewed by police, no immediate action was taken against him, and the authorities were slow to act on the allegations of Somerset’s involvement.[5] A watch was placed on the now-empty house and details of the case shuffled between government departments.[6]
On 19 August, an arrest warrant was issued in the name of George Veck, an acquaintance of Hammond’s who pretended to be a clergyman. Veck had actually worked at the Telegraph Office, but had been sacked for “improper conduct” with the messenger boys.[7] A seventeen-year-old youth found in Veck’s London lodgings revealed to the police that Veck had gone to Portsmouth and was returning shortly by train. The police arrested Veck at London Waterloo railway station. In his pockets they discovered letters from Algernon Allies. Abberline sent Constable Hanks to interview Allies at his parents’ home in Sudbury, Suffolk. Allies admitted to receiving money from Somerset, having a sexual relationship with him, and working at Cleveland Street for Hammond.[8] On 22 August, police interviewed Somerset for a second time, after which Somerset left for Bad Homburg,[9] where the Prince of Wales was taking his summer holiday.[10]
On 11 September, Newlove and Veck were committed for trial. Their defence was handled by Somerset’s solicitor, Arthur Newton, with Willie Mathews appearing for Newlove, and Charles Gill for Veck. Somerset paid the legal fees.[11] By this time, Somerset had moved on to Hanover, to inspect some horses for the Prince of Wales, and the press was referring to “noble lords” implicated in the trial.[12] Newlove and Veck pleaded guilty to indecency on 18 September and the judge, Sir Thomas Chambers, a former Liberal Member of Parliament who had a reputation for leniency, sentenced them to four and nine months’ hard labour respectively.[13] The boys were also given sentences that were considered at the time to be very lenient.[14] Hammond escaped to France, but the French authorities expelled him after pressure from the British. Hammond moved on to Belgium from where he emigrated to the United States. Newton, acting for Somerset, paid for Hammond’s passage.[15] On the advice of the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, no extradition proceedings were attempted, and the case against Hammond was quietly dropped.[16]
Somerset returned to Britain in late September to attend horse sales at Newmarket but suddenly left for Dieppe on 26 September, probably after being told by Newton that he was in danger of being arrested.[17] He returned again on 30 September. A few days later, his grandmother, Emily Somerset, Dowager Duchess of Beaufort, died and he attended her funeral.[18] The Hon. Hamilton Cuffe, Assistant Treasury Solicitor, and James Monro, Commissioner of Police, pressed for action to be taken against Somerset, but the Lord Chancellor, Lord Halsbury, blocked any prosecution.[19] Rumours of Somerset’s involvement were circulating, and on 19 October Somerset fled back to France. Lord Salisbury was later accused of warning Somerset through Sir Dighton Probyn, who had met Lord Salisbury the evening before, that a warrant for his arrest was imminent.[20] This was denied by Lord Salisbury[21] and the Attorney General, Sir Richard Webster.[22] The Prince of Wales wrote to Lord Salisbury, expressing satisfaction that Somerset had been allowed to leave the country and asking that if Somerset should “ever dare to show his face in England again”, he would remain unmolested by the authorities,[23] but Lord Salisbury was also being pressured by the police to prosecute Somerset. On 12 November, a warrant for Somerset’s arrest was finally issued.[24] By this time, Somerset was already safely abroad, and the warrant caught little public attention.[25] After an unsuccessful search for employment in Turkey and Austria-Hungary, Somerset lived the rest of his life in self-imposed and comfortable exile in the south of France.[26]
Public revelations

                                                      Newspaper clipping

American newspapers claimed that Prince Albert Victor was “mixed up” in the scandal.
Because the press barely covered the story, the affair would have faded quickly from public memory if not for journalist Ernest Parke. The editor of the obscure politically radical weekly The North London Press, Parke got wind of the affair when one of his reporters brought him the story of Newlove’s conviction. Parke began to question why the prostitutes had been given such light sentences relative to their offence (the usual penalty for “gross indecency” was two years) and how Hammond had been able to evade arrest. His curiosity aroused, Parke found out that the boys had named prominent aristocrats. He subsequently ran a story on 28 September hinting at their involvement but without detailing specific names.[27] It was only on 16 November that he published a follow up story specifically naming Henry Fitzroy, Earl of Euston, in “an indescribably loathsome scandal in Cleveland Street”.[28] He further alleged that Euston may have gone to Peru and that he had been allowed to escape to cover up the involvement of a more highly placed person,[29] who was not named but was believed by some to be Prince Albert Victor, the son of the Prince of Wales.[30]

Euston was in fact still in England and immediately filed a case against Parke for libel. At the trial, Euston admitted that when walking along Piccadilly a tout had given him a card which read “Poses plastiques. C. Hammond, 19 Cleveland Street”. Euston testified that he went to the house believing Poses plastiques meant a display of female nudes. He paid a sovereign to get in but upon entering Euston said he was appalled to discover the “improper” nature of the place and immediately left. The defence witnesses contradicted each other, and could not describe Euston accurately.[31] The final defence witness, John Saul, was a male prostitute who had earlier been involved in a homosexual scandal at Dublin Castle, and featured in a clandestinely published erotic novel The Sins of the Cities of the Plain which was cast as his autobiography.[32] Delivering his testimony in a manner described as “brazen effrontery”, Saul admitted to earning his living by leading an “immoral life” and “practising criminality”, and detailed his alleged sexual encounters with Euston at the house.[33] The defence did not call either Newlove or Veck as witnesses, and could not produce any evidence that Euston had left the country. On 16 January 1890, the jury found Parke guilty and the judge sentenced him to twelve months in prison.[34] One historian considers Euston was telling the truth and only visited Cleveland Street once because he was misled by the card.[35] However, another has alleged Euston was a well-known figure in the homosexual underworld, and was extorted so often by the notorious blackmailer Robert Clifford, that Oscar Wilde had quipped Clifford deserved the Victoria Cross for his tenacity.[36] Saul stated that he told the police his story in August, which provoked the judge to rhetorically enquire why the authorities had not taken action.[37]
The judge, Sir Henry Hawkins, had a distinguished career, as did the other lawyers employed in the case. The prosecuting counsels, Charles Russell and Willie Mathews, went on to become Lord Chief Justice and Director of Public Prosecutions, respectively. The defence counsel, Frank Lockwood, later became Solicitor General for England and Wales, and he was assisted by H. H. Asquith, who became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twenty years later.[38]

        Henry Labouchère accused the government of conspiring to hush up the scandal.

While Parke’s conviction cleared Euston, another trial began on 16 December 1889 when Newlove’s and Somerset’s solicitor, Arthur Newton, was charged with obstruction of justice. It was alleged that he conspired to prevent Hammond and the boys from testifying by offering or giving them passage and money to go abroad. Newton was defended by Charles Russell, who had prosecuted Ernest Parke, and the prosecutor was Sir Richard Webster, the Attorney General. Newton pleaded guilty to one of the six charges against him, claiming that he had assisted Hammond to flee merely to protect his clients, who were not at that time charged with any offence or under arrest, from potential blackmail. The Attorney General accepted Newton’s pleas and did not present any evidence on the other five charges.[39] On 20 May, the judge, Sir Lewis Cave, sentenced Newton to six weeks in prison,[40] which was widely considered by members of the legal profession to be harsh. A petition signed by 250 London law firms was sent to the Home Secretary, Henry Matthews, protesting at Newton’s treatment.[41
During Newton’s trial, a motion in Parliament sought to investigate Parke’s allegations of a cover-up. Henry Labouchère, a Member of Parliament from the Radical wing of the Liberal Party, was staunchly against homosexuality and had campaigned successfully to add the “gross indecency” amendment (known as the “Labouchère Amendment”) to the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. He was convinced that the conspiracy to cover up the scandal went further up the government than assumed. Labouchère made his suspicions known in Parliament on 28 February 1890. He denied that “a gentleman of very high position”—presumably Prince Albert Victor—was in any way involved with the scandal, but accused the government of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by hampering the investigation, allowing Somerset and Hammond to escape, delaying the trials and failing to prosecute the case with vigour. Labouchère’s accusations were rebutted by the Attorney General, Sir Richard Webster, who was also the prosecutor in the Newton case. Charles Russell, who had prosecuted Parke and was defending Newton, sat on the Liberal benches with Labouchère but refused to be drawn into the debate. After an often passionate debate over seven hours, during which Labouchère was expelled from Parliament after saying “I do not believe Lord Salisbury” and refusing to withdraw his remark, the motion was defeated by a wide margin, 206–66.[42]


Public interest in the scandal eventually faded. Nevertheless, newspaper coverage reinforced negative attitudes about male homosexuality as an aristocratic vice, presenting the telegraph boys as corrupted and exploited by members of the upper class. This attitude reached its climax a few years later when Oscar Wilde was tried for gross indecency as the result of his affair with Lord Alfred Douglas.

Oscar Wilde alluded to the scandal in The Picture of Dorian Gray, first published in 1890.[43] Reviews of the novel were hostile; in a clear reference to the Cleveland Street scandal, one reviewer called it suitable for “none but outlawed noblemen and perverted telegraph boys”.[44][45][46] Wilde’s 1891 revision of the novel omitted certain key passages, which were considered too homoerotic.[46][47] In 1895, Wilde unsuccessfully sued Lord Alfred’s father, the Marquess of Queensberry, for libel. Sir Edward Carson, Lord Queensberry’s counsel, used quotes from the novel against Wilde and questioned him about his associations with young working men.[48] After the failure of his suit, Wilde was charged with gross indecency, found guilty and subsequently sentenced to two years’ hard labour. He was prosecuted by Charles Gill, who had defended Veck in the Cleveland Street case.[

Prince Albert Victor of Wales was created Duke of Clarence and Avondale the year after the scandal.

Prince Albert Victor died in 1892, but society gossip about his sex life continued. Sixty years after the scandal the official biographer of King George V, Harold Nicolson, was told by Lord Goddard, who was a twelve-year-old schoolboy at the time of the scandal, that Prince Albert Victor “had been involved in a male brothel scene, and that a solicitor had to commit perjury to clear him. The solicitor was struck off the rolls for his offence, but was thereafter reinstated.”[50] In fact, none of the lawyers involved in the case was convicted of perjury or struck off at the time, indeed most had very distinguished careers. However, Arthur Newton was struck off for 12 months for professional misconduct in 1910 after falsifying letters from another of his clients—the notorious murderer Harvey Crippen.[51] In 1913, he was struck off indefinitely and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for obtaining money by false pretences.[52] Newton may have invented and spread the rumours about Prince Albert Victor in an attempt to protect his clients from prosecution by forcing a cover-up.[53] State papers on the case in the Public Record Office, released to the public in the 1970s, provide no information on the prince’s involvement other than Newton’s threat to implicate him.[54] Hamilton Cuffe wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Augustus Stephenson, “I am told that Newton has boasted that if we go on a very distinguished person will be involved (PAV). I don’t mean to say that I for one instant credit it—but in such circumstances as this one never knows what may be said, be concocted or be true.”[55] Surviving private letters from Somerset to his friend Lord Esher, confirm that Somerset knew of the rumours but did not know if they were true. He writes, “I can quite understand the Prince of Wales being much annoyed at his son’s name being coupled with the thing … we were both accused of going to this place but not together … I wonder if it is really a fact or only an invention.”[56] In his correspondence, Sir Dighton Probyn refers to “cruel and unjust rumours with regard to PAV” and “false reports dragging PAV’s name into the sad story”.[57] When Prince Albert Victor’s name appeared in the American press, the New York Herald published an anonymous letter, almost certainly written by Charles Hall, saying “there is not, and never was, the slightest excuse for mentioning the name of Prince Albert Victor.”[58] Biographers who believe the rumours suppose that Prince Albert Victor was bisexual,[59] but this is strongly contested by others who refer to him as “ardently heterosexual” and his involvement in the rumours as “somewhat unfair”.[60]
Notes & Sources

Aronson, pp. 8–10 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 20–23
Aronson, pp. 11, 16–17 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 23–24
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 23
Aronson, p. 11 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 25
Aronson, p. 135
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 26–33
Aronson, pp. 11, 133 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 25
Aronson, pp. 134–135 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 34–35
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 35
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 38
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 35, 45, 47
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 42, 46
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 47–53
Aronson, p. 137
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 74–77
Aronson, p. 136 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 27, 34
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 61
Aronson, p. 140 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 80–81
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 82–86
Aronson, p. 142
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 93
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 94
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 97
Aronson, p. 144 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 98–99
Aronson, p. 150
Aronson, p. 175
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 106–107
North London Press, 16 November 1889, quoted in Hyde, The Other Love, p. 125
Aronson, p. 150 and Hyde, The Other Love, p. 125
Hyde, The Other Love, p. 123
Aronson, pp. 151–159 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 113–116, 139–143
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 108
Saul quoted in Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 146–147
Aronson, pp. 151–159 and Hyde, The Other Love, pp. 125–127
Hyde, The Other Love, p. 127
Aronson, p. 160
Lord Euston’s Libel Case, South Australian Register, 18 February 1890, p. 5
Aronson, p. 153 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 135
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 162–207
Aronson, p. 173
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 208–212
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp. 215–231
In chapter 12 of the original 1890 version, one of the characters, Basil Hallward, refers to “Sir Henry Ashton, who had to leave England, with a tarnished name”.
“Reviews and Magazines”. Scots Observer, 5 July 1890, p. 181
Bristow, Joseph (2006). “Introduction” In: Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Oxford World’s Classic, Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280729-8. p. xxi
Ackroyd, Peter (1985). “Appendix 2: Introduction to the First Penguin Classics Edition” In: Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Penguin Classics, Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-043784-3. pp. 224–225
Mighall, Robert (2000). “Introduction” In: Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Penguin Classics, Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-043784-3. p. xvi
Kaplan, Morris B. (2004). “Literature in the Dock: The Trials of Oscar Wilde”. Journal of Law and Society 31: (No. 1) 113–130
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 45
Lees-Milne, p. 231
Cook, pp. 284–285
Cook, pp. 285–286 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 253
Prince Eddy: The King We Never Had. Channel 4. Accessed 1 May 2010.
Cook, pp. 172–173
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 55
Lord Arthur Somerset to Reginald Brett, 2nd Viscount Esher, 10 December 1889, quoted in Cook, p. 197
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 127
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p. 129
Aronson, pp. 116–120, 170, 217
Bradford, p. 10

Aronson, Theo (1994). Prince Eddy and the Homosexual Underworld. London: John Murray. ISBN 0-7195-5278-8
Bradford, Sarah (1989). King George VI. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-79667-4
Cook, Andrew (2006). Prince Eddy: The King Britain Never Had. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Tempus Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-7524-3410-1
Hyde, H. Montgomery (1970). The Other Love: An Historical and Contemporary Survey of Homosexuality in Britain. London: Heinemann. ISBN 0-434-35902-5
Hyde, H. Montgomery (1976). The Cleveland Street Scandal. London: W. H. Allen. ISBN 0-491-01995-5
Lees-Milne, James (1981). Harold Nicolson: A Biography. Volume 2: 1930–1968 London: Chatto & Windus. ISBN 0-7011-2602-7
Lord Henry Arthur George Somerset

Major Lord Henry Arthur George Somerset DL (17 November 1851 – 26 May 1926) was the third son of the 8th Duke of Beaufort and his wife, the former Lady Georgiana Curzon. He was head of the stables of the future King Edward VII (then Prince of Wales) and a Major in the Royal Horse Guards.

He was linked with the Cleveland Street scandal, wherein he was identified and named by several male prostitutes as a customer of their services. He was interviewed by police on 7 August 1889; although the record of the interview has not survived, it resulted in a report being made by the Attorney-General, Solicitor-General and Director of Prosecutions urging that proceedings should be taken against him under section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. A piece of paper was pasted over Somerset’s name in the report, as it was deemed so sensitive. However, the Director was told that the Home Secretary wished him to take no action for the moment.[1] The police obtained a further statement implicating Somerset, while Somerset arranged for his solicitor to act in the defence of the boys arrested over the scandal. After the police saw him for a second time on 22 August, Somerset obtained leave from his regiment and permission to go abroad.[2]
Lord Arthur went to Homburg, although he returned to England. When tipped off in September that charges were imminent, he fled to France to avoid them. From there he travelled through Constantinople, Budapest, Vienna, and then back to France, where he settled and died in 1926, aged 74.[3


H. Montgomery Hyde, “The Cleveland Street Scandal” (W.H. Allen Ltd, 1976), p. 32-3.
H. Montgomery Hyde, “The Cleveland Street Scandal” (W.H. Allen Ltd, 1976), p. 35.
Kaplan, Morris B. (2005), Sodom on the Thames: Sex, Love, And Scandal in Wilde Times, Cornell University Press, ISBN 0-8014-3678-8
Henry James FitzRoy, Earl of Euston

                                                      Euston in Masonic attire

Henry James FitzRoy, Earl of Euston DL (28 November 1848 – 10 May 1912) was the eldest son and heir apparent of Augustus FitzRoy, 7th Duke of Grafton.
Euston married Kate Walsh, daughter of John Walsh, on 29 May 1871 at St. Michael’s Church, Worcester. His wife died in 1903, nine years before him. They had no children. Euston was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Northamptonshire in 1907.[1] He died at Wakefield Lodge, Potterspury, Northamptonshire, six years before his father, and so never inherited his father’s lands and titles. His younger brother, Alfred, became the 8th Duke of Grafton.
Euston was embroiled in the Cleveland Street scandal when he was accused of visiting a male brothel at 19 Cleveland Street in London by The North London Press, an obscure radical weekly newspaper. Euston sued for libel. At the trial Euston admitted that when walking along Piccadilly he had been given a card by a tout which read “Poses plastiques. C. Hammond, 19 Cleveland Street”. Euston testified that he went along to the house, believing Poses plastiques to mean a display of female nudes. He paid a sovereign to get in. On entry, Euston said he was appalled to discover the “improper” nature of the place and immediately left. The defence witnesses contradicted each other, and could not describe Euston accurately.[2] The final defence witness, John Saul, was a male prostitute who admitted to earning his living by leading an “immoral life” and “practising criminality”.[3] The jury did not believe the defence witnesses and found in favour of Euston.[4] H. Montgomery Hyde, an eminent historian of homosexuality, later wrote that there was little doubt that Euston was telling the truth and only visited 19 Cleveland Street once because he was misled by the card.[5]
Robert Cliburn, a young man who specialized in blackmailing older homosexual men, told Oscar Wilde that Euston was one of his victims [6]


The London Gazette: no. 28054. p. 5868. 27 August 1907.
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.113–116, 139–143
Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.146–147
Hyde, The Other Love, p.125–127
Hyde, The Other Love, p.127
McKenna, p.182

Hyde, H. Montgomery (1970). The Other Love: An Historical and Contemporary Survey of Homosexuality in Britain. London: Heinemann. ISBN 0-434-35902-5
Hyde, H. Montgomery (1976). The Cleveland Street Scandal. London: W. H. Allen. ISBN 0-491-01995-5
McKenna, Neil (2005). The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde. New York: Basic Books.

The Cleveland Street Scandal

HISTORICAL NOTES: In 1889, the year in which this scandal takes place, it is legal for girls aged 12 and boys aged 14 to marry (with parental consent). Most people started work at the age of 6 (or younger) to help support their families and men had a life expectancy of just 40-45 years of age. Male homosexuality was illegal and punishable, if convicted of buggery, to penal servitude for life or for any term of not less than ten years. The death penalty for buggery had only recently been abolished in 1861.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century a gentleman by the name of Charles Hammond ran a male brothel located at No 19 Cleveland Street in London, just north of Oxford Street near Tottenham Court Road.
Hammond catered for a largely aristocratic clientele and for a number of years the existence of his establishment remained unknown to the authorities.
This all changed on 4th July 1889 when a 15 year old telegraph boy called Charles Swinscow was searched as part of an ongoing investigation into money theft at his employers, the General Post Office.
It was a telegraph boys job to cycle around London delivering telegrams and urgent messages to homes and businesses. His wage would have been about eleven shillings per week, however when he was searched, eighteen shillings were found in his pockets, more than a weeks salary to such a young man. Swinscow was taken in for questioning as part of the police operation.
When asked how he came to have such a large sum of money in his possession, Swinscow panicked and confessed he’d been recruited by Charles Hammond to work at a house in Cleveland Street where, for the sum of four shillings a time, he would permit the brothel’s clients to “have a go between my legs” and “put their persons into me”.
He then identified a number of other young telegraph boys who were also renting themselves out in this manner at the Cleveland Street establishment, leading to the apprehension and questioning of Henry Newlove, Algernon Allies and Charles Thickbroom.
Who Was Involved:

Henry Horace Newlove 16 yrs Telegraph Boy – GPO ‘Recruiter’ for Hammond
Charles Thomas Swinscow 15 yrs Telegraph Boy – First boy arrested for ‘theft’
George Alma Wright 17 yrs Telegraph Boy – ‘Performed’ with Newlove for voyeurs
Charles Ernest Thickbroom 17 yrs Telegraph Boy
William Meech Perkins 16 yrs Telegraph Boy – ID’s Lord Alfred Somerset as a ‘client’
Algernon Edward Allies 19 yrs Houseboy – The Marlborough Club, used by Lord Somerset
George Barber 17 yrs George Veck’s ‘Private Secretary’ and boyfriend
John Saul 37 yrs Infamous London rent boy – Possibly aka Jack Saul
 Charles Hammond 35 yrs Brothel keeper of 19 Cleveland Street, London
George Daniel Veck aka Rev George Veck aka Rev George Barber40 yrs Ex General Post Office (GPO) employee, sacked for indecency with Telegraph boys. Lives at 19 Cleveland Street. Kept a coffee house in Gravesend, Kent. Has an 18 year old ‘son’ that travels with him.
PC Luke Hanks Police officer attached to the General Post Office
Mr Phillips Snr postal official who questions Swinscow with Hanks
Mr C H Raikes The Postmaster General
Mr James Monro Metropolitan Police Commissioner
Frederick Abberline 46 yrs Police Chief Inspector, infamous for the ‘Jack the Ripper’ investigations in 1888, London’s Whitechapel district
PC Richard Sladden Police officer who carried out observations on the Cleveland Street brothel following Swinscow’s arrest
Arthur Newton Lord Arthur Somerset’s solicitor. Later to defend Oscar Wilde at his trial in 1895 and notorious murderer Dr Crippen
 Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence 25 yrs Rumoured to be a ‘Brothel Client’ – Went on a seven month tour of British India in Sept 1889 to avoid the press & trials
Colonel Jervois of the 2nd Life Guards ‘Brothel Client’ – Winchester Army Barracks
Lord Arthur Somerset, aka Mr Brown 37 yrs ‘Brothel Client’ – Named in Allies letters as ‘Mr Brown’
Henry James Fitzroy, 39 yrs Accused of being a ‘Brothel Client’ – Earl of Euston
Sir Augustus Stephenson Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)
Hon Hamilton Cuffe Assistant DPP – Six years later he would prosecute Oscar Wilde at his trial in 1895 as the Director of Public Prosecutions
Ernest Parke Journalist – North London Press

After The Arrests

The officer in charge of the case was Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline, famous for being in charge of the detectives investigating the Jack-The_Ripper murders a year earlier in 1888
Abberline procured a warrant to arrest Charles Hammond on a charge of conspiracy to “to commit the abominable crime of buggery”, but when officers went to Cleveland Street, they found that Hammond had already absconded.
The police made arrangements to observe the comings and goings at No 19 Cleveland Street in case Hammond returned. They noted that a ‘Mr Brown’ called at the address on the 9th and 13th July 1889, later identified by both Swinscow and Thickbroom on the 25th July as one of the their clients.
Police followed Mr Brown back to army barracks in Knightsbridge where he was formally identified as Lord Arthur Somerset, younger son of Henry Charles Somerset, the 8th Duke of Beaufort. Lord Arthur was a Major in the Royal Horse Guards and equerry to Edward, Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VII.
Papers were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions with a view to prosecuting Lord Arthur on a charge of gross indecency. The Prince of Wales was incredulous when he heard of it
“I won’t believe it, any more than I should if they accused the Archbishop of Canterbury” he said.
Despite this gesture of support, Lord Somerset placed the matter in the hands of his solicitor Arthur Newton.
Newton contacted the DPP and mentioned that if his client were to be prosecuted, he might have to name Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence, as another brothel client whilst giving his evidence in court.
Given that Prince Albert Victor was the eldest son of the Prince of Wales and second in line to the throne, it was clear that the government would not want his name associated with the homosexual brothel at Cleveland Street.
The authorities appeared to drag their heels over the matter, delaying the court case, which allowed Lord Arthur Somerset the opportunity to flee abroad. By the 18th October 1889 he was safely in Boulogne, France. He remained in exile for the remainder of his life and eventually died on the French Riviera in 1926.
But whilst Somerset escaped prosecution, the same could not be said of the unfortunate ‘rent boys’ caught up in the investigation. Swinscow together with Henry Newlove, Algernon Allies and Charles Thickbroom were brought before the Old Bailey in September 1889 and charged with gross indecency. All were convicted. Newlove received a sentence of four months with hard labour whilst the others each got nine months.
This might have been the end of the story had it not been for a journalist named Ernest Parke, who ran a story on 28th September 1889 in the ‘North London Press’, claiming that the “heir to a duke and the younger son of a duke” had frequented Cleveland Street.
Again, on the 16th November 1889 Parke went so far as to name both Arthur Somerset and Henry James Fitzroy, the Earl of Euston, as the men in question and dropped a broad hint to his readers that a member of the royal family was also involved, referring to a gentleman “more distinguished and more highly placed”.
Ernest Parke believed that it was safe to name the two young aristocrats as they had both fled the country. He was correct as far as Lord Arthur Somerset was concerned, but the Earl of Euston was not in Peru as Parke thought, but still in England. In order to defend his reputation, Henry James Fitzroy felt obliged to bring a charge for criminal libel against Edward Parke.
The trial was heard at the Old Bailey on the 19th January 1890. Whilst Henry James Fitzroy admitted that he had been to 19 Cleveland Street, he claimed that it was all a mistake. According to his own testimony, he had only gone there after being given a card touting a ‘tableaux plastique’ (nude women) at the address, and that once he realised the true nature of the establishment, had made his excuses and left.
Ernest Parke however produced a witness named John Saul (AKA Jack Saul), who went into some detail describing the kind of services that he had provided for Henry James Fitzroy at the Cleveland Street brothel. Being a self-confessed prostitute, Saul’s evidence was easily ‘discredited’ and Ernest Parke was found guilty of libel without justification and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment with hard labour.
One more trial was to arise as a result of the Cleveland Street scandal in respect of the activities of Arthur Newton, defence solicitor to the aforementioned Arthur Somerset who, it was believed, had helped Somerset evade justice. Newton was brought before the court on the 12th December 1889 and charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice for allegedly interfering with witnesses and arranging their disappearance to France.
He was convicted but received the relatively mild punishment of six weeks in prison. He was even allowed to resume his legal practice, representing the author and playwright Oscar Wilde in own trial for gross indecency with other men five years later in 1895.
This was still not quite the end of the matter as the MP Henry Labouchère, a noted campaigner against ‘homosexual vice’, who had earlier been responsible for including the offence of ‘gross indecency’ within the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, became convinced that some kind of ‘cover-up’ had been launched by the authorities.
On the 28th February 1890 he tried to persuade Parliament to establish a committee to investigate the whole affair, but his motion was defeated by a vote of 204 to 66. Henry felt so strongly on the matter that he became over animated during the debate on his motion and he was suspended from Parliament for a week.


Thus the Cleveland Street Scandal passed into history and ceased to be a matter of contemporary significance, however, from evidence that has since become available, it now appears that the Duke of Clarence was indeed a likely client of the Cleveland Street brothel. If indeed it were true, it would be very likely that some kind of damage limitation exercise was carried out at the highest levels of the British Government to protect him.

I grateful acknowledge the following works used in my research:
The Cleveland Street Affair – Colin Simpson, Lewis Chester & David Leitch
The Cleveland Street Scandal – H Montgomery Hyde
Cleveland Street ‘The Musical’ – Glenn Chandler & Matt Devereaux