Glorifying Jack The Ripper

By the 8th of January, 1889, the persona of the murderer who was now widely known as “Jack the Ripper” was infiltrating the public consciousness far and wide.

Indeed, it could almost be argued that the criminal himself had almost become a pantomime villain in the eyes of the public at large.

He was turning up as an exhibit at waxworks. Street vendors were selling ballads about his escapades, and, as The Western Daily Mercury, in its edition of Tuesday, 8th January 1889, reported, sweets in his likeness were being openly sold to children:-


“Jack the Ripper is being glorified in the East End.

Street hawkers are selling a toy which they affectionately allude to as “Old Jack,” and confectioners sell him in sugar, red-coated sugar.

Is it not shameful to perpetuate the memory of a ruffian in this fashion, to identify him in childish minds with Santa Claus and Father Christmas?

It was sufficient to have him guyed on the Fifth of November; it is too much that his counterfeit presentment should be obtruded on the little folk passing through our streets, and that he should be cunningly manufactured out of anything half so nice as sugar.”

An illustration showing the entrance to Castle Alley.
A Street Balladeer. From The Penny Illustrated Paper. July 27th 1889. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The Dundee Evening Telegraph of the same day was equally scathing of the deplorable practice:-

Confectioners are surely at their wits ends for new devices when they make knives of sugar and call them “Jack the Rippers.”

The indecency and coarse obliquity of this method of pushing trade amongst children can hardly be too strongly condemned.”


The Dundee Courier, meanwhile, corrected a rumour that had appeared in numerous newspapers across the country the previous day:-

It was reported at all the London newspaper offices yesterday that “Jack the Ripper” was in custody and had made a full confession of the Whitechapel crimes.

On inquiry at Scotland Yard, however, it was found that there was not the slightest truth in the rumour.”


Finally, The Edinburgh Evening News carried a story that demonstrated how the fear of Jack the Ripper was rife in Scotland’s capital:-

“In the north western district of Edinburgh considerable stir has, it is stated, been caused by the visits of police officers whose business, it is asserted, is to trace a would-be “Jack the Ripper” in Edinburgh.

It seems that last week a young woman, residing in the neighbourhood of Colinton Road, returned home from her city employment between nine and ten o’clock in the evening, taking the tram car as the tram car as her means of conveyance.

On stepping out of the vehicle it is stated that she was accosted by a man.

She did not reply to him, and the result was that her umbrella and muff were seized.


The young woman fled from the embraces of her admirer, who then gave chase. He caught her, and, in the struggle which took place, the girl’s clothes were torn.

The assailant, it seems, then disappeared and has not since been heard of.

Possibly the “outrage” was partly due to the festive season.”