When, in early October, 1888, the police released the notorious “Dear Boss” letter, which bore the chilling signature “Jack the Ripper”, it is surprising just how quickly the name caught on, and, within a few days, the name was on everybody’s lips.
Now, it is almost certain that the letter itself was not actually written by the perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders, indeed, the general consensus amongst many police officers at the time, and by the majority of experts on the subject today, was and is that the letter was, in fact, the work of a London journalist.
However, within a matter of days of the letter being made public, the name had grabbed the public imagination, and the unknown miscreant, who was terrorising the East End of London, had become famous throughout the world.
Indeed, such was the allure of the name that it was now being used in dog coursing matches and pigeon races!
THE ALLURE OF THE NAME
The Sheffield Evening Telegraph, in an article that was published on Wednesday the 10th of October, 1888, highlighted how the infamy of the Whitechapel fiend had, thanks to the nickname he had been given, achieved not only worldwide fame, but also a gruesome immortality:-
THE NAME ON EVERYBODY’S LIPS
“If fame, as Byron puts it, be “to fill a certain portion of uncertain paper,” then should the atrocious monster who has thrilled Whitechapel to the core with terror be satisfied.
His vile and sanguinary exploits have put the ruffian’s name on everybody’s lips.
They have sounded his notoriety from one end of the world to the other, and it will probably gratify the diseased egotism, that usually afflicts such creatures, to know that in dying he will leave behind him a name second to none in all the horrible annals of inhumanity.
Just as Charles Peace at the close of his career was a criminal of world-wide reputation, so “Jack the Ripper” has, in a few short weeks, carved out for himself an immortality of infamy.
HIS NAME OVERSHADOWS ALL OTHERS
His doings have eclipsed all imperial and political interests; his murderous figure, haunting the lanes of Whitechapel, has overshadowed the mightiest of Christendom.
If we ask what the multitude speak of nowadays – whose name it is that is most frequently in their mouths – we are promptly told that is not that of Gladstone, Salisbury, the Emperor William, or President Cleveland, or even the latest successful racehorse, but only “Jack the Ripper.”
THE RABBIT-COURSING RIPPER
As confirmation of that statement, we have only to point to two incidents that have occurred during the past week in popular gatherings of working men.
One of the scenes was a rabbit-coursing match, at which a dog bearing the murderer’s nickname was a runner.
Intense interest was taken in the hound’s performance, and relief was expressed when he failed to win his heat. “He can’t rip rabbits, at any rate,” was the joyous exclamation of a miner who shared the popular excitement, and who evidently thought that a dog with so odious a name deserved to lose.
PIGEON RACING RIPPER
The Other scene was pigeon-flying near Newcastle.
It is significant of the tastes of the canny northerners in that district that the three first birds were named respectively, “Jack the Ripper,” “LeatherApron” and “Waddle.”
After that, can fame really be worth striving for!”
AN ABHORRENT SPORT
It has to be said that the sport of coursing – which involved dogs chasing live rabbits around a stadium whilst spectators cheered them on and bet on the outcome – was, by our standards, a brutal and barbaric pursuit; and reading the matter-of-fact accounts of it in the 19th century newspapers makes for uncomfortable reading; but it was a popular pastime at the time, as can be seen from the following article, which appeared in Sporting Life, on Wednesday 1st February 1893:-
RISING SUN GROUNDS, BLOXWICH
“The attraction at the new grounds on Monday last consisted of a coursing match and a fox terrier coursing sweepstakes.
The weather was very dull, but a good company assembled.
THE TWO JACKS
The match was first on, the dogs engaged being Cox’s Jack of Bloxwich. and Clarke’s Jack the Ripper, of Sheffield, both fox terriers, who were matched to run the best of eleven courses, for £10.
They were in good condition, Jack being 22lb, and Jack the Ripper 23lb.
A fair amount of interest was taken in the match, and betting ruled at evens.
Some splendid rabbits were put down, many getting clean away.
Jack started by capturing the first and second; the third and fourth were undecideds.
Jack the Ripper secured the fifth. Jack the sixth, Jack the Ripper the seventh.
The eighth was a “no-go,” the ninth fell to Jack the Ripper, the tenth was undecided; the eleventh was secured by Jack, who also collared the twelfth.
Jack again led by killing the thirteenth, but Jack the Ripper added two more victims to his long list, and won.”