Was Harry Dam Jack The Ripper

One other suspect whose name has been put forward as the author of the letter, also had an association with The Star.

On the 4th of October The Daily Telegraph published the facsimiles of the Dear Boss letter and the Saucy Jacky postcard, and commented that:-

“The writer is probably an American or an Englishman , who has mixed with our cousins on the other side of the Atlantic. “Boss,” “Fix me,” “Shan’t quit,” and “Right away” are American forms of expression.”

It is interesting to note that The Star had several Americans on its staff.

Joseph Pennell, its art critic, for example, came from Baltimore.


Henry Jackson Wells Dam, or Harry Dam as he was known, a journalist with a somewhat chequered past, who was born in San Francisco, also worked for the paper.

Dam came to London in 1887, and became the correspondent for several New York newspapers.

When T. P. O’Connor launched The Star, in January 1888, Dam also contributed articles to it.


Lincoln Springfield – who had been The Star’s Chief reporter at the time of the murders – claimed in his 1924 autobiography, Some Piquant People, that Harry Dam, “as a free-born American, was not, as were the rest of us, cowed by the English libel laws,” and it was Dam, so Springfield claimed, who created a sensation by pushing the idea that the murders were the work of a miscreant known as Leather Apron.


In November 1890, the Rev Henry A. Monroe, Pastor of St Mark’s Methodist Episcopal Church, New York, published a series of articles in The New York Age about his trip to Europe in the summer of that year, which went under the generic title of “A Pastor’s Summer Abroad.”


On the 8th of November, he gave details of his experiences when he had gone slumming in London, and had paid a visit to Whitechapel, which, he wrote:-

“Would never have furnished a literary sensation, had it not been for the series of eight atrocious murders that some maniac committed here…”


“Few people in London believe in the genuineness of the “Jack the Ripper” letters.”

He continued, “They were simply the invention of some sensational fool or else a newspaper “fake.” In fact there is a strong suspicion that a New York World reporter might have been exercising his peculiar home talent, just to try its effect upon our British cousins.”


This was the first hint of Harry Dam being behind the original Jack the Ripper correspondence, although it should be noted that Monroe didn’t actually name the reporter in question.

However, a little under a month later, Harry Dam was linked directly to the authorship of the letter by an article that appeared in the The San Francisco Examiner.

Commenting on the story in its edition of Thursday the 4th of December The Carson City Morning Appeal couldn’t resist punning:-

The Examiner claims that Harry Dam, an old newspaper man, is the author of the “Jack the Ripper” letters. They always had the appearance of being a “Dam” fake to the APPEAL.”


Meanwhile, The Los Angeles Herald, on Friday the 5th of December, published the reaction to the claim of the man who had been The Star’s proprietor at the time:-


Editor O’Connor Goes Away From Home To Learn The News

“Chicago, Dec. 4.

Referring to the story that Harry Dam, a New York and San Francisco journalist, while at work on the London Star, concocted the “Jack the Ripper” letters which created such a sensation in London in connection with the Whitechapel murders, T. P. O’Connor, M. P., editor of The Star at the time, says he never heard of the story before, and doesn’t believe a word of it.”


And so our gallery of rogue reporters who may have been responsible for penning the most infamous name in criminal history is complete.

The case against all of them was circumstantial, and any or none of them may have been the composer of the Jack the Ripper Dear Boss letter.


Although there appears to have been a consensus amongst the police and the denizens of Fleet Street at the time that a journalist had penned the missive, there was, it seems, no real consensus as to his identity, nor could there have been unless the author actually confessed his authorship.

The highest ranking police officers on the case claimed to have either known or suspected the author’s identity, but were reticent about actually going public with his name.

The one police officer who did name any possible authors – in a private letter to George Sims – Detective Chief Inspector John George Littlechild, suggested that the letter came from within the Central News Agency and was the work of either Tom Bulling or John Moore.

Sadly, we don’t know enough about them to be able to actually pass any judgment on their viability.

Best does seem a promising nominee, but, then again, so too does Harry Dam.


The fact is that unless some private correspondence comes to light that reveals without a shadow of a doubt that one of them was behind the Dear Boss hoax, then we are destined to remain in the dark about who it was that actually wrote the letter, and was, therefore, Jack the Ripper.

What is certain though is that, whoever the originator of the name was, he could not have realised as he scrawled that signature, that he was about to create a legend that would turn a series of sordid East End murders into an international phenomenon, and that, from that point on, the line between the unknown miscreant who was responsible for the Whitechapel atrocities and the fictional creation Jack the Ripper would become so blurred as to be all but non existent..

And at that, to quote George Sims, I think I will leave it.