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Tracing A Bloody Vintage

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  • Tracing A Bloody Vintage

    First I've ever seen someone claim that 'Leather Apron' was a racist epithet.

    Northern Echo
    Darlington, England
    December 16, 2006

    THE streets are lit by gas and the shadows are deep in the doorways. The gaslamps struggle to penetrate the dense pea-soup fog and shine only in a weak halo. In the doorways lurks danger - the very first "ripper" armed with a razor-sharp knife that glints in the gaslight.He steps out to murder, and once his victim is eviscerated and her blood is draining away onto the rough cobbles of the backstreets, he melts into the darkness and is never caught.There have since been other rippers - notably in Yorkshire and now in Ipswich - but mere mention of the word conjures up visions of the Victorian streets in which Jack killed at least four, probably six and possibly eight prostitutes in the autumn of 1888.The word "rip" - meaning to cut, pull or tear something away from something else - has always had violent, bloody overtones. Shakespeare used it viciously in Macbeth: "MacDuff was from his mother's womb untimely ript".But when the press first caught up with Jack the Ripper, they called him "Leather Apron". This was the nickname given by London prostitutes to a client who wore protective clothing and a deerstalker cap. He liked to threaten "to rip them up".When a second prostitute, Annie Chapman, was found dead, a leather apron was soaking in a backyard basin nearby.Police soon arrested a man, John Pizer, on suspicion of being "Leather Apron".It was a racist nickname, as leather aprons were typically worn by Jewish workers, from butchers to tailors, and for a while the East End of London was on the brink of anti-Semitic riots.The nickname didn't stick, though, as Pizer produced alibis to prove he was not Leather Apron.Instead, when PC Watkins discovered a fourth dismembered body, that of Catharine Eddowes, he picked up on the word used by Leather Apron."The body, " he said, "had been ripped open, like a pig in the market."Two days later - October 1 - the Daily News published a letter purportedly sent to The Boss of the Central News agency. It began "Dear Boss. . ." and in bloodthirsty fashion taunted the police."That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits, " it said. "I am down on whores and I shan't quit ripping them till I do get buckled."The letter finished by coining the word that still reverberates through history. It said: "Yours truly, Jack the Ripper."There was a PS: "Don't mind me giving the trade name."Most Ripperologists believe the letter was a fake - probably written by a journalist, Tom Bulling, who worked at the agency and fancied a scoop.But the epithet stuck because it is a word evocative of the violence required to slash open a body, and because Jack the Ripper was the first serial killer of the media age.Newspapers flourished in late Victorian England because of advances in the printing press, in the telegraph and in people's ability to read. They were as lurid as today's tabloids, and they latched onto Jack the Ripper as fear stalked the streets, terror gripped the capital and the poor old bobbies blundered about blindly in the pea- soupers.It is, perhaps, fortunate that the fake nickname did stick because "the Yorkshire Leather Apron" does not have the same ring to it.
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  • #2

    Hello Howard. Thanks for this.

    "The nickname didn't stick, though, as Pizer produced alibis to prove he was not Leather Apron."

    Bottom line.



    • #3
      Surely Gentiles wore leather aprons?


      • #4
        Leather aprons go way back, to the Middle Ages and probably to Rome and before. Remember there was a leather apron in the backyard at Hanbury St. and though some hoped it would lead to Jack, I never read that the apron alone indicated Jewish presence or activity. It was subsequently identified as belonging to a gentile resident of the address.

        Before rubber and plastic, leather was probably the best fabric for protection during rally dirty jobs. A leather apron might have been protective for Jack's work but it appears he had an efficient system that limited blood spray, etc.
        The wickedness of the world is the dream of the plague.~~Voynich Manuscript


        • #5
          It isn't a racial slight...the author of the piece, Chris Lloyd, just made an incorrect assumption.
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          • #6
            Here we go. . .

            From --


            I do agree that writer Chris Lloyd writing in the Northern Echo of Darlington, England, December 16, 2006, had the wrong information that a leather apron in 1888 would be "typically worn by Jewish workers, from butchers to tailors. . ." meaning that the term "Leather Apron" was "a racist nickname." Everybody at the time would know that all types of artisans, whether Jewish or not, wore leather aprons.

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            Christopher T. George, Lyricist & Co-Author, "Jack the Musical"
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