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

This Infamous 19th-Century Birth Control Pamphlet Got Its Writer Imprisoned

Charles Knowlton did three months hard labor and was fined $50

By Kat Eschner

The change  in modern attitudes owes a lot to doctors like Charles Knowlton, born on this day in 1800. Knowlton was an American doctor and philosopher known for his unconventional views. He was also one of the first members of the medical establishment to write openly about birth control methods and human sexuality. Even though the innocently named Fruits of Philosophy, his pamphlet first published in 1832, had negative consequences for him personally, some historians believe that the pamphlet and subsequent reprintings in America and England helped to change the conversation about birth control.

“A demographic revolution took place in the United States between 1800 and 1940,” writes historian James Reed. “The high birth rates and high mortality characteristic of a premodern society were replaced by a new vital economy of fewer births and fewer deaths.”

Knowlton, like other physicians of this period, saw how sex could, and frequently did, lead to death. Women regularly died of “puerperal fever,” or post-partum infections, and other ailments associated with childbearing. In fact, write Emily Baumrin, Billy Corbett and Amita Kulkarni for Dartmouth Medicine, “puerperal fever was far and away the most common cause of maternal mortality and was second only to tuberculosis among all causes of death for women of childbearing age.” And children regularly died in their first year of life.

Fruits is widely credited with helping to popularize ideas about birth control as a medical intervention.

It discusses various methods of birth control, ultimately concluding that an injection of a sort of primitive (by modern day standards) spermicide was the best option. In other words, a vaginal douche.

The pamphlet also put forth ideas on population that wouldn’t be popularly accepted for many years to come. In fact, at the beginning of the text, Knowlton wrote that “the time will come when the earth cannot support its inhabitants,” and that birth should be restrained to prevent the “inconceivable amount of human misery” that could be the result of overpopulation.

But Knowlton clearly didn’t just write about theory. Fruits was a practical guide to contraception that acknowledged that people wanted to have sex, and not just for the purposes of bearing children. “Surely no instinct commands a greater proportion of our thoughts or has a greater influence upon happiness, for better or for worse,” he wrote.

This pragmatic attitude didn’t go over so well with authorities. After the book was published, writes Reed, Knowlton was fined fifty dollars and prosecuted on three separate occasions “under the Massachusetts common law obscenity statute.” But although he served three months hard labor as the result of one of these legal suits, Reed writes that his reputation in the community was solidified by Fruits.

“According to Knowlton’s account of the trial,” Reed writes, “one juror tried to console him” for his plight. “Well, we brought you in guilty,” the juror said. “We did not see how we could well get rid of it, still I like your book, and you must let me have one of them.” The judge in the case requested a copy as well, Reed writes, “and the prosecuting attorney returned his share of the costs to Knowlton.”

Later in his career, Knowlton helped figure out what caused puerperal fever, write Baumrin, Cobett and Kulkarni, advancing women’s health. As well, his book lived on. It was reprinted in the United States and in Britain, where it was at the heart of a famous obscenity trial that promoted the discussion of birth control in Britain. 


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Monday, 22 January 2018

The Secret Recipes Of The 19th Century

It'd be too easy for me too look at the famous secret recipes of products like Coca Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken. We all know these are old products and their recipes are jealously guarded. It'd also be too easy to look at the false secret ingredients like powdered chalk bulking out flour or fake nutmegs carved out of wood. Today we're going to look at some of the the product which have carried into the 21st century.   


Many of you may never have heard of these complex, herbal Italian liqueurs. They are right on trend at the moment and coveted by Bartenders all over the world and are using amari in all the best cocktails. From the quirkily-named paper plane right through to the curious Eeyore’s requiem. Very few will be drinking gthem the way they were originally intended such as a Brancolada. Drinkers are taking to them like a duck to water but they are moving away from the original Italian tradition.

The spirits themselves remain arcane and mysterious, but where do they come from and how exactly are they made? The range of products is immense; Montenegro, Averna, Fernet-Branca and Nonino among them, and there are hundreds of producers all over Italy. Each has its own distinct flavours and profile. Each Amaro has treats the recipe for their own amaro as though it were the formula for Coca-Cola, or the 11 secret herbs and spices.

At the Amaro Averna production facilities in Caltanisetta in Sicily, secrecy reigns supreme. The original recipe for this rich and treacly amaro, was gifted by the monks of the Caltanisetta’s Santo Spirito Abbey to Salvatore Averna in the middle of the nineteenth century. Very few of people currently know the full recipe. The company has divulged only three ingredients: lemon, bitter orange, and pomegranate peels. They go to great lengths to keep the recipe a secret: sacks of botanicals arrive stripped of names and labelled only with codewords to prevent other staff members from piecing the recipe together. Another version was developed by a pharmacist, Francesco Peloni, in 1875 – its recipe, too, remains a closely guarded secret.

Onions Rings

Another product which seems very contemporary also has roots in the 19th century. Onion rings has a delicious twist from a recipe from John Mollard’s 1801 cookbook, “The Art Of Cookery Made Easy And Refined. Use Spanish onions if you can get them, and cut them into half inch rings. Dip them into a batter made of flour, cream, salt and pepper, and Parmesan cheese, and then deep frying them in “boiling” lard. It further suggests serving them with a sauce made of melted butter and mustard.

This recipe sounds amazingly modern, yet wasn't even new in the 18th century. Who's up for trying it?

Dr Pepper's

Bill Waters, a rare manuscripts collector from Oklahoma, stumbled upon a 19th-century sales ledger underneath a wooden, medicine-bottle crate, while he was rooting through a store in the old Wild West town of Shamrock in 2008. He bought it for $200 (£130), hoping to clean the book up and sell it for a small profit on eBay. However when Mr Waters began researching its contents , he chanced upon a handwritten recipe for a "D Peppers Pepsin Bitter". Several sheets contained in its pages had letterheads from "W B Morrison and Co. Old Corner Drug Store", a business that existed in nearby Waco at the end of the 19th century. An internet search revealed that the soft drink Dr Pepper was first served at the same store in 1885.

Faded letters on its brown cover say that it contains "Castles Formulas". John Castles was a partner at Morrison's for a time and was a drugist at the store as early as 1880, according to Mary Beth Webster at the Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute.
The yellowing pad suggests the distinctive drink was originally concocted from a mixture containing mandrake root and a large quantity of syrup. It was probably sold as a "digestive" to help make stomach medicine palatable.

Today, the sweet-but-spicy drink which descended from the recipe Mr Castles noted down is part of the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, and is distributed across several continents. Dr Pepper is made from a top-secret combination of 23 different ingredients and the exact combination is only made known to three senior employees of the firm at any one time.

Though it does not dispute the book's authenticity, they believe that the recipe it contains – which is partly illegible – is for a medicine rather than a soft drink. A spokesman for the firm told the Associated Press that it bore little resemblance to the real Dr Pepper recipe

Elixir For Long life

The finished elixir, bright orange from the saffron and tumeric, sits next to the original bottle of the elixir found at 50 Bowery. It's garnished with the tip of an aloe leaf — one of the ingredients in the bitter drink. It's likely that only a few drops are meant to be consumed at a time.

This particular recipe needs to be taken with a very large pinch of salt, but it's a perfect example of the quack medicines which were rampant in the 19th century. They aren't an elxir but modern-day herbalists state that they could ease symptoms.

During a recent excavation beneath a hotel site at 50 Bowery, Chrysalis Archaeology discovered a tiny, greenish glass bottle that once contained the "Elixir of Long Life." The bottle found amid a cache of 150-year-old liquor bottles beneath what was once a German beer garden sparked the archaeologists' curiosity, and they decided to hunt down the original recipe so they could try the elixir themselves. They enlisted colleagues in Germany to rack down the recipe in a 19th-century medical guide. After they translated it for her, they discovered it contained ingredients still used by modern-day herbalists: aloe, which is anti-inflammatory, and gentian root, which aids digestion. Mostly, though, the elixir was made of alcohol.

“These types of cure-alls were pretty ubiquitous in the 19th century, and always available at bars,” Loorya said. “Similar bitters and ingredients are still used today, in cocktails, and in health stores, but I guess we don’t know if it was the copious amounts of alcohol or the herbs that perhaps made people feel better.”

Loorya and her team are gathering the ingredients for the elixir and plan to try making it within the next couple of weeks.

They also plan to recreate Dr. Hostetters Stomach Bitters, a once-popular 19th-century medicine, after finding two of those bottles at the 50 Bowery site and seeking out that recipe as well.

The Hostetters recipe is a bit more complex, containing Peruvian bark, also known as cinchona, which is used for its malaria-fighting properties and is still used to make bitters for cocktails, and gum kino, a kind of tree sap that is antibacterial. It also contains more common ingredients, including cinnamon and cardamom seeds, which are known to help prevent gas. When DNAinfo New York showed the recipes to herbalist Lata Kennedy, who's owned the East Village herb shop Flower Power for 19 years, she said many are still used to naturally treat ailments.

“All those ingredients are about your digestive health, and that’s really a key to good health in general,” Kennedy said of both the Elixir of Life and Hostetters recipes. “Those ingredients make a liver tonic, one that soothes your stomach, and also helps you poop — get out the toxins.”

Using alcohol to extract the beneficial properties of herbs and roots is still a common practice used by herbalists today, Kennedy said. She sells many of the ingredients used in the recipes, both in raw form and alcohol-based tinctures, and she believes they improve people's health — and could even prolong their life.

“Long life has a lot to do with how healthy our guts are, so it makes sense to see these used back then," she said. "We should all be eating more bitters.”



Monday, 15 January 2018

Crazy Inventions Of the 19th Century

C.A. Asbrey
 Cholera pants were believed to protect against the chills which were thought to cause disease, and that keeping the stomach and abdomen warm could protect against bowel complaints.  The Victorians still believed that miasmas caused disease, so avoided fumes and bad smells too. 

Last week we looked at the innovative and interesting inventions of the 19th century. However the period also saw a lot of patents filed which never made it, and these are not only amusing, they throw a light on some of the obsessions of the era.  The Victorians invented the world of invention as we now know it; with contracts, patents, and people lodged patents from ideas cobbled together over the kitchen table. Many of them were never actually built, and as we go through this article we'll see why.   

'Cleanliness is next to godliness' was a popular Victorian homily. Cleaning the various parts of the body apparently required special equipment. Frenchman Alexis Mantelet filed two applications for devices to wash the female bosom. The first of these he dubbed the “breast douche”. Mantelet’s “breast douche” was a long hose and tap fitting, connected to a cupping arrangement housing “two or preferably three rings of strong jets”. It was then placed briefly on each breast, while the user adjusted the jets to her liking. According to Mantelet this process achieved:

“A complete, vigorous and abundant douche over the whole surface of the breast… so that the douche may very well be of short duration. This douche therefore gives very desirable results [without] shock or undue chill.”

Mantelet's douch never apeared to reach the market, nor did he explain the advantage in using the device. We're sure he had a great time working on prototypes though.

                                                            The Saluting device 

The saluting device was invented by James C. Boyle of Spokane, Washington. The patent states, “Be it known, that I, James C. Boyle, of Spokane, in the county of Spokane and State of Washington, have invented a new and improved Saluting Device, of which the following is a full, clear, and exact description.

This invention relates to a novel device for automatically effecting polite salutations by the elevation and rotation of the hat on the head of the saluting party when said person bows to the person or persons saluted, the actuation of the hat being produced by mechanism therein and without the use of hands in any manner.”  

                                                                         Animal Trap

This gruesome trap was the brainchild of J.A. Williams of Fredonia, Texas. Instead of traping the animal, it blows it to smithereens and the potential for accidetal injury is mind-blowing. The patent is self-explanatory, but the picture of the patent itself has become notable as it sells frequently online for ornamental purposes. The patent was a more popular product than the failed contraption itself. 

                                                            The Gentleman's Unicyle
In 1885 the patent was filed for a Gentleman's Unicyle, which was supposed to be both comfortable and practical. It even had an unbrella to shelter the rider from the rain. Cycling was a huge craze in the 19th century and very accessible to the growing middle classes as well as the rich. There were numerous attempts to cash in on this new phenomenon by changing the configuration and tinkering with the mode of propulsion. This patent by John O Loer Patterson of New Jersey was yet another reinvention which never made the cut.

                                                                 Creeping Doll

In 1871 Robert J Clay invented something which was clearly ahead of its time. Dolls at that period were hugely expensive and the preserve of the rich, so he had cut down his market immediately. The doll was a form of automaton which crawled along on moving limbs with inset wheels. It was common at that time to call crawling 'creeping' and the doll's immitation is eerily realistic. Doll-making was increasingly becoming the preserve of inventors as mass-production took over and they tried to present a product which stood out from the crowd. The doll never took off. Apparently it was too heavy for little girls and not very interactive. Clay's boss presented a patent for an improved version later that same year.   

                                                                Life Indicating Coffin

J.G Krichbaum's patent was also one of many versions of the same things. Death was another of the Victorian obsessions and being buried alive, or Taphophobia, was a very real fear, even before the work of Edgar Allan Poe. This was yet another of the devices which allowed the entombed person to raise the alarm for those above ground.     
                                                                Oscillating Bathtub

At the other end of the spectrum, there was also a great obsession with health. Hydrotherapy was very popular and O.A. Hensel filed this in 1899. The bathtub rocks from side to side and the cover pervemted the water from splashing out all over the foor. It never caught on. I can't imagine why.   

                                                                     Flying Machine

Reuben Spalding filed the patent for the last example in our array of Victorian fascinations, but in fairness flying had fixated man since the earliest of times. This version allowed people to float using a hot air balloon and use wings as a method of locomotion. We have no record of whether a prototype was ever made or if any flight was ever attempted.    

Before we dismiss these inventions too lightly, it's important to remember that they are an important archive of the preoccupations of the people of the time. They provide a window on the aspirations, struggles, and fears of the time; health, death, amusement, locomotion, and cleanliness.