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  #1  
Old 05-19-2016, 03:56 PM
Mayerling Mayerling is offline
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Default Howard Carter and his suggestion

There are two individuals I know of on this board who enjoy the subject of Egyptology. One is myself, and one is Steve. Frequently (in personal conversations) we end up dropping 1888 and concentrate on subjects regarding archeology and the ancient Egyptians. Now most of you will consider this unimportant, but sometimes when one reads something that is not involved in an immediate subject under discussion, you find it validates a point you dismissed earlier, or it casts a light on what you have been talking about but from a different angle.

[This, by the way, happened when I read a book a couple of years back about J. Bruce Ismay, and his behavior in the Titanic Disaster. It mentioned that the surviving senior officer of the liner, Charles Lightoller, when talking about Ismay's behavior that night, kept changing details and matter depending on his audiences. This - oddly enough - validated Jonathan's point concerning Sir Melville Macnaughten's similar habit of altering information regarding Montague Druitt over the years, depending on current situations and his audiences. In both cases the actions were to protect a target - Lightoller to protect Ismay and the White Star Line that Ismay had headed, and Macnaughten to protect the still hidden identity of the Druitt family from ostracism or ruin. But now back to Egyptology.]

I was reading Howard Carter's account of the opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. The book is "The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen" by Howard Carter and A.C. Mace (New York: Dover Publications, 1977, which is a republication of volume 1 of "The Tomb of Tut*Ankh*Amon* Discovered by the Late Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter (London: Cassell & Co, 1923, 1927, 1933). In chapter IX, Carter discusses the problems of publicity on the event, especially with the press and visitors. I first bring this interesting passage to your attention:

"Archeology under the limelight is a new and rather bewildering experience for most of us. In the past we have gone about our business happily enough, intensely interested in it ourselves, and not expecting other folk to be more than tepidly polite about it, and now all of a sudden we find the world takes an interest in us, an interest so intense and so avid for details that special correspondents at large salaries have to be sent to interview us, report our every movement, and hide round corners to surprise a secret out of us. It is, as I said, a little bewildering for us, not to say embarrassing, ad we wonder sometimes just exactly how and why it all came about. We may wonder, but I think it would puzzle anyone to give an exact answer to the question. One must suppose that at the time the discovery was made the general public was in a state of profound boredom with news of reparations, conferences, and mandates, and craved for some new topic of conversation. The idea of buried treasure, too, is one that appeals to most of us. Whatever the reasons, or combination of reasons, it is quite certain that once the initial Times dispatch had been published, no power on earth could shelter us from the light of publicity that beat down upon us. We were helpless and had to make the best of it.

In short, Carter is suggesting that due to a lack of really important news to keep the public's attention on regular matters or importance, and the sensational aspect connected to buried treasure, the opening and revealing of the contents of King Tut's tomb captured global attention in November 1922. Change that a bit, and think of blood-thirsty murders in the similarly dull autumn and early winter of 1888, and you have the world staring in horror (like people looking at a car wreck on a highway) in Whitechapel.

Timing is essential, in more ways than one - in 1888 what were the major, non-Whitechapel news stories of the day.

1) The Northeast U.S. was hit by a major blizzard (now recalled as "the Blizzard of '88), that buried most of the states from Maine down to Washington, D.C. in some of the deepest snow drifts in records of snow storms. It literally paralyzed the region for nearly two weeks.

2) The deaths (from March to June 1888) of two German Emperors in a row: the 91 year old Wilhelm I in March, and his son Friedrich III, who was crowned while fatally ill with throat cancer, who died in June 1888.

Those were the only events of importance in that year - outside of Whitechapel. And both were over by June 1888.

Yes there was the Parnell Commission, but it was still lumbering on at the time gathering information pro-and-con regarding Parnell's link to the Phoenix Park Assassinations of 1882 and similar bloody events in Ireland. It would not be until 1889 that the Commission's work came to a stunning upset when Richard Pigott was revealed to be the forger of the letters that started the investigation due to their publication in the Times.

There was still a war against the followers of the Mahdi in the Sudan, but it was falling into a period of routine warfare, with little worth discussing. It is not until 1898 that Omdurman is fought and the British avenge Gordon.

There was little worthy of note in the obituary columns. The dead that year included: Matthew Arnold, General Philip Sheridan (then Commander in Chief of the U.S. Army), former New York Senator Roscoe Conkling (from pneumonia due to exposure in a snow drift in the above mentioned "Blizzard of '88", Lord Lucan, the Cavalry General who was at Balaklava when the Charge of the Light Brigade occurred in 1854 (Lucan was in command of all the Cavalry in the Crimea), U.S. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Morrison Waite - who died from overwork having taken upon himself the job of writing the longest opinion (a single volume by itself) the Court ever delivered on a case, involving the patent rivalry of Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray over the telephone), Theodore Fontane (German novelist), Louisa May Alcott and her father, "Transcendentalist" Bronson Alcott.

The crime scene was not much better. 1887 had ended with a mysterious death in France, of the sports reporter Duncan M'Neill. He was found drowned off a beach, and was probably murdered, but despite some cooperation between French and British police the chief suspect (a local man) was never arrested. But none of the murders of 1888, until Whitechapel, was particularly important except to the victims. The biggest case in London in 1888 was prior to Whitechapel, was that of Joseph Rumbold in Regent's Park, not because of the type of killing, but because Rumbold appears to have been targeted in a 19th Century "wilding" crime, and it revealed the existence of gangs throughout London - even in the nice neighborhoods.

There were no major ship disasters or coal mine disasters in 1888 either. This does not mean no disasters occurred, but it means that nothing on the scale of major tragedy occurred. The next major disaster is the 1889 Johnstown Flood.

Under these circumstances then, with a lack of really earth shattering news items, Whitechapel becomes THE news item of the year. It's a horrifying series of crime, with a killer who is not caught, and it reveals a less than pleasant series of truths about Victorian society - about the bottom of that society.

By the way, the most notable KNOWN murderer that year was the French killer Prado, who was executed in December 1888. His crimes (dating back to 1886) were against women, but he was clever enough (using his wits) in forcing the police to believe another person who did not exist was the killer. An interesting side-light to this was that among the people standing outside the French prison where they were beheading Prado was the painter Paul Gauguin, possibly wondering how that nutty roommate of his at Arles, Vincent Van Gogh was doing, as a month before Van Gogh injured himself cutting off his ear lobe in an act of self-mutilation violence against Gauguin for rejecting his friendship. It was the second most notable body mutilation event of November 1888, but it just didn't make the newspapers at the time.
Certainly like the other, far more complete mutilation event did.

If one keeps this in mind, one can see that Whitechapel got an historical uniqueness that was just as odd in considering criminal history as the circumstances making the opening of King Tut's tomb in 1922 did in archeological history. Again, apparently a matter of historical timing.

Jeff
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Old 05-19-2016, 04:29 PM
GUT GUT is offline
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I think that's right Jeff, I'm not a great Egyptologist, but it is one of Mrs Gut's topics of choice, travelled all over the Country, we have, when Tut related stuff is here, so I'll try and think to ask her about it.
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Old 05-19-2016, 05:01 PM
Damaso Marte Damaso Marte is offline
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I took Introductory Ancient Egyptian in college. I could not read any inscription in the tomb of King Tut - but I can read inscriptions from the Middle Kingdom: the time when Egyptian political stability was at its low point, but Egyptian literature was at its high point.

Regardless, I think the discovery of an intact Egyptian royal tomb would have been major news no matter what else was going on. As for the Ripper - who knows, I suppose in the the grand scheme of things five murders are not notable. But the Ripper story has angles that make good news even at the busiest of news days. I don't think you can count out its appeal even when there are major political events competing for space in newspapers.
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Old 05-19-2016, 05:06 PM
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When I was a kid I tried so hard to read the Book of the Dead. But I was maybe 9 and it was just too much. But I loved gods of all kind.
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Old 05-19-2016, 06:24 PM
John Wheat John Wheat is offline
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I'm into the band Nile. There songs are all about ancient Egypt. Does that count?
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Old 05-19-2016, 07:31 PM
Mayerling Mayerling is offline
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Originally Posted by John Wheat View Post
I'm into the band Nile. There songs are all about ancient Egypt. Does that count?
I have to listen to Nile to find out if that counts. However it is really Carter's comment about the timing of the event of opening the tomb on the consciousness of the world when little elsewhere is occurring that is more to the point.

But I'll try to listen to Nile all the same.

Jeff
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Old 05-19-2016, 08:17 PM
Rosella Rosella is offline
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I may be cynical, Mayerling, but I have noted in my lifetime as a true crime buff the very great enjoyment English people get out of a really juicy murder that captures the public's imagination. Circulation of newspapers went up when a capital crime was being tried, and true crime books (and crime novels) have always sold well in Britain. After all, the First World War was raging, (a very important event indeed), when miles of newsprint was used on Smith, the Brides in the Bath killer and his trial, with masses of onlookers queuing up to get into court every day.

People don't change that much and in fact Judith Flanders in her excellent book 'The Invention of Murder. How the Victorians revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime' tackles this very subject. Perhaps the British people are at heart a nation of amateur detectives and so the unsolved and brutal nature of the Ripper killings appealed to them. I'd suggest that would have happened whatever else, short of a major war, was in the headlines.
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Old 05-20-2016, 08:39 AM
ChrisGeorge ChrisGeorge is online now
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Hi Jeff

I just wanted to mention how much I appreciate your long and informative post describing in detail what else was going in during 1888 when the Whitechapel murders occurred. As you well establish, in many ways, 1888 had been a "slow news" period with nothing much of note happening in August or even beforehand as the murders kicked off with the murders of Tabram and Nichols so it's not surprising that the sensational crimes grabbed everyone's attention worldwide. Well done in that fine exhaustive historical review, Jeff. Great stuff.

Cheers

Chris
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Old 05-20-2016, 10:23 AM
Mayerling Mayerling is offline
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Hi Jeff

I just wanted to mention how much I appreciate your long and informative post describing in detail what else was going in during 1888 when the Whitechapel murders occurred. As you well establish, in many ways, 1888 had been a "slow news" period with nothing much of note happening in August or even beforehand as the murders kicked off with the murders of Tabram and Nichols so it's not surprising that the sensational crimes grabbed everyone's attention worldwide. Well done in that fine exhaustive historical review, Jeff. Great stuff.

Cheers

Chris
Thanks Chris. I forgot to mention one other important event in the U.S. - the Presidential election that year between Grover Cleveland the incumbent and Benjamin Harrison. Harrison won by a fluke in the electoral college votes of New York and Indiana, that went into his column. Otherwise Cleveland (like Tilden in 1876 and Jackson in 1824) was ahead in the popular votes. However, the details of the campaign (interesting in illustrating political trickery) would not be earth-shattering. And Cleveland beat Harrison in 1892 when they ran against each other again.

Jeff
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Old 05-20-2016, 10:55 AM
Mayerling Mayerling is offline
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Originally Posted by Rosella View Post
I may be cynical, Mayerling, but I have noted in my lifetime as a true crime buff the very great enjoyment English people get out of a really juicy murder that captures the public's imagination. Circulation of newspapers went up when a capital crime was being tried, and true crime books (and crime novels) have always sold well in Britain. After all, the First World War was raging, (a very important event indeed), when miles of newsprint was used on Smith, the Brides in the Bath killer and his trial, with masses of onlookers queuing up to get into court every day.

People don't change that much and in fact Judith Flanders in her excellent book 'The Invention of Murder. How the Victorians revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime' tackles this very subject. Perhaps the British people are at heart a nation of amateur detectives and so the unsolved and brutal nature of the Ripper killings appealed to them. I'd suggest that would have happened whatever else, short of a major war, was in the headlines.
Hi Rosella,

I have thought of this since yesterday. I have to read Ms Flanders book to fully appreciate it, but I have seen the same view mentioned elsewhere (including by George Orwell in an essay, "The Decline of the English Murder" - I believe that is the title - in which he points to a period in the 19th Century to early 20th Century for the "Golden Age" of murders), To be truthful, it seems more pronounced in Britain, but "True Crime" books sell in all countries, and each country has it's own local talent (if you will) to boast of. Brits talk (even today) of Dick Turpin or Robin Hood (if he was real), while Americans talk of Jesse James or Billy the Kid, or Australians mention Ned Kelly or Dan Morgan. Even in non-Anglo based countries it's true. Although one notes heavy political aspects to their careers, Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata are still remembered (even become models) by Mexicans.

Smith certainly gained notable coverage in the summer of 1915 when he was tried, convicted, and executed. But in his case I wonder if his particular villainy captured public attention because of the mass killing in the on-going Great War. The Lusitania was sunk off Ireland in May 1915 losing almost 1200 people on board. Smith (as far as we know) killed three women, but victimized many others as a swindler. But certainly not thousands (he just did not have enough to do so). Captain Schwieger of the U-20 was probably detested in Britain for the sinking, but he was (if not on his u-boot) or in Germany and protected (until he drowned in a submarine sinking in 1917). But he was in the Navy of an enemy country. Smith was doing internal damage for himself. It was a kind of relief to see Smith get his comeuppance before he continued his murderous activities. It reassured the British public that their government was still trying to function to protect them.

But I notice that if one thinks about it no other 1915 murder case in Britain caused as big a stir. In fact, the next major case to gain real attention in Britain was in 1917 - the Voisin mutilation murder in London involving a love triangle among Belgian refugees. After that there are a couple of cases in 1919 and 1920 about British soldiers committing acts of violence in England (Lt. Holt, Major Seton, the first Crumbles murder Case) but they were notably not of the same status as Smith. Smith's Case was like a release from the increasingly long and bloody mess of the war. By 1919 the British public was somewhat numb from the massive wartime casualties. It isn't until 1921 when the Greenwood and Armstrong poisonings recapture public attention to a high degree (both set in countryside settings - like an Agatha Christie novel) and then the terrible tragedy of 1922 - 23 with Edith Thompson.

Yes the British public loves a good murder. But circumstances in the timing do dictate if it remains memorable.

Think also of this: Crippen's murder of his wife was in 1910. It was four years before the war, and two before the Titanic Disaster. It has been fitted into historic consciousness due to the use of wireless telegraphy in capturing the Dr. and Miss Le Neve on the Montrose by Det. Dew and Captain Kendall. The romance of the tragic pair adds to it, as does the music hall background.
It becomes a real mirror of the period.

In comparison, note Frederick Seddon's case of 1911-1912. Less memorable (though really interesting). Why? He was convicted in April 1912, and executed on April 18th...three days after the Titanic sank.

Jeff
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