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  • Frederick Best

    In his forthcoming book, Andrew Cook argues that a Star journalist named Frederick Best was responsible for the "Dear Boss" letter.

    I'm not sure how much biographical research Cook has done into this Frederick Best, but I thought it might be interesting to try to find him in the 1891 census. The man in the following entry seems a likely candidate. He and his wife are occupying one room in 111 Stamford Street, St Mary, Lambeth [RG 12/387, f. 101; p. 10]. (I have included some - though not all - of the occupants of the same house, in view of their colourful occupations.)

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    From what has been posted elsewhere, it seems that the Star journalist Best would have been dismissed from the newspaper by this time. The census return identifies this man as an "Employer". He seems to be a reasonable match, except for the fact that he was born in Westminster, whereas apparently one of the documents discovered by Cook describes the Star journalist as a "compatriot" of the Star's proprietor, T. P. O'Connor, presumably implying he was an Irishman.

    I have tried to find out more about the man in the census entry, but so far I have drawn a complete blank, both in other censuses and in the indexes of births and marriages. Perhaps someone else will have more success.

  • #2
    Hi, Chris. Can you please tell me why Best was 'dismissed'? I know the story of how Bulling was fired, but not Best.

    If Best and his wife are living in one room at the time of the Census, it would seem to indicate rather impoverished circumstances- though I'm not sure how much he would have earned as a journalist.

    THANKS for digging up all the old documents & posting them! You are very generous with your time and your resources; I want you to know that I greatly appreciate it. I especially enjoy the period newspaper illustrations that you post.

    Best regards, Archaic

    Comment


    • #3
      Yeah, Chris is pretty darn cool. We'll keep him around a bit longer.

      Good find, Chris. It would be nice if Cook has irrefutably identified 'Best' and can offer more information on his alleged Ripper letter writing exploits.

      Yours truly,

      Tom Wescott

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Archaic View Post
        Hi, Chris. Can you please tell me why Best was 'dismissed'? I know the story of how Bulling was fired, but not Best.

        If Best and his wife are living in one room at the time of the Census, it would seem to indicate rather impoverished circumstances- though I'm not sure how much he would have earned as a journalist.
        All I know about Best's dismissal comes from something posted on jtrforums.com by Paul Begg - who has apparently seen an advance copy of the book:
        ... the strongest evidence Cook has, in my opinion, being a letter from John Brunner, a director of the Star, to Henry Massingham, who replaced T.P. O’Connor as editor. This letter refers to two journalists, Frederick Best and William O’Brien, as ‘compatriots’ of O’Connor and of having been responsible for legal actions against the newspaper. Most importantly, it says that Best should have been dismissed for an ‘attempt to mislead Central News during the Whitechapel murders’.
        http://www.jtrforums.com/showpost.ph...&postcount=170

        The date of that letter is 7 July 1890, apparently:
        http://forum.casebook.org/showpost.p...5&postcount=30

        So I assume that the circumstances of the census entry might be explained by Best struggling to survive as a freelance journalist.

        Thanks for your kind words (though I did wonder whether some of the newspaper articles you were thinking of might have been posted by Chris Scott rather than me).

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi, Chris; thanks for your response.

          I believe you are right about some of the old news illustrations being posted by Chris Scott- I will make it a point to go thank him, too! Best regards, Archaic

          Comment


          • #6
            Here is my attempt at a summary of the information about Frederick Best in Andrew Cook's book. Some of the information clearly refers to the man in the census entry I posted above, and may have come from that entry, but Cook rarely specifies his sources.


            Page 24:

            For the launch of the Star, those recruited by T. P. O'Connor included jobbing reporters Frederick Best and Michael O'Brian.

            Sources for the chapter include "T. P. O'Connor Family Papers", "Brunner Family Papers" and "Records of the Newspaper Publishing Company Ltd (Reg # 24991)".


            Page 58:

            By early September Frederick Best and Michael O'Brian had been "put on the streets of Whitechapel by Parke to seek out human interest angles and to pick up quotes and comments from anyone with a story to tell. Best's wife Henrietta was born and brought up in Whitechapel, which gave him a great advantage in being able to use her local knowledge and family connections." They picked up from prostitutes stories about a "sinister prowler by the name of 'Leather Apron' who had apparently been threatening a number of them".

            Sources for the chapter include "T. P. O'Connor Family Papers", but presumably the information about Best's wife comes from elsewhere.


            Pages 102, 103:

            The Dear Boss letter was compared with a sample of Best's handwriting which "dates to the late 1890s when one of Best's sinecures was as a correspondent in London for a French news agency".

            Sources for the chapter include "Best Family Records".


            Pages 106, 107:

            "Best's family were of the belief that he had spent a period of time working in the USA during the 1880s. A recent thorough search of US immigration and labour records initiated by the Channel 5 documentary revealed that Best had indeed been in America and had returned to Britain some months before the Star was launched in January 1888."

            Sources for the chapter include "Best Family Records" and "US Immigration Records; 1880/1889, US Department of Labor".


            Page 197:

            A letter from John Brunner to Henry Massingham dated 7 July 1890, after Massingham had been informally offered the editorship, included this:

            "Mr Stuart advises that you would be agreeable to the proposals made by the company and we are most encouraged by your undertaking with respect to the standards expected of the newspaper. I have submitted on a number of occasions that Mr O'Connor's former use of compatriots such as Messr. Best and O'Brien have not only been responsible for several potential legal
            actions against the Star, but in the unfortunate case of Mr Parke, a somewhat more serious consequence in January last.

            Furthermore, Mr Best's attempt to mislead Central News during the Whitechapel Murders should have led to an earlier termination
            of his association with the newspaper."


            Sources for the chapter include "Brunner Family Papers", "The Massingham Family Papers" and "Records of the Newspaper Publishing Company Ltd (Ref # 24991)".

            The "serious consequence" for Parke in January 1890 was his libel conviction in respect of material he had printed about the Earl of Euston relating to the Cleveland Street Scandal, as editor of the North London Press.

            Comment


            • #7
              Hello Chris!

              There might be a possibility of Frederick Best being a "compatriot" of T.P.O'Connor.

              This possibility is not directly connected to F.Best, but to another mr. Best; I've read, that Pete Best (the former Beatle drummer) has Irish ancestory.

              How seriously one can take this statement, is naturally another question!

              All the best
              Jukka
              "When I know all about everything, I am old. And it's a very, very long way to go!"

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by j.r-ahde View Post
                There might be a possibility of Frederick Best being a "compatriot" of T.P.O'Connor.

                This possibility is not directly connected to F.Best, but to another mr. Best; I've read, that Pete Best (the former Beatle drummer) has Irish ancestory.
                Well, the surname Best is certainly not unknown in Ireland. I can think of an even more famous example from the North...

                Comment


                • #9
                  Chris- where did you find this census as I would like to take a closer look? From the section you have posted it appears that Frederick Best was sharing the room with two women and I would like to check this out.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Louise0988 View Post
                    Chris- where did you find this census as I would like to take a closer look? From the section you have posted it appears that Frederick Best was sharing the room with two women and I would like to check this out.
                    The census is from www.ancestry.co.uk. I'm afraid it's a pay-per-view service, though they do offer a free trial.

                    I see what you mean about it appearing that Best was living with two women, but the end of each household is indicated by a diagonal stroke on the right hand side of the second column shown. So actually Elizabeth Hallett is in a separate household of one. Her relationship to the head was initially written as "Wife", and then altered to "Head and Wife". It's not clear whether she was a married woman living alone or whether her husband was just away from home on the night of the census.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Excellent Work

                      After some initial, and as usual excellent, work by Chris this thread fizzled out. That is a pity in light of the recent discussion, on another thread, about 'Best'. Perhaps in light of the circumspect entries on Best in the new A To Z it might be nice to revive this discussion about the mysterious 'journalist Best'.
                      SPE

                      Treat me gently I'm a newbie.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The Andrew Cook Book

                        There was quite a detailed discussion on this subject over on JTRForums starting in May 2009 and prompted by the then new book by Andrew Cook.

                        I described the genesis (in June 1966) of the Best story and the presentation of Best in the A-Z. It is, of course, the A-Z entry on Best that brought the name, and Nigel Morland's 1966 article, to the attention of Ripperworld in general on its first publication back in 1991. Certainly this was the first time that I took notice of it.

                        I described the new material presented by Andrew Cook in his new book and his contention that one Frederick Best was responsible for the communications sent to the Central News Agency in September 1888. I also pointed out the dubious nature of some of Nigel Morland's writing.

                        At the time I wrote, 25 May 2009, I had not seen a copy of Andrew Cook's book but I was very concerned that any mention of the seminal Nigel Morland article was missing from the impending book.
                        SPE

                        Treat me gently I'm a newbie.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The Complete Jack the Ripper A To Z

                          The brand new The Complete Jack the Ripper A To Z now has two 'Best' entries, as follows -

                          BEST, -
                          Journalist. Alleged author of 'Jack the Ripper' letters.

                          and

                          BEST, FREDERICK (b. c.1858)
                          Journalist working for the Star.

                          According to the authors Cook 'does not connect Frederick Best with the journalist Best.' They also state that in a letter to them (in September 2009), Cook had explained that although aware of Best's confession [i.e. the Morland story] he had omitted it from his book for fear it would 'interrupt the flow of his narrative'.

                          Make what you will of that.
                          SPE

                          Treat me gently I'm a newbie.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Stewart P Evans View Post
                            According to the authors Cook 'does not connect Frederick Best with the journalist Best.' They also state that in a letter to them (in September 2009), Cook had explained that although aware of Best's confession [i.e. the Morland story] he had omitted it from his book for fear it would 'interrupt the flow of his narrative'.
                            It's curious, because as Cook has traced Frederick Best's family, he is presumably in a position to say whether or not he matches the man Morland says he met in 1931. The age is roughly right, but did Frederick Best live in the locality indicated by Morland at that time? In fact, was he still alive at all?

                            If the details match, surely that puts it completely beyond coincidence, and the two Bests must be the same person. If the details don't match, then there's something very strange going on, which surely needs to be investigated further.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I Agree

                              Originally posted by Chris View Post
                              It's curious, because as Cook has traced Frederick Best's family, he is presumably in a position to say whether or not he matches the man Morland says he met in 1931. The age is roughly right, but did Frederick Best live in the locality indicated by Morland at that time? In fact, was he still alive at all?
                              If the details match, surely that puts it completely beyond coincidence, and the two Bests must be the same person. If the details don't match, then there's something very strange going on, which surely needs to be investigated further.
                              I agree Chris. Presumably the authors of the A To Z made contact with Andrew Cook in an effort to resolve this matter. However it appears that the mystery only deepened.

                              On receipt of a copy of the Cook book in May 2009 I endeavoured to assess the strength of the claim that Best wrote the 'Dear Boss' letter but the vagueness of the reference and the lack of precise sourcing made this difficult. What 'evidence' there was seemed very weak and unconvincing. I did not accept the handwriting 'evidence' and noted that Lincoln Springfield (who worked for the Star newspaper) made no mention whatsoever of 'Best' in his book Some Piquant People (1924). Springfield did, however, mention the Ripper story and Harry Dam.

                              I also noted that the letter written by John T. Brunner to Henry Massingham of the Star, dated 7 July 1890, did not clarify whether or not it referred to 'Jack the Ripper' letter hoaxing in the sentence, "Furthermore Mr Best's attempt to mislead Central News during the Whitechapel murders should have led to an earlier termination of his association with the newspaper." I was also not happy with the 'Brunner letter'.

                              Therefore the earliest reference to 'Best' hoaxing Jack the Ripper letters did not appear until June 1966, and that story is from a dubious source.
                              SPE

                              Treat me gently I'm a newbie.

                              Comment

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