‘Dear Boss’ letter: how Jack the Ripper got his name

Posted on September 18th, 2014 by The British Newspaper Archive

On 27 September 1888, in the midst of a series of horrific murders in Whitechapel, the Central News Office in London received a letter, signed by ‘Jack the Ripper’.

Known as the ‘Dear Boss’ letter because of the way it was addressed, the letter changed the way British newspapers reported the Ripper murders.

 

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Facsimiles of the ‘Dear Boss’ letter in the newspapers

The name ‘Jack the Ripper’ reached the British press and general public on 3 October 1888, when Scotland Yard released images of the letter in the hope that somebody would recognise the handwriting.

A number of newspapers reproduced these facsimiles, including the Nottingham Evening Post:

 

A facsimile of the 'Dear Boss' Jack the Ripper letter, printed in the Nottingham Evening Post

Nottingham Evening Post – Friday 05 October 1888
Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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The letter read as follows:

 

Dear Boss,

I keep on hearing the police have caught me. but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits.

I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games.

I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha. The next job I do I shall clip the ladys ears off and send to the police officers just for jolly wouldn’t you.

Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work. then give it out straight. My knife’s so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good luck.

Yours truly
Jack the Ripper

Dont mind me giving the trade name

Wasnt good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands curse it No luck yet. They say I’m a doctor now- ha ha

 

‘Jack the Ripper’ before the letter was released

Newspapers from August and September 1888 show that, prior to the publication of the ‘Dear Boss’ letter, the British press largely referred to Jack the Ripper as the ‘Whitechapel murderer’, ‘Whitechapel fiend’ or presumed that the killings were the work of more than one person.

The letter itself also references the name ‘Leather Apron’. Before the murderer gained the moniker ‘Jack the Ripper’, the British press often referred to him in this way.

Some newspapers printed vivid descriptions of the man, as demonstrated by this snippet from the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette:

 

Leather Apron aka Jack the Ripper, described in the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette

Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette – Monday 10 September 1888
Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Read newspapers from 1888

 

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