Must Be Read To Be Believed!

Posted: May 16, 2009 in The Chicago Whitechapel Club
A Secret Society Item.

Chicago has a curio in secret society organization. It is called the "Whitechapel club" and its president is regularly known as "Jack the Ripper."
The Whitechapel club is a semi-literary organization which a few months ago duly applied to the secretary of state for a license to incorporate, and with characteristic Chicago audacity handled in the name of Jack the Ripper as its president. The state authorities fell in with the humor of the thing and granted the incorporators a charter. If the redoubtable Ripper should ever turn up in Chicago, there exist no legal formalities against his taking the chair of an institution which has considerable assets and which perhaps has the queerest membership of all clubs in the world. Only two of a kind can belong to the Whitechapel club – two murderers, two singers, two hard drinkers, two infidels, two burglars – two anything, in fact – so that it’s range of eligibility to membership is indefinitely vast. But one black ball will exclude. It has several queer rules. While opposed to theft on general principles, it is permissible to steal for the benefit of the club, and anything that once gets into possession of the club is beyond the reach of the law. Around the long tables where the meetings are held every Saturday at midnight, continuing until daylight on Sunday morning, are placed at regular intervals human skulls. They are the club’s tobacco boxes. At the head of the board sits, week in and week out, an immense skeleton, whose grisly grin is inviting and whose fleshless hand grips tightly a stein of beer, anticipating a drink the delights of which are never to be realized by him. In the rear, near the window, is another grewsome guardian whose mortal mantle of flesh has long since departed.

DECORATIONS.

Among the most prominent articles of vertu which decorate the rooms of the Whitechapel club are diverse skeletons dangling here and there on the walls; grinning skulls, each with its ghastly history; knives and pistols which have played parts in various famous crimes; a slipper, half filled with clotted blood, which was worn by the Chinese merchant recently murdered by Highbinders in San Francisco; the shackles which held Martin Burke during his little pleasure trip from Winnipeg, and dozens of other pieces of bric-a-brac quite as attractive in appearance as those already enumerated.
The club is formally incorporated under the laws of the state of Illinois. It was organized by certain frisky young newspaper men. They called a meeting, and after they had decided on the musical and suggestive name which the club now bears, they proceeded to the election of officers. In a spirit of gratitude to the man who has made Whitechapel famous enough to play godfather to such a distinguished organization, they elected Jack the Ripper president of the club. For some reason or other this gentleman has so far failed to appear at any of the meetings of the club, and, moreover, he has failed to even give the secretary his address. In these circumstances his duties have, of course, devolved upon the vice president.
The club is thoroughly democratic. It is asserted that "under the constitution two members of any profession may belong to the club – two bank presidents, two burglars, two preachers, two actors, etc. – and the ranks have been much increased by additions to membership under this rule."
Notwithstanding the blood curdling interior decorations and the skull and crossbones on the envelopes and letterheads, the Whitechapel club rooms make a very good place to visit for a person, particularly a newspaper man, who is looking for a crowd of jolly good fellows – fellows whose jollity has not been attained at the expense of their brains.
The idea is a unique one and has "caught on" with the "newspaper boys" of Chicago, and police officials and others have donated their collections to bring about the present picturesque appearance of the rooms.
Several artists have the honor of belonging to the club, and their membership is made apparent on the walls by portraits carefully drawn from fancy of the president of the club, and illustrations of incidents which, if he lives up to his reputation, could hardly fail to meet with his heartiest approval.
The accompanying cut is copied from The Chicago Tribune.

Credit: The Quincy Daily Herald, February 16, 1890, page 6

Does any part of this article or it’s accompanying photo remind you of anything pertaining to the Ripper case? (Hint: Ripper Letters)

Here is a picture of the club along with a few of its members (taken in the early 1890’s)
       Whitechapel Club
The Whitechapel Club, an offshoot of the Chicago Press Club, 1889-1895, named after the London district where Jack the Ripper operated.
Among the prominent members: Finley Peter Dunne (standing, right; Chicago Journal); Charles Seymour (seated, extreme left) and Brand Whitlock (seated, foreground right), both of the Chicago Herald.

Credit: International Press Club Of Chicago http://s88682243.onlinehome.us/html/historic_photos_2.html

THE WHITECHAPEL CLUB.
A Unique and Pastoral Society Organized by Chicago Newspaper Men.

When a certain Chicago newspaper man went home not long ago there were five blood red finger marks on his shirt front. Had he made way with some rival journalist in his efforts to get a beat? Had he played leading man in some gory tragedy? Oh, no. He had simply been inititated into the mysteries of the Whitechapel Club.
The retreat of this society with a blood curdling nature is located in a grewsome alley, running from Fifth avenue to La Salle street, in the block between Madison and Washington streets, Chicago. It was once known as Gamblers’ alley. Should a stranger who was not posted blunder into the rooms of the Whitechapel club without some one to explain matters to him, he would probably decide that the alley should be named Horror Lane.

Source: The Auburn Bulletin, Friday February 14, 1890

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