12 April 1890
A CURIOUS AND UNIQUE CHICAGO INSTITUTION
The Police of Different Cities Combining in Supplying Mural Decorations of a Queer Sort - A President Who Is Much Respected but Always Absent - Some of the Treasures.
The Whitechapel Club, of Chicago, was organized by certain young newspaper men whose sense of humor, sense of the horrible, of good fellowship, of the grotesque and the arabesque, and of a variety of other things chanced to be well developed, and who had a good deal of enterprise. They rented the rooms, held a meeting, and organized a club. In honor of the individual who has made Whitechapel famous, Jack the Ripper was elected President of the organization, but, as he has been, so far, absent from all meetings and the club has not his definite address, the Vice President performs the active functions of management. 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.
It is in interior decoration, as already said, that the club comes out strong, and by this allusion is not made to convivial habits exclusively. There are several well-knowm artists among the members, and they have contributed sketches which are, to use the vernacular, simply paralyzers. There are one or two portraits, drawn carefully from imagination, of the absent but honored President, and there are other sketches as striking. The police force of this and other cities have been called upon and have contributed to the mural adornments. Even the fire department has become interested, and as for the members themselves, they have become collectors with a mission.
The banquet-room of the club is L shaped and the long table round which the members sit in lively session corresponds in shape. Above the table dangling from a pulley is a trombone which is performed upon when a pampered menial is required to bring in some more of something. Skeletons, mostly of women, dangle here and there, and there are skulls each with its ghastly history, among them that of the only colored man who ever committed suicide in Chicago. Nailed on the wall half full of clotted blood is a slipper of the Chinese merchant lately killed by highbinders in San Francisco, a donation from the San Francisco police force, and there are the shackles worn by Martin Burke from Winnipeg and a lot of anarchist relics from the police force of Chicago. There are knives and pistols with which crimes were committed. There are hideous Chinese masks and slung shots, and sand-bags, and any amount of such paraphernalia of red murder. The visitor is told the story of each, and the very marrow in his bones changes its composition.
There is some debate among outsiders as to what the ceremony of initiation into the Whitechapel Club consists of. The obligation is said to be something extremely sulphurous, yet the actual exercises are said to be anything but tedious or complicated. One of the initiated was discovered to have the imprint of a bloody hand upon his shirt front, but there is current a theory that the ritual is flexible, and that in many cases all ceremonies, save those of a purely convivial nature, are dispensed with. Saturday night receptions of the club have become social events of note, and in no instance, it is asserted, has any one present at these reunions failed to return eventually to family and friends. The record of the club in this respect is as pure as filtered water. No bones are bleaching in the alley. The Whitechapel Club, it need hardly be explained, is not an organization for gain, though formally incorporated under the State law. It has a seal and its blood-red letterheads are curiosities. It is a great institution.
(From Chicago Times)