Below is the complete transcript of a trial in 1732 in which John Cooper (also known as Princess Seraphina) prosecuted Tom Gordon for stealing his clothes. (NB: Cooper/Seraphina was not the person on trial: he was the accuser.) The transcript is rather long — but every bit of the testimony is full of human interest. Princess Seraphina was a gentleman’s servant, and a kind of messenger for mollies (gay men), and a bit of a hustler. More to the point, she was the first recognizable drag queen in English history, that is…the first gay man for whom dragging it up was an integral part of his identity, and who was well known by all his neighbours as a drag queen or transvestite “princess”: everyone called him Princess Seraphina even when he was not wearing women’s clothes. And he does not seem to have had any enemies except for his cousin, a distiller who thought that his behaviour was scandalous.
Gordon (the alleged robber) was acquitted of the charge of robbing Seraphina. Seraphina herself was not on trial — nor was she ever brought to trial for anything afterwards as a result of losing her prosecution.
To set the context: Masquerades flourished in London from the 1720s onward, and took place in assembly rooms, theatres, brothels, public gardens, and molly houses. The commercial masquerades were quasi- carnivals first organized by the impresario John James Heidegger at the Haymarket Theatre from 1717 onwards. His “Midnight Masquerades” were tremendously successful, and drew 800 people a week. They provided many people with the opportunity to explore fetishism and transvestism. Men disguised themselves as witches, bawds, nursing maids and shepherdesses, while women dressed as hussars, sailors, cardinals and boys from Mozart’s operas. In the early days of the fashion, Richard Steele went to one where a parson called him a pretty fellow and tried to pick him up, and Horace Walpole passed for an old woman at a masquerade in 1742. The opportunities for illicit assignations provoked a host of anti-masquerade satires, and many tracts were mainly devoted to attacking the mollies who attended them, allegedly imitating infamous homosexual cross-dressers such as Sporus, Caligula, and Heliogabalus. Seraphina went to the very first Ridotto al Fresco held at Vauxhall Gardens, in June 1732, where he was not the only man disguised as a woman.
Molly houses — pubs and clubs where gay men met, especially on Sunday nights — were very popular in the 1720s in London. On special “Festival Nights” many of the men would wear drag, and sing and dance together, and engage in camp behaviour. For example, on 28 December 1725 a group of 25 men were apprehended in a molly house in Hart Street near Covent Garden and were arrested for dancing and misbehaving themselves, “and obstructing and opposing the Peace-Officers in the Execution of their Duty.” They were dressed in “Masquerade Habits” and were suspected of being sodomites because several of them had previously stood in the pillory on that account; but they were dressed in a range of costumes, not all of which were female, and the date suggests a special holiday event rather than a familiar practice. It is interesting to note that they did not submit sheepishly to their arrest, but put up a show of resistance. None were prosecuted.
For another example, at one molly house in the Mint (in the City of London), according to a contemporary witness: “The Stewards are Miss Fanny Knight, and Aunt England; and pretty Mrs. Anne Page officiates as Clark. One of the Beauties of this Place is Mrs. Girl of Redriff, and with her, (or rather him) dip Candle-Mary a Tallow Chandler in the Burrough, and Aunt May an Upholsterer in the same place, are deeply in Love: Nurse Mitchell is a Barber of this Society.” James Dalton the highwaymay was a witness to molly Festival Nights, which he described in his dying confession published just before he was hanged in 1728, and he briefly mentions John Cooper (Princess Seraphina), who at that time Dalton implied was a butcher. So Seraphina was “on the drag scene” for at least four years before the trial at which she comes dramatically to public notice.
Complete Trial Transcript
The Proceedings at the Sessions of the Peace, and Oyer and Terminer, for the City of London, and County of Middlesex; on Wednesday the 5th, Thursday the 6th, Friday the 7th, and Saturday the 8th of July 1732, in the Sixth Year of His MAJESTY’s Reign. Being the Sixth Sessions in the Mayoralty of the Right Honourable Francis Child, Esq; Lord Mayor of the City of London, in the Year 1732.
Before the Right Honourable Francis Child, Esq; Lord Mayor of the City of London; the Right Honourable the Lord Chief Baron Reynolds; the Honourable Mr. Justice Probyn; the Honourable Mr. Justice Fortescue; Mr Serjeant Urlin, Deputy Recorder of the City of London; and others of His Majestys Justices of Oyer and Terminer for the City of London, and Justices of Gaol-Delivery of Newgate, holden for the said City and County of Middlesex.
Thomas Gordon was indicted for assaulting John Cooper in a Field in Chelsea Parish, putting him in fear, and taking from him a Coat, a Waistcoat, a pair of Breeches, a pair of Shoes, a pair of Silver Shoe-buckles, a Shirt, a Stock, a Silver Stock- buckle, and 4½d. in Money, May 30.
John Cooper. On Whit-Monday, May 29, I dress’d myself and went abroad, and returning between 1 and 2 next Morning to my Lodging at Numb. 11 in Eagle-Court, in the Strand, I knock’d once, but finding no Body answer’d, I went to a Night-Cellar hard by, I call’d for a Pint of Beer, and sitting down on a Bench, the Prisoner came and sat by me; he ask’d me if I did not know Mr. Price, and some other Persons, and so we fell into Discourse; we drank 3 hot Pints together, I paid the Reckoning 9½d. and went up; I was got about 15 or 20 Yards off when the Prisoner came up to me, said it was a fine Morning, and ask’d me to take a Walk; I agreed, and we went into Chelsea Fields, and turning up to a private Place among some Trees, he clap’d his left Hand to the right Side of my Coat, and trip’d up my Heels, and holding a Knife to me, “God damn ye,” says he, “if you offer to speak or stir I’ll kill ye; give me your Ring.” I gave it him, and he put it on his own Finger; then he made me pull off my Coat and Waitcoat, and Breeches; I begg’d that he would not kill me, nor leave me naked; “No,” says he, “I’ll only change wi’ye; come pull off your Shirt, and put on mine”; so he stript, and drest hiimself in my Cloaths, and I put on his; there was 4½d. in my Breeches, and I found 3 ha’pence in his. He ask’d me where I liv’d, and I told him. “I suppose,” says he, “you intend to charge me with a Robbery by and by, but if you do, I’ll swear you’re a Sodomite, and gave me the Cloaths to let you B[ugge]r me.”
While we were dressing, a Man pass’d by at a little Distance, if there had been 2 Men I should have ventur’d to have call’d to them for Help, but as there was but one I was afraid. Then the Prisoner bid me come along, and I follow’d him to Piccadilly, and so to Little Windmill- street, and there I call’d to 2 Men, who took him into an Alehouse; I told them he had robb’d me, and he said that I had given him the Cloaths to let me B[ugge]r him. The Men said they expected to be paid for their Day’s Work, if they lost their Time about my Business; I promis’d them they should be satisfied.
When we came to Justice Mercer’s, he was not up, so we went to the Coach and Horses by St. Giles’s Church, and waited an Hour and an half; while we were there the Prisoner wrote a Letter to his Mother (as he said) and directed it to Numb. 20. in Colston’s-Court in Drury-lane. I had charg’d a Constable with the Prisoner, I told him so; “Go and do it then,” says the Justice, “and swear to the Things, and I’ll commit him.” So we went toward Tyburn-Road, into Marybone- Fields, and there the Men let the Prisoner go; “What do ye do?” says I. “Why what would you have us do,” said they, “he charges you with Sodomy, and says you gave him the Cloaths on that Account.” Another Man coming by at the same time, I desir’d his Assistance; but they telling him that I was a Molly, he said I ought to be hang’d, and he’d have nothing to do with me; then the Prisoner began to run, and I after him; but one of the two Men, who expected to be paid for their Day’s Work, kick’d up my Heels, and as I was rising, he struck me down again; I was very much hurt, and spit Blood, so that I could not follow them, and so they all got over a Ditch and escaped; I went to my Lodgings in Eagle-Court.
They were surprised to see me come home in such a shabby Dress; I told ’em what had happen’d, and describ’d the Man, and said that he sent a Letter to his Mother in Colston’s Court; “O,” says one, “I know him, his Name is Tom. Gordon, and his Mother’s Name is Abbot.” So I got Justice Giffard’s Warrant the same Day, and finding the Prisoner at a Brandy shop Door in Drury-Lane, we seized him, and carried him to Brogdon Poplet’s [a public house], and I set for Mr. Levit, and Mr. Sydney, who lodg’d in the same House as I lodg’d in; so the Prisoner was sent to the Round-house, and carry’d before the Justice next Day. He told the Justice that I put my Yard into his Hand twice; and says the Justice, “You had a long Knife, it seems, why did you not cut it off? I would have done so.” The Prisoner said that he was not willing to expose me so much. He are certain Ladies that belong to Brogdon Poplet, who, I suppose, have abundance to say for the Prisoner.
Court. What Business do you follow?
Cooper. I am a Gentleman’s Servant, but am out of Place at present; the last Place I liv’d in was Capt. Brebolt’s at Greenwich.
Prisoner [i.e. Gordon]. Did we go out of the Night Cellar together?
Cooper. No, you follow’d me.
Christopher Sandford, Taylor [tailor]. On the 29th of May, in the Evening, I was drinking with Mr. Mead at the King’s-Arms by Leicester-Fields when the Prosecutor came in, dress’d in a black Coat, a white Waistcoat, and black Breeches; he sat down and drank, and then paid his Reckoning, and went away. Next Morning I saw Mr. Mead again, he said he had met the Prosecutor in a dirty ragged Suit of Cloaths, and a speckled Shirt, and never set his Eyes on a Man so metamorphos’d. “But how came he in that Condition?” says I, “Why it seems he has been robb’d this Morning,” says he, “by one Gordon, a Leather-breeches Maker.”
I passed with Mr. Mead as I was going by Turnstile in Holbourn, the Prisoner pull’d me by the Coat, and said, “How d’ye do? what don’t ye know me?” and indeed I hardly did know him in that Dress. “What is it to you, Mr. Gordon?” says I, “why I heard you was dead.” “Dead!” says he, “who told you so?” “Why Cooper,” says I, “he drank with me last Night.” “Cooper is a great Rogue,” says he; “What has he done?” says I; “He gave me these Cloaths this Morning,” says he; “And is he a Rogue for that?” says I; “No,” says he, “but he pretends to get ’em again by Force.” “Hark ye, Tom,” says I, “as you have a Soul to be sav’d, I fancy you’ll come to be hang’d; for he has sworn a Robbery against you.” “Has he really done it?” says he; “for God’s Sake help me to make it up, I’ll go and get 3 Guineas of my Uncle in the Temple, and meet you at the Bell and Horse-shoe in Holborn.” I told the Prosecutor [i.e. Cooper] of this, and he went with me, but we could find no such Sign as the Bell and Horse-shoe.
John Sanders. Between 9 and 10 on Tuesday Night I was sent for to the Two Suger-Loaves in Drury-Lane; the Prosecutor gave me a Warrant against the Prisoner; we went before Justice Newton; the Justice having heard the Prosecutor’s Charge, ask’d the Prisoner what he had to say for himself? “Why,” says the Prisoner, “he laid his privy Parts in my Hand, and offer’d to B[ugger] me.” Then says Mr. Newton, “You had better take him before Justice Giffard to-Morrow, he knows more of the Matter, for I see it is his Warrant.” So the Prisoner was sent to the Round- house [a prison in St Giles].
The Prisoner’s Defence.
Thomas Gordon: I was lock’d out, and went to Mrs. Holder’s Night-Cellar; the Prosecutor came and sat by me, and ask’d me to drink, I thought I had seen him before; we fell into Discourse, and had 3 hot Pints of Gin and Ale between us; about 4 in the Morning he ask’d me to take a Walk; we went into Chelsea Fields, and coming among some Trees and Hedges, he kiss’d me, and put his privy Parts into my Hand; I ask’d him what he meant by that, and told him I would expose him; he begg’d me not to do it, and said he would make me amends. I ask’d him what amends? He said he would give me all his Cloaths, if I would accept of them, and so we agreed, and chang’d Cloaths.
After this, I ask’d him to go into the White Horse by Hyde-Park, but he said he would not, for he had Relations there, and did not care to expose himself in that Dress. We went farther, and I would have gone into another House, but he made the same Excuse: then we came to Little Windmill-street, where we found a Man knocking at an Alehouse Door; we thought to have gone in there, but it being early the People would not get up, and so we went to the White-Hart in Knaves-Acre; there he charg’d me with a Robbery, and I charg’d him with a Attempt to commit Sodomy. We went before Justice Mercer, who order’d us to get a Constable, and in going along, the Prosecutor raised a Mob, and squall’d as I had been murdering him, so that I was glad to get away. He afterwards met me again as I was talking with my Master in Drury- Lane, and carry’d me to Mr. Poplet’s.
Margaret Holder. I keep the Night- Cellar, the Prisoner came in about 10 at Night, and staid till 2 in the morning, and then the Prosecutor came in, and sat down by him, and said, “Your Servant, Sir; have you any Company belonging to you, for I don’t love much Company?” Then they had 3 Pints of Huckle and Buff, as we call it, that’s Gin and Ale made hot; and so about 4 o’Clock the Prisoner said he would go home, for his Mother would be up, and he might get in without his Father’s Knowledge; and the Prosecutor said, “If you go, I’ll go too”; so the Prisoner went up first, and the Prosecutor staid to change a Shilling, and went out after him. I believe the Prisoner is an honest Man; but the Prosecutor and Kitt Sandford too, use to come to my Cellar with such sort of People.
Court. What sort of People?
Holder. Why, to tell you the Truth, he’s one of the Runners that carries Messages between Gentlemen in that way.
Court. In what way?
Holder. Why he’s one of them as you call Molly Culls, he gets his Bread that way; to my certain Knowledge he has got many a Crown under some Gentlemen, for going of sodomiting Errands.
Robert Shaw. The Prisoner and Prosecutor, and four more came to my House, the White-Hart in Knaves- Acre, about 6 o-Clock on Tuesday Morning; says the Prisoner, “this Fellow charges me with a Robbery.” “How so?” says I; “Why,” says he, “we have been in Chelsea Fields, and he gave me his Cloaths to let him commit Sodomy with me, and now he wants them again.” After the second Pot, they disputed who should pay; says the Prosecutor, “You know I have but 3 ha’pence, for when I gave you my Breeches there was 4½d. in ’em, and when I took yours, I found but 3 ha’pence in the Pocket.” Then the Prosecutor desir’d to go to his Cousin Smith, a Distiller hard by, to borrow a Shilling; a Man went with him, he brought back a Shilling, and paid his Reckoning.
Court. Did the Prosecutor contradict what the Prisoner said about changing Cloaths?
Shaw. No, not in my hearing.
Edward Pocock. About 5 o’Clock o’ Tuesday Morning, as I was coming along Chelsea-Fields, I saw 2 Men a stripping among some Trees; I thought they were going to fight, but I soon found there was no Quarrel; for when they had put their Cloaths on, they went away lovingly, and the Prisoner smil’d; they look’d as if they had not been a-bed all Night, no more than I had; for you must know, being Holiday time, I got drunk, and fell asleep with my Cloaths on.
Court. How far off was you when you saw them?
Pocock. Within 20 or 30 Yards.
Court. How came the Prisoner to find you out?
Pocock. I happen’d to go to Holder’s Cellar, and there I heard talk of this Robbery; and says I, “I’ll be hang’d if these were not the 2 Men that I thought were going to fight”; so I went to Newgate to see the Prisoner, and knew him to be one of ’em; and he afterwards sent me a Subpoena.
John Thorp. It being Holiday time, I and another Stocking-maker, and 2 Shoe-makers, had been out a merry making, and in the Morning we can to the Two Brewers in Little Windmill-street; the People were not up, and while I stood knocking at the Door, the Prisoner and the Prosecutor came along close together; says the Prosecutor, “this Man has got my Cloaths on his Back”; and says the Prisoner, “He gave them me to commit Sodomy.” We told them it was a scandalous business, and advised them to make it up between themselves, and change Cloaths again. The Prosecutor said he desir’d nothing more than to have his Cloaths again; but the Prisoner would not consent, “For nothing is freer than Gift”, says he, “and I’ll see you out.”
We could not get in at the Two Brewers, and so went to Mr. Shaw’s in Knaves-Acre, and not agreeing there, we went to the Coach and Horses by St Giles’s Church; and there the Prisoner wrote a Letter to his Mother, it was directed to his Father, a Taylor, at Numb 4. in Colston’s-Court, I found the House according to the Direction, and deliver’d the Letter, but his Father was not up, and when I return’d to the Coach and Horses they were all gone.
Prisoner. Did not you go to the Prosecutor’s Cousin, the Distiller, in Warder-street?
Thorp. Yes; he told his Cousin he was pawn’d for a Shilling; says his Cousin, “As you are in the Neighbourhood, I don’t care to be scandaliz’d by you, there’s a Shilling, but go about your Business, and let me hear no more of you, for you are a vile Fellow, and I’m afraid you’ll come to an ill end.”
The Character of the Princess Seraphina.
Jane Jones. I am a Washer-woman in Drury-Lane, I went into Mr Poplet’s, my next Door Neighbour, for a Pint of Beer, and said “There’s the Princess Seraphina!” So I look’d at her, and the Prisoner was in the same Box; and says he to the Princess, “What a vile Villain was you to ——”
Court. What Princess?
Jones. The Prosecutor; he goes by that Name. “What a Villain was you,” says the Prisoner, “to offer so vile a thing? Did not you do so and so?”
Court. So and so; explain yourself.
Jones. Why in the way of Sodomity, whatever that is; so says the Princess, “If you don’t give me my Cloaths again, I’ll swear a Robbery against you; but if you’ll let me have them, I’ll be easy.” “No, you Villain, you shant,” says the Prisoner. Next Day I went to Mr. Stringer the Pawn-broker’s, facing Vinegar-yard in Drury-Lane; I wash for him, and there I saw the Princess a pawning her Shirt; “O Princess!” says I, “are you there? They will be very fine by and by; you will have no Occasion to pawn your Linen, when you get the Reward for hanging Tom Gordon. But how can you be so cruel to swear his Life away, when you have own’d that you chang’d with him?” What if I did,” says he, “I don’t value that, I shall do nothing but what I have been advised to.”
Mary Poplet. I keep the Two Sugar- Loaves in Drury-Lane, the Prisoner and the Princess came into my House, and the Princess charg’d the Prisoner with taking her Cloaths, and the Prisoner call’d her a Villain, and said she gave ’em to him. I have known her Highness a pretty while, she us’d to come to my House from Mr. Tull, to enquire after some Gentlemen of no very good Character; I have seen her several times in Women’s Cloaths, she commonly us’d to wear a white Gown, and a scarlet Cloak, with her Hair frizzled and curl’d all round her Forehead; and then she would so flutter her Fan, and make such fine Curt’sies, that you would not have known her from a Woman: She takes great Delight in Balls and Masquerades, and always chuses to appear at them in a Female Dress, that she may have the Satisfation of dancing with fine Gentlemen. Her Highness lives with Mr. Tull in Eagle-Court in the Strand, and calls him her Master, because she was Nurse to him and his Wife when they were both in a Salivation; but the Princess is rather Mr. Tull’s Friend, than his domestick Servant. I never heard that she had any other Name than the Princess Seraphina.
Mary Ryler. I was standing at the End of our Court in Drury-Lane, and seeing the Prisoner coming along with a Crowd. “Tom!” says I, “what’s the Matter?” “Why,” says he, pointing to the Princess, “this Man gave me his Cloaths to let him B[ugge]r me, and now he charges me with a Robbery.” I know the Princess very well, she goes a Nursing sometimes: She nurs’d his Master Tull and his Wife in their Salivation, and several others; and I was told that he was dress’d in Woman’s Cloaths at the last Masquerade (Ridotto al Fresco at Vauxhall.) Sometimes we call her Princess, and sometimes Miss.
Mary Robinson. I was trying on a Suit of Red Damask at my Mantua-maker’s in the Strand, when the Princess Seraphina came up, and told me the Suit look’d mighty pretty. “I wish,” says he, “you would len ’em me for a Night, to go to Mrs. Green’s in Nottingham-Court, by the Seven Dials, for I am to meet some fine Gentlemen there.” “Why,” says I, “can’t Mrs. Green furnish you?” “Yes” says he, “she lends me a Velvet Scarf and a Gold Watch sometimes.” He used to be but meanly dress’d, as to Men’s Cloaths, but he came lately to my Mantua- maker’s, in a handsome Black Suit, to invite a Gentlewoman to drink Tea with Mrs. Tull. I ask’d him how he came to be so well Rigg’d? And he told me his Mother had lately sold the Reversion of a House; “And now,” says he, “I’ll go and take a Walk in the Park, and shew my self.” Soon after this, my Maid told me that her Highness was robb’d by a Man in a Sailor’s Habit, who had changed Cloaths with him. And so next Morning I sent for him. “Lord, Princess!” says I “you are vastly alter’d.” “Ay, Madam,” says he, “I have been robb’d, but I shall get the Reward for hanging the Rogue.”
Another Time, he comes to me, and says, “Lord, Madam, I must ask your Pardon, I was at your Mantua-maker’s Yesterday, and dress’d my Head in your Lac’d Pinners, and I would fain have borrow’d them to have gone to the Ridotto at Vauxhall last Night, but I cou’d not persuade her to lend ’em me; but however she lent me your Callimanco Gown and Madam Nuttal’s Mob [cap], and one of her Smocks, and so I went thither to pick up some Gentlemen to Dance.” “And did you make a good Hand of it, Princess?” says I. “No, Madam,” says he, “I pick’d up two Men, who had no Money, but however they proved to be my old Acquaintance, and very good Gentlewomen they were. One of them has been transported for counterfeiting Masquerade Tickets; and t’other went to the Masquerade in a Velvet Domine, and pick’d up an old Gentleman, and went to Bed with him, but as soon as the old Fellow found that he had got a Man by his Side, he cry’d out, `Murder’.”
Eliz. Jones. I saw the Princess Seraphina standing at Mr. Poplet’s Door. “What, have you been robb’d, Princess?” says I, “Has Tom Gordon stripp’d your Highness stark naked? An impudent Rogue! And yet, Ma’m, I think, your Highness had better make it up with him, than expose yourself, for some say it was only an Exchange.” “Why,” says he, “at first I would have made it up, and taken my Cloaths again, but now it’s too late, and I must prosecute, for those that were concerned in taking him up, expect their Share in the Reward, and won’t let me drop the Prosecution.”
Andrew Monford. I heard the Prosecutor say to the Prisoner (at Mr. Poplet’s) “Tom! give me my Cloaths.” And the other answer’d, “No, you Rogue, I won’t: Did you not put your Hand in my Breeches, to pull out what I had?”
Several of the Inhabitants of Drury-Lane gave the Prisoner the Character of an honest working Man, and the Jury acquitted him.
Ned Ward was an investigative journalist, who no doubt embellished his facts to make them more sensational than they already were. But he did not wholly invent his material. The most striking part of his description of the molly houses — the mock lying-in ceremony during which a man pretended to be a woman giving birth to a baby — is confirmed by other sources including testimony given at trials, and in fact this gay folk ritual is sporadically described throughout the century. In the 1810s several men were arrested in the act of performing this mock-birth. We should be careful not to conclude that the mollies were habitual transvestites. The cross-dressing and lying-in rituals that Ward describes took place at specific times called “Festival Nights”, which other sources indicate took place towards the end of December. They were virtually always associated with masquerade festivals, and quite possibly represent some kind of survival of folk rituals that still take place today during Mardi Gras carnivals. The Festival Nights in other words were a kind of masquerade ball, with gay trimmings. The camp mimicking of women, however, was a regular feature of molly house gatherings.
Ward’s description of the molly houses was first published in 1709, though no copy of that edition survives. He refers to the trial of 1709 at which nine gay men were arrested at a brandy shop (owned by a gay man) where they met regularly.
THE MOLLIES’ CLUB.
THERE are a particular Gang of Wretches in
Town, who call themselves Mollies, & are so
far degenerated from all Masculine Deportment or
Manly exercises that they rather fancy themselves
Women, imitating all the little Vanities that Custom
has reconcil’d to the Female sex, affecting to speak,
walk, tattle, curtsy, cry, scold, & mimick all manner
of Effeminacy. At a certain Tavern in the City,
whose sign I shall not mention, because I am unwilling
to fix an Odium on the House, they have a settled &
constant Meeting. When they are met, together, their
usual Practice is to mimick a female Gossiping &
fall into all the impertinent Tittle Tattle that a merry
Society of good Wives can be subject to. Not long
since they had cushioned up one of their Brethren, or
rather Sisters, according to Female Dialect, disguising
him in a Woman’s Night-Gown, Sarsanet Hood, &
Night-rail who when the Company were men, was to
mimick a woman, produce a jointed Baby they had
provided, which wooden Offspring was to be after-
wards Christened, whilst one in a High Crown’d Hat,
I am old Beldam’s Pinner, representing[ed] a Country
Midwife, & another dizen’d up in a Huswife’s Coif for
a Nurse & all the rest of an impertinent Decorum of a
And for the further promotion of their unbecoming
mirth, every one was to talk of their Husbands &
Children, one estolling the Virtues of her Husband,
another the genius & wit of their Children ; whilst a
Third would express himself sorrowfully under the
character of a Widow.
Thus every one in his turn makes scoff of the little
Effeminacy & Weaknesses, which Women are subject
to, when gossiping o’er their cups on purpose to extin-
guish that Natural Affection which is due to the Fair
Sex & to turn their Juvenile desires towards preter-
natural polotions. They continued their practices till
they were happily routed by the conduct of some of
the under Agents to the Reforming Society, so that
several of them were brought to open Punishment,
which happily put a Period to their Scandalous Revels,
‘Tis strange that in a Country where
Our Ladies are so Kind and Fair,
So Gay, and Lovely, to the Sight,
So full of Beauty and Delight;
That Men should on each other doat,
And quit the charming Petticoat.
Sure the curs’d Father of this Race,
That does both Sexes thus disgrace,
Must be a Monster, Mad, or Drunk,
Who, bedding some prepostrous Punk,
Mistook the downy Seat of Love,
And got them in the Sink above;
So that, at first, a T[oa]d and They
Were born the very self same Way, [i.e. from the anus according to folklore]
The following Proposal is sent to be inserted in this Paper, as an Expedient humbly propos’d to the Legislature, for suppressing a Crime which is the most shocking Debasement of Human Nature.
“It being too notorious, that there are vile Clubs of Miscreants in and about this City, who meet to Practise and Propagate the detestable Sin of Sodomy, a Crime which drew down the flaming Vengeance of God upon the City of Sodom, in a Day when they had not that Light which we are bless’d with now, ’tis humbly propos’d that the following Method may not only destroy the Practice, but blot out the Names of the monstrous Wretches from under Heaven, viz. when any are Detected, Prosecuted and Convicted, that after Sentence Pronounc’d, the Common Hangman tie him Hand and Foot before the Judge’s Face in open Court, that a Skilful Surgeon be provided immediately to take out his Testicles, and that then the Hangman sear up his Scrotum with an hot Iron, as in Cases of burning in the Hand.”
In 1728 Black Lion Yard was the site of the house of one Jonathan Muff, which he ran as a Molly house, a resort for gay men and transvestites (a molly being a term for a gay man). It was raided in that year and some of the clientele charged, as sex between men was then a capital offence.1 Some sources give the current Black Lion House at 45 Whitechapel Road as the site of Black Lion Yard but it was further east, running from Whitechapel Road, at a point under the site of the Whitechapel Technology Centre, through the site of Magenta House to a point on Old Montague Street at the east end of Hopetown, the Salvation Army hostel.
20 NOVEMBER 2016 BY SARAH JACKSON
One of the challenges of uncovering transgender histories is that even where we find stories which hint at trans identities, we can’t go back and ask the individuals in question how they would describe themselves.
Even if we could, concepts of gender identity constantly shift and change throughout history, and the question would probably make very little sense to someone who lived centuries before us.
However, the hints we find show us that in the past, just like today, gender was not a simple binary.
In 18th century London a ‘molly house‘ was a coffeehouse, inn, or tavern at which men could meet in secret to socialise and have sex. ‘Molly’ or ‘moll’ was a slang term for a gay man, and for a lower class woman, or a woman selling sex.
Although at this time in England sex between men was punishable by death, molly houses were part of a thriving gay subculture:
The legal records document investigations into about 30 molly houses during the course of the century. Considering that the population of London was only about 600,000 in the 1720s, having even just a dozen molly houses at that time is a bit like having 200 gay clubs in the 1970s. In some respects, the eighteenth-century molly subculture was as extensive as any modern gay subculture.
One of the main molly districts was on the east of the City, around Moorfields in Shoreditch. What is now the south side of Finsbury Square was a cruising area known as ‘Sodomites’ Walk’.
Molly houses are a site where gay histories and trans histories intermingle. It was common for men at the molly house to wear women’s clothes and to speak and act in typically ‘feminine’ ways. Most had alternative names such as Plump Nelly, Primrose Mary, Aunt May, Susan Guzzle, Aunt England, and the Duchess of Camomile.
One very famous molly called Princess Seraphina wore her feminine identity beyond these secret meeting places and into her public life. In 1732 she brought a case against a man for stealing her clothes. Her neighbour Mary Poplet described her in her testimony:
“I have known her Highness a pretty while… I have seen her several times in Women’s Cloaths, she commonly us’d to wear a white Gown, and a scarlet Cloak, with her Hair frizzled and curl’d all round her Forehead; and then she would so flutter her Fan, and make such fine Curt’sies, that you would not have known her from a Woman: She takes great Delight in Balls and Masquerades, and always chuses to appear at them in a Female Dress, that she may have the Satisfation of dancing with fine Gentlemen. Her Highness lives with Mr. Tull in Eagle-Court in the Strand, and calls him her Master, because she was Nurse to him and his Wife when they were both in a Salivation (salivation was a mercurial cure for syphilis); but the Princess is rather Mr. Tull’s Friend, than his domestick Servant. I never heard that she had any other Name than the Princess Seraphina.”.
Raids on molly houses
Much of what we know about mollies comes from court proceedings following raids on molly houses, the most well known of which was the raid on Mother Clap’s molly house in 1726, in Holborn. (Incidentally, Mother Clap was a real woman called Margaret Clap.) After the raid several people were tried and three men were hanged at Tyburn for the crime of ‘sodomy’.
One of the best documented examples from east London is a raid on a molly house in Whitechapel.
“Nine male ladies” arrested
The molly house was owned by Miss Muff – also known as Jonathan Muff – and it stood in Black Lion Yard. The yard no longer exists, but Black Lion House now stands on the site at 45 Whitechapel Road.
On 5 October 1728 The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer includes a news item about the raid:
“On Sunday Night last a Constable with proper Assistants, searched the House of Jonathan Muff, alias Miss Muff, in Black-Lyon Yard, near Whitechapel Church, where they apprehended nine male Ladies, including the Man of the House. They were secured that Night in New Prison, and Monday Morning they were examined before Justice Jackson, in Ayliff-streeet; John Bleak Cawlend was committed to Newgate, he being charged on Oath with committing the detestable Sin of Sodomy.”
Of the nine arrested we know that two were whipped, one was fined, two were acquitted, and one – whose name was given as Thomas Mitchell – attempted to end his life in prison:
he attempted, and had near accomplish’d, destroying himself, in cutting the great Artery of his Left Arm almost asunder; but by the immediate Help of some eminent Surgeons he was preserv’d, tho’ at the Point of Death thro’ the great Effusion of Blood.
Trial of John Bleak Cowland
John Bleak Cowland, was indicted for that destableSin of Sodomy, and the Break of the Statute against the said Sin made and provided.
Jonathan Parrey depos’d, That in February last, he first came acquainted with the Prisoner at one Muff’s, in Black-Lion-Yard, White-Chappel. That in May last, the Prisoner went Home with him to his Lodgings, and when they were in Bed, he perswaded him to commit the Sin of Sodomy with him, to which he consented, and that they did then, and there, actually commit the Sin of Sodomy, &c. and afterwards in June last, he did actually commit the said Sin of Sodomy twice more with the Prisoner in the Bar.
This Deponent farther said, That he being weary of this wicked and detestable Practice, took a Resolution to betray the Company which met together, to commit such filthy Actions, and accordingly he gave Information against them, and contrived to be in the Room when the Prisoner and others were apprehended, at the aforesaid Muff’s House, in Black-Lion-Yard, White-Chappel.
The Prisoner said in his Defence, That he only went to Muff’s House, to learn to play on the Violin, and that it was all false which Parrey had swore against him.
The Prisoner’s Brother depos’d, That he knew Parrey to be an idle vagabond Fellow, that would swear a Cow is Horse, and his Oath was therefore not to be taken, but the Jury believing the contrary, found him Guilty. DEATH.
Trial of Richard Challenor
Richard Challenor of St. Mary’s White-Chappel, was indicted for assaulting John Branch Harris, with an Intent to commit that wicked and destestable Sin of Sodomy, with the said John Granch Harris.
He was a second Time indicted for assaulting Jonathan Parrey, with an Intent to commit the said Sin of Sodomy, with him the said Jonathan Parrey.
Jonathan Parrey depos’d, That in February last he first came acquainted with the Prisoner, that they about that Time lay together and equally committed filthy undecent and effeminate Actions; that they likewise did the same at Muff’s Hosue in Black-Lion-Yard White-Chappel, and that the Lodging in an alley near White-Chappel Church, in July last, Richard Challoner and John Branch Harris came to see him, and put their Hands into each other’s Breeches, after which they went out of the House into an Arbour in the Garden, but what they did there he could not tell.
The Jury acquitted him of both Indictments.
Trial of Isaac Milton
Isaac Milton of St. Mary’s White-Chappel, was indicted for assaulting Jonathan Parrey, with an Intent to commit that destable Sin of Sodomy, with the said Jonathan Parrey.
Jonathan Parren depos’d, That in June last, he first became acquainted with the Prisoner, at Muff’s House in White-Chappel. That at the Three-Nuns in White-Chappel, they lay together, when the Prisoner would have had him committed Sodomy with him, but he refused it; that then the Prisoner ofered to act the same Crime of Sodomy with him, but he would not suffer him.
What strengthen’d this Evidence, was the Oath of Mr. Willis, who depos’d, That when Parrey gave Information agianst Muff’s House, he mentioned the Prisoner, as one of the filthy Wretches who resorted there, to committ sodomitical Practices, and accordingly, when they went to search the House, they found the Prisoner amongst the ludicrous Company.
The Jury found him Guilty of the Assault and Misdemeanor.
Newspaper Reports 1728
5 October 1728
On Sunday Night last a Constable with proper Assistants, searched the House of Jonathan Muff, alias Miss Muff, in Black-Lyon Yard, near Whitechapel Church, where they apprehended nine male Ladies, including the Man of the House. They were secured that Night in New Prison, and Monday Morning they were examined before Justice Jackson, in Ayliff-streeet; John Bleak Cawlend was committed to Newgate, he being charged on Oath with committing the detestable Sin of Sodomy. One of them was committed to Bridewell, and Miss Muff, with the other Six were committed to New Prison for Misdemeanors. (The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer)
5 October 1728
Jonathan alias Miss Muff, and nine Male Ladies were all apprehended last Sunday Night at his House in Black Lyon Yard near White Chapel Church, carried to New Prison, and examin’d next Day before a Magistrate, when J. Bleak Cawland charged on Oath with committing the detestable Sin of Sodomy, was committed to Newgate, another to Bridewell, and Miss Muff with the other six to Newgate: Two Persons were also catch’d in that horrid Act last Week at Redding [i.e. Reading, Berkshire]; one of whom was immediately pump’d, thrown into a Bog-House, and then rinsed in stinking Ditches; what will come of the other Beast is not said. (The Flying-Post: or, The Weekly Medley)
19 October 1728
On Thursday … a Bill of Indictment was found at the Old Baily, against one Cowland, for Sodomy.
The same Morning, two Persons were taken in the Act of Sodomy, in the little Cloisters at Westminster-Abbey, and committed to Prison.
And other Bills are found at Hick’s Hall, against divers other Persons, for Sodomitical Practices. (The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer)
26 October 1728
Monday the Sessions ended at the Old Baily, when, with what received Sentence of Death last Saturday, there are 16 Capitally convicted, viz. … John Bleak Cowland for Sodomy …
John Burgess, for Sodomitical Practices, was fin’d five Marks, and order’d to find Sureties for his Good Behaviour for six Months.
Two others indicted for Sodomitical Practices were acquitted. (The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer)
9 November 1728
Saturday last … one John Mitchel stood in the Pillory in Little Britain, pursuant to his Sentence at Guild-Hall, for threatning to swear Sodomy against a Person, in order to extort Money from him; he is also to suffer three Months Imprisonment. (Weekly Journal, or the British Gazetteer) [This was also reported in The Flying-Post: or, The Weekly Medley.]
9 November 1728
Last Wednesday Night the dead Warrant came to Newgate for the Execution of thirteen Malefactors condemned last Sessions at the Old-Bailey, on Monday next at Tyburn, …
But John Bleake Cowland, Samuel Lewis, and John Taylor, are respited ’till his Majesty’s Pleasure, touching them, be further known. (The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer) [The Flying-Post on this day also reported that although John Bleak Cowland was condemned for sodomy, he was reprieved and not executed.]
: At the end of the Sessions of 16 October 1728, John Bleak Cowland was sentenced to Death. However, he was later reprieved and transported. See News Reports for 1728, 5 October, 19 October, 26 October, 9 November.]
The Proceedings at the Sessions of the Peace, and Oyer and Terminer for the City of London, and County of Middlesex. On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Monday, being the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 21st, of October, 1728, in the Second Year of His Majesty’s Reign. 1728.
Margaret Clap (died c. 1726), better known as Mother Clap, ran a coffee house – situated in Field Lane, with an arch on one side, and the Bunch O’ Grapes tavern on the other – from 1724 to 1726 in Holborn, Middlesex, a short distance from the City of London. Notable for running a molly house, an inn or tavern primarily frequented by homosexual men, she was also heavily involved in the ensuing legal battles after her premises were raided and shut down. While not much is known about her life, she was an important part of the gay subculture of early 18th-century England. At the time sodomy in England was a crime under the Buggery Act 1533, punishable by a fine, imprisonment, time in the pillory, or the death penalty. Despite this, particularly in larger cities, private homosexual activity took place. To service these actions there existed locations where men from all classes could find partners or just socialize, called molly houses, “molly” being slang for a gay man at the time. One of the most famous of these was Clap’s molly house.
At the time of the raid on Mother Clap’s, there were a number of Molly house raids going on. Frequented by homosexual men, more commonly known as Mollies, or those “abominable sodomites” – often cited that way in newspaper reports of the day – very few were actually caught “in the act”, though some evidently had their pants unbuttoned, and were trundled off to Newgate prison, or put in the pillory.
Margaret Clap ran a coffee house that served as a molly house for the underground homosexual community. Her house was popular during the two years of its existence (1724–1726), being well known within the homosexual community. She cared for her customers, and catered especially to the homosexual men who frequented it. She was known to have provided “beds in every room of the house” and commonly had “thirty or forty of such Kind of Chaps every Night, but more especially on Sunday Nights.”  Clap was present during the vast majority of the molly house’s operational hours, apparently only leaving to run across the street to a local tavern, to buy drinks for her customers. Because Clap had to leave the premises to retrieve alcohol to serve to her customers, it is likely that the molly house was hosted in her own private residence. Unlike other molly houses, it was not a brothel. Clap’s intentions may have been based more upon pleasure than profit, judging by her goodwill towards her customers. For example, one man lodged at her house for two years and she later provided false testimony to get a man acquitted of sodomy charges. Her actions during the charges later laid against her and many of the homosexual community showed her loyalty to her customers.
In February 1726, Margaret Clap’s molly house was raided by the police; around 40 of its occupants were arrested. Primarily targeted by the Society for the Reformation of Manners, the house had been under surveillance for two years.[Note 1], in particular by a Constable Samuel Stevens, who onfiltrated the house under the guise of being the “husband” of an informer and insider within Mother Clap’s. In a report made by him after a visit on Sunday, 14th November 1725 he noted “I found between 40 and 50 Men making Love to one another, as they call’d it. Sometimes they would sit on one another’s Laps, kissing in a lewd Manner, and using their Hands indecently. Then they would get up, Dance and make Curtsies, and mimick the voices of Women. O, Fie, Sir! – Pray, Sir. – Dear Sir. Lord, how can you serve me so? – I swear I’ll cry out. – You’re a wicked Devil. – And you’re a bold Face. – Eh ye little dear Toad! Come, buss! – Then they’d hug, and play, and toy, and go out by Couples into another Room on the same Floor, to be marry’d, as they call’d it.” The surveillance seems to have been instigated by a collection of vengeful mollies-turned-informants. A man named Mark Patridge was outed by his lover and was then turned as an informant for the police. He led policemen into molly houses, introducing each of them as his “husband” so that they could investigate more thoroughly.[Note 2] Patridge was not tried in court for sodomy. Another notable informant was Thomas Newton, who frequently used entrapment to allow constables to arrest men in the act of instigating sodomy.. It was not just the molly houses that were targeted, but also public spaces such as Moorfield Park, referred to as “the Sodomite’s Walk”. Newton’s testimony regarding entrapment of a William Brown ‘I was no stranger to the Methods they used in picking one another up. So I takes a Turn that way, and leans over the Wall. In a little Time a Gentleman passes by, and looks hard at me, and at a small distance from me, stands up against the Wall, as if he was going to make Water. Then by Degrees he sidles nearer and nearer to where I stood, ’till at last he comes close to me. – ’Tis a very fine Night, says he. Aye, says I, and so it is. Then he takes me by the Hand, and after squeezing and playing with it a little (to which I showed no dislike), he conveys it to his Breeches, and puts [his penis] into it. I took fast hold, and call’d out to Willis and Stevenson, who coming up to my Assistance, we carried him to the Watch house.’
The whole raid, and all the curcumstances surrounding it reads more like something out of a modern gay enclave! That so many homosexuals frequented the molly houses, the goings-on within them, the gossip and innuendo, the pimps and prostitutes, and the undercover work by the local police is quite something that one would not have expected from life in the 18-century London. The main victims, other than Margaret Clap herself, who were arrested, charged and sentenced consist of William Brown – who went to trial after entrapment; William Griffin; George Kedger – who was accused of buggering Edward “Ned” Courtney in 1725; Gabriel Lawrence; Martin MacKintosh; George Whittle (Whitle); and Thomas Wright – who kept a molly house in Beech Lane, and has been covered in another Gay History article on my blog https://timalderman.com/?s=Thomas+wright. Other protagonists involved with charges or trial are Mark Partridge, the embittered homosexual informer, who quarreled with lover, Mr Harrington. “So by late 1725, Partrdige was leading various constables to all of the London molly houses that he knew of, and introducing one or the other of them as his ‘husband’ so they could be admitted as bona fide members of each group. On Wednesday, 17 November for example, Partridge took constables Joseph Sellers and William Davison to another molly house, one kept by Thomas Wright in Beech Lane, where there was a very big row because the others had heard that they had been informed upon. They called Partridge a ‘Treacherous, blowing-up, mollying-Bitch’, and threatened to kill anyone who would betray them. Partridge, however, was able to mollify them by arguing that it was Harrington who let out the secret in the first place. So they forgave him and kissed him – and kissed the constables too, little suspecting who they were, and little knowing how treacherous Partridge indeed was.”; Edward (Ned) Courtney – hustler & informer‘I was no stranger to the Methods they used in picking one another up. So I takes a Turn that way, and leans over the Wall. In a little Time a Gentleman passes by, and looks hard at me, and at a small distance from me, stands up against the Wall, as if he was going to make Water. Then by Degrees he sidles nearer and nearer to where I stood, ’till at last he comes close to me. – ’Tis a very fine Night, says he. Aye, says I, and so it is. Then he takes me by the Hand, and after squeezing and playing with it a little (to which I showed no dislike), he conveys it to his Breeches, and puts [his penis] into it. I took fast hold, and call’d out to Willis and Stevenson, who coming up to my Assistance, we carried him to the Watch house.’ Prostitute at Yorkshire Grey tavern in Bloomsbury Market. He lived with silk dyer Thomas Orme at Red Lion in Crown Court in Knave’s Acre. By the time of the raids he was a bondservant to George Whittle (or Whitle), who was charged with keeping a molly house at the Royal Oak alehouse at the corner of St James’s Square in Pall Mall. Ned was an habitual rabble-rouser. He had already been sent to Bridewell Prison on three occasions: once for drunkenly hitting an old woman when he was an alehouse boy at the Curdigan’s Head at Charing Cross (he was sacked, since the woman was the tavern-keeper’s mother); a second time for stealing goods from Whittle’s establishment; and a third time for disturbing the peace at an unnamed molly house in Covent Garden. Ned apparently turned informer as a means to spite Whittle, who had caused him to be arrested for theft. The jury’s realisation that this may have been the motive behind his testimony, eventually led to Whittle’s acquittal; and Thomas Newton – hustler & informer. 30yo & employed by Thomas Wright, first at his home in Christopher’s Alley in Moorfields, later at his own molly house in Beech Lane. (See Lawrence’s trial). So, one can see how they were all tied in. There were a number of the Constabulary involved in the raids and arrests, including the already mentioned Samuel Stevens, Joseph Sellers, William Davison, and Constables Willis & Williams.
Margaret Clap’s Old Bailey Trial
Margaret Clap was indicted for keeping a disorderly house in which she procured and encouraged persons to commit sodomy. Her house in the City of London had been under surveillance since 10 December 1725, and was raided in February 1726 (“1725” in the old-style calendar, in which the new year did not begin until March) — an incident which forms the central chapter of my book Mother Clap’s Molly House: The Gay Subculture in England 1700-1830. She can perhaps be characterized as the first “fag hag” to be documented in British history. She seems to have run her molly house more for pleasure than for profit. It was one of the most popular molly houses in London, and had existed at least since autumn 1724. In so far as Mother Clap went out to fetch liquor (probably from the Bunch o’Grapes next door), her house — which bore no specific name — was probably a private residence rather than a public inn or tavern. Hints that it may have been specifically organized as a house of prostitution are very slim, and it is likely that she provided for herself simply by letting out rooms, by taking a percentage on the spirits she procured, and perhaps by accepting the occasional gift from a grateful guest. One man, Thomas Phillips, had lived at her house for two years, and he disappeared after the raid. All in all, Margaret Clap seems to have enjoyed her clientele — who dubbed her “Mother Clap” — and to have taken an active interest in the gay subculture. She was found guilty as charged and was sentenced to stand in the pillory in Smithfield market, to pay a fine of 20 marks, and to two years’ imprisonment. During her punishment, she fell off the pillory once and fainted several times. It is not known what became of her, if indeed she survived prison.
SAMUEL STEVENS: On Sunday Night, the 14th of November last, I went to the Prisoner’s House in Field-lane in Holbourn [in the City of London], where I found between 40 and 50 Men making Love to one another, as they call’d it. Sometimes they would sit in one anothers Laps, kissing in a leud Manner, and using their Hand[s] indecently. Then they would get up, Dance and make Curtsies, and mimick the Voices of Women. O, Fire, Sir! — Pray Sir. — Dear Sir. — Lord, how can you serve me so? — I swear I’ll cry out. — Your’re a wicked Devil, — and you’re a bold Face. — Eh ye little dear Toad! Come, buss! — Then they’d hug, and play, and toy, and go out by Couples into another Room on the same Floor, to be marry’d, as they call’d it. The Door of that Room was kept by —— Eccleston, who used to stand pimp for ’em to prevent any Body from disturbing them in their Diversions. When they came out, they used to brag, in plain Terms, of what they had been doing. As for the Prisoner, she was present all the Time, except when she went out to fetch Liquors. There was among them Will Griffin, who has been since hang’d for Sodomy; and —— Derwin, who had been carried before Sir George Mertins* for Sodomitical Practices with a Link-Boy [boy who carries a torch before gentleman to light their way in the streets at night]. Derwin brag’d how he had baffled the Link-boy’s Evidence; and the Prisoner at the same Time boasted that what she had sworn before Sir George in Derwin’s Behalf, was a great Means of bringing him off [i.e. getting him acquitted]. I went to the same House on two or three Sunday Nights following, and found much the same Practices as before. The Company talk’d all manner of gross and vile Obscenity in the Prisoner’s hearing, and she appear’d to be wonderfully pleas’d with it.
[Constable JOSEPH SELLERS confirmed this testimony, and noted that 40 mollies were arrested and imprisoned following the raid on Mother Clap’s.]
MARGARET CLAP: As for Derwin’s being carried before Sir George Mertins,* it was only for a Quarrel. I hope it will be consider’d that I am a Woman, and therefore it cannot be thought that I would ever be concern’d in such Practices.
[ * Sir George Mertins was Lord Mayor in the previous year. On 23 October 1725 Mist’s Weekly Journal reported: “Yesterday the Common-Council voted Sir George Merttins [sic] the Thanks of that Court for his just Administration in the Office of Lord Mayor.” ]
Clap was found guilty as charged and was sentenced to stand in the pillory in Smithfield Market, to pay a fine of 20 marks, and to two years’ imprisonment. During her punishment, she fell off the pillory once and fainted several times. It is not known what became of her, if indeed she survived prison.
William Brown’s Old Bailey Trial – July 1726
THOMAS NEWTON: Willis and Stevenson the Constables, having a Warrant to apprehend Sodomites, I went with them to an alehouse in Moore-fields, where we agreed that I should go and pick one up, and that they should wait at a convenient Distance. There’s a walk in the Upper- Moorfields, by the side of the Wall that parts the Upper-field from the Middle-field. I knew that this Walk was frequented by sodomites, and was no stranger to the methods they used in picking one another up. So I takes a Turn that way, and leans over the Wall. In a little Time the Prisoner passes by; and looks hard at me, and at a small Distance from me, stands up against the Wall, as if he was going to make Water. Then by Degrees he sidles nearer and nearer to where I stood, ’till at last he comes close to me. — ‘Tis a very fine Night, says he. Aye, says I, and so it is. Then he takes me by the Hand, and after squeezing and playing with it a little (to which I showed no dislike) he conveys it to his Breeches, and puts —— into it. I took fast hold and call’d out to Willis and Stevenson, who coming up to my assistance, we carried him to the Watch house. I have seen him before at the house of Thomas Wright.
WILLIS: We asked the Prisoner why he took such indecent Liberties with Newton, and he was not ashamed to answer, I did it because I thought I knew him, and I think there is no Crime in making what use I please of my own Body.
William Brown was found guilty of the misdemeanour of an attempt to commit sodomy, and sentenced to stand in the pillory in Moorfields, London, to pay a fine of 10 marks, and to go to prison for two months
A satirical commentary and poem was sent to a newspaper shortly after Brown stood in the pillory:
The other Day passing by Moorfields whilst Brown, the Sodomite, stood in the Pillory, I could not help making some Reflections on the Shower of rotten Eggs, dead Cats and Turnip Tops that the Gentlemen of the Mob were pleas’d to compliment him with on that Occasion: This brought to my Mind Mr. Humphry Wagstaff’s lively Description of A City Shower; and imagining that if a Gentleman of his Genius, who could draw so beautiful an Entertainment from so mean a Subject had ever thought it worth his while to give us the Representation of a Shower at the Pillory, it might have been a Present no less agreeable to the Publick. But as we have not often the Advantage of such Hands to adorn our publick Papers, I hope this faint Resemblance will not be unacceptable from
When faithless Men perversely tempt the Gods,
To send a Pill’ry Shower, we see the Odds
Betwixt descending Rains, t’ increase the Seed,
And thundring Storms t’ avenge some filthy Deed.
The sentence pass’d, the Clouds begin to rise,
And threaten Tempests from the distant Skies.
Black Welkin’s Frown foretells the Storm must light
On perjur’d Villain, Baud, or Sodomite.
The Caitiff rais’d, the Shower comes tumbling down,
Compos’d of Exhalations from the Town.
Shrink in thy Head vile Wretch! hang down thy Chops,
It rains both addled Eggs, and Turnip Tops,
Young Puppies, Kittens, in the Dirt besmear’d,
Must be a Lather for thy wretched Beard.
For thy vile Sins, poor Spot, the Lap-dog, dies,
And Mrs. Evans’s made a Sacrifice.
The storm continues, and the zealous Croud
With their promiscuous Offerings swell the Cloud.
Dirt, Rags, and Stubble, Bunters sh[itte]n Clouts,
Pour on thy Head as fierce as lofty Spouts;
So fast the Tempest on the Wretch is hurl’d,
It apes the Deluge of the former World;
But not so clean nor long, for in an Hour,
As by Decree, the Ministers of Power
Disperse the Croud and dissipate the Shower.
William Griffin’s Old Bailey Trial
WILLIAM GRIFFIN, alias GRIFFITH, was indicted for committing Sodomy with Thomas Newton on May 20, 1725.
THOMAS NEWTON: The Prisoner and Thomas Phillips, who is since absconded, were both Lodgers, near two Years in Clap’s House. I went up Stairs while the Prisoner was a Bed, and there he ——.
SAM. STEVENS: On Sunday, the 14th of November,  I went to Clap’s House, and found about a Dozen Mollies there; but, before I came away, the Number encreased to near Forty. Several of them went out by Pairs into another Room, and, when they came back, they said they had been married together. I went again the next Sunday Night, and then, among others, I found the Prisoner there. He kiss’d all the Company round, and me among the rest. He threw his Arms about my Neck, and hugg’d and squeez’d me, and would have put his Hands into my Breeches. And, afterwards, he went out with one of the Company to be married. — Every Night, when I came from thence, I took Memorandums of what I had observed, that I might not be mistaken in the Dates.
PRISONER [i.e. GRIFFIN]: I lodg’d at Clap’s a Year and three Quarters, but I know nothing of what these Fellows have sworn against me. As for Newton, it’s well known he’s a Rogue, and a Tool to those Informers, Willis and Williams.
The Jury found the Prisoner guilty. Death. The Ordinary’s Account of William Griffin.
William Griffin, aged forty-three Years, an Upholsterer by Trade, in Southwark; had, as he said, been a Man of good Business, but, haveing squandered away, or lost his Money, was fallen into Poverty. He denied the Fact for which he died, calling Newton, the Evidence, perjured; and saying, that the abominable Sin was always the Aversion of his Soul; for he had lived many Years with a good virtuous Wife, who had several Children, two of which, a Boy and a Girl, are living; and, he said, both of them behave mighty well, and to the Satisfaction of all concerned with them: And he hop’d that the World would not be so unjust, as to upbraid his poor Children with his unfortunate Death.
At the Place of Execution, —— Griffin would not own the Commission of that detestable Sin.
He was hanged at Tyburn, on Monday, May 9, 1726.
George Kedger’s Old Bailey Trial
GEORGE KEDGER, alias Keger, was indicted for committing Sodomy with Edward Courtney, aged 18 Years, July 15 .
EDWARD COURTNEY. I have known the Prisoner about a Year. I first became acquainted with him when I lived a Servant at the Yorkshire-Grey in Bloomsbury-market. I went from thence to live at a Cook’s Shop in St. Martin’s-lane, and there the Prisoner follow’d me. One Day in July last, he came there to dine, and sat in a back Room in the Yard. When I went to fetch away the foul [i.e. dirty] Plates, he squeez’d my Hand, and kiss’d me, and took me in his Arms and asked me to let him ——, to which I consented, and he put —— and ——. [i.e. performed anal intercourse]
I went afterwards to live with Thomas Orme, a Silk-Dyer, at the Red-Lyon, in Crown-Court in Knaves-Acre. He kept a Molly-house and sold Drink in private back Rooms to such sort of Company; and there the Prisoner often came after me upon the same Account.
PRISONER [i.e. KEDGER]. Ned Courtney asked me to do it, when he liv’d at the Cooks, but I told him I would not. What, says he, am not I handsome enough for ye? That’s not the Case, says I, but I have got an Injury. That’s only a Pretence, says he, but, if you don’t like me, I have got a pretty younger Brother, and I’ll fetch him to oblige ye. — As for my going to Tom Orme’s, he was my School-fellow, and sold a Pot of good Drink; and there likewise Ned solicited me to do the Story, and would fain have had me to have gone into the Necessary-House [i.e. toilet] with him, for he said, he could not rest till he had enjoy’d me. And afterwards, when he was turn’d out of his Place, I met him by chance in a very poor and ragged Condition, and he told me, that he had nothing to subsist upon, but what he got by such Things. I advised him to leave off that wicked Course of Life; but he said, he wanted Money, and Money he would have, by hook or by crook; and, if I would not help him to some, he would swear my Life away.
FRANCES CROUCH. I always found the Prisoner to be a very civil Man, and I believe he loved a Girl too well to be concern’d in other Affairs.Another Woman deposed to the same Purpose.The Jury found him guilty, and he receiv’d Sentence of Death, but was afterwards reprieved.
Gabriel Lawrence’s Old Bailey Trial
GABRIEL LAWRENCE was indicted for committing, with Thomas Newton, aged thirty Years, the heinous and detestable Sin of Sodomy, not to be named among Christians, July 20, 1725.
THOMAS NEWTON: About the end of June, or the beginning of July, one Peter Bavidge, who is not yet taken [captured], and —— Eccleston, who died last Week in Newgate, carried me to the House of Margaret Clap, who is now in the Compter, and there I first became acquainted with the Prisoner. Mother Clap’s House bore the publick Character of a Place of Rendezvous for Sodomites. — For the more convenient Entertainment of her Customers she had provided Beds in every Room in the house. She had commonly thirty or forty of such Kind of Chaps every Night, but more especially on Sunday Nights. I was conducted to a Bed up one Pair of Stairs, where, by the Persuasion of Bavidge, who was present all the while, I suffered the Prisoner to ——. He, and one Daniel, have attempted the same since that Time, but I refus’d, though they buss’d [kissed] me, and stroked me over the Face, and said I was a very pretty Fellow. — When Mother Clap was taken up [arrested] in February last, I went to put in Bail for her; at which Time Mr. Williams and Mr. Willis [two Reforming Constables] told me they believed I could give Information; which I promised to do; but at the End of the same Month I was taken up myself.
—— WILLIS. In March, Newton was set at Liberty, but he came the next Day, and made a voluntary Information.
—— WILLIAMS. He [Newton] informed against several of the Sodomites at that Time, but did not discover [inform against] the Prisoner till the 2d of this Month, and then I took his Information at Sir John Fryer’s.
SAMUEL STEVENS. Mother Clap’s House was in Field-lane, in Holbourn. It was next to the Bunch of Grapes on one Side, and join’d to an Arch on the other Side. It was notorious for being a Molly-house. I have been there several Times, in order to detect those who frequented it: I have seen 20 or 30 of them together, kissing and hugging, and making Love (as they called it) in a very indecent Manner. Then they used to go out by Couples into another Room, and when they came back, they would tell what they had been doing, which, in their Dialect, they called Marrying.
JOSEPH SELLERS. I have been twice at that House, and seen the same Practices. The Prisoner’s Defence.
PRISONER [i.e. LAWRENCE]. I own I have been several Times at Mrs. Clap’s House to drink, as any other Person might do; but I never knew that it was a Resort for People that followed such Sort of Practices.
HENRY YOXAN. I am a Cow-keeper, and the Prisoner is a Milk-man. I have kept him Company, and served him with Milk these eighteen Years. I have been with him at the Oxfordshire-Feast, where we have both got drunk, and then come Home together in a Coach, and yet he never offered any such Indecencies to me.
SAMUEL PULLEN. I am a Cow-keeper too, and have served him with Milk these several Years, but never heard any such Thing of him before.
MARGARET CHAPMAN. I have known him seven Years. He has often been at my House, and, if I had suspected any such Stories of him, he should never have darkened my Doors, I’ll assure ye.
WILLIAM PRESTON. I know him to be a very sober Man, and have often been in his Company when he was drunk, but never found any ill by him.
THOMAS FULLER. Nor I neither. He married my Daughter eighteen Years ago: She has been dead seven Years. He had a Child by her, which is now living, and thirteen Years old.
CHARLES BELL. He marry’d my Wife’s Sister. I never heard the like before of the Prisoner; but, as for the Evidence, Newton, I know that he bears a vile Character.
The Jury found him guilty. Death.
He was a second Time indicted for committing Sodomy with P——, November 10. But, being convicted of the former, he was not tried for this. The Ordinary’s Account of Gabriel Lawrence.
Gabriel Lawrence, aged 43 Years, was a Papist, and did not make any particular Confessions to me. He kept the Chapel with the rest for the most part; was always very grave,, and made frequent Responces with the rest, and said the Lord’s Prayer and Creed after me. He owned himself of the Romish Communion; but said, that he had a great Liking to the Church of England, and could communicate with them; but this I would not allow, unless he renounced his Error. He said Newton had perjured himself, and that in all his Life he had never been guilty of that detestable Sin; but that he had liv’d many Years with a Wife who had born several Children, and kept a good sober House. ——
At the Place of Execution he said, that a certain Person had injured him when he took him before a Justice of the Peace, who committed him, in swearing or affirming, that fifteen Years ago he had been taken up for that unnatural Sin, and that it cost him Twenty Pounds, to get himself free, which, he said, was utterly false; for, ’till this Time, he was never suspected.He was hanged at Tyburn, on Monday, May 9, 1726.
Martin Mackintosh’s Old Baily Trial
Joseph Sellers: P—— carried me and others to several Sodomitical Houses, in order to detect some Persons who frequented them. Among the rest he carried us to the House of ——Jones, a Tallow-Chandler, at the Tobacco-Roll and Crown, or Three Tobacco-Rolls (I forget which) in Drury Lane. As soon as we came in, Gabriel Laurence, who has since been hang’d for Sodomy, began to scold at P——, calling him a vile Dog, a blowing-up Bitch, and other vile names, because P—— had blab’d out something about one Harrington’s being concern’d with him in Sodomitical Practices. P—— excus’d himself, by affirming that Harrington first discover’d the Secret, and that what he had said was only to be even with him. Hereupon P—— and Laurence appeared to be pretty well reconciled. It was agreed beforehand, betwixt P—— and I, that I should pass for his Husband, to prevent my being too far attack’d by any of the Company. The Prisoner sold Oranges, and for that Reason he went by the Maiden Name (as they call’d it) of Orange Deb. He and Laurence were mighty fond of one another; they hug’d and kiss’d one another, and employ’d their Hands in a very vile Manner. — After which the Prisoner came to me, thrust his Hand into my Breeches, and his Tongue into my Mouth, swore that he’d go forty Miles to enjoy me, and beg’d of me to go backwards and let him. — But I refusing he pull’d down his Breeches and offer’d to sit bare in my Lap, upon which P—— snatch’d a red hot Poker out of the Fire and threatened to run it into his Arse.
[Samuel Stevens, another undercover officer, repeated Sellers’ testimony. Mackintosh called three men who said they had slept with him and had no reason to suspect such things, and that he had a wife and child. Mackintosh was found guilty and sentenced to stand in the pillory near Bloomsbury Square, to pay a fine of 10 marks, and to suffer one year’s imprisonment.]
George Whittle’s (Whitle) Old Bailey Trial
GEORGE WHITLE, alias Whittle, was indicted for committing Sodomy with Edward Courtney, December 1, 1725.
EDWARD COURTNEY. The Prisoner kept an Alehouse, the Royal-Oak, at the Corner of St. James’s-Square, in Pall Mall. He had a back Room for the Mollies to drink in, and a private Room betwixt that and the Kitchen. There is a Bed in that middle Room, for the Use of the Company when they have a Mind to go there in Couples, and be married; and for that Reason they call that Room, The Chappel. He has help’d me to two or three Husbands there. One Time indeed, he put the Bite upon me; for, Ned, says he, there’s a Country Gentleman of my Acquaintance, just come to Town, and if you’ll give him a Wedding Night, he’ll pay you very handsomely. So I staid ’till Midnight, but no Gentleman came, and then it being too late for me to go Home, the Prisoner said I should lie with him, which I did. He put his Hand upon —— and promised me a great deal of Money, if I would let him —— which I agreed to, and he did. — But in the Morning he gave me no more than Six-pence.
Mr. RIGGS. For two or three Years past it was commonly reported, that the Prisoner kept a Molly-House, and therefore the Neighbours did not care to go and drink there.
DRAKE STONEMAN. I have known the Prisoner’s House for two or three Years. I have seen Men in his back Room behave themselves sodomitically, by exposing to each other’s Sight, what they ought to have conceal’d. I have heard some of them say, Mine is the best. Yours has been Battersea’d. — I don’t know what they meant by the Expression. — There is a little private Room between the back Room and the Kitchen, — they call lit the Chappel, to which they sometimes retired, but I can’t say for what Purpose. The Prisoner’s Defence.
PRISONER [i.e. WHITTLE]. This Ned Courtney is such a scandalous Fellow that he deserves no Credit. — He has been thrice in Bridewell.
COURTNEY. ‘Tis very true, I have been three Times in Bridewell, but it was for no Harm, as you shall hear. First, when I was a Servant at the Cardigan’s-Head at Charing-Cross, I went to see the Prisoner, and he made me drunk in his Chappel, and when I came Home, I abused my Master’s Mother, for which I was sent to Bridewell, and my Master would not take me in again. Then, Sir, I went to live at a Molly-House; but my Master breaking [breaking into houses], and I helping him to carry off his Goods by Night, a Constable stopt me, and I being saucy, and refusing to tell him where the rest of the Goods were, I was carried before a Justice, and sent to Bridewell a second Time. And the third Time was only for raising a Disturbance about a Mollying-Cull in Covent-Garden.
PRISONER. As to the Report of my being a Sodomite, it was rais’d out of Spight; for I unfortunately let a Barber’s Shop to one Johnson, whose Wife was a cursed Bitch, and had been in Newgate for Perjury. Johnson owed me half a Year’s Rent, and I arrested him, for which his Wife, whenever she got drunk, used to call me Sodomite Dog, and so the Scandal begun, and was spread among my Neighbours. — I had a Wife, but she has been dead these two Years. I had two Children by Her, one of them is dead likewise, but the other is here in the Court, a Girl of 13 Years old. — I was going to marry another Woman, a Widow, just before this Misfortune broke out. — As for what Drake Stoneman says about some Things that he has seen in my back Room, there is nothing in it but this: I was acquainted with several young Surgeons, who used to leave their Injections, and Syringes at my House, and to bring their Patients, who were clapp’d [had venereal disease], in order to examine their Distempers, and apply proper Remedies. I have had them there on that Account eight or ten Times a Week.
PETER GRENAWAY. Ned Courtney was bound to my Master. He told me a Quarter of a Year ago, that one Butler, a Chairman, was the first Man that he had had to do with: And, he has told me since, that the Occasion of his quarreling with the Prisoner was, because the Prisoner refused to let him have a Pint of Beer when it was late. — The Prisoner was a Peace-Maker, he kept a creditable House, and always advised his Customers to go Home betimes to their Wives.
WILL BAYLIS and NICHOLAS CROWARD deposed. That they had lain with the Prisoner several Times when his Wife was living, and had never found any Thing in his Behaviour that might give them the least Ground to suspect him inclinable to sodomitical Practices.
—— STEWARD and ELIZ. STEWARD deposed, That the first News they heard of such a Thing was from the Wife of Johnson, to whom the Prisoner had let a Shop.
ALEXANDER HUNTER and WILLIAM BROCKET deposed, That such a Report was indeed whispered in the Neighbourhood a little before the Prisoner was taken up, but they knew not what Foundation there was for it.
Others of the Prisoner’s Neighbours deposed, That they never heard any Thing like it.
ANN WHITE. I was the Prisoner’s Servant. I know of no Room that was call’d the Chappel. The middle Room, and back Room were publick for any Company, and there was neither Locks nor Bolts to the Doors.
ANN CADLE. I have been the Prisoner’s Servant ever since the 13th of October last. I lay in the House every Night. I don’t so much as know this Ned Courtney. I never saw him at our House: And I think I should have seen him if he had lain there all Night with my Master.
The Jury acquitted the Prisoner. Notes
Some sources say the house had only been surveilled for a year prior to the raid.
The idea of calling a molly’s lover their husband was based on the faux-marriages that took place at some molly houses, often with a man playing a priest, and others acting as bridesmaids.
Notes on William Brown – In 1726 William Brown was found guilty of the misdemeanour of an attempt to commit sodomy, and sentenced to stand in the pillory in Moorfields, London, to pay a fine of 10 marks, and to go to prison for two months. The case is interesting for revealing a man who, though perhaps not “gay and proud” in the modern sense, nevertheless declared to the authorities that he was not ashamed of his behaviour and that he felt that how he used his body was his own business — a strikingly modern conception. Moorfields was just north of London City Wall. By the early eighteenth century, a path in the Upper- Moorfields, by the side of the Wall that separated the Upper- field from the Middle-field, acquired the name “The Sodomites’ Walk”. The wall itself was torn down in 1752, but the path survives today as the south side of Finsbury Square. John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, notorious as the author of Sodom, or The Quintessence of Debauchery (1684), was called “the Moor-Fields Author, fit for Bawds to quote”. Moorfields was identified as a molly Market (i.e. a gay cruising ground) in an editorial in the London Journal, and was obviously well known to all — Richard Rustead the extortioner was recognized by a serving boy in 1724 as a frequent user of “the Sodomites’ Walk in Moorfields”. On the east side of Moorfields, Thomas Wright kept a molly house at his home in Christopher Alley (now Christopher Street). Thomas Newton was a 30-year-old a hustler in the employment of Thomas Wright, first at his home in Christopher’s Alley in Moorfields, later at his own molly house in Beech Lane. According to Newton, Wright “has often fetch’d me to oblige Company in that way”. Newton had been arrested in 1725, but he agreed to act as an agent provocateur in order to escape prosecution.
Notes on William Griffin – This is one of the series of trials that took place in 1726 following the raid on Mother Clap’s molly house. Although Griffin denied the charges, the jury did not believe him. One would think that Griffin must have been a gay-identified man, since he actually lived at Mother Clap’s molly house for two years; but he had also been married and had two children. He was a 43yo furniture upholsterer.
Notes on George Whittle – This is one of the series of trials in 1726 that followed the raid on Mother Clap’s molly house. The young hustler Ned Courtney gave evidence in return for immunity from prosecution, as in other related trials. The jury evidently did not believe Courtney’s testimony that Whittle himself kept a molly house, and Whittle was acquitted. That verdict was just, because the evidence obviously was not strong enough to convict him of a capital felony. But nevertheless we can still wonder whether or not he was in fact a molly. It seems odd, for example, that no surgeons appeared to support his claim about their frequent use of his back room for merely medical pu
a b c d e Norton, Rictor (Feb 5, 2005). “The Raid on Mother Clap’s Molly House”. Archived from the original on 2010-11-06. Retrieved Feb 11, 2010.
^a b Bateman, Geoffrey (Aug 18, 2005). “Margaret Clap”. glbtq.com. Archived from the original on 2010-03-04. Retrieved Feb 11, 2010. a b Norton, Rictor (June 20, 2008). “The Trial of Margaret Clap”. Retrieved Feb 11, 2010.
^Norton, Rictor (June 20, 2008). “The Trial of Gabriel Lawrence”. Retrieved Feb 11, 2010.
^a b Norton, Rictor (June 20, 2008). “The Trial of Thomas Wright”. Retrieved Feb 11, 2010.
^a b c d e Aldrich, Robert; Wotherspoon, Garry (2001). Who’s Who in Gay and Lesbian History: From Antiquity to World War II. Routledge. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-415-15982-1.
A jockstrap (also known as a jock, jock strap, strap, supporter, or athletic supporter) is an undergarment for supporting the male genitalia during cycling, sports or other vigorous physical activity.
Why are they called jock straps? by Answer Guy, ESPN The Magazine
John Cronce, corporate historian, Jockey International: … As I was saying, now you might ask why they’re called jock straps. I thought I just did. Early bicycles, called penny farthings, had a giant front wheel and a tiny back wheel. People who rode them were called “bicycle jockeys,” a term borrowed from horse racing.
Answer Guy; Whoa, déjà vu. Riders wore athletic supporters, called “bicycle jockey straps,” later shortened to jock strap. Why did riders need jock straps? I’ve never ridden a penny farthing, but I’ve always imagined that if I did, the answer would become clear. Hmmm.
Annette Thompson, The Bicycle Museum of America: I’m not a man, but my male counterparts who’ve ridden penny farthings assure me that if I were, the answer would become clear. Déjà vu all over again!
Jim Corbett, vice president of marketing and sales, Bike Athletic Company: Bike started in Boston in 1874 when C.F. Bennett, one of our founders, invented the athletic supporter. He was a bicycle jockey. Early bikes had wooden seats and no springs. Combine that with the bumpy cobblestone streets of late-19th century Boston and the need for a jock strap becomes clear. This is too weird. As athletes in other sports began to wear them, “bicycle jockey strap” was shortened to “jock strap.” Now you might ask why athletes are called “jocks.” You know, I just might …
Jim Rader, etymologist, Merriam-Webster, Inc.: It’s short for jock strap, which, like jockey, comes from the name Jock. And as with Dick or Peter, Jock is an example of a proper name that is used as a euphemism for … Then again, I might not.
Procuring jocksteaps in Australia was next to impossible in the 70s, and early 80s. If you were lucky, you’d find the occasional chemist that had one tucked away amongst all the elastic bandages & supports, and this was how I obtained my first ones while living in Melbourne, a “Futuro” (this company no longer produces jockstraps) and 2 “Bike” No,10 from the 80s, which I still have. With no internet, and none available in sex shops of the period, it was a battle to get them short of a visit to the States, so even the odd “Futuro” or “Champion” find from a chemist was treasured. Some of the larger sportingbgoods chains eventually gecame outlets for “Bike”, “Addidas”, “Puma” and “Under Armour”.
According to Jockstrap Central – a major Canadian jockstrap retailing site:
“In researching this article we found two different inventors of the jock strap, the first being Parvo Nakacheker of Finland. This gentleman, apparently an athlete from Finland, claims to have done much of the pioneer work in developing the original athletic supporter and “devoted much time to the study of pure anatomy and the special demands of such an item.” The second and seemingly most likely being the BIKE Web Company; who in 1874 invented the athletic supporter, quickly becoming known as the “BIKE Jockey Strap” due to the fact that it was designed originally to support and protect the genitals of the bicycle jockeys who rode the cobbled streets of Boston at that time, over the years it has come to be known more commonly as the jockstrap. Laying claim to the first hard cup supporter is Canadian company Guelph Elastic Hosiery from Guelph, Ontario. Although founded by Joe Cartledge, it was one of his two sons, Jack who being a “jock” developed the hard cup supporter and filed a patent for it in 1927. Interestingly, one versions of the jockstrap, sold in 1900 was the Heidelberg Electric Belt, a sort of low-voltage jockstrap claiming to be a cure for impotence, kidney disorders, insomnia, and many other complaints….. (The mind boggles!). Athletic jockstraps traditionally come in two styles; with a 1 inch waistband (swimmer style) or 3 inch waistband. Our Safe-T-Gard line has a knit elasticized pouch; this helps to control unwanted movement and also to create a snug comfortable fit. Attached to the bottom of the pouch are two straps which pass between the legs, split across the lower buttocks then up the sides to join the waistband, helping to hold the pouch down and in place. There is also now a thong style jockstrap, similar to the athletic type, but only having one strap attached to the bottom of the pouch, this passes under the crotch, up through the centre of the buttocks attaching to the waistband at the middle of the back. Yes men, thong’s are not just for ladies anymore! (To the uninitiated, a thong does take some getting used to). Other types of jockstrap include the slingshot, this doesn’t have any straps attached to the bottom of the pouch, and relies on the testicles to hold it in place…. Not much good in cold climates (think shrinkage), or for active sports as it wouldn’t take too much activity to come uncovered. There are also suspensories, similar to the jockstrap in a lot of ways with one main exception; above the pouch that holds the testicles is a hole which you place your penis through so that it hangs free from the constriction of the pouch, just be careful to control your thoughts and um…actions when in public! This could be quite embarrassing. Fashion jockstraps come in numerous waistband widths, and the pouches made from a variety of fabrics, anything from a fishnet type weave (which does not leave a lot to the imagination…..) to slinky fabrics such as Silk, Rayon and Lycra? It’s also rumored that the Sports Bra for Women was originally conceived by an inventor who joined two Jock straps together.Returning to the basic Jockstrap (if there is such a thing!), they also come in hard and soft cup varieties, a hard cup is to add protection when playing Ball and contact sports. In most cases the hard cup is an insert that sits in a double walled pouch. BIKE has now gone on to sell over 300 million of them, and now has several rivals in the business, including Safe-T-Gard and Champion, who sell the traditional “athletic supporter,” and other Companies such as N2N Bodywear, Go Softwear, J.M. and Zakk, who produce men’s jockstraps as a fashionable and fun clothing.”
Further to their reference of a Canadian connection in the inventing of the jockstrap, we have the following article: (Originally blogged August 4, 2010)
“Okay, so this isn’t exactly fashion… but you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t interested! The jockstrap is a bit like the brassiere and sewing machine because it was not the invention of one person but rather the result of a series of innovations, patents, and improvements.
As men took up team sports in the 19th century, they adopted knitted cotton and wool jersey garments because the material allowed freer movement. However, when costumes made of these materials were worn for swimming, little was left to the imagination when bathers emerged from the sea in what was essentially a wet T-shirt. Women’s bathing costumes were voluminous and usually made of woven rather than knitted material so they did not cling like men’s bathing costumes. Men sometimes took to wearing bathing girdles underneath their jersey bathing suits. These apparently resembled artist model posing pouches and were worn to minimize bulging even though most beaches were segregated in the 19th century, with women using an adjacent beach.
More men began adopting the modesty girdles for support beneath their knitted tights and jersey sports uniforms. An American improvement in 1874 resulted in a style specifically designed to avoid chafing for bicycle riders. These were sold as ‘bicycle jockey-straps’ but by the turn of the century were simply known as ‘jock-straps’ or athletic supporters.
However, as every man knows who has ever played sports, even just once, a jockstrap might be fine for keeping things out of the way, but it does not protect anything from a puck or cleated shoe. The Guelph, Ontario company Guelph Elastic Hosiery made an improvement to the jockstrap in 1927 when a hard cup was added for protection. The jock strap was sold for years under the appropriately homophonic name ‘Protex.’ The inventor of the cup and owner of Guelph Elastic Hosiery died in 1957 and the company was sold the following year. Eventually the company ceased making anything but jockstraps and the company was renamed Protexion Products in 1987, but all manufacturing of Protex has since ceased at the Guelph Ontario manufacturing plant.”
With “Bike” being a prominent mover and shaker in the history of jockstraps, and considering the immense popularity of their jockstraps in fetish and sport cirles, it is only fair to give them a voice here: “In 1874, BIKE Athletic Company began operations as the BIKE Web Company and originated the athletic supporter. Designed to provide support for the bicycle jockeys riding the cobblestone streets of Boston, the athletic supporter quickly became known as the “BIKE jockey strap.” Eventually the name was shortened to simply the “jock strap” and, BIKE has now sold well over 300 million of them.
BIKE’s history, and its present success, has been built on our dedication to the world of athletes through product innovation. Since creating that first jock strap in 1874, BIKE has been the product innovator behind several other key athletic products. BIKE created the AIR POWER football helmet that became the standard by which all other manufacturers designed helmets to be both lightweight and comfortable, but extremely protective. BIKE created the coaches short, now worn on sideline all throughout the world. BIKE was also the first company to introduce compression shorts using uniform compression of specific muscle groups to aid in circulation, reducing fatigue and enhancing performance. BIKE’s two latest innovations, the Aeroskin moisture transport system and the ProFlex2 cups are highlighted in our innovation section.”
The Shock Doctor archives provides the following historical article:
Although legend has it that athletes in ancient times competed nude, today’s athletes opt for the comfort and security of supportive clothing. Tracing the origins of the athletic supporter, a.k.a. “jockstrap,” according to the Research Librarian at the Fashion Institute the precursor of today’s “jock” was a rubberized cotton canvas girdle worn more for modesty purposes than for support by bathers (swimmers) at public beaches in the 1860’s. The knitted, worsted wool swimsuits (that covered from neck to knee) worn my men and boys of the era were clingy and revealing when wet and the girdle was designed to constrict, cover and flatten the offending bulge.
As public sporting events grew in popularity, athletes (largely male) now risked charges of “corrupting public morals” and ” public lewdness” and began to wear the apparel under their tights and uniforms when competing in publicly sponsored contests. In 1867 a Chicago sports team refused to take the field while wearing “modesty” girdles and forfeited the competition. A riot ensued. In a newspaper story about the event a Dr. Lamb was quoted as “having recognized a medical benefit to males by the wearing of a protective girdle.”
The jock’s journey into the world of sports continued in 1874 in response to a request by the Boston Athletic Club to design apparel that would provide comfort and support for bicycle jockeys riding the cobblestone streets of Boston.” Traditional undergarments of the day (union suits) were uncomfortable and the rubberized girdle used by some caused chafing and blistering on the bicycle seats. Therefore there was a need for something that accommodated the movements of the sport and yet would contain and control in much the same manner as the girdle. ”
In 1897 the need was met as Charles Bennett, wizard of the sporting-goods manufacturer Sharp and Smith in Chicago designed the first jock strap. The original name was the Bike Jockey Strap, its insignia was a large bicycle wheel, and it was intended first for bicycle riders (who, at that time were called jockeys) and second for horseback riders. The athletic supporter became known as a “bike jockey strap” or “jock strap”. Eventually it became simply a “jock”.
The first consumer mass marketing of the jock strap came in the 1902 edition of the Sears and Roebuck Catalog which claimed the garment, now termed an “athletic supporter” was “medically indicated” for all males that engage in sports or strenuous activity.
Without doubt that most of today’s competitive sports would never have developed as we know them had it not been for the jock. Serving to provide uplift and comfort, prevent stress, pain, hernia and possibly permanent damage and future sterility, the jock has secured its place in sports history. Up until just recently, the design has remained essentially the same for three-quarters of a century — a knit pouch held up above by a wide elastic waistband and below from two leg straps going upward from the groin across the buttocks and connecting on the side of the waistband.
In 2004, design technology finally revolutionized the standard jock as Shock Doctor unveiled its innovative X-FIT� System featuring a wrap-around cup placement design to keep the cup comfortably and firmly in place. And while the jockstrap still has a role in sports underwear, new alternatives are becoming popular. Athletic supportwear provides precise fit, improved comfort and increased athlete mobility while keeping the genitals close to the body. Shock Doctor’s innovative line of loose-fit and compression shorts combine materials that both support and breathe, in various styles designed to meet the needs of particular sports. To eliminate chafing, Mesh fabric construction provides ventilation while anti-bacterial comfort lining wicks moisture away from the skin to the exterior garment surfaces. Additional design benefits include short panel construction, which concentrates compression around major muscle groups for maximum support and mobility.
About 250,000 American men suffer sports-related groin injuries every year. And ninety-nine per cent of those who engage in active sport wear a jock and some players, like pitcher Tom Seaver of the NY Mets use the security of two straps, plus a pair of jockey shorts, plus a plastic cup fitted inside the second jock. Yet for all its historical significance in the world of sports, the jockstrap alone cannot fully protect the genitals from impact. Rather, it serves as a holder for a plastic cup that specifically serves the purpose. Which brings us to the history of its companion — the athletic cup�.
” The Cup”
The sports world runneth over with cups: Stanley; Ryder; World; Davis; America’s; Winston. And, of course, the good old protective cup. Normally unsung (and always unseen), athletic cups are traditionally uncomfortable, typically made of hard plastic, shaped funny and can be cumbersome. Nevertheless, they have been part of the sports scene since at least the early 1900s. The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball credits catcher Claude Berry with introducing the cup to major league baseball in 1904.
As amateur and professional sports developed, the cup became the standard of protection for athletes in contact sports, or those facing hard objects hurtling in their direction at high speed. When an athlete gets “the wind knocked out of him” and lies crumpled on the field in obvious pain, the reaction from spectators more likely is a collective wince. Then, it’s no laughing matter — and one with potentially serious medical consequences.
Early hockey players were among the first athletes to embrace wearing cups — providing protection against pucks are traveling upward of 100 mph. Some goalies were even known to strap on double cups. Soccer goalies also discovered a cup would come in handy — especially when standing in a defensive wall waiting for the opponent to unload a free kick.
A century after they were originally created, the decision whether to cup or not to cup mostly comes down to personal preference.“It’s probably experientially related,” said Don Chu, Stanford’s director of athletic training and rehabilitation. “If you’ve ever been hit there, then you probably wear one. It’s not something you’re going to volunteer for again.”
Today, technology has finally reached the world of athletic cups — offering more comfort along with the age-old advantage of protection. In 2004, Shock Doctor unveiled the most innovative design yet. Featuring Multi-stage Impact Protection technology, this revolutionary cup design combines advanced materials and superior design to provide improved impact protection and comfort, along with increased athlete mobility. This new generation cup dissipates impact in four stages, with an ergonomic design mirroring the shape of the body, and multiple vents offering improved ventilation and moisture transport.
Moments In Cup (or Cupless) History
– Former Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench supposedly broke seven cups during his Hall of Fame career.
– Philadelphia center fielder Doug Glanville was at the plate when a pitch glanced off his bat and ricocheted off the ground into his groin. Glanville, who doesn’t wear a cup, later could laugh about the pain, “Tell the kids not to try it at home.”
– Every summer in Darryl Sutter’s hometown of Viking, Alberta, the local sports teams have a golf tournament called the Athlete’s Cup. The trophy is an actual bronzed cup.
In “Slate” eMagazine,, 22 July 2005′ Daniel Akst posed the following question – “Where Have All the Jockstraps Gone? – the decline and fall of the athletic supporter”: Illustration by Robert Neubecker.
If you’re a guy of a certain age, chances are you wouldn’t think of hitting the gym without a jockstrap. For the uninitiated, the item known more formally as an “athletic supporter”consists of an elasticized waistband and leg straps connected to a pouch that holds the testicles close to the body. You women can think of it as a sports bra for a guy’s balls.
Bike Athletic, the jock’s apparent inventor and primary distributor, claims that it has shipped 350 million supporters in the past 130 years. But in recent years, this great elasticized chain binding men across the generations has snapped. At my local gym, I’ve been horrified to see young guys lifting weights with boxer shorts peeking out from their gym pants. I called Bike to see if my observations reflected a larger truth. “Kids today are not wearing jockstraps,” answered spokesperson Jenny Shulman matter-of-factly.
The collapse of this age-old bond between fathers and sons might speak elegiac volumes, except for one thing: Jocks don’t do much. Bike claims the contraption was invented in 1874 as “support for the bicycle jockeys riding the cobblestone streets of Boston.” The manly wisdom that has prevailed in locker rooms for more than a century is that wearing an athletic supporter protects you from getting a hernia. The doctors I spoke to told me that’s “an old athlete’s tale.”
“They kind of keep the genitalia from flopping around, is the best I could tell you,” says Dr. William O. Roberts, a past president of the American College of Sports Medicine.
Jocks offer no protection against the relatively common inguinal hernia, in which a portion of the gut descends through the canal that contains the spermatic cord. They also won’t protect you from what’s known as a “sports hernia,” a painful tearing or weakness of the muscles or tendons in the pubis area that’s also known as “athletic pubalgia.” (On the other hand, the jockstrap apparently isn’t to blame for my high school bout with jock itch. The itching starts when the warm, wet environment down there allows the fungus Trichophyton rubrum to flourish. That can happen jock or no jockBike doesn’t make any hernia claims. Its position is that athletic supporters somehow “fight fatigue” and “prevent strain.” Indeed, jockstraps do a fine job of holding your balls out of harm’s way and preventing the scrotal sac from getting all (ouch!) tangled up. But while working out in boxer shorts (or stark naked) isn’t a good idea, a decent pair of form-fitting briefs will probably do the job just as well.
The best reason to wear an athletic supporter is so you can wear a protective cup. Once again, for the uninitiated: Jockstraps come in two flavors: plain, and a kind of marsupial version that accepts a removable cup made of hard plastic. A well-placed blow in this region is not only agonizing; it can destroy a testicle.
While most boys and men can get by without athletic supporters, a lot more ought to wear cups. Kids these days have helmets for practically everything—I wouldn’t be surprised to see my sons wearing them for violin practice. But surprisingly few wear cups for sports, as I make my sons do for Little League and roller hockey. (Note to parents: The narrower ones are less irksome.) They consider cups annoying, and apparently other fellows do, too, which would explain why many eschew them even in situations that would seem to call for Kevlar.
I had heard that NFL players don’t wear cups but was still astonished when Joe Skiba, assistant equipment manager of the New York Giants, provided confirmation. “The majority of players feel that less is more, especially padding below the torso,” he explained via e-mail. “They feel that it hinders their speed and performance.”
Skiba says that many football players now sport a garment called compression shorts. Young amateurs like the shorts, too, even though they cost about twice as much as jocks. According to Bike, which has diversified its athletic undergarment portfolio in these jock-unfriendly times, these stretchy shorts provide support and “steady, uniform pressure” to hold the groin, hamstring, abdomen, and quadriceps muscles in place during “the twisting, stretching and pivoting action of a game or strenuous exercise.” They’re also supposed to “fight fatigue by helping prevent vascular pooling.”
When I ran this by Dr. Roberts, he sounded skeptical. “If the short is compressing enough to prevent pooling of blood, will it not also prevent blood flow from below?” he asks. “Would this flow obstruction not lead to calf fatigue and loss of lower muscle function?”
No matter whether they really “fight fatigue,” it’s no surprise that compression shorts are eating into the jock’s market share. The shorts are both more comfortable—I always thought jocks were a pain in the butt—and a lot less embarrassing-looking.
But Bike thinks there’s snap in the old supporter yet. The company is launching a line with new fabrics and designs that they say will hit stores next year. They’re also set to debut the “Boxer Jock” and the “Brief Jock”—products with the support of a jock without the outdated appearance. After all, the Bike athletic supporter hadn’t changed in 30 years—right around the time I started wearing one. Nowadays, I just wear briefs to the gym. All the other stuff is just too much of a stretch.
The Guelph Heritage page from Canada supplies us with the following information (follow the link in “References” for an amusing video on the invention of the jockstrap): One of Guelph’s many famous inventions, the story of the “jock strap” is perhaps our most important contribution to athletic innovation. We cannot lay claim to being the first of its kind. The concept of a protection garment for men in sports was recorded in the 1870s in America, with a knitted tight designed to avoid chafing while riding a bicycle and marketed as a “bicycle jockey-strap’.
In 1927, the Guelph Elastic Hosiery made a significant improvement to the design by adding a hard cup for added protection. It was sold under the name “Protex”. A contest was held to name this new innovation and “jockstrap” became a household word.
The owner of the company died in 1957, and Guelph Elastic Hosiery was sold. Today, the company survives as Protexion Products, but no longer makes their most famous product.
The Trivia Library informs us:
“About the story behind the invention of the athletic supporter or jockstrap, history and biography of inventor Parvo Nakacheker and his invention.
INVENTION: Athletic Supporter
INVENTOR: Parvo Nakacheker, Fin.
HOW INVENTED: He was a Finnish athlete “who did much of the pioneer work in developing … the lowly athletic supporter.” To put together an athletic supporter, more commonly called a jockstrap, he “devoted much time to the study of pure anatomy and the special demands of such an item.”
Many sports require the use of an athletic cup. These include cricket, fencing, martial arts, boxing, lacrosse, hockey, baseball, paintball, football and many others. This advice is given to cyclists:
“Exercising requires the right equipment, and for serious cycling, this means more than just a helmet. A jockstrap helps support and protect your most delicate area, allowing you to concentrate on your workout without much fear of injury. A jockstrap isn’t the only supportive option, but it can be a good one for cycling, depending on your preference.
The Need for Support
Bouncing around in your nether region isn’t just uncomfortable — it can be harmful. All cycling involves some amount of bumps and vibrations that transfer through the seat, but mountain biking or riding over rough terrain is worse than sticking to a paved road. The consistent bouncing can lead to problems in your private area including tumors, cysts and infections, according to the BBC website. Strong supportive gear such as a jockstrap helps hold you in place, reducing the chance of embarrassing cycling-related health problems.
Pros and Cons
For generations, fathers have proudly taught their sons to wear jockstraps during sports and fitness activities. They’re durable, easy to clean and provide a convenient way to position a protective cup when necessary, such as when you play contact sports. But jockstraps are falling out of fashion in some areas, including cycling. While some people swear by them, others find the straps uncomfortable during long rides, citing chafing and moisture retention as problems.
Other OptionsIf you try a jockstrap when you’re cycling and don’t like it, try another support option. Most cycling shorts fit tightly, offering different levels of support. These typically offer the additional benefit of a built-in pocket for a chamois pad to help wick away moisture. For stronger support without a jockstrap, use compression shorts, which have replaced the jockstrap for many men, including some professional athletes.”
Fashion jocks often incorporate soft-lined front pouches or they may be designed to bring the male genitalia forwards or upwards. The purpose of these modifications is to enhance the masculine appearance of the wearer. Wearers of fashion jocks may also wear abdominal guards for the same purpose.
With the decline in the use of jockstrap in sports, the use of the necessary abdominal guard has also declined despite the safety implications. Some see wearing a cup as a taboo topic. Typically cups are worn in the pouch of a jockstrap which may be double-lined to hold the cup, or in compression shorts or sport-specific briefs.
Cups for some combat sports (e.g. mixed martial arts, kick boxing) have a waistband and straps attached directly to the cup designed to be worn over a regular jockstrap or briefs. Some sports such as boxing use an oversized cup and jock combined into a single item which has layered foam padding that protects the groin, kidneys and abdomen.
On October 28, 2014 the folliwing article by DoctorGarrett appeared on spankingfit.com, titled “The Jockstrap – Still Man’s Best Friend”:
“Don’t Sell Your Jockstrap Short
Despite unproven claims that jockstrap use adversely affects male fertility, the ordinary jockstrap remains one of the best forms of protection a man can use not only for protection of his private parts, but also for preventing serious strain to his groin. It’s true that the invention of certain alternatives such as compression shorts has caused a decline in jockstrap popularity; nevertheless, most serious male athletes still wear a traditional jock, sometimes under or over Spandex compression shorts, for extra protection. I certainly do.
History of The Jockstrap:
The history of the modern jock strap is rather interesting. The Bike Athletic Company of Knoxville, Tennessee is generally credited with its development, as well as the sale of the very first one in 1874 in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. It’s original purpose was the protection of private parts of “bicycle jockeys” who rode over rough cobblestone roads; hence, the name “bike jock strap”. I am sure that the jock strap’s original inventors had little idea that a future alternative use for it would be found in fetish sex, but that is outside the scope of this article (see Spanking FIT’s: “Unsafe Sex Worries? Try Kink, Safest Sex of All“) The same company is credited with having invented more recently compression shorts primarily for purposes of reducing hamstring injuries and groinal strains among football players. Use of compression shorts, however, has widened considerably over a variety of sports and athletic activities. An estimated 65% of all sales for the hugely popular Champion Underwear brand are currently from sales of compression shorts. Surprisingly, no research appears to have been conducted to assess their relative benefits over those of the traditional jock strap. In fact, it appears that little research has been conducted even to assess their benefits as opposed to wearing no protection at all.
One often cited study is published in the Journal of Sports Sciences: “Evaluation of lower-body compression garment”, by Doan Brandon et. al.; V. 21 issue 8, 2003. The study is quite serious and well-planned, in my opinion. However, as with all studies, it does have a couple of weaknesses. First, its conclusion that injury may be reduced by wearing compression shorts is based on mechanical impact testing of the shorts material, as opposed to measuring the effect with and without wearing them on a human population over a period of time. Secondly, since the research was supported by a compression shorts manufacturer, an appearance of conflict of interest may exist. I, for one, do believe that compression shorts usage has great potential for prevention of both short and long term injury in athletically active individuals, male and female. Given the essential benefits over a lifetime of regular exercise , further independent research on this topic is definitely warranted, in my opinion.
Every day jockstrap value:
A final note on using a jockstrap to prevent injury during normal, every day non-athletic activity. I, like many others, have decided to put aside the automobile as much as possible in performance of routine tasks such as shopping or going to the post office. The benefits of walking in keeping us fit and controlling our weight are enormous. Nevertheless, walking and carrying items can contribute to strain. At first, I thought of trying compression shorts for extra support during such normal activities. I found them to be too hot and uncomfortable for long term use. (For men, they can be especially awkward whenever nature calls). I personally solved the problem by wearing a traditional jock over soft silk or nylon boxer shorts. That combination provides both the necessary support, ventilation required for comfort, and freedom from chafing. (Believe me, don’t try wearing a jockstrap only for prolonged periods of time. You will definitely regret it.) A word of advice to young men. Don’t be fashion fools. The practice of wearing boxer shorts under “baggies” is unhealthful and is leading to an increase in the number of hernia surgeries performed on youngsters annually.”
Uncyclopedia provides us with a comedic slant – at least…I hope that’s what it is – to the invention of the jockstrap:
Jock Strap (1860 – 1920)
owned a men’s haberdashery where, in fitting male customers for trousers, he developed an interest in designing a supporter for their genitals similar to women’s brassieres, or bras, but without the lace and frills with which the latter frequently are decorated. He experimented with handkerchiefs, and, once satisfied with the design of the article, he sewed a prototype, calling it a “penile-scrotal brassiere” and advocated its use as a means of “reducing, if not eliminating, the unsightly male bulge.”
However, the brassiere proved unpopular. Deciding that the name of his article was the cause of its rejection, he changed it from “penile-scrotal brassiere” to “athletic supporter.” Thereafter, he was able to sell his new undergarment to Sharp & Smith, a sporting goods company which, in turn, sold it to bicycle jockeys, claiming that wearing the supporter would cushion the jarring effect of riding their wheeled mounts over Boston’s cobblestone streets.
To associate the athletic supporter with bicycle riding, Sharp & Smith changed its name to Bike Web Company and, later, simply to Bike Company, becoming the world’s leading manufacturer of athletic supporters.
In honor of its inventor, the athletic supporter is also known as the jockstrap.
Ironically, Jock Strap died from tinea cruris, a phallophiliac fungus.
At the turn of the century, when electricity was still of relatively recent use, the athletic supporter was electrified, as it was believed that jolts from the garment could cure kidney disorders, insomnia, erectile dysfunction, and bedwetting. The electrified supporters were also an addition to the instruments and implements in sadomasochists’ collections.
In more recent times, teenage boys’ first acquaintance with Jock Strap’s invention often occurs when they are required to purchase the undergarment as part of their high school physical education “gym suit.” Worn with a “cup” (a hard plastic insert that fits securely over the testicles to prevent injury to them by a misplaced kick, a thrown ball, or other athletic danger), the athletic supporter was believed to prevent injury to the adolescent’s genitals and reduce male sterility.
Most boys recall their introduction to this item as having been embarrassing or even mortifying, unlike most adolescent girls’ reaction to the idea of wearing a brassiere, which ranges from gratitude to delight. However, high schools and colleges discontinued the requirement that athletic supporters be included in students’ gym suits when boys and young men exhibited a preference for compression shorts (form-fitting spandex garments that are similar to boxer briefs, but without flies). Only after Calvin Klein and Under Armor introduced new lines of athletic supporters did the undergarment regain some popularity among athletes.
Standard business attire among homosexuals in high places, the jockstrap is also the leisure suit of choice on the part of many members of the gay community, and a whole new dimension has been added to the fashion industry with the creation of fashion jockstraps. Many are available in clasic colors that are preferd by gay men such as b;ack and white, along with newer colors such as purple, pink, and lavender, with bows, lace, beads, and pleats, in silk, satin, or velvet. They come with optional hard or padded cups, and are worn as much as a “framing device” to draw attention to the buttocks as they are as a supporter for the genitals. There is a thong supporter for men who want to let it “all hang out.”
Jockstrap “Handkerchief” Codes
Some gay men employ the jockstrap as a means of making known their sexual interests to others of their kind, similar to the way in which homosexuals in previous generations used a handkerchief code to signal to one another what types of sexual activities they enjoyed. According to this code, jockstraps of the following colors indicate interests in these respective sexual activities:
Black – heavy sadomasochism
Grey – bondage
White – masturbation
Light blue – fellatio
Dark blue – anal sex
Charcoal – Latex fetish
Leather – leather fetish
Red – fisting
Orange – anything goes or just looking
Yellow – golden showers
Hunter green – daddy
Robin’s egg blue – light sadomasochism
Medium blue – seeking a police officer
Sandalwood – seeking a carpenter
Olive drab or khaki – seeking a military man
Grey flannel – suit and tie fetish
Light pink – dildo fetish
Goldenrod – seeking a sugar daddy
Mauve – navel fetish
Brown – feces fetish
Dark pink – nipple torture
Purple – piercing
Lavender – drag queen
Gold – threesomes
Apricot – chubby chaser
Beige – analingus
Red or black stripe – bears
Camouflage – seeking a rugged outdoorsman
Fuchsia – spanking.
Boys find that, when attached to sturdy rubber bands, condoms, or elastic bands, jockstraps make excellent pouches for slingshots and are an exceptionally good means of tormenting girls: by jiggling them in a girl’s face and making appropriately inappropriately lewd, crude comments, boys chase girls from classrooms or reduce them to tears. In attempting to reverse this tactic, using their brassieres in lieu of the boys’ jockstraps, girls have found that the ploy fails, as boys seem to delight in having girls’ brassieres dangled in their faces while lewd, crude comments are made concerning the brassieres’ purpose and use.
A jockstrap for women, called the janestrap, was introduced in 1996 and has proved highly unpopular in an age of unisex fashion, gender dysphoria, feminism, and sexual equality.
Onto an interesting note, Felix Sarver wrote this piece for The Herald-News on the Joliet Museum doing historical research on the jockstrap:
Joliet museum to delve into history of jockstraps
By FELIX SARVER – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan. 16, 2017
JOLIET – The history of jockstraps will see the light of day Sunday at the Joliet Area Historical Museum.
Billed as a “scholarly talk on a ‘jocular’ subject,’ ” public speaker Ellie Carlson, who is also a museum and costume curator, will give an examination of masculine protective equipment that was first designed for bicycle jockeys and has evolved over time to be protective, concealing and healthful.
“The purpose is to introduce the audience to the protective equipment that has been utilized by gentlemen … to preserve the family jewels so they are not compromised in athletic pursuits,” Carlson said.
Her talk, called “Cup Check, Please!” will take place 2 p.m. Sunday at the Joliet Area Historical Museum, 204 N. Ottawa St. The cost is $5 for museum members and $7 for nonmembers.
Carlson has lectured on other topics, such as ladies’ underclothes – that talk is called “Speaking of Unmentionables: The Rise and Fall of Ladies Underwear” – as well as aprons and the history of Valentine’s Day.
She also does costumed interpretations and has researched cooking techniques, period ingredients and recipes for several eras, according to her website.
While jockstraps may be an unusual subject, Carlson said they have a regional connection. The jockstrap was invented in Chicago in 1874.
“It has a Chicago connection and I decided this was the perfect opportunity to expand my repertoire,” she said.
Her interest in the subject came about through managing a vintage baseball team called the Chicago Salmon, which plays by the rules of 1858 baseball. She noticed there wasn’t masculine protective equipment used in the time period.
Carlson said Sunday’s talk will be a clean, family event. She stressed there will be no modeling of jockstraps by anyone during the presentation.
Coaches are invited to come, as they’ll learn useful information.
“Knowing the background of anything is always important. Knowledge is power,” she said.
The Death of a Jockstrap Icon?
On Novemger 20, 2016 UNBTim wrote the following article for Underwear News Briefs regarding the demise of the Bike company, titled “Bike Jockstrap – Lost its Support”:
“I never like these kinds of posts. Where we have to bid farewell to icons in the men’s underwear world. We had to say goodbye to UnderGear and now Bike Jockstraps. Bike has been synonymous with jocks since they were released. Up until the 80’s they were the jockstrap. Anytime you needed a jock for sports, Bike was the brand you bought. It was my first jock that I ever wore and bought.
Brief History of Bike Jocks
In 1874 Bike created jocks for Boston bicyclists
They have sold over 300 Million jocks
Bought by 2003 in Russell Corporation
Last acquired by Fruit of the Loom and made the decision to end production
In the 70’s/80’s the jock took on a new life in the fetish world. Guys into leather would often wear the Bike #10 jock with their gear. This created a whole subculture in the gay world. It remained largely unchanged for most of the 80’s. The main additions were colors (Red, blue and black). You no longer had to get them in just the traditional white. Also, in this time the swimmer jock was around. It wasn’t as popular as the traditional jock, but it had its supporters! Yeah, I had to do it.
Why did the jock take off so much with guys?
First, back in the day they were cheap. I remember paying $7 for one at a major sporting good store. I would regularly pick them up when I was out and found myself in a sporting good store. Which sadly, wasn’t too often. But I made a few special trips to get the black #10 jocks.
Next, they were sexy. The design was made to give support to the wearer in sports. Nothing worse than a groin pull. This made the design more function over form. However, the form showed off everything about a guy. The pouch which was a mesh rather than a solid material followed by the open back. Is it any wonder that the fetish community took to these garments? I think not!
Lastly, they weren’t considered fetish wear. This was one pair of underwear you didn’t have to mail order or go into a “seedy store” to buy. It was at every sporting good store across the country. When you went in to buy them no one even questioned you about the purchase. It didn’t matter if you were buying for you or someone else. Only the purchaser knew the reason for buying. The clerk in the store just rang it up and you were on your way. In this time if you wanted a thong, it was a bit harder to get. They were made but not very widely distributed.
Why did the classic Bike Jock go extinct?
There are a few answers to this question. Each one sort of builds the case on why Bike has ended.
In the 80’s/90’s the sports jock market had more competition. I used to go in the sporting good store and see Bike and maybe one other brand. Then in the late 80’s you would see more and more brands. Bike then raised their prices and the other jocks filled in the lower price levels. However, in my opinion, very few of them had the quality of Bike.
Less guys are wearing jocks for sports. There was a time when it was pretty standard issue for guys in football, baseball, and other sports were issued a jock. It was often a comedy point for movies. In the 90’s we saw the rise of gear from UnderArmour and Nike. They replaced the jock for many athletes. Now they were wearing compression shorts over jocks.
Another reason for the decline is the rise of the fashion jock. In 2009, I named it the year of the jock. This is the time that jocks exploded on the underwear market. It seemed everyone came out with a jock. This included using bright colors and prints in the pouch design. Including using different colors for the waistband and leg straps. Gone also, was the nylon pouch. Jocks are made in every fabric you can think of and in every combination. Cotton, spandex, leather, neoprene and more. Adding on to this is brand reimagined the jock. One of the prime examples is the C-IN2 Grip jock. There are many more who have given their take on the jock.
Bike itself redesigned the classic jock. The #10 jock was a classic. The wide waistband was the standard. The band has thin stripes in the middle. The band paired with the label in the front. 1 inch leg straps and nylon pouch was a classic. In the 90’s they changed the jock from the #10 to a more modern look. The band was a bit smaller and had Bike written into it. It just wasn’t the same. It’s like when Coke made New Coke. But unlike that example, they never went back. This stopped me from buying them as much as I did. I just missed the classic design.
Lastly is the fetish market embraced the jock. Companies started to create jocks specifically for the “fetish” market. One of the first was Nasty Pig. The jocks they made reflected the leather/fetish community. The new designs become in fashion with the fetish community. It could tie into other items they already have in gear or would be from brands. Other brands like Cellblock 13, Slick it Up and more joined the market.
All these things were great things for the underwear market. Especially for jock lovers. It wasn’t one of these things but the combination of events that lead to this decision. It seems more like a financial decision to end the entire line. Russell doesn’t seem like the type of company to embrace the fetish side of the jock. I don’t think it was a market they wanted to be in anymore. How many of us actually bought a Bike brand jock in the last 10 years? I can’t say I did.
So long Bike, you were a pioneer and synonymous with Jockstrap. Thanks for being my first jock. You will be missed in the underwear world! But don’t fret, there are many other brands to fill the void!
In the comments section, jockstrapguy from Jocksteap Central provided the following interesting information “Good article. Thanks Tim. Would also be fitting to mention that Flarico who came on the scene 5 years later with their F110 jock (in the late 1890s) has also closed up shop. I think all your reasons for the demise are all correct but personally I think another factor is simply that it’s not worth the effort to make and sell a jockstrap for under $9. Fruit of the Loom ended taking over the Bike brand and perhaps that was their motivation (or lack thereof) for shutting it down. We (Jockstrap Central) were importing Bike from Europe when North America stopped manufacturing and because of shipping and duties had to charge $15+ and they still sold like hotcakes.”
And this from the “Men and Underwear” blog, dated June 22, 2016:
Is this the end of Bike Jockstraps?
We have been informed from the guys at Jockstraps.com that Russell Athletic, the owner since 2003 of Bike Athletic is going to stop producing underwear and sportswear under the Bike brand name. The quick note said that Russell Athletic have informed the store that the Bike brand is discontinued including, as you can imagine, their renowned jockstraps. It looks like some stores might still be able to get some stock from Germany but even this is going to stop very soon. Is this the end of Bike jockstraps? There have been shortages of stock in the past but the very recent re-release of the classic No10 was thought as a sign of a revival of Bike rather than plans to shut it down…
The photo below is from Jockstraps.com and shows the Throwback edition of the iconic No10 jock by Bike.
From the Google book “Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis”
Bike Jockstraps in Advertising
Jockstraps in History
Tim Alderman (2017)
Addendum 1 – Jockstrap Patent
The following question was posted to a Google group on 7/1/2003 by cubjovk73
“I was going through my jockstrap drawer, perusing my collection for a strap to wear under my see-through white shorts for my Step Aerobics class, and I stopp I found a Bike Jockstrap, looks like a #10, but I kinda noticed that the waistband was different than my other Bike straps. This particular jock is slightly off-white in color, and is more bone white leaning to very light creme colored. The waistband only had threecolored bands two navy, and one gray. I compared it to the others and noticed that they’ve got red and blue lines. I was lucky enough that this member of my strap collection, I got while “visiting” one of my university’s locker rooms. It’s amazing how no athletes put a lock on their locker, let alone leave a jockstrap behind. The only thing I’ve surmised is, that this variance in style can be attributed to maybe a style of jock made specifically for university athletics. The pouch is smaller than your run of the mill Bike#10.
Anyone care to shed any light on this?
‘Strap up, dude, let’s jack!”
Thom in DC gave this very informative reply on some Bike jockstrap history
I can speak from direct experience with BIKE jockstraps, which in my opinion is the archetypal jockstrap known to all us guys who have a jockstrap/athletic cup fetish. As a baby boomer I began wearing jockstraps in the early 1960’s for sports, casual wear, and for sex. In the 1950 and 60’s, BIKE no. 10 jockstraps had the Bike wheel logo on the label of the jockstrap. It had good quality materials of cotton fabric with elastic. The jock was built to last. It had an off color white color.
In the 1970’s, BIKE no. 10 jockstraps still had the same composition o materials in their fabric, but BIKE in Greek lettering appeared on the label of the jockstrap. The jock was the same quality and color fabric as the jocks of the 50’s and 60’s.
Getting into the 1980’s, BIKE no. 10 jockstraps began have more polyest in their fabric. They had a looser feel about them, but still were of goo quality. Also I noticed that in the mid to late 1980’s, BIKE was manufacturing its jocks in places like Jamaica, not necessary at their head quarters in Knoxville, Tennessee. BIKE jocks had more a greyish color with three stripes (black-grey-black) on the waistband.
It was in the 1990’s that the BIKE no. 10 jockstraps began to deteriorate in quality. BIKE Athletic Co. marketed their Proline BIKE no. 10 jock with white color polyester fabric without hardly any sturdy cotton elastic combination. The jock is a very flimsy and not built to last. I don’t think it would last several launderings. Also the weave and design of the joc pouch had changed from the earlier versions. Because of this, I don’t think BIKE Proline jocks offer much firm support.
You mentioned about BIKE University jocks. They are BIKE no. 11 jock which are much better quality and manufactured in bulk for schools, colleges, universities and professional teams. They have a very sturdy polyester fabric. I believe you can get BIKE University jocks at http://www.internationaljock.com and other suppliers.
As regards to colored stripes on the waistbands of BIKE jockstraps, think that they were more a fashion statement by BIKE Athletic through its various versions of the no. 10’s. Though early this evening I had an interesting chat with a jock/cup buddy on IRC on this one topic. He sai that the colored stripes denoted waist size. I told my friend that I was not sure about this but it is a possibility especially if jocks were sold in bulk to teams. My friend hopes to ask Tom, the owner of http://www.allkink.com wha he knows about colored stripes on BIKE jockstraps.
I am not sure about your questions about BIKE athletic cups. That is als a fascinating subject. Being athletic cup fetishist that I am, I researche the origin of cups manufactured by BIKE. I am not sure if BIKE manufactured metal cups, but I remember looking in old issues of Athletic Coach in the late 1940’s. BIKE began manufacturing plastic athletic cups then. I am no sure if they had ABS plastic. The cups came with the jock without the rubber gasket. The athlete had to put the rubber gasket on the edges of the cup himself. It was in the 1950’s, that BIKE began manufacturing traditional BIKE no. 55 flat cups as we know them. They had a distinguished use for at least two generation of athletes until 1985 when BIKE Athletic bega marketing the BIKE no. 85 banana cup which is my favorite athletic cup. BIKE has made a few changes in the banana cup since then but it is still a real good cup, designated by MLB the Official Cup of Major League Baseball 🙂
Hope this all helps.
Thom. in DC who remember the BIKE Athletic slogan in the early 1990’s:
“When you are ready to play, winners wear BIKE.””