If you have not read ‘The Inconvenient Truth of The Maybrick Watch’ and ‘The Maybrick Watch ticking time-bomb?’ posts, I advise you to do so before reading this post.


What has always made the watch interesting is the case itself. Inside the case are scratches of the initials of the canonical five victims of Jack the Ripper, “I am Jack”, and the signature of J Maybrick. There are also professional engravings of the initials J.O. in the cartouche on the back. These have always been assumed to be someone’s monogrammed initials.

Also inside the case, alongside the scratches, are two other professionally punched initials RS. In her book “The Diary of Jack The Ripper,” Shirley Harrison identified the case maker as Ralph Samuel of Liverpool & Clerkenwell.

The above photo is zoomed in from a photograph taken of the rear casing of The Maybrick Watch when it was presented at the JTR Conference in 2017.

SAM THE watch case MAN

In this day and age of the internet, we can source the maker’s name behind these marks much easier than Shirley Harrison could back in the 90s. These initials are confirmed to be Ralph Samuel’s:

The watch was made either in Lancashire or Leeds by Verity around 1846, but what exactly could this case maker mark tell us? The case was added after the watch itself was made. Ralph Samuel was active as a goldsmith right up until he died in 1860. His first punch was registered in 1843. His last punch was recorded in 1859, a year before his death. We can reasonably assume the case was added to the watch between 1846 and 1859.

He was based at 54 Wood Street in Liverpool but kept a London address at Compton Street in Clerkenwell. The London address was for when customers wished their cases could be assayed in London. When that happened, the case would also include a punch of a leopard’s head, which was the mark for London. This case does not have such a mark. So we know it was made in Liverpool.

At one time, Samuel was the largest watch case manufacturer in Britain and possibly the world. His mark was in extremely high demand, whether assayed in Chester (Liverpool did not have a gold assaying office) or London.
(Source: VintageWatchStraps)


We know that Ralph Samuel was very active in Liverpool in the 1850s and 1860s. One report said he made up to 200 gold watch cases weekly. He also testified in a Government select committee on Gold Assaying in 1856. Ralph Samuel was arguably one of his generation’s most well-known and successful case makers. Why would the original owner of this watch choose a world-famous Liverpool case maker to finish the watch?


James Maybrick was around 13 years old in 1851, just as Ralph Samuel’s business was flourishing. The family was based in Church Alley at the time.

1851 Census

Intriguingly, Ralph Samuel’s shop was just 300 metres away, a six-minute walk.


The case was most likely made in Liverpool around 1846, just 300 metres from where James Maybrick lived as a child. This artefact was once within less than half a mile of James Maybrick. This is the closest we have gotten regarding the watch’s geographical proximity to James Maybrick.

As he was still a child in 1846, he did not originally commission the watch. The case could have possibly been added much later than 1846, but it could not have been done so after 1859, as that was Ralph Samuel’s last punch registration. James was 22 years old at that time.

The most likely scenario is that the person whose initials are J.O. is the person who originally commissioned the watch and case to be made. It is most likely a man as it is a men’s watch.

How did it come into Maybrick’s possession, if indeed as I believe it did? Did he steal it? After all, we have the curious “Maybrick Caught Stealing A Watch” photo – could it be connected? Was it gifted to him by a friend or relative? Did he buy it from a local pawn shop or jeweller as an adult?


The fact we can, with confidence, place the watch within 300 metres of James Maybrick does not confirm that he owned it. Still, it is just another of a long line of coincidences we find when investigating the life and times of the Liverpudlian cotton merchant.

Is there any other Jack the Ripper candidate with as much circumstantial evidence as James Maybrick?


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