A lot of people think we’re living in a very dangerous age. That’s undoubtedly true what with deluded religious zealots shoving the imaginary words of their equally imaginary overlords down our throats with as much non-imaginary violence as possible. The thing is, we only fight against this evil tide with words, financial and medical aid and xenophobia.
Now, the Victorians, faced living in a dangerous age with ruffians on every corner ready with any weapon-like item they could lay their hands on, who required no more provocation than the fact that someone was wearing a decent suit and sporting impressive waxed moustaches. And then these gutter types would pounce.
And so began the sudden appearance of self defence literature. Wonderful stick based skills like Bartitsu, the noble art of boxing, the belt-buckle pistol, all became necessary to ensure the well-being and survival of the middle class Victorian gent.
Possibly the worst threat came during the 1850’s with the Great Garotting Panic.
The perpetrators of this horrific epidemic were ticket-of-leave men, released early and set free on the streets of London…or so people imagined. (I can easily imagine the Pooters being really worried about this sort of thing.)
Fortunately, engineers don’t just build ships. They are alert to all things that may require their magical skills. Thus the old adage “If it needs inventing, call an engineer.”*
Answering this call to arms, galloping to the fore comes the amazing Andrew Peedie How. Already an established marine engineer specialising in monitoring and removing salt water from ship’s boilers, he set aside his boating ways and applied himself to the problem of garotting.
His solution was not exactly subtle but it looked liked it would do the trick.
It should be pointed out that the spikes were concealed when the collar was in safe mode but would spring out whenever pressure was applied to the throat.
Not only does it sound dangerous to the wearer, it actually was. I don’t think Andrew sold many. In fact, his invention was widely derided in the popular press and he wasn’t thought well of for a while. That possibly explains why there’s not a lot of information about Mr How.
The bare facts are these: He was born in America and moved to the UK sometime before 1849. He had a wife called Laetitia and a Scottish daughter called Mary. He died sometime after 1901.
And, of course, he’s the inventor of the anti-garotting device.
* That’s the only thing I made up in this post…the rest is true.