Old Tom and Blue Ruin

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George Cruikshank (1792-1878), “The Gin Shop” in Scraps and Sketches, 1829. Hand colored etching. Graphic Arts Oversize Kane Room Cruik 1827.81q

Long before George Cruikshank signed a temperance pledge, he was satirizing the gin palaces of St. James Place. This is his earliest.

Images of death and dying are everywhere. Customers are standing inside a giant bear trap, waited on by a skeleton in the costume of a pretty woman (we can see her skull and the bones of her ankle and foot).

A woman is feeding gin to her baby, with the figure of death close behind her holding an hourglass. Spirits are held in coffins rather than casks: Old Tom is good gin; Blue Ruin is bad gin; Kill Devil is strong rum; and so on.

The inscription reads:
Now Oh dear, how shocking the thought is
They makes the gin from aquafortis:
They do it on purpose folks lives to shorten
And tickets it up at two-pence a quarter