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The Original Hooligans

The Original Hooligans
The Visual Telling of Stories

Before Pussy Riot and soccer thugs, hooliganism wasn't a crime; it was a family tradition.

Dating back to at least the 1880s, the word "hooligan" was actually the name of a family of cartoon characters who, during the 1890s, frequently graced the cover of the English comic literary journal Nuggets – "A Serio-Comic Budget of Pictures & Stories." The Hooligans were a family of Irish immigrants living in London, but not quite fitting in. Drawn by T.S. Baker and captioned with thick Irish accents, the Hooligan family typically displays odd and buffoonish behavior that's juxtaposed against the properness of English culture.

The name is likely a take on the Irish surname Houlihan, which according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, "figured as a characteristic comic Irish name in music hall songs and newspapers of the 1880s and '90s." Aside from being rubes (and racist depictions of the Irish), the Hooligans were a stereotypical representation of urban immigrants, characterizing the cultural mixing and prejudices of London in the late 1800s. While today the word is more associated with trouble-making and the controversial conviction of the Russian political punk rockers, "hooligan" originally had more of a comical and subtly offensive connotation. Late 19th century Irish immigrants in London would probably be happy to know the definition has evolved.

You can see some of the Hooligans' adventures on The Visual Telling of Stories, an impressively stocked site featuring thousands of images from the past. Below are a few example of the original Hooliganism.


Mr. Hooligan is stopped by a police officer as he heads out with his goat on a trip to the Klondike.


Here Mrs. Hooligan explains that Mr. Hooligan has built the family an elegant caravan (or "illigant kerryvan") in which to travel through the country during the summer months.



The Hooligans prepare to celebrate the 1897 Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria

Images via The Visual Telling of Stories

Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for The Atlantic Cities. He lives in Los Angeles. All posts »

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