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The Somerton Man Case. The body of a man found on an Australian beach close to a major Atomic Testing ground, he was probably poisoned, a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and an unbroken Code page found and associated to him. Set against a Cold War background in 1948, was this man a spy? We think so and this blog focuses on the evidence that was left behind and in some cases missed, the Code page, Dry Cleaning numbers, A Poem and a small, torn piece of paper bearing the words TAMAM SHUD.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Somerton Man: Keane Tie, Trousers & Laundry Marks

Keane Tie With Laundry Marks?

I first posted on this subject 3.5 years ago whilst involved with an Adelaide University Facebook page. What you read here is a summation of the post and additional work done since that time.
In this post we'll look at the Keane Tie, the difference between laundry marks and dry cleaning marks, evidence that suggests that the marks have been written over, view more evidence that supports the Somerton Man was indeed right handed and show the brand name on the man's trousers.
More than a few people have been searching to find a T. Keane, the name and initial actually came from this tie, From my perspective that is not a letter T, it is more likely to be a number 7.

Let's go through the logic:
1. The other items bearing the name are two singlets and a white laundry bag, one with a spelling KEANE and the other apparently with the name spelt without the 'E' at the end. Having said that I would agree with Professor Abbot when he suggests that the 'E' may have washed or worn off, quite possible.

2. The image at the head of this post is a tie which looks to have been of a coarse material, but possibly man made, we do not know the kind of material from which the other garments were made. The laundry bag I believe was linen or similar.

The image to the right is a set of US Army Officer's ties with the 2nd in from the left being similar in texture to the Keane tie.

3.  The fact that it's a laundry bag is our clue, underwear would normally be laundered and not dry cleaned. The practice at the time to my best understanding was put them in a bag with a name on it then to identify each item to be laundered and place them in the bag.

4. Having said that it was quite common in those days for both dry cleaning and laundry to be processed on the same premises, the owner would bag everything up and hand their items in. 

5. Here's one view, the number '7' I referred to earlier could represent the 7th. item in the bag, singlets, underpants perhaps a shirt/collar  and a pair of trousers? That would make up the 7 items.

The image to the below is of a shirt with the owners name written on the collar, I found this some 3 or 4 years ago when first looking at the Keane issue. You will note that the band arund the shirt is actually from a dry cleaners but the shirt has been laundered indicating that it's one of those dual purpose shops that did both laundry and dry cleaning.


Dry Cleaning & Laundry Marks
I differentiate between Laundry Marks and Dry Cleaning marks, here's a close up of the Dry Cleaning marks found written on the rear pocket of the man's trousers:

Dry cleaning marks have numbers and apparently the last number represents the number of items in this particular order for dry cleaning. So, in the above you can see 3 sets of numbers, the first interestingly has 7 items, the next set has 3 items and the last set has just one item.

Laundry marks, to all accounts, were quite different often with a name being written directly onto the fabric. There are some very well experienced people including Byron Deveson who have carried out extensive research into this specific issue. If you are viewing this Byron, your contribution would be greatly appreciated.

The practice at the time was to write directly on to the items being cleaned. My understanding is that it was quite common to have both laundry and dry cleaning carried out in the same premises so a joint laundry/dry cleaning order was likely.

This being the case then the first number set of 1171/7 could be the same order which the tie formed a part of and hence the number 7 ahead of Keane.

Now let's look a little closer. Did you notice anything different or odd about the tie marking and the dry cleaning marks?

They're all quite dark, let's illustrate that, here's a picture of the trousers with a Detective pointing out the dry cleaning marks:

Notice how in the image to the right, the markings look to be quite faint, one reason for that is that the trousers had been cleaned of course and thus the numbers would have faded. In fact three sets of numbers suggests 3 separate cleaning events over a period of time which in turn means that one set would be relatively new and the other two progressively older and therefore more faded. At least they should be but they're not. Why is that?

I think this is due to the numbers and the marking on the tie and the trousers being overwritten by the Police to make them more readily visible.

In the image to the left you  may notice that the forward pocket has been folded over, you can see that to the right of pocket being pointed out. If you download this image and enlarge it you will be able to see where the right hand trouser pocket was repaired purportedly using the Barbour's thread found in the suitcase. The fact that it's the right hand pocket that needed repair supports the notion that the Somerton Man was indeed right handed.

The reason why a dry cleaning number wasn't placed on the tie is because it wasn't dry cleaned, it was laundered. Some items were simply not suitable for dry cleaning dependent on the nature of the fabric so the logic says that the items that can be dry cleaned will have numbers written on them that will with stand the harsh chemicals used in dry cleaning. However those items that are not able to be dry cleaned according to their type will need to be put through the laundry which requires a different kind of marking.

If this theory is correct then the initial 'T' never actually existed. The name KEANE is what everyone should be looking for.

For the record, if you look carefully at the image of the pocket with the laundry marks, you should be able to make out the brand name on the trousers, which I make out to be 'Elasta Strap'.  This is mentioned in the Gerry Feltus book, The Unknown Man, well worth reading and you can see the link to the right of this post.

To view the wording on the label you will need to rotate the image 180 degrees.You will also see that the material near to the seam is quite rough, apparently that was a method used at the time to provide a level of re-enforcing seams. Many garments similar to these trousers were made on a contract out sourced basis where women would take this kind of work into their homes and make the make the garment up.

Of note is that according to legend, laundry and dry cleaning marks were used by espionage agents as were handkerchiefs. There is no record of the SA Police having subjected any of the clothing to tests that would have revealed anything unusual or suspicious.

There is as always more research that can yet be done including finding out more  about dry cleaning and laundry methods of the time and how common it was for dry cleaning and laundry establishments to be combined. Maybe Byron will see this and lend a hand. I know we have a number of schools and colleges that follow this blog and I hope this makes an interesting part of your projects.

Please feel free to comment on this post, your contributions and thoughts are always welcome and valued.

Useful Links:

Popular Science June 1940, Laundry Marks

Searching Librarian, a mention of John Ruffles who did an enormous amount of research on this subject. I was privileged to be on a Facebook group with John, a very knowledgeable man who appears in one or two of the documentaries.

Modern Mechanix 1936


Anonymous said...

How do you know they are laundry / dry cleaning marks - and if they were, which ones would the laundryman read?

Gordon332 said...

Fair question, my understanding is that with Dry Cleaning marks, the numbers, as per those written on SM's trousers, could be a direct transcribe from a ticket number. The customer would take their dry cleaning in and the assistant would write out the ticket/receipt handing a copy to the customer and pinning one to the items which were tied or bagged. Another option would be to write a separate ticket for each item as was my recollection of Dry Cleaners in the 50s/60's. Part of this process would be to note how many items were in this particular order and that number would be placed after the forward slash. Prior to the actual dry cleaning, the paper tag/s is removed but after the number had been transcribed to the clothing in this case.

Each Laundry or Dry Cleaner would be able to recognise their own marks and would have a handle on current receipt numbers and sequences. In this case the first 2 number sets have a different configuration to the the 3rd one which suggests that it was a different location or possibly a different country.

Dry cleaning involved various chemicals so the type of ink used to write on to the items had to be able to withstand the process, nonetheless they were still subject to fading.

Laundry marks are a little different in that the process was simplified such that when the shirts/singlets were handed over the assistant would often write the name of the customer into the collar area of shirts and presumably on the back of ties. This practice was common amongst Chinese Laundries who would sometimes write a nick name or just initials of their better known customers.

What we have with SM could be a mix of Laundry and Dry Cleaning going to the same shop or possibly at 2 different shops.

As to how we can be sure they were laundry marks, we can't. All I can go by is their appearance and Gerry Feltus's book. They could quite easily have some other meaning.

There are a few threads around the web, here's one that I used when reading up on the subject:

Thanks for the question, I hope that I understood and answered it correctly.

Anonymous said...

A direct transcribe from the ticket number - let's start there. Which of the series of numbers is the ticket number?

Gordon332 said...

Pete, The 3 sets of numbers shown are in my view the transcribed ticket numbers. This means that the trousers would have been cleaned 3 times. What is your view?

Anonymous said...

The fact that the numbers are written upside down, as opposed to the way the tag on the trousers is facing, would suggest that SM handed these trousers over the counter, and the person opposite, presumably the Dry Cleaner, took them and wrote the numbers on them. Nothing notable there. Fits in with normal practice.

Gordon332 said...

Agreed in the most part. The items are presented, and it's at this time that a ticket is written out, the number from the ticket is transcribed and it could be at the time of lodgement or just prior to processing. The ticket is a key because it tracks just who brought the items in and a corresponding copy of it needed to be presented in order to collect the items.

Nothing out of the ordinary as you say.

Anonymous said...

4393 / 3
Gordon, it I was a new hand in the laundry, and was presented with pair of duds with that code on the pocket, how would I read it, with regard to what the customer wanted?

Gordon332 said...

Well, as per the earlier reply, the ticket contains the information of what items there are and what is to be done although generally you would expect that the item was in need of dry cleaning. If there were additional stains to be removed that would be on the ticket you would think. So as the new hand, you receive the goods with the ticket and possibly the number already marked on the pocket, you read the ticket and do the work. The number is just a tracking/ticket number with space for comments I would think at least that's what I recall. Again, what's your view?

Anonymous said...

The laundryman is at his bench, he has picked up a pair of trousers from the bundle to be pressed, what is 4393/1 going to tell him?
I think you are looking in the wrong direction GC, and you have never worked for a pittance, in a laundry.

Gordon332 said...

Pete, I have asked twice for your view and you didn't respond I am not sure what you're trying to get to, if you have something to share then you're welcome to state it. Right now as per my replies and the explanation given in the post itself, there is a ticket number for tracking and the /3 or whatever it is that follows the forward slash represents the number of items that belong to that ticket. Over to you.

Anonymous said...

GC: this is your blog, this is for your view, your view is that the numbers are laundry marks, mine is that they are not. Your view doesn't pass the pub test, fair enough? if you want to know what I think come by toms, the next post might be to your liking. especially if we can beat nick at his own game.
Have another look at the pocket numbers old copper, see what you've missed

Gordon332 said...

Pete, In the post I mentioned the use of laundry marks in espionage, there is a long history dating back to the American War of Independence, The Culper Code, and a lot more and it is something that has been considered by myself and many others before me. I have put a small list of links at the end of the post. Hope you find them interesting.

I am not saying that you haven't found something new, I actually hope you have but it is a well worn track and there may be things in the articles that will enhance what you have found.

Anonymous said...

Somebody has already 'linked' the numbers on the trousers to the code on the rubiayat, is that what you are saying Gordon? If so, could you please supply your source,

Gordon332 said...

Pete, As far as I know, no one has successfully linked the code on the Rubaiyat to the numbers on the trousers but it has been considered and I am amongst those who have considered it. I am saying that a lot of work has been done on those numbers without any result. You can look to Nick's site and a post there by Byron Deveson who has also done a fair amount of work on this issue. There's nothing more I can tell you, the links have some info and I have posted what I know. What do you know?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Gordon, rather than work my way through every one of your posts, could you link it for me , please

Gordon332 said...

Pete, I really would like to help but this blog is growing at a great rate and I get many emails and requests for further information. I do what I can and I like to help out. For example I am working with two other followers of this blog who have found some very interesting information and that alone takes up significant time but if I have to do searches and compilations for everyone who could search for themselves I simply wouldn't have the time. Please don't think I am being rude, it's just a fact of life. Right now I am taking some time out and heading South for a few days.

Gordon332 said...

For everyone's information, the 'T' Keane that has been the subject of ongoing searches is based on the '7' Keane written on the tie the only place where it was thought there was an initial. If you go back and look at it carefully, it doesn't look like a T at all it looks far more like a number 7 and not a continental one at that. I have just confirmed this with John Ruffles whom everyone should know. Items for laundry were generally marked with the owners name but sometimes, if there were a few items, there could be a number so what we see could represent item 7. and not the letter 'T'.

Bear in mind also that the dry cleaning marks in the trousers and the name on the tie are all uniformly darker than you might expect, the reason for that would be that the Police, in order to highlight the marks, have written over them. I'll add an image of a shirt with a name on it into this post for reference.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the code on the shirt is a 'laundry' mark.

Gordon332 said...

Pete, That's right, it isn't, the image shows the use of handwritten names on a laundered item as per the Keane tie. This would mean that it was likely that SMs underwear and singlet could well have been treated the same way. This was as opposed to the use of number sets on dry cleaned items as per SM's trousers.

Still looking at your last post and will get back to you on that, had a few thoughts.

Anonymous said...

that ain't the half of it GC

Gordon332 said...

The mind boggles :) Look forward to hearing more Pete.