Do They Serve Canned Meat on the USCGC Harriet Lane?

USCG Canned Meat?

I will admit to doing a double take when I saw the USCG press release announcing “Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane returns home after 9-week patrol.”   I wondered, who would name a ship the Harriet Lane?  For the record, the USCGC Harriet Lane was named for Harriet Lane, niece and official hostess of President James Buchanan.   The current Harriet Lane is also not the first. There was also a  revenue cutter by the same name in 1857.

For those familiar with sailor slang, however, Harriet Lane is also slang for canned meat.   Harriet Lane was a murder victim, who was chopped up by her killer around 1875.   Merchant sailors came to call any canned meat, Harriet Lane.  Fanny Adams, also a long remembered, if also dismembered, murder victim, became Royal Navy slang for tinned meats as well.   To the best of my knowledge, there is no USCG Fanny Adams, thank goodness.

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2 Responses to Do They Serve Canned Meat on the USCGC Harriet Lane?

  1. Andy Hall says:

    Yeeesh. Remind me not to read this blog before breakfast.

    I didn’t know about the term Harriet Lane as slang for tinned meat. The origin of the term is gruesome stuff, a London man who murdered his mistress (and mother of two of his children) in Whitechapel in 1874. He was hanged at Newgate the following year. One of the most horrific crimes in the Whitechapel part of London until Saucy Jack came along a few years later.

    Ironically, Harriet Lane’s murderer had the same surname, Wainwright, as the revenue cutter’s commander, killed at the Battle of Galveston in 1863.

    By the time of the London murders, though, Harriet Lane had already been established in the Revenue Cutter Service, and it continues apace. I wonder, too, if the slang meaning for “Harriet Lane” was as common in American service as in the British merchant marine. Thoughts?

  2. Rick says:

    The association with both Harriet Lanes and Wainwrights is an amazing coincidence.

    I haven’t been able to find any reference to Harriet Lane by American sailors. Annette Brock Davis, a Canadian woman, uses the term in 1933 uses the term in her book “My Year Before the Mast.” American Felix Riesenberg, writing in 1918 in “under Sail” specifically mentions canned beef and canned mutton but uses only the slang “embalmed beef.” Likewise, American Charles Nordhoff in “The Merchant Vessel – A SAILOR BOY’S VOYAGES AROUND THE WORLD” in 1895 writes of salt beef and pork but never mentions cans nor poor Harriet.

    It is looking like almost exclusively British slang.