In BBC detective drama Ripper Street there is an American character, captain Homer Jackson (played by American actor Adam Rothenberg): former U.S. Army surgeon, ex-Pinkerton agent etc. For the story set in late XIX century, his accent appeared to me as modern. Mayhaps, more articulate, but still average American speech.

I am by no means a dialectologist, but it seems to me that century ago American accent was a lot closer to British. Today, perhaps, the dialects like Bostonian survive, that in some ways similar, and so it was earlier, as evidenced in MIT calculus videos form the 50s or 60s that I have seen. But listening to some examples of speech from first half of the XX century, such as F. D. Roosevelt speeches, it appears that today’s American accent is different from what it used to be: less articulate, a bit slurred, and slower, and ultimately easier to learn (I can attest, as a foreigner, that it takes less mental effort to speak American, even though I learned Queen’s English in the grade school).

So, is Jackson’s accent authentic, or they made it less such whether by accident (negligence), or in a deliberate attempt to more clearly differentiate that American from the rest of the Brits in the film?

2 Answers 2


I'm not a dialectologist either, but I can tell you that within the British Isles there are several regional accents and dialects (even just among the "English" parts). The US is a much larger area and, while populated by Europeans for a much shorter time, still has many regional variations. Just within the state of North Carolina (where I live) there are huge regional accent differences. I've seen the same in Texas (West Texans speak very differently than those from East Texas or the Hill Country).

If I remember correctly, Captain Jackson was from Chicago (at least that is where he and Long Susan spent some time). The first person I thought of as a contemporary of Captain Jackson was Mark Twain (a fellow Mid-Westerner). A few recordings of him can be found here. After accounting for the fact that Twain was much older when the recordings were made, I think they sound remarkably similar.

So, to your question. Yes, I think his accent is an authentic American accent from the time period.


What you're hearing in videos from the 50s and 60s, and from Roosevelt, is likely the "Mid-Atlantic" or "Transatlantic" accent. It's a purposeful attempt to blend US and British accents, and was considered a mark of status and education. Roosevelt is specifically called out as an example in the Wikipedia article.

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