Ugly Clubs reflect changing notions of deformity through the long nineteenth century, before and beyond. Ugly Clubs arose from fictional forebears in early eighteenth-century satirical periodicals in Britain, including Ned Ward’s The Secret History of Clubs and Joseph Addison’s and Richard Steele’s Spectator papers. The factual club in Liverpool, England (1743-54) reflected a number of social, political, and moral debates as it communally satirized deformity and, by extension, disability. In an era when Samuel Johnson interchangeably defined “deformity” and “ugliness” in his ground-breaking A Dictionary of the English Language, and contemporary with the artist William Hogarth’s The Analysis of Beauty, the Ugly Face Club paralleled debates about physiognomy, artistic caricature, and minority dissent toward the club’s focus on ugliness—which “doubles the Ridicule,” according to William Hay, a member of Parliament who was hunchbacked and who wrote Deformity: An Essay (1754), in which he vowed never to be a member of an Ugly Club.
Like other Clubs that permeated eighteenth-century British social culture, the Ugly Face Club was a voluntary fraternal organization whose activities revolved around meeting in a coffee house, drinking ale, and singing songs. Liverpool’s “Most Honourable and Facetious Society of Ugly Faces” consisted of bachelors who banded together to satirize their “odd,” “remarkable,” and “out of the way” facial deformities, not construed as disabling. One membership rule stated that even if a candidate is “humpback’d and leg’d and posses’d of all the perfections besides of the great and immortall worthy Aesop,” he could not be admitted to the Club if he lacked the requisite facial deformities, ranging from “Blubber lips, little goggyling or squinting Eyes” to “a large Carbuncle Potatoe Nose.” Members were drawn mainly from Liverpool’s merchant class, also including doctors, ship captains, tradesmen, and the architect of the city’s Town Hall.
Throughout the nineteenth century, Ugly Clubs continued to spread, with variations immigrating to America and populating colleges (including the Universities of Virginia and North Carolina), also published in periodical literatures. Perhaps more than their English forebears, Ugly Clubs at American colleges were social fraternities. Framed by the Civil War (1861-65), these satiric portraits appeared against more sobering and realistic contrasts of deformed bodies. UVA’s rituals quieted during the war, when many Americans suffered disabling, rather than amusing, deformities. The heroism or horror of war likely fit uneasily with self-ridicule and fraternal pranks, and the overriding realism and rise of naturalism likely dampened the Club’s antics. In the 1860s, European writers like George Augustus Sala and Victor Hugo mentioned Ugly Clubs, but beyond that, Ugly Clubs seemed to retreat. In the United States, so-called “Ugly Laws” (circa 1880s-1970s) attempted to prohibit individuals with physical deformities from visiting public spaces, perpetuating historic conflations of disability with ugliness. A different lineage of Ugly Clubs arose in Piobicco, Italy, which to this day celebrates a Festival of the Ugly. Throughout their history, Ugly Clubs were complexly entwined with a culture that demeaned deformity, but their communal affiliation refrained deformity that was otherwise isolating and disparaging. Via their witty self-ridicule and ridiculous rules (not to mention the projected self-respect that went with abiding by them), Ugly Clubs participated in a broader historical interrogation of humanity and disability that persists to this day.
The published volume of archival papers of Liverpool’s Ye Ugly Face Clubb (1912) provides evidence of this transatlantic trend across the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including the following excerpt dated 1887. This surviving volume is particularly interesting because it notes how Ugly Clubs made a practice “of destroying all documentary evidence of their natural gifts; for even in this MS. many pages are missing, whether by accident or design is open to conjecture.”
 Ned Ward’s account or invention of the “Club of Ugly-Faces” (1709) likely inspired Joseph Addison’s and Richard Steele’s fictional Club of the same name in The Spectator papers (1711-12, 1714), including societies at Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
 Samuel Johnson published his first edition of A Dictionary of the English Language in 1755. In The Analysis of Beauty (1753), William Hogarth identified beauty in curved or serpentine lines, which critics disparaged as his “Anti-line of Beauty” and “Line of Deformity.” See also William Hay, Deformity: An Essay, ed. Kathleen James-Cavan (Victoria, BC: English Literary Studies, University of Victoria, 2004).
 Edward Howell’s edition of Ye Ugly Face Clubb, Leverpoole, 1743-1753 (Liverpool, 1912), pp. 26-7.
 George Augustus Sala was an English journalist, and Victor Hugo was a French writer whose novels include The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and The Man Who Laughs.
 See Susan M. Schweik, The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public (New York: New York University Press, 2009).
 Howell, Ye Ugly Face Clubb, p. 9.