London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Street-Sellers of Cough Drops and of Medical Confectionary.


MR. STRUTT, in his "Sports and Pastimes of the People of England" (), says of the Mountebank: "It is uncertain at what period this vagrant dealer in physic made his appearance in England; it is clear, however, that he figured away with much success in this country during the last centuries. . . . . . . The mountebanks usually preface the vending of their medicines with pompous orations, in which they pay as little regard to truth as to propriety." I am informed by a gentleman observant of the matter, that within his knowledge, which extends to the commencement of the present century, no mountebank (proper) had appeared in the streets of London proclaiming the virtues of his medicines; neither with nor without his "fool." The last seen by my informant, perhaps the latest mountebank in England, was about years ago, in the vicinity of Yarmouth. He was selling "cough drops" and infallible cures for asthma, and was dressed in a periwig and an embroidered coat, with ruffles at his wrist, a sword to his side, and was a representation, in shabby genteel, of the fine gentleman of the reign of Queen Anne. The mountebank's most legitimate successor in the street cajolery of London, as regards his "orations," is the "Patterer," as I shall show in my account of the street trade in stationery literature. His successor in the vending of curative confectionaries and (in a small degree) of nostrums, salves, ointments, &c., are the sellers of "cough drops" and "horehound candy," and of the corn salves, and cures for bruises, sprains, burns, &c., &c., &c.

The street-traders in cough drops and their accompaniments, however, do not now exceed , and of them only —who are near relatives —manufacture their own stock-in-trade. I here treat of the street trade in "cough drops," as a branch of the itinerant sweet-stuff trade. The "mountebank" part of the business—that is to say, "the prefacing the vending of the medicines with ," I shall reserve till its proper place—viz. the "" part of the street trade, of which an account will be given in the next Chapter.

The principal vendors of cough drops wheel their stalls, which are fixed upon barrows, to different parts of town, but principal stand is in . On their boards are displayed the cough cures, both in the form of "sticks" and "drops," and a model of a small distillery. The portion inclosing the still is painted to resemble brick-work, and a tin tube, or worm, appears to carry the distillation to a receiver. Horehound, colts-foot, and some other herbs lie in a dried state on the stall, but principally horehound, to which popular (street) opinion seems to attach the most and the greatest virtues. There are also on the stalls a few bottles, tied up in the way they are dispensed from a regular practitioner, while the cough drops are in the form of sticks ( each), also neatly wrapped in paper. The cry is both expressive and simply descriptive—"Long life candy! Candy from herbs!"

From the most experienced person in this curious trade, I had the following statement. He entertained a full assurance, as far as I could perceive, of the excellence of his remedies, and of the high art and mystery of his calling. In persons of his class, professing to heal, no matter in what capacity, or what may be the disease, this is an important element of success. My informant, whether answering my questions or speaking of his own accord, always took time to consider, and sometimes, as will be seen, declined replying to my inquiries. From him I received the following account:—

The cough drop and herb trade is nothing now to what it was long ago. Thirty or forty years ago, it was as good as 3l. or 4l. a week to a person, and was carried on by respectable men. I know nothing of any 'humbugs' in the respectable part of the trade. What's done by those who are ignorant, and not respectable, is nothing to me. I don't know how many there were in the trade thirty or forty years ago; but I know that, ten or eleven years since, I supplied seven persons who sold cough drops, and such like, in the streets, and now I supply only myself and another. I sell only four or five months in the year—the cold months, in course; for, in the summer, people are not so subject to coughs and colds. I am the 'original' maker of my goods. I will cure any child of the hooping- cough, and very speedily. I defy any medical man to dispute it, and I'll do it—'no cure, no pay.' I never profess to cure asthma. Nobody but a gravedigger can put an end to that there; but I can relieve it. It's the same with consumption; it may be relieved, but the gravedigger is the only man as can put a stop to it. Many have tried to do it, but they've all failed. I sell to very respectable people, and to educated people, too; and, what's more, a good deal (of cough drops) to medical men. In course, they can analyse it, if they please. They can taste the bitter, and judge for themselves, just as they can taste wine in the Docks. Perhaps the wives of mechanics are among my best oustomers. They are the most numerous, but they buy only ha'porths and penn'orths. Very likely, they would think more of the remedy if they had to pay 13 1/2d. for it, instead of the 1 1/2d. The Government stamp makes many a stuff sell. Oh! I know nothing about quackery: you must inquire at the Stamp-office, if you want to know about them kind of medicines. They're the people that help to sell them. Respectable people will pay me 1s. or 2s. at a time; and those who buy once, buy again. I'm sent to from as far off as Woolwich. I'll undertake to cure, or afford relief, in coughs, colds, or wind in the chest, or forfeit 1s. I can dispel wind in two minutes. I sell bottles, too, for those cures (as well as the candy from herbs): I manufacture them myself. They're decoctions of herbs, and the way to prepare them is my secret. I sell them at from 2d. to 1s. Why, I use one article that costs 24s. a pound, foreign, and twice that English. I've sold hundred weights. The decoctions are my secret. I will instruct any person—and have instructed a good many—when I'm paid for it. In course, it would never do to publish it in your work, for thousands would then learn it for 2d. My secret was never given to any person— only with what you may call a fee—except one, and only to him when he got married, and started in the line. He's a connection of mine. All we sell is genuine.

I sell herbs, too, but it's not a street sale: I supply them to orders from my connection. It's not a large trade. I sell horehound, for tea or decoctions; coltsfoot, for smoking as herb tobacco (I gather the coltsfoot myself, but buy the horehound of a shopkeeper, as it's cultivated); ground-ivy is sold only for the blood (but little of it); hyssop for wind; and Irish moss for consumption. I'm never asked for anything improper. They won't ask me for —— or ——. And I'm never asked for washes or cosmetics; but a few nettles are ordered of me for complexions.

Well, sir, I'd rather not state the quantities I sell, or my profits, or prices. I make what keeps myself, my wife, and seven children, and that's all I need say about it. I'd rather say no more on that part of the business: and so, I'm sure you won't press me. I don't know what others in the trade make. They buy of confectioners, and are only imitators of me. They buy coltsfoot-candy, and such like; how it's made so cheap, I don't know. In the summer, I give up cough-drop selling, and take to gold fish.

I am told that the cough-drop-makers, who are also street-sellers, prepare their sticks, &c., much in the same method as the manufacturers of the ordinary sweet-stuff (which I have described), using the decoction, generally of horehound or coltsfoot, as the "scents" are used. In the old times, it would appear that the preparation of a medicinal confection was a much more elaborate matter, if we may judge by the following extract from an obsolete medical work treating of the matter. The author styles such preparations "lohochs," which is an Arabic word, he says, and signifies "a thing to be licked." It would appear that the lohoch was not so hard as the present cough-drop. The following is of the receipts, "used generally against diseases in the breast and lungs:"—.

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 Title Page
 The Street-Folk: Of Wandering Tribes in General
 Of the Wandering Tribes of this Country
 Of the London Street-Folk
Of the Number of Costermongers and Other Street-Folk
Of the Number of Costermongers and Other Street-Folk
Of the Varieties of Street-Folk in General, and Costermongers in Particular
Of Costermongering Mechanics
Ancient Calling of Costermongers
Of the Obsolete Cries of the Costermongers
Of the Costermongers 'Economically' Considered
The London Street Markets on a Saturday Night
The Sunday Morning Markets
Habits and amusements of Costermongers
Gambling of Costermongers
'Vic Gallery'
The Politics of Costermongers.-- Policemen
Marriage and Concubinage of Costermongers
Religion of Costermongers
Of the Uneducated State of Costermongers
Language of Costermongers
Of the Nicknames of Costermongers
Of the Education of Costermongers' Children
The Literature of Costermongers
Of the Honesty of Costermongers
Of the Conveyances of the Costermongers and Other Street-Sellers
Of the 'Smithfield Races'
Of the Donkeys of the Costermongers
Of the Costermongers' Capital
Of the 'Slang' Weights and Measures
Of Half Profits
Of the Boys of the Costermongers, and their Bunts
Of the Juvenile Trading of the Costermongers
Of the Education of the 'Coster-Lads'
The Life of a Coster-Lad
Of the 'Penny Gaff'
Of the Coster-Girls
The Life of a Coster Girl
Of Costermongers and Thieves
Of the More Provident Costermongers
Of the Homes of the Costermongers
Of the Dress of the Costermongers
Once Try You'll Come Again
Of the Diet and Drink of Costermongers
Of the Cries, Rounds, and Days of Costermongers
Of the Costermongers on their Country Rounds
Of the Earnings of Costermongers
Of the Capital and Income of the Costermongers
Of the Providence and Improvidence of Costermongers
Of the Costermongers in Bad Weather and During the Cholera
Of the Costermongers' Raffles
Of the Markets and Trade Rights of the Costerongers, and of the Laws Affecting Them
Of the Removals of Costermongers From the Streets
Of the Tricks of Costermongers
Of the Street-Sellers of Fish
Of Sprat-Selling in the Streets
Of the Street-Sellers of Fruit and Vegetables
Of the Stationary Street-Sellers of Fish, Fruit, and Vegetables
Of the Street-Irish
Of the Street-Sellers of Game, Poultry (Live and Dead), Rabbits, Butter, Cheese, and Eggs
Of the Sellers of Trees, Shrubs, Flowers (Cut and In Pots), Roots, Seeds, and Branches
Street-Sellers of Green Stuff
Of the Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Of the Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Of the Street-Sellers of Pea-Soup and Hot Eels
Of the Experience of a Hot-Eel and Pea-Soup Man
Of the Street-Sellers of Pickled Whelks
Of the Customers, Etc., of Pickled Whelk-Sellers
Of the Street Sellers, and of the Preparation of Fried Fish
Of the Experience of a Fried Fish- Seller, and of the Class of Customers
Of the Preparation and Quantity of Sheep's Trotters, and of the Street-Sellers
Statements of Sheep's Trotter Women
Of the Street Trade in Baked Potatoes
Of 'Trotting,' or 'Hawking' Butchers
Of the Experience of a Hawking Butcher
Of the Street-Sellers of Ham-Sandwiches
Of the Experience of a Ham Sandwich- Seller
Of the Street-Sellers of Bread
Of the Street-Sellers of Hot Green Peas
Of the Experience of a Hot Green Pea Seller
Of Cats' and Dogs'--Meat Dealers
Of the Street-Sale of Drinkables
Of Coffee-Stall Keepers
Of the Street Sale of Ginger-Beer, Sherbet, Lemonade, &c
Of the Experience and Customers of A Ginger-Beer Seller
Of the Street-Sellers of Hot Elder Wine
Of the Street Sale of Peppermint-Water
Of Milk Selling in St. James's Park
Of the Street Sale of Milk
Of the Street-Sale of Curds and Whey
Of the Street-Sellers of Rice-Milk
Of Water-Carriers
Of the Street-Sellers of Pastry and Confectionary
Of Street Piemen
Of the Street-Sellers of Boiled Puddings
Of the Street-Sellers of Plum 'Duff' or Dough
Of the Street-Sellers of Cakes, Tarts, &c.
Of Other Cake-Sellers in the Streets
Of the Street-Sellers of Gingerbread- Nuts, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Hot-Cross Buns, and of Chelsea Buns
Of Muffin and Crumpet-Selling in the Streets
Of the Street Sale of Sweet-Stuff
Of the Customers of the Sweet-Stuff Street-Sellers
Of the Street-Sellers of Cough Drops and of Medical Confectionary
'Lohoch de farfara,' the Lohoch of Coltsfoot
Of the Street-Sellers of Ices and of Ice Creams
Of the Capital and Income of the Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Capital, or Stock in Trade, of the Street- Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Income, or 'Takings,' of Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature, and the Fine Arts
Of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, &c.
Of the Former and Present Street- Patterers
Of the Habits, Opinions, Morals, and Religion of Patterers Generally
Of the Publishers and authors of Street-Literature
Of Long Song-Sellers
Of Running Patterers
Experience of a Running Patterer
Of the Recent Experience of a Running Patterer
Of the Chaunters
Of the Experience of a Chaunter
Of the Death and Fire Hunters
Of the Sellers of Second Editions
Of the Standing Patterers
Experience of a Standing Patterer
Of Political Litanies, Dialogues, etc.
Of 'Cocks,' Etc.
Of 'Strawing'
Of the Sham indecent Street-Trade
Of Religious Tract Sellers
Of a Benefit Society of Patterers
Of the Abodes, Tricks, Marriage, Character, and Characteristics of the Different Grades of Patterers
Of the Low Lodging-Houses of London
Of the Filth, Dishonesty, and Immorality of Low Lodging-Houses
Of the Children in Low Lodging- Houses
Of the Low Lodging-Houses Throughout the Country
Of the Street Stationers, and the Street Card-Sellers
Of the Seller of the Penny Short-Hand Cards
The Lecture
'I perish with hunger'
Of the Sellers of Race Cards and Lists
Of the Street-Sellers of Gelatine, of Engraved, and of Playing Cards, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Stationery
Of the Experience of a Street- Stationer
Of a 'Reduced' Gentlewoman, and a 'Reduced' Tradesman, as Street-Sellers of Stationery
Of the Street-Sale of Memorandum- Books and Almanacks
Of the Street-Sale of Pocket-Books and Diaries
Of the Street-Sellers of Songs
Of the Street 'Pinners-up,' or Wall Song-Sellers
Of Ancient and Modern Street Ballad Minstrelsy
Of Street 'Ballads on a Subject'
Of the Street Poets and Authors
Of the Experience of a Street Author, or Poet
Of the Street-Sellers of Broad-Sheets
Of the 'Gallows' Literature of the Streets
Of the Street-Sellers of Conundrums
Of the Street-Sellers of Comic Exhibitions, Magical Delusions, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Play-Bills
Of the Street-Sellers of Periodicals, Pamphlets, Tracts, Books, Etc.
Of the Street-Sale of Back Numbers
Of the Sale of Waste Newspapers at Billingsgate
Of the Sale of Periodicals on the Steam- Boats and Steam-Boat Piers
Of the Sale of Newspapers, Books, &c., at the Railway Stations
Of the Street Booksellers
Of the Character of Books of the Street-Sale
Of the Experience of a Street Book- Seller
Of Street Book-Auctioneers
Of the Street-Sale of Song-Books, and of Children's Books
Of the Street-Sellers of Account-Books
Of the Street-Sellers of Guide-Books, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Fine Arts
Of Street Art
Of the Street-Sellers of Engravings, Etc., in Umbrellas, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Pictures in Frames
Of the Street-Sellers of Manuscript and Other Music
Of the Capital and Income of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature, and the Fine Arts
Capital or Value of the Stock-in-Trade of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature and the Fine Arts
Income, or Average Annual 'Takings,' of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature, and the Fine Arts
An Epitome of the Pattering Class
Of the 'Screevers,' or Writers of Begging-Letters and Petitions
'God Save the Queen'
Of the Probable Means of Reformation
Of the Street-Sellers of Manufactured Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Manufactured Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Manufactured Articles in Metal
Of the Cheap Johns, or Street Han- Sellers
'The Original Cheap John'
The Crippled Street-Seller of Nut- Meg-Graters
Of the Swag-Shops of the Metropolis
Shopkeepers and Dealers Supplied with the Following Articles --
Of the Life of a Cheap-John
The Street-Sellers of Cutlery
Of the Blind Street-Sellers of Tailors' Needles, etc.
The Public-House Hawkers of Metal Spoons, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Jewellery
Of the Pedlar-Jewellers
Of the Street-Sellers of Card-Counters, Medals, Etc.
The Construction is of Iron and of Glass, 1848 Feet Long. about Half is 456 Wide. the Remainder 408 Feet Wide, and 66 Feet High; Site, Upwards of 20 acres. Josh. Paxton, archt.
Of the Street-Sellers of Rings and Sovereigns For Wagers
Of the Street-Sellers of Children's Gilt Watches
Of the Street-Sellers of Tinware
Of the Life of a Tin-Ware Seller
Of the Street-Sellers of Dog-Collars
Of the Life of a Street-Seller of Dog- Collars
Of the Street-Sellers of Tools
Of the Beggar Street-Sellers
Pike's Patent Cotton. 120 Yards
'The Lace-Makers' Appeal'
'ALLEN, Printer, Long-row, Nottingham'
Of the 'House of Lords,' a Street-Seller's Defunct Club
Of the Street-Sellers of Crockery and Glass-Wares
Of the 'Swag,' Crockery, and Glass Shops
Of the Street-Sellers of Spar and China Ornaments, and of Stone Fruit
Of the Street-Sellers of Textile Fabrics
Of the Haberdashery Swag-Shops
Of Hawkers, Pedlars, and Petty Chapmen
Of the Packmen, or Hawkers of Soft Wares
Statement of a Packman
Of the Tally Packman
Of the 'Duffers' or Hawkers of Pretended Smuggled Goods
Of the Street-Sellers of 'Small-Ware,' or Tape, Cotton, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Lace
Of the Street-Sellers of Japanned Table- Covers
Of the Street-Sellers of Braces, Belts, Hose, Trowser-Straps, and Waistcoats
Of the Street-Sellers of Boot and Stay- Laces, &c.
Of a Blind Female Seller of 'Small-Wares'
The Blind Street-Seller of Boot-Laces
Of the Life of a Blind Boot-Lace Seller
Of the Low Lodging-Houses
Statement of a Young Pickpocket
Statement of a Prostitute
Statement of a Beggar
Meeting of Thieves
Of the Country Lodging-Houses
Of the Street-Sellers of Chemical Articles of Manufacture
Of the Street-Sellers of Blacking, Black Lead, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of French Polish
Of the Street-Sellers of Grease-Removing Compositions
Of the Street-Sellers of Corn-Salve
Of the Street-Sellers of Glass and China Cement, and of Razor Paste
Of the Street-Seller of Crackers and Detonating Balls
Of the Street-Sellers of Lucifer-Matches
Of the Street-Sellers of Cigar Lights, or Fuzees
Of the Street-Sellers of Gutta-Percha Heads
Of the Street-Sellers of Fly-Papers and Beetle-Wafers
Of the Street-Sellers of Miscellaneous Manufactured Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Walking-Sticks
Of the Street-Sellers of Whips, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Pipes, and of Snuff and Tobacco Boxes
Of the Street-Sellers of Cigars
Of the Street-Sellers of Sponge
Of the Street-Sellers of Wash-Leathers
Of the Street-Sellers of Spectacles and Eye-Glasses
Of the Street-Sellers of Dolls
Of the 'Swag-Barrowmen,' and 'Lot- Sellers'
Of the Street-Sellers of Roulette Boxes
Of the Street-Sellers of Poison For Rats
Of the Street-Sellers of Rhubarb and Spice
Of the Hawking of Tea
Of the Women Street-Sellers
Of the Children Street-Sellers of London