London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Street-Sellers of Jewellery.


THE jewellery now sold in the streets far exceeds, both in cheapness and quality, what was known even years ago. years ago the jewellery itinerant trade was almost entirely, if not entirely, in the hands of Jews, who at any rate professed to sell really gold articles, and who asked large prices; but these traders have lost their command over this, as I have shown that they have over other street callings, as not a of the street-jewellers are now Jews. A common trade among such street and country itinerant jewellers was in large watch seals, the bodies of which were of lead, more or less thickly plated with gold, and which were unsaleable even as old metal until broken to pieces,—but not always saleable then. The street or itinerant trade was for a long time afterwards carried on only by those who were regularly licensed as hawkers, and who preferred "barter" or "swopping" to actual sale, the barter being usually for other and more solid articles of the goldsmith's trade.

The introduction of "mosaic" and other cheap modes of manufacturing gold ornaments, brought about considerable changes in the trade, pertaining, however, more to the general manufacture, than to that prepared for the streets.

The itinerants usually carry their wares in boxes or cases, which shut up close, and can be slung on the shoulder for conveyance, or hung round the neck for the purposes of sale. These cases are nearly all glazed; within them the jewellery is disposed in such manner as, in the street-seller's judgment, is the most attractive. A card of the larger brooches, or of cameos, often forms the centre, and the other space is occupied with the shawl-pins, with their globular tops of scarlet or other coloured glass: rings, armlets, necklaces, a few earrings and ear-drops, and sometimes a few side-combs, small medals for keepsakes, clasps, beads, and bead-purses, ornamental buttons for dresses, gilt buckles for waistbelts, thimbles, &c., constitute the street jeweller's stock-in-trade. The usual prices are from to ; the price most frequently obtained for any article being It will be seen from the enumeration of the articles, that the stock is such as is required "for women's wear," and women are now almost the sole customers of the streetjewellers. "In my time, sir," said elderly street-trader, "or rather, when I was a boy, and in my uncle's time—for he was in jewellery, and I helped him at times—quite different sorts of jewellery was sold, and quite different prices was had; what's a high figure now was a low figure then. I've known children's coral and bells in my uncle's stock—well, I don't know whether it was real coral or not—and big watch keys with coloured-stones in the centre on 'em, such as I've seen old gents keep spinning round when they was talking, and big seals and watch-chains; there weren't no guards then, as I remember. And there was plated fruit-knives—silver, as near as a toucher—and silver pencils (pencil-cases), and gilt lockets, to give your sweetheart your hair in for keepsakes. Lor' bless you! times is turned upside down."

The disposition of the street-stalls is somewhat after the same fashion as that in the itinerant's box, with the advantage of a greater command of space. Some of the stalls— in Tottenhamcourt Road, I may instance, and another in Whitechapel—make a great show.

I did not hear of any in this branch of the jewellery trade who had been connected with it as working jewellers. I heard of journeymen watchmakers and clockmakers now selling jewellery (but often with other things, such as eye-glasses) in the street, but that is all. The street mass selling jewellery in town and country are, I believe, composed of the various classes who constitute the street-traders generally.

Of the nature of his present trade, and of the class of his customers, I had the following account from a man of years' experience in the vending of street jewellery:—

It's not very easy to tell, sir," he said, "what sells best, for people begins to suspect everything, and seems to think they're done if they give 3d. for an agate brooch, and finds out it ain't set in gold. I think agate is about the best part of the trade now. It seems a stone as is easy imitated. Cornelians, too, ain't so bad in brooches—people likes the colour; but not what they was, and not up to agates. But nothing is up to what it once was; not in the least. Sell twice as much—when you can, which often stands over till to-morrow come-never—and get half the profit. I don't expect very much from the Great Exhibition. They sends goods so cheap from Germany, they'll think anything dear in London, if it's only at German prices. I think it's a mistake to fancy that the cheaper a jewellery article is the more you'll sell of it. You won't. People's of opinion—at least that's my notion of it—that it's so common everybody'll have it, and so they won't touch it. It's Thames water, sir, against beer, is poor lowpriced jewellery, against tidy and fair-priced; but then the low-priced has now ruined the other sorts, for they're all thought to go under the same um- brella,—all of a sort; 1s. or 1d. Why, as to who's the best customers, that depends on where you pitches your pitch, or works your round, and whether you are known, or are merely a upstart. But I can tell you, sir, who's been my best customers—and is yet, but not so good as they was —and that's women of the town; and mostly (for I've tried most places) about Ratcliff Highway, Whitechapel, Mile-end-road, Bethnal-green, and Oxford-street. The sailors' gals is the best of all; but a'most all of them is very particular and some is uncommon tiresome. 'I'm afeard,' they says, 'this colour don't suit my complexion; it's too light, or it's too dark. How does that ring show on my finger?' I've known some of the fat and fair ones—what had been younger, but would be older—say, 'Let me have a necklace of bright black beads;' them things shows best with the fat 'uns—but in gen'ral them poor creatures is bad judges of what becomes them. The things they're the most particular of all in is necklaces. Amber and pearl sells most. I have them from 6d. to 1s. 6d. I never get more than 1s. 6d. Cornelian necklaces is most liked by children, and most bought for them. I've trusted the women of the town, and trust them still. One young woman in Shadwell took a fancy the t' other week for a pearl necklace, 'it became her so,' which it didn't; and offered to pay me 6d. a week for it if I wouldn't sell it away from her. The first week she paid 6d.; the second nothing; and next week the full tip, 'cause her Jack had come home. I never lost a halfpenny by the women. Yes, they pays you a fairish price, but nothing more. Sometimes they've beat me down 1d., and has said, 'It's all the money I has.'

It's not very long ago that one of them offered me a fine goold watch which I could have bought at any price, for I saw she knew nothing of what it was worth. I never do anything that way. I believe a very few in my line does, for they can't give the prices the rich fences can. It's common enough for them gals to ask any street-jeweller they knows how much a watch ought to pop for, or to sell for, afore they tries it on. But it isn't they as tries it on, sir; they gets some respeckbel old lady, or old gent, to do that for them. I've had cigars and Cavendish of them; such as seamen had left behind them; you know, sir, I've never given money, only jewellery for it. Plenty of shopkeepers is glad to buy it of me, and not at a bad price. They asks no questions, and I tells them no lies. One reason why these gals buys free is that when the jewellery gets out of order or out of fashion, they can fling it away and get fresh, it's so cheap. When I've had no money on a day until I has sold to these women, I've oft enough said, 'God bless 'em!' Earrings is hardly any go now, sir; nothing to what they was; they're going out. The penny jewellery's little good; it's only children what buys, or gets it bought for them. I sell most of brooches from 3d. to 6d., very seldom higher, and bracelets— they calls them armlets now—at the same price. I buys all my goods at a swag-shop: there's no other market. Watchguards was middling sale, both silver and goold, or washed white and washed yellow, and the swags made money in them; but instead of 1s., they're not to be sold at a Joey now, watchguards ain't, if a man patters ever so.

I am informed that there are not less than individuals who all buy their jewellery at the London swag-shops, and sell it in the streets, with or without other articles, but principally without; and that of this number are generally in London and its suburbs, including such places as Gravesend, Woolwich, and Greenwich. Of these traders about - are women; and in town about -fifths are itinerant, and the others stationary. -half, or thereabouts, of the women, are the wives of street-sellers; the others trade on their own account. A few "swop" jewellery for old clothes, with either the mistress or the maids. or , when they see a favourable opportunity, offer to tell any servantmaid her fortune. "'Buy this beautiful agate brooch, my dear,' the woman'll say, 'and I'll only charge you '—a German thing, sir, costing her farthings street-jeweller informed me,—'and I'll tell you your fortune into the bargain.'"

"old hand" calculated, that when a streetjeweller could display worth of stock, he could clear, all the year round, a week. "People," said this man, "as far as I've known the streets, like to buy of what they think is a respectable man, and seemingly well to do; they feel safe with him." Those, however, who cannot boast so large a stock of jewellery as worth, may only clear instead of weekly. trader thought that the average earnings of his fraternity might be taken at a week; another—and both judged from their own experience—thought was high enough. Calculating, then, at a weekly profit of , and a receipt of per individual, we find expended in the street-trade, including the sales at Gravesend, Woolwich, and Greenwich; where—both places being resorted to by pleasure-seekers and seamen—the trade is sometimes considerable; watches, which now are almost unknown in a regular street-trade, there forming an occasional part of it.

View all images in this book
 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