London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Street-Sellers of Rings and Sovereigns For Wagers.


THIS class is hardly known in the streets of London at present. Country fairs and races are a more fitting ground for the ring-seller's operations. man of this class told me that he had been selling rings, and occasionally medals, for wagers for this last years. "It's only a so-so game just now," he said; "the people get so fly to it. A many hold out their penny for a ring, and just as I suppose I'm a going to receive it, they put the penny into their pockets, and their thumb upon their nose. I wish I had some other game, for this is a very dickey . I gives a-dozen for the rings at the swag shop; and sometimes sells a couple of dozen in a day, but seldom more. Saturday is no better day than any other. Country people are my best customers. I know them by their appearance. Sometimes a person in the crowd whispers to others that he bought the other day and went and pawned it for , and he'd buy another, but he's got no money. I don't ask for such assistance; I suppose it's done for a lark, and to laugh at others if they buy. Women buy more frequently than any else. Several times since I have been on this dodge, women have come back and abused me because the ring they bought for a penny was not gold. Some had been to the pawn shop, and was quite astonished that the pawn- broker wouldn't take the ring in. I do best in the summer at races: people think it more likely that sporting gents would lay an out of the way wager (as you know I always make out) then than at any other time. I have been interfered with at races before now for being an impostor, and yet at the same time the gamblers was allowed to keep their tables; but of course theirs was all fair—no imposition about them— oh no! I am considered about of the best patterers among our lot. I dare say there may be on us all together, in town and country, on rings and sovereigns. Sometimes, when travelling on foot to a race or fair, I do a little in the line;" (fawneys are rings;) "but that is a dangerous game, I never did it but or times. There were some got lagged for it, and that frightened me. In ring-dropping we pretend to have found a ring, and ask some simple-looking fellow if it's good gold, as it's only just picked up. Sometimes it is immediately pronounced 'Well it's no use to me,' we'll say, 'will you buy it?' Often they are foolish enough to buy, and it's some satisfaction to 's conscience to know that they think they are a taking you in, for they give you only a shilling or for an article which if really gold would be worth or . Some ring-droppers write out an account and make a little parcel of jewellery, and when they pick out their man, they say, 'If you please, sir, will you read this for me, and tell me what I should do with these things, as I've just found them?' Some people advise they should be taken to the police office—but very few say that; some, that they should be taken to the address; others, that they should be sold, and the money shared; others offer a price for them, stating that they're not gold, they're only trumpery they say, but they'll give half-a-crown for them. It's pleasant to take such people in. Sometimes the finder says he's in haste, and will sell them for anything to attend to other business, and he then transfers his interest at perhaps per cent. profit. This game won't friz now, sir, it's very dangerous. I've left it off long since. I don't like the idea of quod. I've been there once." Another plan of dropping rings is to write a letter. This is the style:—

My dear Anne,

I have sent you the ring, and hope it will fit.— Excuse me not bringing it. John will leave it with you. —You know I have so much to attend to.—I shall think every minute a year until the happy day arrives.

Yours devotedly,


This love epistle containing the wedding-ring was most successful when it came up, but the public now are too wide awake. According to another informant, the ring-dropping "lurk" is now carried on this way, for the old style is "coopered." "A woman" he says, "is made up so as to appear in the family-way—pretty far gone—and generally with a face as long as a boy's kite. Up she goes to any likely ken, where she knows there are women that are married or expect to get married, and commences begging. Then comes the tale of woe, if she can get them to


listen—'I'm in the family-way,' she says, 'as you can plainly see (this she says to the , and that prides them you know). My husband has left me after serving me in this way. I don't know where he is, and am forced to solicit the ladies' charity.' Well, the servants will bring broken victuals and make a little collection among themselves for the 'unprotected female;' for which in return, with many thanks for their kindness, she offers her gold wedding-ring for sale, as she wants to get back to her suffering kids to give them something to eat, poor things, and they shall have the gold ring, she says, for half what it's worth; or if they won't buy it, will they lend or on it till she can redeem it, as she hasn't been in the habit of pledging! The girls are taken off their guard (she not being in the habit of pledging is a choker for them) by the woman's seeming simplicity, and there's a consultation. says to the other—'Oh, you'll want it, Mary, for John;' and another, 'No, you'll want it , Sally, for William.' But the woman has her eye on the as says the least, as the likeliest of all to want it, and so she says to the John and William girls, 'Oh, you don't want it; but (touching the silent ), here's a as does,' (that sweetens the servant girl up directly.) She says, 'I don't want it, bless you (with a giggle), but I'll lend you a trifle, as you are in this state, and have a family, and are left like this by your husband—aint he cruel, Sally (she adds to her fellow-servant)?' The money the ring-woman gets, sir, depends upon the servant's funds; if it is just after quarter-day, she generally gets a tidy tip—if not, or bob. I've known woman get and even this way. The ring is made out of brass gilt buttons, and stunning well: it's faked up to rights, and takes a good judge even at this day to detect it without a test."

"The best sort of rings for is the Belchers. They are a good thick looking ring, and have the crown and V. R. stamped upon them. They are a dozen. I takes my stand now, in my ring-selling, as if I was in a great hurry, and pulls out my watch. I used to have a real , but now it's a dur any. 'Now, ladies and gentlemen,' says I, 'I am not permitted to remain more than minutes in spot. I have rings to sell to decide a wager recently made between sporting noblemen, to the effect that I do not sell a certain quantity of these rings in a given time, at a penny a piece. I can recommend the article as being well worth the money I ask for it, perhaps something more. I do not say they are gold; in fact, I must not say too much, as there is a person in this company watching my proceedings, and seeing that I do not remain more than minutes in this spot,'—here I always looks very hard at the most respectable and gentlemanly-looking person among my hearers, and sometimes gives him a wink, and sometimes a nod,—'but if you should hear anything more about these rings, and you want to purchase, don't be vexed if I am gone when you want me. The minutes has nearly expired; minutes more; any more buyers? It makes no difference to me whether I sell or not—I get my pay all the same; but, if you take my advice, buy; and perhaps if you was to call at the sign of the Balls, as you go home, you may be agreeably surprised, and hear something to your advantage. Perhaps I have said too much. I have minute more, before I close the establishment. After shutting the box, I dare not sell another in this spot, if you were to offer me for it; therefore, if you wish to purchase, now is your time.' I make many a pitch, and do not sell a single ring; and the insults I receive used to aggravate me very much, but I do not mind them now, I'm used to it. The flyest cove among all us ring-sellers is little Ikey, the Jew. There were used to work the game. They had a real gold ring, just like the ones they were selling, and they always used to pitch near a pawnbroker's shop. Ikey's pal would buy a ring for a penny, of the streetseller, and would then say, loud enough to be heard by the bystanders, 'There's a pawn shop—I'll go and ask them to take it in.' A crowd would follow him. He would enter the pawnbroker's— present a real gold ring—obtain a loan of , and would present the ticket to the bystanders, who would then buy very fast. When the pitch was over, Ikey's pal would take the ring out of pawn, and away the would go to work near some other pawnbroker's. I have heard Ikey say they have pawned the ring times in a day. I tried the same caper; but my pal cut with the gold ring the day, and I've never had another go at the since.

Before I commenced the jewellery line," continued my candid informant, "a good many years ago, I used to hold horses about Bond-street. Afterwards I was taken as an errand boy at a druggist's, was out of an errand one day and got 6d. for holding a gentleman's horse, which kept me nearly an hour; when I went back to my master's I was told I wasn't wanted any more. I had been cautioned about stopping of errands two or three times before; however I didn't like the situation, it was too confining. I next got a place as pot-boy, in Brick Lane. Here I was out one day gathering in the pots. I hung the strap of pots to a railing to have a game at chances (pitch and toss), somebody prigged my strap of pots, and I cut. A few weeks after I was grabbed for this, and got a month at the mill; but I was quite innocent of prigging—I was only careless. When I came out of prison, I went to Epsom races, thinking to get a job there at something or other. A man engaged me to assist him in 'pitching the hunters.' Pitching the hunters is the three sticks a penny, with the snuffboxes stuck upon sticks; if you throw your stick, and they fall out of the hole, you are entitled to what you knock off. I came to London with my master the pitcher-hunter, he went to a swag shop in Kent-street, in the Borough, to purchase a new stock. I saw a man there purchasing rings, this was little Ikey, the Jew; some days afterwards I saw him making a pitch, and selling very fast. I had fourpence in my pocket; went to Kent-street, to the swag shops, bought a dozen rings, and commenced selling them. I sold that day three dozen; that wasn't bad considering that my toggery was very queer, and I looked anything but like one who would be trusted with ten pounds' worth of gold rings. This wager between the two sporting noblemen has been a long time settling. I've been at it more than fifteen years. The origin of it was this here: when sovereigns were first coined, the Jew boys and others used to sell medals and card-counters upon particular occasions, the same as they do now, and shove them in a saucepan lid, with silver paper under them. Captain Barclay, and another of the same sort, bet a wager, that one of these Jew-boys could not dispose of a certain number of real sovereigns in a given time, supposing the Jew-boy cried out nothing more than 'here's sovereigns, only a penny a piece.' The number he was to sell was 50 within the hour, and to take his station at London Bridge. The wager was made, the Jew-boy procured, and the sovereigns put into the pot lid. 'Here are real sovereigns a penny a piece, who'll buy?' he cried; but he sold only a few. The number disposed of, within the hour, I have heard, was seventeen. Those who purchased, when they found that they had really bought sovereigns at a penny a piece, returned for more, but the salesman was gone. A good harvest was afterwards reaped among the Jews, who got up a medal something like a sovereign, and sold them in every quarter of London, for the Captain's wager soon spread about everywhere. It's a stale game now; it was so before my time, but I've heard the Jews talk about it. The second day I tried the ring dodge, I was a little more successful; indeed every day for some time exceeded the day before, for, as I improved in patter, my sales increased. My appearance, too, was improving. At one time I was a regular swell, sported white kid gloves, white choker, white waistcoat, black ribbon, and a quizzing glass. Some people used to chaff me, and cry out 'there's a swell.' I never was saving, always spent my money as fast as I got it. I might have saved a goodish bit, and I wish I had now. I never had a wife, but I have had two or three broomstick matches, though they never turned out happy. I never got hold of one but what was fond of lush. I live in Westminster, at a padding-ken. I'd rather not tell you where, not that I've anything to fear, but people might think I was a nose, if anybody came after me, and they would crab me. I'd rather get something else to do if I could, but I think this is the best street game I could follow. I don't believe any of the ring-sellers dispose of more than myself, except little Ikey; he now adds other articles, a silver thimble (he calls it), some conundrums, a song-book and a seal, and all for a penny. I tried the same thing, but found I could do just as well with the rings alone. We all expects to do great things during the Exhibition. I think all on us ought to be allowed to sell in the parks. Foreigners are invited to witness specimens of British Industry, and it's my opinion they should see all, from the highest to the lowest. We did intend petitioning the Prince on the subject, but I don't suppose it would be any go, seeing as how the slang coves" (the showmen), "have done so, and been refused.

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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