London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Street-Sellers of Tinware.


THE sellers of tins, who carry them under their arms, or in any way on a round, apart from the use of a vehicle, are known as hand-sellers. The word hand-seller is construed by the street-traders as meaning literally , that is to say, a of things held or carried in the but the term is clearly derived from the Scotch , as in "handsell penny." Handsell, according to Jamieson, the Scotch etymologist, means, () "The money that a trader receives for goods; also a gift conferred at a particular season. () A piece of bread given before breakfast." Ihre, the Gothic lexicographer, views the term handsell as having sprung from the Mæso-Gothic (sacrifice or offering). This is the same as the Anglo-Sax (the Eucharist), whence comes the English and and he considers the word to have originally meant a gift or offering of any kind. Hence, the hand-sellers of tin and other wares in the street, would mean simply those who such tin or other wares for sale. The goods they dispose of are dripping-pans (sometimes called "square pans"), sold at from to , the pans being " inch," and the " inch;" cullenders, to ; hand-bowls, for washerwomen, (now a very small portion of the trade); roasting-jacks, with tin bodies, to (this used to be the best article for profit and ready sale in the trade, but "they are going out of date"); and the smaller articles of graters, &c.

The hand-sellers also trade in other articles which are less portable; the principal sale, how- ever, is at "stands," and there chiefly on a Saturday night, the great business-time of streetcom- merce! These less portable articles are tea-kettles, to ; saucepans of all sizes, the smallest being the "open pints" at or each (they cost them a dozen; it's a bargain to get them at ), and the largest the " quart;" but the kinds most in demand are the " pints" and " quarts," sold at and There are also fish-kettles in this street-traffic, though to a very limited extent—" fish-kettle," I was told, "to -and- saucepans;" the selling price for the fish-kettles is and each; candlesticks are sold at to ; and shaving-pots, A few tin things used to be sold at the mews, but the trade is now almost entirely abandoned. These were tins for singeing horses, each when introduced, or years ago, but now , and stable lanterns, of punched tin, which cannot be sold now for more than each, though they cost per dozen at a tin-shop.

There are other tin articles vended in the streets, but they will be more properly detailed in my account of street-artisans, as the maker and the street-seller are the same individual. Among these are Dutch ovens, which are rarely offered now by those who purchase their goods at the tin-shops, as the charge there is "Why," said a working tinman to me, "I've had many a week for making ovens, and the stuff found. It takes plates of tin to make an oven, that's at any tin-shop, before a minute's labour is given to it, and yet the men who hawk their own goods sell their ovens regularly enough at It's the ruin of the trade." The tin-shops, I may observe, supply the artisans with the materials they require, as well as the ready-made articles, to the street-seller.

of the largest street-stands "in tin" is in , Clerkenwell, on Saturday evenings, but the proprietor pertains to the artisan class, though he buys some of his goods at the tin-shops.

The hand-sellers of tin are about in number, and of that number may be said to be wives and children of the remaining ; as the majority of the itinerant vendors of tinware are married men with families. "Tins" are not a heavy carriage, and can very well be borne from house to house by women, while children sell such things as nutmeg-graters, pepper-boxes, extinguishers, and save-alls. Those who sell the larger tin articles in the streets are generally the makers of them. "A dozen years back or more, perhaps, there was," I was informed, "some prime blocktin tea-pots sold in the streets; there's none now. Metal's druv out tin."

Among the street tin-sellers I heard many complaints of the smallness, and the constantly diminishing rate of their earnings. "Our people has bad luck, too," said man, "or they isn't wide awake. You may remember, sir, that a few weeks back, a new save-all came in, and was called candle-wedges, and went off well. It was a tin thing, and ought by rights to have been started by the tin-shops for us. But it was put out by the


swag-men at the gross. The and days the men were soon sold out. Them as could patter tidy did the best—I tried, but you see, sir, I'm no scholar. Well, they went at night to Mr. ——'s, in , I think it is, and he says, 'I'm out of them, but I'll have some in the morning.' They goes in the morning, and the swag says: 'O, I can't afford 'em at , you can have 'em at .' He put exter on the gross, cause they sold, nothing else, sir; and a relation of mine heard the swag shopkeeper say, 'Why, they're cheap at ; Jim (the streetseller) there made on 'em yesterday. I ain't a going to slave, and pay rent, and rates, and taxes, to make fortens; it ain't likely.' You see, sir, they was sold at each, and cost , which is a dozen, and so the swag got a higher profit, while the poor fellows had to sell for less profit."

From the most reliable information which I could acquire, it appears that these tin-sellers, taken altogether, do not earn above a week each, as regards the adult men, and half that as regards the children and women. To realize this amount, the adults must take , and the women and children , for the latter are less "priced down." Thus, if we calculate an average receipt, per individual, of weekly, reckoning sellers, we find a yearly expenditure on tins, bought in the street, of The trade is greatest in the suburbs, and some men, who have become "known on their rounds," supply houses, by order, with all the tins they require.

There is a branch of the tin-trade carried on in a way which I have shown prevailed occasionally among the costermongers, viz., the selling of goods on commission. This system is now carried on among all the parties who trade "from" swagbarrows.

The word "" which has been so often used in this work of late, is, like many other of the street-terms, of Scotch origin (as , and ). The Scotch word is or , and means, according to Jamieson, a quantity, a considerable number, a large collection of any kind. (The root appears to be an ancient German term, —a flock, a herd.) Hence a Swag Warehouse is a warehouse containing a large collection of miscellaneous goods; and a Swag Barrow, a barrow laden with a considerable assortment of articles. The slang term means booty, plunder—that is to say, the collection of goods—the "lot," the "heap" stolen.

Of these swag-barrowmen, there are not less than , and the barrows are mostly the property of individuals, who are not street-sellers themselves. of these men has barrows of his own, and employs men to work them. The barrow proprietor supplies not only the vehicle, but the stock, and the men's remuneration is in the on the amount of sales. Each article they sell is charged to the public The tinwares of the swag-barrows are nutmeg-graters, bread-graters, beer-warmers, fish-slices, goblets, mugs, save-alls, extinguishers, candle-shades, moneyboxes, children's plates, and rattles. In addition to the tin-wares, the swag-barrows are stocked with brooches, rings, pot-ornaments, plates, small crockeryware, toys, &c., each article being also vended at The trade is so far stationary, that the men generally confine themselves to neighbourhood, if not to street. The majority of the swag-barrowmen have been costermongers, and nearly the whole have been engaged in street avocations all their lives. man familiar with the trade thought I might state that the whole were of this description; for though there was lately a swag-barrowman who had been a tradesman in an extensive way, there was, he believed, no such exception at the present time. These barrowmen are nearly all uneducated, and are plodding and persevering men, though they make few exertions to better their condition. As the barrow and stock are supplied to them, without any outlay on their part, their faculties are not even sharpened, as among many of the costermongers, by the necessity of providing stockmoney, and knowing how to bargain and buy to advantage. They have merely to sell. Their commission furnishes little or nothing more than the means of a bare subsistence. The great sale is on Saturday nights at the street-markets, and to the working people, who then crowd those places, and, as said to me, "has a few pennies to lay out." At such times as much as has been taken by a swag-barrowman. During the other days of the week their earnings are small. It is considered a -rate week, and there must be all the facilities for street-trade afforded by fine weather, to take a day (clearing ), and on a Saturday night. This gives the swagbar- rowman a commission of ; but I am informed, by competent persons, that the average of the weekly profits of these street-traders does not exceed a week. This shows a yearly receipt, by the men working the barrows, of as their profit or payment, and a gross receipt of Of this large amount nearly -thirds, I am assured, is expended on tin-wares.

The prime cost, at the tin-shops, of these wares, to the barrow proprietors, are and the gross, leaving from to profit on every shilling, over the commission paid to the salesman. The tins are all made in London. The jewellery, and other stock of the swag-barrows, are bought at the general swag-shops, of which I have before spoken.

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