London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Street-Sellers of Manufactured articles in Metal.


THESE street-sellers are less numerous than might be imagined, when—according to my present division—the class is confined to the sellers of articles which they do not manufacture. The metal wares thus sold I have already enumerated, and I have now to describe the characteristics of the sellers.

The result of my inquiries leads me to the conclusion, that the street-vendors of any article which is the product of the skill of the handicraftsman, have been, almost always, in their outset in a street life, connected in some capacity or other with the trade, the manufactures of which they vend.

elderly man, long familiar with this branch of the street-trade, expressed to me his conviction that when a mechanic sought his livelihood in the streets, he naturally "gave his mind to sell what he understood. Now, in my own case," continued my informant, "I was born and bred a tinman, and when I was driven to a street-life, I never thought of selling anything but tins. How could I, if I wished to do the thing square and proper?—it would be like trying to speak another language. If I'd started on slippers—and I knew a poor man who was set up in the streets by a charitable lady on a stock of gentlemen's slippers—what could I have done? Why, no better than he told me he did. He was a potter down at Deptford, and knew of nothing but flower-pots, and honey-jars for grocers, and them red sorts of pottery. Poor fellow, he might have died of hunger, only the cholera came quickest. But when I'm questioned about my tins, I'm my own man; and it's a great thing, I'm satisfied, in a street-trade, when there's so many cheap shops, and the police and all again you, to understand the goods you're talking about."

This statement, I may repeat, is undoubtedly correct, so far as that a "beaten-out" mechanic, when driven to the streets, in the instance offers to the public wares of which he understands the value and quality. Afterwards, in the experience or vagaries of a street-life, other commodities may be, or may appear to be, more remunerative, and for such the mechanic may relinquish his articles of street-traffic. "Why, sir," I was told, "there was man who left razors for cabbages; 'cause day a costermonger wot lived in the same house with him and was taken ill, asked him to go out with a barrow of summer cabbages—the costermonger's boy went with him—and they went off so well that Joe [the former razor-seller] managed to start in the costering line, he was so encouraged."

The street-trade in metal manufactured articles is principally itinerant. Perhaps during the week upwards of -fourths of those carrying it on are itinerant, while on a Saturday night, perhaps, all are stationary, and almost always in the street-markets. The itinerant


trade is earried on, and chiefly in the suburbs, by men, women, and children; but the children are always, or almost always, the offspring of the adult street-sellers.

The metal sold in the street may be divided into street-hardware, street-tinware, and streetjewellery. I shall begin with the former.

The street-sellers of hardware are, I am assured, in number about , including single men and families; for women "take their share" in the business, and children sell smaller things, such as snuffers or bread-baskets. The people pursuing the trade are of the class I have above described, with the exception of some or who formerly made a living as servants to the gaming-booths at Epsom, Ascot, &c., &c., and "managed to live out of the races, somehow, most of the year;" since the gaming-booths have been disallowed, they have "taken to the street hardware."

All these street-sellers obtain their supplies at "the swag-shops;" of which I shall speak hereafter. The main articles of their trade are tea-boards, waiters, snuffers, candlesticks, breadbaskets, cheese-trays, Britannia metal tea-pots and spoons, iron kettles, pans, and coffee-pots. The most saleable things, I am told by a man who has been years in this and similar street trades, are at present -in. tea-boards, bought at "the swags" at from a doz., to each; -in. boards, from the doz. to each; bread-baskets, the doz.; and Britannia metal tea-pots, the doz. These tea-pots have generally what is called "loaded bottoms;" the lower part of the vessel is "filled with composition, so as to look as if there was great weight of metal, and as if the pot would melt for almost the which is asked for it, and very often got."

I learned from the same man, however, and from others in the trade, that it is far more difficult now than it was a few years ago, to sell "rubbish." There used to be also, but not within these or years, a tolerable profit realised by the street-sellers of hardware in the way of "swop." It was common to take an old metal article, as part payment for a new ; and if the old article were of good quality, it was polished and tinkered up for sale in the Saturday evening street-markets, and often "went off well." This traffic, however, has almost ceased to exist, as regards the streetsellers of hardware, and has been all but monopolised by the men who barter "crocks" for wearing-apparel, or any old metal. Some hardware-men who have become well known on their "rounds"—for the principal trade is in the suburbs —sell very good wares, and at moderate profits.

It's a poor trade, sir, is the hardware," said one man carrying it on, "and street trades are mostly poor trades, for I've tried many a one of them. I was brought up a clown, I may say; my father died when I was a child, and I might have been a clown still but for an accident (a rupture). That's long ago,—I can't say how long; but I know that before I was fifteen, I many a time wished I was dead, and I have many a time since. Why the day before yesterday, from 9 in the morning to 11 at night, I didn't take a farthing. Some days I don't earn 1s., and I have a mother depending upon me who can do little or nothing. I'm a teetotaller; if I wasn't we shouldn't have a meal a day. I never was fond of drink, and if I'm ever so weary and out of sorts, and worried for a meal's meat, I can't say I ever long for a drop to cheer me up. Sometimes I can't get coffee, let alone anything else. O, I suffer terribly. Day after day I get wet through, and have nothing to take home to my mother at last. Our principal food is bread and butter, and tea. Not fish half so often as many poor people. I suppose, because we don't care for it. I know that our living, the two of us, stands to less than 1s. a day,—not 6d. a piece. Then I have two rents to pay. No, sir, not for two places; but I pay 2s. a week for a room, a tidy bit of a chamber, furnished, and 1s. a week rent, —I call it rent, for a loan of 5s. I've paid 1s. a week for four weeks on it, and must keep paying until I can hand over the 5s., with 1s. for rent added to it, all in one sum. If I could tip up the 5s. the day after I'd paid the last week's 1s., I must pay another shilling. The man who lends does nothing else; he lives by lending, and by letting out a few barrows to costermongers, and other street-people. I wish I could take a farewell sight of them.

The principal traffic carried on by these street-sellers is in the suburbs. Women constitute their sole customers, or nearly so. Their profits fluctuate from per cent. to per cent. The bread-baskets, which they buy at the doz., they retail at each; for it is very difficult, I have frequently been told, to get a price between and This, however, relates only to those things which are not articles of actual necessity. Half of these street-sellers, I am assured, take on an average from to weekly the year through; a quarter take , and the remaining quarter from to Calculating an average taking of each per week, throughout the entire class, men, women, and children, we find expended in streetsold hardwares. years ago, I am told, the takings were not less than

The following is an extract from accounts kept, not long ago, by a street-seller of hardware. His principal sale was snuffers, knives and forks, iron candlesticks, padlocks, and bedscrews. His stock cost him on the Monday morning, and his week was his , which I here subjoin:

   Receipts. Profits. 
 Monday . . . . . . . 8s. 3s. 0d. 
 Tuesday . . . . . . . 5 2 3 
 Wednesday . . . . . . 4 1 6 
 Thursday (always a slack day) 3 ------ 
 Friday (a better day about the docks, when people are paid) 7 3 0 
 Saturday Morning and Even. 23 6 1 
   --- ------ 
   50 15 10 



The following is the week in the accountbooks. The street-seller after this (about half a year ago) sold his stock to a small shopkeeper, and went into another business.

   Receipts. Profits. 
   s. d. s. d. 
 Monday (very cold) a common bed-screw . . . . 0 4 0 1 1/4 
 Tuesday . . . . . . . ------ ------ 
 Wednesday . . . . . . 1 0 0 5 
 Thursday (sold cheap) . . 1 1 0 3 
 Friday . . . . . . . ------ ------ 
 Saturday . . . . . . . 1 7 0 8 
   ------ ------ 
   4 0 1 5 1/4 

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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