London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry

1861

Of the Street-Sellers of Tools.

 

THESE people are of the same class as the sellers of hardware articles, though so far a distinct body that they generally sell tools only.

The tools are of the commonest kind, and supplied by the cheapest swag-shops, from which establishments the majority of the street-traders derive their supplies. They are sometimes displayed on a small barrow, sometimes on a stall, and are mostly German-made.

The articles sold and the price asked—and generally obtained, as no extravagant profit is demanded—is shown by the following:—

Claw hammers, Large claw, black and glaze-faced, Pincers, ; larger ones, Screw-drivers, from to ! Flat-nose pliers, a pair; squares, to Carpenters' oilcans, from to Nests of brad-awls (for joiners, and in wooden cases), to Back saws, to

While many of the street-sellers of tools travel the several thoroughfares and suburbs of the metropolis, others vend tools of a particular kind in particular localities. These localities and sellers may be divided into distinct classes:— () The street-sellers of tools in the markets; () The street-sellers of tools at the docks and warehouses; () The street-sellers of tools at mews, stable-yards, and job-masters'; and () The streetsellers of tools to working men at their workshops.

The markets which are usually frequented by the vendors of tools are Newgate and Leadenhall. There are, I am informed, only or streetsellers who at present frequent these markets on the busy days. The articles in which they deal are butchers' saws, cleavers, steels, meat-hooks, and knives; these saws they sell from to each; knives and steels, from to each; cleavers, from to each; and meat-hooks at , , and each, according to the size. It is very seldom, however, that cleavers are sold by the street-sellers, as they are too heavy to carry about. I am told that the trade of the tool-sellers in Newgate and Leadenhall markets is now very indifferent, owing chiefly to the butchers having been so frequently imposed upon by the street-sellers, that they are either indisposed or afraid to deal with them. When the itinerant tool-sellers are not occupied at the markets they vend their wares to tradesmen at private shops, but often without success. "It is a poor living," said of the hawkers to me; "sometimes little better than starving. I have gone out a whole day and haven't taken a farthing." I am informed that the greater portion of these street-sellers are broken-down butchers. The tools they vend are purchased at the Brummagem warehouses. To start in this branch of the street-business or usually constitutes the amount of capital invested in stock, and the average takings of each are about or a day.

A dozen years back twenty such men offered saws at my shop," said a butcher in a northern suburb to me; "now there's only one, and he seems half-starving, poor fellow, and looks very hungrily at the meat. Perhaps it's a way he's got to have a bit given him, as it is sometimes.

The only street-seller of tools at present frequenting Billingsgate-market is an elderly man, who is by trade a working cutler. The articles he displays upon his tray are oyster-knives, fishknives, steels, scissors, packing-needles, and hammers. This tradesman makes his own oysterknives and fish-knives; the scissors and hammers are -hand; and the packing-needles are bought at the ironmongers. Sometimes brad-awls, gimlets, nails, and screws form a part of his stock. He informed me that he had frequented Billingsgate-market upwards of years. "Wet or dry," he said, "I am here, and I often suffer from rheumatics in the head and limbs. Sometimes I have taken only a few pence; on other occasions I have taken or , but this is not very often. However, what with the little I take at , and at other places, I can just get a crust, and go on from day to day."

The itinerant saw-sellers offer their goods to any in the street as well as at the shops, and are at the street markets on Saturday evenings with small saws for use in cookery. With the butchers they generally barter rather than sell, taking any old saw in exchange with so much money, for a new . "I was brought up a butcher," said of these saw-sellers, "and worked as a journeyman, off and on, between and year. But I grew werry delicate from rheumaticks, and my old 'ooman was bad too, so that we once had to go into Marylebone work 'us. I had no family living, perhaps they're better as it is. We discharged ourselves after a time, and they gave us I then thought I'd try and sell a few saws and things. A master-butcher that's been a friend to me, lent me another , and I asked a man as sold saws to butchers to put me in the way of it, and he took me to a swag-shop. I do werry badly, sir, but I'll not deny, and I can't deny—not anyhow—when you tell me Mr. ——told you about me—that there's 'elps to me. If I make a bargain, for so much; or for old saws or cleavers, or any old butcher thing, and so much; a man wot knows me says, 'Well, old boy, you don't look satisfied; here's a bit of steak for you.' Sometimes it's a cut off a scrag of mutton, or weal; that gives the old 'ooman and me a good nourishing bit of grub. I can work at times, and every Saturday a'most I'm now a porter to a butcher. I carries his meat from Newgate, when he's killed hisself, and wants no more than a man's weight from the market; and when he 'asn't killed hisself in course he hires a cart. I makes a day the year round, I think, on saws, and my old 'ooman makes more than 'arf as much at charing, and there's the 'elps, and then I gets and my

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grub every Saturday. It's no use grumbling; lots isn't grubbed 'arf so well as me and my old 'ooman. My rent's a week."

The articles vended by the class of the street-sellers of tools, or those whose purchasers are mostly connected with the docks and warehouses, consist of iron-handled claw-hammers, spanners, bed-keys, and corkscrews. Of these street-traders there are or , and the greater portion of them are blacksmiths out of employ. Some make their own hammers, whereas others purchase the articles they vend at the swag-shops. "We sell more hammers and bedkeys than other things," said , "and sometimes we sells a corkscrew to the landlord of a public-house, and then we have pernaps halfa- pint of beer. Our principal customers for spanners are wheelwrights. Those for hammers are egg-merchants, oilmen, wax and tallow-chandlers, and other tradesmen who receive or send out goods in wooden cases; as well as chance customers in the streets." The amount of capital required to start in the line is from to : "it is not much use," said , "to go to shop with less than "

A class of the street-sellers of tools are the vendors of curry-combs and brushes, manecombs, scrapers, and clipping instruments; and these articles are usually sold at the several mews, stable-yards, and jobbing-masters' in and about the metropolis. The sellers are mostly broken-down grooms, who, not being able to obtain a situation, resort to street-selling as a last shift. "It is the last coach, when a man takes to this kind of living," said of my informants, a groom in a "good place;" "and it's getting worse and worse. The poor fellows look half-starved. Why, what do you think I gave for these scissors? I got 'em for and a pint of beer, and I should have to give perhaps half-a-crown for 'em at a shop." The trade is fast declining, and to gentlemen's carriage mews the street-sellers of such tools rarely resort, as the instruments required for stable-use are now bought, by the coachmen, of the tradesmen who supply their masters. At the mixed mews," as I heard them called, there are men who, along with razors, knives, and other things, occasionally offer "clipping" and "trimming" scissors. or years ago there were of these streetsellers. The trimming-scissors are, in the shops, to a pair. There is trade still carried on in these places, although it is diminutive compared to what it was: I allude to the sale of curry-combs. Those vended by street-sellers at the mews are sold at or The best sale for these curry-combs is about and the , and at the livery-stables generally. Along with curry-combs, the street-vendors sell washleathers, mane-combs (horn), sponges (which were like dried moss for awhile, I was told, got up by the Jews, but which are now good), dandy-brushes (whalebone-brushes, to scrape dirt from a horse's legs, before he is groomed), spoke-brushes (to clean carriage-wheels), and coach-mops. dweller in a large West-end mews computed that different street-traders resorted thither daily, and that sold the articles I have specified. In this trade, I am assured, there are no broken-down coachmen or grooms, only the regular street-sellers. A commoner curry-comb is sold at (prime cost a dozen), at , on market-days, and to the carmen, and the owners of the rougher sort of horses; but this trade is not extensive.

There may be men, I am told, selling common "currys;" and they also sell other articles (often horse oil-cloths and nose-bags) along with them.

The last class of street-sellers is the beaten-out mechanic or workman, who, through blindness, age, or infirmities, is driven to obtain a livelihood by supplying his particular craft with their various implements. Of this class, as I have before stated, there are men in London who were brought up as tailors, but are now, through some affliction or privation, incapacitated from following their calling. These men sell needles at and for ; thimbles to each; scissors from to ; and wax the lump. There are also old and blind shoemakers, who sell a few articles of grindery to their shopmates, as they term them, as well as a few decayed members of other trades, hawking the implements of the handicraft to which they formerly belonged. But as I have already given a long account of of this class, under the head of the blind needle-seller, there is no occasion for me to speak further on the subject.

From of the street-traders in saws I had the following account of his struggles, as well as the benefit he received from teetotalism, of which he spoke very warmly. His room was on the floor of a house in a court near , and was clean and comfortable-looking. There were goodsized pictures, in frames, of the Queen, the Last Supper, and a Rural Scene, besides minor pictures: some of these had been received in exchange for saws with street-picture-sellers. A shelf was covered with china ornaments, such as are sold in the streets; the table had its oil-skin cover, and altogether I have seldom seen a more decent room. The rent, unfurnished, was a week.

I've been eight years in this trade, sir," the saw-seller said, "but I was brought up to a very different one. When a lad I worked in a coal-pit along with my father, but his behaviour to me was so cruel, he beat me so, that I ran away, and walked every step from the north of England to London. I can't say I ever repented running away—much as I've gone through. My money was soon gone when I got to London, and my way of speaking was laughed at. [He had now very little of a provincial accent.] That's fourteen year back. Why, indeed, sir, it puzzles me to tell you how I lived then when I did live. I jobbed about the markets, and slept, when I could pay for a lodging, at the cheap lodging-houses; so I got into the way of selling a few things in the streets, as I saw others do. I sold laces and children's handkerchiefs. Sometimes I was miserable enough when I hadn't a farthing, and if I managed to make a sixpence I got tipsy on it. For six weeks I slept every night in the Peckham Union. For another five or six weeks I slept every The Blind Boot-Lace Seller. [From a Daguerreotype by Beard.] night in the dark arches by the Strand. I've sometimes had twenty or thirty companions there. I used to lie down on the bare stones, and was asleep in a minute, and slept like a top all night, but waking was very bad. I felt stiff, and sore, and cold, and miserable. How I lived at all is a wonder to me. About eleven years ago I was persuaded to go to a Temperance Meeting in Harp Alley (Farringdon-street), and there I signed the pledge; that is, I made my mark, for I can't read or write, which has been a great hinder to me. If I'd been a scholard a teetotal gent would have got me into the police three years ago, about the time I got married. I did better, of course, when I was a teetotaller—no more dark arches. I sold a few little shawls in the streets then, but it was hardly bread and butter and coffee at times. Eight year ago I thought I would try saw-selling: a shopkeeper advised me, and I began on six salt saws, which I sold to oilmen. They're for cutting salt only, and are made of zinc, as steel would rust and dirty the salt. The trade was far better at first than it is now. In good weeks I earned 16s. to 18s. In bad weeks 10s. or 12s. Now I may earn 10s., not more, a week, pretty regular: yesterday I made only 6d. Oilmen are better customers than chance street-buyers, for I'm known to them. There's only one man besides myself selling nothing but saws. I walk, I believe, 100 miles every week, and that I couldn't do, I know, if I wasn't teetotal. I never long for a taste of liquor if I'm ever so cold or tired. It's all poisonous.

The saws sold are inch, which cost at the swag-shops and a dozen; inch, and ; and so on, the price advancing according to the increased size, to inch, the dozen. Larger sizes are seldom sold in the streets. The man's earnings, my informant believed, were the same as his own.

The wife of my informant, when she got-work as an embroideress, could earn and At present she was at work braiding dresses for a dressmaker, at each. By hard work, and if she had not her baby to attend to, she could earn no more than a day. As it was she did not earn

 
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 Title Page
 PREFACE
 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
 Index