London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Hawking of Tea.


"PERSONS hawking tea without a licence" ( Chitty's Edition of "Burn's Justice," vol. ii. p. ) "are liable to a penalty, under Geo. III., cap. .; and, even though they had a licence, they would be liable to a penalty for selling tea in an unentered place." The penalty under this act is , but the prohibition in question has long been commonly, if not very directly, evaded.

The hawking of tea in London cannot be considered as immediately a street-trade, but it is in some respects blended with street callings and street traffic, so that a brief account is necessary.

I will give a short history of what is, or was, more intimately a portion of the streettrade.

Until about or years ago, tea was extensively hawked—from house to house almost— "on tally." The tally system is, that wherein "weekly payments" are taken in liquidation of the cost of the article purchased, and the trade is embodying much of evil and much of trickery. At the present time the tallymen are very numerous in London, and in the tally trade there are now not less than hawkers of, or travellers in, tea; but they carry on their business principally in the suburbs. When I come to treat of the class whom I have called "distributors," I shall devote an especial inquiry to the tally trade, including, of course, the tea trade. Mr. M'Culloch mentions that a Scotchman's "tally-walk"—and the majority of the tallymen are Scotchmen—is worth per cent. more than an Englishman's.

The branch of the tea trade closely connected with the street business is that in tea-leaves. The exhausted leaves of the tea-pot are purchased of servants or of poor women, and they are made into "new" tea. gentleman—to whose information, and to the care he took to test the accuracy of his every statement, I am bound to express my acknowledgments—told me that it would be fair to reckon that in London lbs. of tea-leaves were weekly converted into new tea, or lbs. in the year! house is known to be very extensively and profitably concerned in this trade, or rather , and on my asking the gentleman who gave me the information if the house in question (he told me the name) was accounted respectable by their fellowcitizens, the answer was at once, " respectable."

The tea-leaves, to be converted into , are placed by the manufacturers on hot plates, and are re-dried and To give the "green" hue, a preparation of copper is used. For the "black" no dye is necessary in the generality of cases. This tea-manufacture is sold to "cheap" or "slop" shopkeepers, both in town and country, and especially for hawking in the country, and is almost always sold ready mixed.

The admixture of sloe-leaves, &c., which used to be gathered for the adulteration of tea, is now unknown, and has been unknown since tea became cheaper, but the old tea-leaf trade is, I am assured, carried on so quietly and cleverly, that the most vigilant excise-officers are completely in the dark; a smaller "tea-maker" was, however, fined for tea-leaf conversion last year.

Into this curious question, concerning the purposes for which the old tea-leaves are now purchased by parties in the street, I shall enter searchingly when I treat of the The information I have already received is of great curiosity and importance, nor shall I suppress the names of those dishonest traders who purchase the old dried tea-leaves, as a means of cheating their customers.

Into the statistics of this strange trade I will not now enter, but I am informed that great quantities of tea-leaves are sent from the country to London. Perhaps of the lbs. weekly manufactured, quarters may be collected in the metropolis.

I may here add, that the great bulk of the tea hawked throughout the metropolis is supplied from the handsome cars, or vans, of wellknown grocers and tea-dealers. Of these—it was computed for me—there are, on no day, fewer than in the streets of London, and of its contiguous and its more remote suburbs, such as Woolwich, and even Barnet. tradesman has such cars. The tea is put up in bags of , , and lbs., duly apportioned in quarter, half, and whole pounds; a quarter of a pound being the smallest quantity vended in this manner. The van and its contents are then entrusted to a driver, who has his regular round, and very often his regular customers. The customers purchase the tea from their faith in the respectability of the firm—generally well known through extensive advertising. The teas supplied by the house which is pronounced to supply them; for the tradesman is the capitalist in the matter, his carman is the labourer, and the house is responsible for the quality of the article. When a new connection has to be formed, or an "old connection" to be extended, circulars () are sent round, and the carman afterwards calls: and, "in some genteel streets," I was told, "calls, oft enough, at every house, and, in many districts, at every decent-looking house in every street." So far, then, even this part of the traffic may be considered of the streets. The remuneration of the street-traveller in, or hawker of, tea, is usually per lb. on the lower-priced kinds, on the higher (but more often ) and, very rarely indeed, on the highest. The trade is pecuculiar to great cities—and most peculiar, I am assured, to London—for the tradesman does not know so much as the name of his customer; nor, perhaps, does the carman, but merely as "Number such-an-." The supply is for ready money, or, if credit be given, it is at the risk of the carman, who has a weekly wage in addition to his perquisites. Every evening, when the vehicle is driven back to the premises of its owner, "stock is taken," and the money taken by the carman—


minus what may be called the "poundage"—is paid over to the proper party.

A man who had driven, or, as he called it, "managed," of these vans, told me that he made this way, to a day; "but," he added, "if you make a good thing of it that way, you have all the less salary." These carmen are men of good character and good address, and were described to me, by a gentleman familiar with the trade, as "of the very best class of porters."

As this vehicular-itinerant business has now become an integral part of the general tea-trade, I need not further dwell upon it, but reserve it until I come to treat of the shopmen of grocers and tea-dealers, and thence of the tea-trade in general. I may add, however, that the tea thus hawked is, as regards, perhaps, -fourths of the quantity sold, known as "mixed," and sold at per lb.—costing, at a tea-broker's, from to It is announced, as to its staple or entire compound, to be "congou," but is in reality a tea known as "pouchong." Some old ladies are still anxious, I was told, for a cup of good strong bohea; and though bohea has been unknown to the tea-trade since the expiration of the East India Company's Charter in , the accommodating street-traveller will undertake to supply the genuine leaf to which the old lady had been so long accustomed. teas thus sold (and they are not above a fiftieth part of the other) are common twankays and common young hysons, neither of them—I can state on excellent authority—accounted in the trade to be "true teas," but, as in the case of some other green teas, "Canton made." The "green" is sold from the vans generally at ; sometimes, but rarely, as high as What is sold at may cost, on the average, I may add, also, that when a article is supplied, such profits in the tea-trade are not accounted at all excessive.

But the more usual mode of tea hawking is by itinerant dealers who have a less direct connection with the shop whereat they purchase their goods. To this mode of obtaining a livelihood, the hawkers are invited by all the persuasive powers of advertising eloquence: "To persons in want of a genteel and lucrative employment"—"To Gentlemen of good address and business habits," &c., &c. The genteel and lucrative employment is to hawk tea under the auspices of this "company" or the other. The nature of this business, and of the street tea-trade generally, is shown in the following statement:—"About years ago I came to London in expectation of a situation as tidewaiter; I did not succeed, however, and not being able to obtain any other employment, and trusting to the promises of gentlemen M.P.s for too long a time, my means were exhausted, and I was at length induced to embark in the tea business. To this I was persuaded by a few friends who advanced me some money, considering that it would suit me well, while my friends would endeavour to get me a connection, that is, procure me customers. I accordingly went to a wellknown Tea Company in the City, a firm bear- ing a great name. Their advertisements put forth extraordinary statements, of so many persons realizing independencies from selling their teas, and in very short spaces of time. I was quite pleased at the prospect presented to me in such glowing terms, and, depending not a little on my own industry and perseverance, I embraced the opportunity and introduced myself forthwith to the Company. They advised me in the place to take out a licence for selling teas, to secure me against any risk of fines or forfeitures. The cost of a licence, after payment of preliminary expenses, is per annum, to be paid quarterly, as it becomes due, and it is paid by the Company for their agents. The licence is granted for the place of abode of the 'traveller,' and strictly prohibits him from hawking or exposing his wares for sale at places other than at such place of abode, but he may of course supply his customers where he will, and serve them at their places of abode respectively. Everything thus prepared, I commenced operations, but soon found that this tea dealing was not so advantageous as I had anticipated. I found that the commission allowed by the Company on cheap teas was very low. For those generally used by the working people, ' tea,' for instance, or that at per pound, I had to pay to the Company per pound, thus allowing the travelling dealer or agent for commission only in the pound, or per quarter. Now or customers is considered a fair connection for a dealer, and allowing each customer to take a quarter of a pound at an average, good customers at that rate would bring him in , or customers clear profit weekly. But many customers do not require so much as a quarter of a pound weekly, while others require more, so that I find it rather awkward to subdivide it in portions to suit each customer, as the smallest quantity made at the warehouse is a quarter of a pound, and every quarter is done up in a labelled wrapper, with the price marked on it. So that to break or disturb the package in any way might cause some customers to suspect that it had been meddled with unfairly.

Another disadvantage was in dealing with the 'Tea Company.' No sugars are supplied by them, which makes it more inconvenient for the travelling dealer, as his customers find it difficult to get sugars, most retail grocers having an objection to sell sugars to any but those who are purchasers of teas as well. However, I was not confined to deal with this Company, and so I tried other places, and found a City house, whose terms were preferable. Here I could get tea for 3s. 3d., as good as that for which the Company charged 3s. 6d., besides getting it done up to order in plain paper, and in quantities to suit every variety of customer. There were also sugars, which must be had to accommodate the customers, at whatever trouble or inconvenience to the traveller; for it is very lumbersome to carry about, and leaves scarcely any profit at all.

The trade is anything but agreeable, and the customers are often exacting. They seem to fancy, however cheaply and well they may be supplied, that the tea-seller is under obligations to them; that their custom will be the making of him, and, therefore, they expect some compliment in return. The consequence is, that very often, unless he be willing to be accounted a 'shabby man,' the teadealer is obliged, of a Saturday night, to treat his customers, to ensure a continuance of their custom. Other customers take care to be absent at the time he calls. Those who are anxious to run up bills, perhaps, keep out of the way purposely for two or more successive nights of the dealer's calling, who, notwithstanding, cannot very well avoid serving such customers. This is another evil, and if the tea-man's capital be not sufficient to enable him to carry on the business in this manner, giving credit (for it is unavoidable), he is very soon insolvent, and compelled to give up the business. I had to give it up at last, after having carried it on for four years, leaving 8l. or 9l. due to me, in small sums, varying from 1s. to 10s., one shilling of which I never expect to be paid. I could not have continued it so long, for my means would not allow me to give credit; but getting partial employment at the last-mentioned house, where I dealt, enabled me to do so. When, however, I got permanently employed, I grew tired of teadealing, and gave it up.

In my opinion the business would best suit persons casually employed, such as dockmen and others, who might have leisure to go about; those also who get other commissions and hawk about other commodities, such as soft wares, might do very well by it; otherwise, in most cases, 'tis only resorted to as a make-shift where no other employment can be obtained.

I do not know how many persons are in the trade. I have, however, heard it asserted, that there were between 4000 and 5000 persons in London engaged in the business, who are, with but few exceptions, Scotchmen; they, of all others, manage to do the best in this line.

A man, to undertake the tea business, requires a double capital, because in the first place, he has to purchase the tea, then he must give credit, and be able to support himself till such time as he can get in his money. Some of the tea-dealers manage to eke out their profits by mixing tea-leaves, which have been used, with the genuine commodity. They spread the old tea-leaves on tins which they have for the purpose, and, by exposing them either to the action of the air or the heat of the fire, the leaves crisp up as they had been before they were used, and are not distinguishable from the rest. I never vended such an article, and that may be one reason why I could not succeed in the business.

I believe the career thus detailed is a common among the hawkers of tea, or rather the "travellers" in the tea trade. Many sell it on tally.

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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