London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Street-Sellers of Other Miscel- Laneous Second-Hand articles.
THE other -hand articles sold in the streets I will give under head, specifying the different characteristics of the trade, when any striking peculiarities exist. To give a detail of the whole trade, or rather of the several kinds of articles in the whole trade, is impossible. I shall therefore select only such as are sold the more extensively, or present any novel or curious features of secondhand street-commerce.
, and used to be a ready sale, I was informed, when "good -hand;" but they are "got up" now so cheaply by the poor fancy cabinetmakers who work for the "slaughterers," or furniture warehouses, and for some of the generaldealing swag-shops, that the sale of anything -hand is greatly diminished. In fact I was told that as regards -hand writing-desks and dressing-cases, it might be said there was "no trade at all now." A few, however, are still to be seen at miscellaneous stalls, and are occasionally, but very rarely, offered at a public-house "used" by artisans who may be considered "judges" of work. The tea-caddies are the things which are in best demand. "Working people buy them," I was informed, and "working people's wives. When women are the customers they look closely at the lock and key, as they keep 'my uncle's cards' there" (pawnbroker's duplicates).
man had lately sold -hand teacaddies at , , and each, and cleared in a day when he had stock and devoted his time to this sale. He could not persevere in it if he wished, he told me, as he might lose a day in looking out for the caddies; he might go to brokers and not find caddy cheap enough for his purpose.
are sold -hand in considerable quantities in the streets, and are usually vended at stalls. Shoe-brushes are in the best demand, and are generally sold, when in good condition, at the set, the cost to the street-seller being They are bought, I was told, by the people who clean their own shoes, or have to clean other people's. Clothes' brushes are not sold to any extent, as the "hard brush" of the shoe set is used by working people for a clothes' brush. Of late, I am told, -hand brushes have sold more freely than ever. They were hardly to be had just when wanted, in a sufficient quantity, for the demand by persons going to Epsom and Ascot races, who carry a brush of little value with them,
|to brush the dust gathered on the road from their coats. The coster-girls buy very hard brushes, indeed mere stumps, with which they brush radishes; these brushes are vended at the streetstalls at each.|
In for the embellishment of the walls of a room, there is still a small -hand street sale, but none now in images or chimney-piece ornaments. "Why," said dealer, "I can now buy new figures for , such as not many years ago cost , so what chance of a -hand sale is there?" The stuffed birds which sell the best are starlings. They are all sold as secondhand, but are often "made up" for street-traffic; an old bird or , I was told, in a new case, or a new bird in an old case. Last Saturday evening man told me he had sold "long cases" of starlings and small birds for each. There are no stuffed parrots or foreign birds in this sale, and no pheasants or other game, except sometimes wretched old things which are sold because they happen to be in a case.
The street-trade in -hand is confined principally to Petticoat and Rosemary lanes, where they are bought by the "garret-masters" in the shoemaking trade who supply the large wholesale warehouses; that is to say, by small masters who find their own materials and sell the boots and shoes by the dozen pairs. The lasts are bought also by mechanics, street-sellers, and other poor persons who cobble their own shoes. A shoemaker told me that he occasionally bought a last at a street stall, or rather from street hampers in Petticoat and Rosemary lanes, and it seemed to him that -hand stores of street lasts got neither bigger nor smaller: "I suppose it's this way," he reasoned; "the garret-master buys lasts to do the slop-snobbing cheap, mostly women's lasts, and he dies or is done up and goes to the "great house," and his lasts find their way back to the streets. You notice, sir, the time you're in , how little a great many of the lasts have been used, and that shows what a terrible necessity there was to part with them. In some there's hardly any peg-marks at all." The lasts are sold from to each, or twice that amount in pairs, "rights and lefts," according to the size and the condition. There are about street last-sellers in the -hand trade of London—"at least ," man said, after he seemed to have been making a mental calculation on the subject.
is sold largely, and when good is sold very readily. There is, I am told, far less slop-work in harness-making than in shoemaking or in the other trades, such as tailoring, and "many a lady's pony harness," it was said to me by a -hand dealer, "goes next to a tradesman, and next to a costermonger's donkey, and if it's been good leather to begin with—as it will if it was made for a lady—why the traces 'll stand clouting, and patching, and piecing, and mending for a long time, and they'll do to cobble old boots last of all, for old leather 'll wear just in treading, when it might snap at a pull. Give me a good quality to begin with, sir, and it's serviceable to the end." In my inquiries among the costermongers I ascertained that if of that body started his donkey, or rose from that to his pony, he never bought new harness, unless it were a new collar if he had a regard for the comfort of his beast, but bought old harness, and "did it up" himself, often using iron rivets, or clenched nails, to reunite the broken parts, where, of course, a harness-maker would apply a patch. Nor is it the costermongers alone who buy all their harness -hand. The sweep, whose stock of soot is large enough to require the help of an ass and a cart in its transport; the collector of bones and offal from the butchers' slaughter-houses or shops; and the many who may be considered as co-traders with the costermonger class—the greengrocer, the street coalseller by retail, the salt-sellers, the gravel and sand dealer (a few have small carts)—all, indeed, of that class of traders, buy their harness secondhand, and generally in the streets. The chief sale of -hand harness is on the Friday afternoons, in . The more especial street-sale is in Petticoat and Rosemary lanes, and in the many off-streets and alleys which may be called the tributaries to those great -hand marts. There is no sale of these wares in the Saturday night markets, for in the crush and bustle generally prevailing there at such times, no room could be found for things requiring so much space as sets of -hand harness, and no time sufficiently to examine them. "There's so much to look at, you understand, sir," said secondhand street-trader, who did a little in harness as well as in barrows, "if you wants a decent set, and don't grudge a shilling or —and I never grudges them myself when I has'em—so that it takes a little time. You must see that the buckles has good tongues—and it's a sort of joke in the trade that a bad tongue's a d——d bad thing—and that the pannel of the pad ain't as hard as a board (flocks is the best stuffing, sir), and that the bit, if it's rusty, can be polished up, for a animal no more likes a rusty bit in his mouth than we likes a musty bit of bread in our'n. O, a man as treats his ass as a ass ought to be treated—and it's just the same if he has a pony—can't be too perticler. If I had my way I'd 'act a law making people perticler about 'osses' and asses' shoes. If your boot pinches you, sir, you can sing out to your bootmaker, but a ass can't blow up a farrier." It seems to me that in these homely remarks of my informant, there is, so to speak, a sound practical kindliness. There can be little doubt that a fellow who maltreats his ass or his dog, maltreats his wife and children when he dares.
are sold -hand, but only by or foreigners, Dutchmen or Germans, who hawk them and sell them at or each, Dutch clocks only been disposed of in this way. These traders, therefore, come under the head of STREET-FOREIGNERS. "Ay," streetseller remarked to me, "it's only Dutch now as is -handed in the streets, but it'll soon be Americans. The swags is some of them hung up
|with Slick's;" [so he called the American clocks, meaning the "Sam ," in reference to Mr. Justice Hallyburton's work of that title;] "they're hung up with 'em, sir, and no relation whatsomever (pawnbroker) 'll give a printed character of 'em (a duplicate), and so they must come to the streets, and jolly cheap they'll be." The foreigners who sell the -hand Dutch clocks sell also new clocks of the same manufacture, and often on tally, a week being the usual payment.|
are sold at the miscellaneous stalls, but only after there has been what I heard called a "Tower sale" (sale of military stores). When bought of the street-sellers, the use of these boxes is far more peaceful than that for which they were manufactured. Instead of the receptacles of cartridges, the divisions are converted into nail boxes, each with its different assortment, or contain the smaller kinds of tools, such as awlblades. These boxes are sold in the streets at or each, and are bought by jobbing shoemakers more than by any other class.
Of the other -hand commodities of the streets, I may observe that in the trade is altogether Jewish; in , with frames, it is now a nonentity, and so it is with
In and the -hand traffic is large, but those vended in the streets are nearly all "done up" for street-sale by the class known as "Mush," or more properly "Mushroom Fakers," that is to say, the makers or —the slang being simply a corruption of the Latin ) of those articles which are similar in shape to I shall treat of this class and the goods they sell under the head of Street-Artisans. The collectors of Old Umbrellas and Parasols are the same persons as collect the -hand habiliments of male and female attire.
The men and women engaged in the streetcommerce carried on in -hand articles are, in all respects, a more mixed class than the generality of street-sellers. Some hawk in the streets goods which they also display in their shops, or in the windowless apartments known as their shops. Some are not in possession of shops, but often buy their wares of those who are. Some collect or purchase the articles they vend; others collect them by barter. The itinerant crock-man, the root-seller, the glazed table-cover seller, the hawker of spars and worked stone, and even the costermonger of the morning, is the dealer in -hand articles of the afternoon and evening. The costermonger is, moreover, often the buyer and seller of -hand harness in . I may point out again, also, what a multifariousness of wares passes in the course of a month through the hands of a general street-seller; at time new goods, at another -hand; sometimes he is stationary at a pitch vending "lots," or "swag toys;" at others itinerant, selling braces, belts, and hose.
I found no miscellaneous dealer who could tell me of the proportionate receipts from the various articles he dealt in even for the last month. He "did well" in this, and badly in the other trade, but beyond such vague statements there is no precise information to be had. It should be recollected that the street-sellers do not keep accounts, or those documents would supply references. "It's all headwork with us," a street-seller said, somewhat boastingly, to me, as if the ignorance of book-keeping was rather commendable.