London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Boots and Shoes.
THE man who gave me the following account of this trade had been familiar with it a good many years, he believed, but was by no means certain. I saw at his lodgings a man who was finishing his day's work there, in cobbling and "translating." He was not in the employ of my informant, who had rooms, or rather a floor; he slept in and let the other to the "translator" who was a relation, he told me, and they went on very well together, as he (the streetseller) liked to sit and smoke his pipe of a night in the translator's room, which was much larger than his own; and sometimes, when times were "pretty bobbish," they clubbed together for a good supper of tripe, or had a "prime hot Jemmy a-piece," with a drop of good beer. A "Jemmy" is a baked sheep's head. The room was tidy enough, but had the strong odour of shoemaker's wax proper to the craft.
I have met with other street-folk, who had been soldiers, and who were fond of talking of their "service," often enough to grumble about it, so that I am almost tempted to think my informant had deserted, but I questioned him no further on the subject.
"Men's shoes, the regular sort, isn't a very good sale. I get from to a pair; but the high priced 'uns is either soled and heeled, and mudded well, or they've been real well-made things, and not much worn. I've had gentlemen's shooting-shoes sometimes, that's flung aside for the least thing. The plain shoes don't go off at all. I think people likes something to cover their stocking-feet more. For cloth button-boots I get from —that's the lowest I ever sold at— to The price is according to what condition the things is in, and what's been done to them, but there's no regular price. They're not such good sale as they would be, because they soon show worn. The black 'legs' gets to look very seamy, and it's a sort of boot that won't stand much knocking about, if it ain't right well made at . I've been selling Oxonian buttonovers ('Oxonian' shoes, which cover the instep, and are closed by being buttoned instead of being stringed through or holes) at and but they was really good, and soled and heeled; others I sell at to or Bluchers is from to Wellingtons from —yes, indeed, I've had them as low as , and perhaps they weren't very cheap at that, them very low-priced things never is, neither new nor old—from to ; but Wellingtons is more for the shops than the street. I do a little in children's boots and shoes. I sell them from to Yes, you can buy lower than , but I'm not in that way. They sell quite as quick, or quicker, than anything. I've sold children's boots to poor women that wanted shoeing far worse than the child; aye, many a time, sir. Top boots (they're called 'Jockeys' in the trade) isn't sold in the streets. I've never had any, and I don't see them with others in my line. O no, there's no such thing as Hessians or backstraps (a top-boot without the light-coloured top) in my trade now. Yes, I always have a seat handy where anybody can try on anything in the street; no, sir, no boot-hooks nor shoe-horn; shoehorns is rather going out, I think. If what we sell in the streets won't go on without them they won't be sold at all. A good many will buy if the thing's only big enough—they can't bear pinching, and don't much care for a fine fit.