London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Street-Sellers of Old Hats.


THE street-sellers of old coats, waistcoats, and trousers, and of boots and shoes, whose statements precede this account, confined their trade, generally, to the -hand merchandize I have mentioned as more especially constituting their stock. But this arrangement does not wholly prevail. There are many street-traders "in -hand," perhaps -thirds of the whole number, who sell indiscriminately anything which they can buy, or what they hope to turn out an advantage; but even they prefer to deal more in particular kind of merchandize than another, and this is most of all the case as concerns the street-sale of old boots and shoes. Hats, however, are among the -hand wares which the street-seller rarely vends unconnected with other stock. I was told that this might be owing to the hats sold in the streets being usually suitable only for class, grown men; while clothes and boots and shoes are for boys as well as men. Caps may supersede the use of hats, but nothing can supersede the use of boots or shoes, which form the -hand street-trade of any.

There are, however, occasions, when a streetseller exerts himself to become possessed of a cheap stock of hats, by the well-known process of "taking a quantity," and sells them without, or with but a small admixture of other goods. man who had been lately so occupied, gave me the following account. He was of Irish parentage, but there was little distinctive in his accent:—

Hats," he said, "are about the awkwardest things of any for the streets. Do as you will, they require a deal of room, so that what you'll mostly see isn't hats quite ready to put on your head and walk away in, but to be made ready. I've sold hats that way though, I mean ready to wear, and my father before me has sold hundreds —yes, I've been in the trade all my life—and it's the best way for a profit. You get, perhaps, the old hat in, or you buy it at 1d. or 2d. as may be, and so you kill two birds. But there's very little of that trade except on Saturday nights or Sunday mornings. People wants a decent tile for Sundays and don't care for work-days. I never hawks hats, but I sells to those as do. My customers for hats are mechanics, with an odd clerk or two. Yes, indeed, I sell hats now and then to my own countrymen to go decent to mass in. I go to mass myself as often as I can; sometimes I go to vespers. No, the Irish in this trade ain't so good in going to chapel as they ought, but it takes such a time; not just while you're there, but in shaving, and washing, and getting ready. My wife helps me in selling second-hand things; she's a better hand than I am. I have two boys; they're young yet, and I don't know what we shall bring them up to; perhaps to our own business; and children seems to fall naturally into it, I think, when their fathers and mothers is in it. They're at school now.

I have sold hats from 6d. to 3s. 6d., but very seldom 3s. 6d. The 3s. 6d. ones would wear out two new gossamers, I know. It's seldom you see beaver hats in the street-trade now, they're nearly all silk. They say the beavers have got scarce in foreign parts where they're caught. I haven't an idea how many hats I sell in a year, for I don't stick to hats, you see, sir, but I like doing in them as well or better than in anything else. Sometimes I've sold nothing but hats for weeks together, wholesale and retail that is. It's only the regular-shaped hats I can sell. If you offer swells' hats, people'll say: 'I may as well buy a new "wide-awake" at once.' I have made 20s. in a week on hats alone. But if I confined my trade to them now, I don't suppose I could clear 5s. one week with another the year through. It's only the hawkers that can sell them in wet weather. I wish we could sell under cover in all the places where there's what you call 'streetmarkets.' It would save poor people that lives by the street many a twopence by their things not being spoiled, and by people not heeding the rain to go and examine them.

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 Title Page
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Live Animals
Of the Street-Sellers of Mineral Productions and Natural Curiosities
Of the Street-Buyers
Of the Street-Jews
Of the Street-Finders or Collectors
Of the Streets of London
Of the London Chimney-Sweepers
Of the London Chimney-Sweepers
Of the Sweepers of Old, and the Climbing Boys
Of the Chimney-Sweepers of the Present Day
Of the General Characteristics of the Working Chimney-Sweepers
Sweeping of the Chimneys of Steam-Vessels
Of the 'Ramoneur' Company
Of the Brisk and Slack Seasons, and the Casual Trade among the Chimney- Sweepers
Of the 'Leeks' Among the Chimney-Sweepers
Of the Inferior Chimney-Sweepers -- the 'Knullers' and 'Queriers'
Of the Fires of London
Of the Sewermen and Nightmen of London
Of the Wet House-Refuse of London
Of the Means of Removing the Wet House-Refuse
Of the Quantity of Metropolitan Sewage
Of Ancient Sewers
Of the Kinds and Characteristics of Sewers
Of the Subterranean Character of the Sewers
Of the House-Drainage of the Metropolis as Connected With the Sewers
Of the London Street-Drains
Of the Length of the London Sewers and Drains
Of the Cost of Constructing the Sewers and Drains of the Metropolis
Of the Uses of Sewers as a Means of Subsoil Drainage
Of the City Sewerage
Of the Outlets, Ramifications, Etc., of the Sewers
Of the Qualities, Etc., of the Sewage
Of the New Plan of Sewerage
Of the Management of the Sewers and the Late Commissions
Of the Powers and Authority of the Present Commissions of Sewers
Of the Sewers Rate
Of the Cleansing of the Sewers -- Ventilation
Of 'Flushing' and 'Plonging,' and Other Modes of Washing the Sewers
Of the Working Flushermen
Of the Rats in the Sewers
Of the Cesspoolage and Nightmen of the Metropolis
Of the Cesspool System of London
Of the Cesspool and Sewer System of Paris
Of the Emptying of the London Cesspools by Pump and Hose
Statement of a Cesspool-Sewerman
Of the Present Disposal of the Night-Soil
Of the Working Nightmen and the Mode of Work