London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Furs.
OF furs the street-sale is prompt enough, or used to be prompt; but not so much so, I am told, last season, as formerly. A fur tippet is readily bought for the sake of warmth by women who thrive pretty well in the keeping of coffee-stalls, or any calling which requires attendance during the night, or in the chilliness of early morning, even in summer, by those who go out at early hours to their work. By such persons a big tippet is readily bought when the money is not an impediment, and to many it is a strong recommendation, that when new, the tippet, most likely, was worn by a real lady. So I was assured by a person familiar with the trade.
female street-seller had stalls or stands in the New Cut (when it was a great street market), about years back, and all for the sale of -hand furs. She has now a small shop in -hand wearing apparel (women's) generally, furs being of course included. The business carried on in the street (almost always "the Cut") by the fur-seller in question, who was both industrious and respectable, was very considerable. On a Monday she has not unfrequently taken , -half of which, indeed more than half, was profit, for the street-seller bought in the summer, when furs "were no money at all," and sold in the winter, when they "were really tin, and no mistake." Before the season began, she sometimes had a small room nearly full of furs.
This trade is less confined to and the old clothes district, as regards the supply to retail customers, than is anything else connected with dress. But the fur trade is now small. The money, prudence, and forethought necessary to enable a fur-seller to buy in the summer, for ample profit in the winter, as regards street-trade, is not in accordance with the habits of the general run of street-sellers, who think but of the present, or hardly think even of that.
The old furs, like all the other old articles of wearing apparel, whether garbs of what may be accounted primary necessaries, as shoes, or mere comforts or adornments, as boas or muffs, are bought in the instance at the Old Clothes Exchange, and so find their way to the streetsellers. The exceptions as to this transaction in the trade I now speak of, are very trifling, and, perhaps, more trifling than in other articles, for great supply of furs, I am informed, is from their being swopped in the spring and summer for flowers with the "root-sellers," who carry them to the Exchange.
Last winter there were sometimes as many as persons—-fourths of the number of secondhand fur sellers, which fluctuates, being women— with fur-stands. They frequent the street-markets on the Saturday and Monday nights, not confining themselves to any et in particular. The best sale is for , and chiefly of the darker colours. These are bought, of the dealers informed me, frequently by maid-servants, who could run of errands in them in the dark, or wear them in wet weather. They are sold from to , about or being a common charge. Children's tippets "go off well," from to are not vended to half the extent of tippets, although they are lowerpriced, of tolerably good gray squirrel being The reason of the difference in the demand is that boas are as much an ornament as a garment, while the tippet answers the purpose of a shawl. are not at all vendible in the streets, the few that are disposed of being principally for children. As muffs are not generally used by maidservants, or by the families of the working classes, the absence of demand in the -hand traffic is easily accounted for. They are bought sometimes to cut up for other purposes. are disposed of readily enough at from to , as are , from to
man, who told me that a few years since he and his wife used to sell -hand furs in the street, was of opinion that his best customers were women of the town, who were tolerably welldressed, and who required some further protection from the night air. He could readily sell any "tidy" article, tippet, boa, or muff, to those females, if they had from to at command. He had so sold them in Clare-market, in Tottenhamcourt-road, and the Brill.