London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Metal Trays, &c.
THERE are still some few portions of the old metal trade in the streets which require specific mention.
Among these is the sale of -hand trays, occasionally with such things as bread-baskets. Instead of these wares, however, being matters of daily traffic, they are offered in the streets only at intervals, and generally on the Saturday and Monday evenings, while a few are hawked to public-houses. An Irishman, a rather melancholy looking man, but possessed of some humour, gave me the following account. His dress was a worn suit, such as masons work in; but I have seldom seen so coarse, and never on an Irishman of his class, except on a Sunday, so clean a shirt, and he made as free a display of it as if it were the choicest cambric. He washed it, he told me, with his own hands, as he had neither wife, nor mother, nor sister. "I was a cow-keeper's man, your honour," he said, "and he sent milk to Dublin. I thought I might do betthur, and I got to Liverpool, and walked here. Have I done betthur, is it? Sorry a betthur. Would I like to returren to Dublin? Well, perhaps, plaze God, I'll do betthur here yit. I've sould a power of different things in the sthreets, but I'm off for counthry work now. I have a few therrays left if your honour wants such a thing. I sould a few for a man I lodged along wid in , when he was sick, and so I got to know the therrade. He tould me to say, and it's the therruth, if anybody said, 'They're only secondhand,' that they was all the betthur for that, for if they hadn't been real good therrays at , they would niver have lived to be -hand ones. I calls the bigghur therrays butlers, and the smhaller, waithers. It's a poor therrade. woman'll say, 'Pooh! ould-fashioned things.' 'Will, thin, ma'am,' I'll say, 'a good thing like this is niver ould-fashioned, no more than the bhutiful mate and berrid, and the bhutiful new praties a coming in, that you'll be atin off of it, and thratin' your husband to, God save him. No lady iver goes to supper widout her therray.' Yes, indeed, thin, and it is a poor therrade. It's the bhutiful therrays I've sould for I buys them of a shop which dales in sich things. The perrofit! Sorry a perrofit is there in it at all at all; but I thries to make out of If I makes of a night it's good worruk."
These trays are usually carried under the arm, and are sometimes piled on a stool or small stand, in a street market. The prices are from to , sometimes The stronger descriptions are sold to street-sellers to display their goods upon, as much as to any other class. Women and children occasionally sell them, but it is of the callings which seems to be disappearing from the streets. From men, who were familiar with this and other -hand trades, I heard the following reasons assigned for the decadence. man thought it was owing to "swag-trays" being got up so common and so cheap, but to look "stunning well," at least as long as the shininess lasted. The other contended that poor working people had enough to do nowa-days to get something to eat, without thinking of a tray to put it on.
If persons, and that I am told is about the number of sellers, take in the or nights' sale a week each, on -hand trays ( per cent. being the rate of profit), the street expenditure is in a year.
In other -hand metal articles there is now and then a separate trade. or sets of small may be offered in a streetmarket on a Saturday night; or a small stock of for the laundresses, who work cheap and must buy -hand; or a in the same way; but these are accidental sales, and are but ramifications from the general "old metal" trade that I have described. Perhaps, in the sale of these -hand articles, people may be regularly employed, and yearly may be taken.
In , , Whitecrossstreet, Ratcliff-highway, and in the street-markets generally, are to be seen men, women, and children selling The pocket-knives and scissors are kept well oiled, so that the weather does not rust them. These goods have been mostly repaired, ground, and polished for streetcommerce. The women and children selling these
|articles are the wives and families of the men who repair, grind, and polish them, and who belong, correctly speaking, to the class of streetartizans, under which head they will be more particularly treated of. It is the same also with the street-vendors of -hand tin saucepans and other vessels (a trade, by the way, which is rapidly decreasing), for these are generally made of the old drums of machines retinned, or are old saucepans and pots mended for use by the vendors, who are mostly working tinmen, and appertain to the artizan class.|