London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Street-Sellers of Squirrels.
THE street squirrel-sellers are generally the same men as are engaged in the open-air traffic in cagebirds. There are, however, about men who devote themselves more particularly to squirrelselling, while as many more sometimes "take a turn at it." The squirrel is usually carried in the vendor's arms, or is held against the front of his coat, so that the animal's long bushy tail is seen to advantage. There is usually a red leather collar round its neck, to which is attached some slender string, but so contrived that the squirrel shall not appear to be a prisoner, nor in general— although perhaps the hawker became possessed of his squirrel only that morning—does the animal show any symptoms of fear.
The chief places in which squirrels are offered for sale, are and the , but they are offered also in all the principal thoroughfares—especially at the West End. The purchasers are gentlefolk, tradespeople, and a few of the working classes who are fond of animals. The wealthier persons usually buy the squirrels for their children, and, even after the free life of the woods, the animal seems happy enough in the revolving cage, in which it "thinks it climbs."
The prices charged are from to , "or more if it can be got," from a to a half being profit. The sellers will oft enough state, if questioned, that they caught the squirrels in Epping Forest, or Caen Wood, or any place sufficiently near London, but such is hardly ever the case, for the squirrels are bought by them of the dealers in live animals. Countrymen will sometimes catch a few squirrels and bring them to London, and times out of they sell them to the shopkeepers. To sell squirrels a day in the street is accounted good work.
I am assured by the best-informed parties that for months of the year there are men selling squirrels in the streets, at from to per cent. profit, and that they average a weekly sale of each. The average price is from to , although not very long ago man sold a "wonderfully fine squirrel" in the street for half-crowns, but they are sometimes parted with for or less, rather than be kept overnight. Thus squirrels are vended yearly in the streets, at a cost to the public of