London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Jew-Boy Street-Sellers.
I HAVE ascertained, and from sources where no ignorance on the subject could prevail, that there are now in the streets of London, rather more than Jew-boys engaged principally in fruit and cake-selling in the streets. Very few Jewesses are itinerant street-sellers. Most of the older Jews thus engaged have been street-sellers from their boyhood. The young Jews who ply in streetcallings, however, are all men in matters of traffic, almost before they cease, in years, to be children. In addition to the Jew-boy street-sellers above enumerated, there are from to , but usually about , who are occasional, or "casual" streettraders, vending for the most part cocoa-nuts and grapes, and confining their sales chiefly to the Sundays.
On the subject of the street-Jew boys, a Hebrew gentleman said to me: "When we speak of street- Jew boys, it should be understood, that the great majority of them are but little more conversant with or interested in the religion of their fathers, than are the costermonger boys of whom you have written. They are Jews by the accident of their birth, as others in the same way, with equal ignorance of the assumed faith, are Christians."
I received from a Jew boy the following account of his trading pursuits and individual aspirations. There was somewhat of a thickness in his utterance, otherwise his speech was but little distinguishable from that of an English street-boy. His physiognomy was decidedly Jewish, but not of the handsomer type. His hair was lightcoloured, but clean, and apparently well brushed, without being oiled, or, as I heard a street-boy style it, "greased"; it was long, and hesaid his aunt told him it "wanted cutting sadly;" but he "liked it that way;" indeed, he kept dashing his curls from his eyes, and back from his temples, as he was conversing, as if he were somewhat vain of doing so. He was dressed in a corduroy suit, old but not ragged, and wore a tolerably clean, very coarse, and altogether buttonless shirt, which he said "was made for bigger than me, sir." He had bought it for in , and accounted it a bargain, as its wear would be durable. He was selling sponges when I saw him, and of the commonest kind, offering a large piece for , which (he admitted) would be rubbed to bits in no time. This sponge, I should mention, is frequently "dressed" with sulphuric acid, and an eminent surgeon informed me that on his servant attempting to clean his black dress coat with a sponge that he had newly bought in the streets, the colour of the garment, to his horror, changed to a bright purple. The Jew boy said—