London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Cigar-End Finders.
THERE are, strictly speaking, none who make a living by picking up the ends of cigars thrown away as useless by the smokers in the streets, but there are very many who employ themselves from time to time in collecting them. Almost all the street-finders, when they meet with such things, pick them up, and keep them in a pocket set apart for that purpose. The men allow the ends to accumulate till they amount to or weight, and then some dispose of them to a person residing in the neighbourhood of , who buys them all up at from to per pound, according to their length and quality. The long ends are considered the best, as I am told there is more sound tobacco in them, uninjured by the moisture of the mouth. The children of the poor Irish, in particular, scour Ratcliff-highway, the Commercial-road, Mileend- road, and all the leading thoroughfares of the East, and every place where cigar smokers are likely to take an evening's promenade. The quantity that each of them collects is very trifling indeed—perhaps not more than a handful during a morning's search. I am informed, by an intelligent man living in the midst of them, that these children go out in the morning not only to gather cigar-ends, but to pick up out of dust bins, and from amongst rubbish in the streets, the smallest scraps and crusts of bread, no matter how hard or filthy they may be. These they put into a little bag which they carry for the purpose, and, after they have gone their rounds and collected whatever they can, they take the cigar-ends to the man who buys them—sometimes getting not more than a halfpenny or a penny for their morning's collection. With this they buy a halfpenny or a penny-
|worth of oatmeal, which they mix up with a large quantity of water, and after washing and steeping the hard and dirty crusts, they put them into the pot or kettle and boil all together. Of this mass the whole family partake, and it often constitutes all the food they taste in the course of the day. I have often seen the bone-grubbers eat the black and soddened crusts they have picked up out of the gutter.
It would, indeed, be a hopeless task to make any attempt to get at the number of persons who occasionally or otherwise pick up cigar-ends with the view of selling them again. For this purpose almost all who ransack the streets of London for a living may be computed as belonging to the class; and to these should be added the children of the thousands of destitute Irish who have inundated the metropolis within the last few years, and who are to be found huddled together in all the low neighbourhoods in every suburb of the City. What quantity is collected, or the amount of money obtained for the ends, there are no means of ascertaining.
Let us, however, make a conjecture. There are in round numbers inhabited houses in the metropolis; and allowing the married people living in apartments to be equal in number to the unmarried "housekeepers," we may compute that the number of families in London is about the same as the inhabited houses. Assuming young or old gentleman in every of these families to smoke cigar per diem in the public thoroughfares, we have cigar-ends daily, or weekly cast away in the London streets. Now, reckoning cigars to go to a pound, we may assume that each end so cast away weighs about the thousandth part of a pound; consequently the gross weight of the ends flung into the gutter will, in the course of the week, amount to about cwt.; and calculating that only a part of these are picked up by the finders, it follows that there is very nearly a ton of refuse tobacco collected annually in the metropolitan thoroughfares.
The aristocratic quarters of the City and the vicinity of theatres and casinos are the best for the cigar-end finders. In the Strand, Regentstreet, and the more fashionable thoroughfares, I am told, there are many ends picked up; but even in these places they do not exclusively furnish a means of living to any of the finders. All the collectors sell them to some other person, who acts as middle-man in the business. How he disposes of the ends is unknown, but it is supposed that they are resold to some of the large manufacturers of cigars, and go to form the component part of a new stock of the "best Havannahs;" or, in other words, they are worked up again to be again cast away, and again collected by the finders, and so on perhaps, till the millennium comes. Some suppose them to be cut up and mixed with the common smoking tobacco, and others that they are used in making snuff. There are, I am assured, persons residing in different parts of London, who are known to purchase the cigar-ends.
In Naples the sale of cigar-ends is a regular street-traffic, the street-seller carrying them in a small box suspended round the neck. In Paris, also, is a well-known occupation: the "ends" thus collected are sold as cheap tobacco to the poor. In the low lodginghouses of London the ends, when dried, are cut up, and frequently vended by the finders to such of their fellow-lodgers as are anxious to enjoy their pipe at the cheapest possible rate.