NEW YORK "STREET ARABS"
Harper’s Weekly, September 19, 1868, page 604 (Illustrated Article)
Henry Mayhew, in his valuable book on "London Labor and the London Poor," divides the street folk of that great city into six kinds: I. Street Sellers; II. Street Buyers; III. Street Finders; IV. Street Performers; V. Street Artisans; and IV. Street Laborers. If he had added a seventh division for Street Beggars his classification would have admirably applied to the city of New York, though American peculiarities of customs generally have produced very different classes of these characters from those of England. We have the English "costermonger" and "cheap John" in our hawkers of fish and vegetables, and our enterprising country peddlers; their tract and song sellers are generally news boys or men with us; they have many characters which we have not, and we many original to this soil; but all, in England or America, have a nature in common, and all belong to the nomadic race. Every where they are found they can be recognized as true Arabs; and strange to say, despite its privations, its dangers, and its hardships, those who have once adopted the semi-savage and wandering mode of life in early youth seldom abandon it, but continue to the end of their existence Arabs by second nature.


Chinese Candy Man
September 19, 1868, page 604

Among the "Street Arabs" of New York there are many distinct characters of people. Embraced under the head are to be included pickpockets, beggars, and prostitutes that prey upon the populace, as well as the itinerant sellers, buyers, etc., who profess to make some return for what they receive; but it is only from the latter class that our present illustrations are selected. These are to be seen every day in the streets of the city.
Among the street buyers is the "old hat" man, familiar in the more secluded streets devoted to residences. His business requires him to pass slowly through the streets, calling out in tones that can hardly be distinguished, and which would not be recognized if his bundle of old hats did not proclaim his trade, "Old hats to buy—old hats!" Generally these street criers—whether buyers or sellers—are hoarse from much straining of their lungs and exposure to all sorts of weather; and their appearance and voice are alike repulsive. There are a large number of these buyers in New York, and they collect, paying cash, or making exchanges of china-war or similar goods, every part of man’s cast-off raiment, from the hat on his crown to the shoes on his feet. Many of these men are in the employ of second-hand clothes and hat dealers; and their collections, cleansed, and repaired, are sold in certain districts as new clothing.
The "boot-black" is better known, because of a more noisy and numerous class. He is a modern innovation. A few years ago boot-blacking in New York was done in a very different manner. The boot-blacks were then almost exclusively negro men. They had their workshops and their regular customers, whom they served with clean boots pretty much as the news-boys serve their customers with papers. Every customer was expected to have at least two pairs of boots; the boot-black called at the customer’s room early every morning, taking away the dirty and leaving the clean pair. They carried them by means of a long stick thrust through the straps of the boots or strings of the shoes. This custom, as well as that of putting boots outside of one’s door, at the hotel, to be blacked, has now become obsolete, and the "boot-black brigade" has carried all before it.
The glass-mender belongs to the class of street artisans, and is one of a very numerous herd. We have not only itinerant glass-menders, but repairers of tinware and furniture of all kinds, and the number of street artisans is very large. They perambulate the streets as the "hat man" does, calling their trade, and entering the houses whenever their services are demanded.

The street sellers, however, are in the majority, and the "shoe-lace man," the "Chinese candy dealer," the "umbrella dealer," the "balloon man," and the "cigar dealer" belongs to this class. Often the first, whose business requires him to remain stationary, is blind or lame, and sympathy for his misfortune frequently proves important to his success. When John Chinaman comes to New York he is almost certain to start a candy stand, and takes to that trade as naturally as an Italian to organ-grinding. The "umbrella man" is generally seen abroad only in wet weather. To the "balloon man" dry weather is absolutely necessary. His stock in trade consists of the little colored gutta-percha toy balloons so extensively manufactured for children. The cigar man is one of the nuisances of the city. He is to be found in the most frequented of the thoroughfares with a box under his arm, and half a dozen cigars in his hand, calling out, "Five for ten cents!" to passers-by. And strange to say, he finds customers among the illogical class who can not understand that cigars at the rate of two cents apiece must either be of no value or else are contraband.

The beggars are "too numerous to mention;" they are to be found every where and at all hours; and "ply their vocation" with a persistency that deserves and often provokes success. The women generally appear with babes in their arms, thus hoping to arouse sympathy, and no doubt often succeeding. An old legend has long been in circulation to the effect that these children are hired to the beggars, and that they are not, as a general thing, their mothers. How true this may be it is impossible to say.
Curious would be the history of these characters, if it could be traced, and still more so the habits, and customs, and social and commercial organizations of these people, if they could be divulged. They begin life for themselves at a very early age—often before they are ten years of age. They find their chief amusement at their cheap "hops," the beer-shops, and the theatres; the social intercourse of the sexes is by no means delicate; concubinage is far more common than marriage; the sanctity of the marriage relation is most imperfectly understood or appreciated; and they have no religion. There is a great field for the missionary among these classes; and the various children’s aid societies have done great and lasting good in it by rescuing young children from the vagabond sort of life. There is no single organized charity of New York which is more worth of support than that known as the "Children’s Aid Society," and which labors vigorously in this field.
Harper’s Weekly, September 19, 1868, page 604 (Illustrated Article)

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