For as long as goods and services have been sold, they have been sold in public, on the street.
From Roman times, up to and including my own childhood, street vendors were an everyday sight on the streets of London.
A ‘Shoe Black’, plying his trade in the 1920s.
A milkman, during the early 1960s.
It was unusual by then to see a man still using a push-cart.
Though our own milkman was still using a horse at the time, that was soon replaced by an electric vehicle.
Traditionally a cold-weather, seasonal occupation, these sellers could be seen all over London.
In the summer months, Ice Cream sellers were everywhere.
They rode around the streets until they sold out.
The largest company, Wall’s, had their iconic sign. ‘Stop Me and Buy One’.
Street musicians liked to work in busy shopping areas, passing around a hat after performing.
These two went so far as to transport a harp!
Peanut sellers favoured sporting events, exhibitions, and anywhere they could guarantee a large crowd.
Percy Dalton was the top selling brand of peanuts in shells.
Rag and Bone men originally collected unwanted rags and bones, as their name implies.
By the 1960s, they had branched out into the burgeoning antique market, as you can see from this man’s sign.
They also took away any potentially valuable scrap, including most metals and electrical wiring.
Changes in local laws, food sale regulations, and the growing reluctance of consumers to buy things from street vendors, have now all but consigned them to history.
Street entertainers still flourish though, in the most crowded and popular tourist spots in London. Also as buskers, all over the capital. These days, they have to apply for a licence to perform. Doorstep milk deliveries still exist too, but with most of us buying cheaper milk from supermarkets, their time is almost at an end. You can still buy ice cream from vendors selling it from a motorised vehicle. In places like here in Beetley, they drive around the streets in the summer months, playing tunes through a loudspeaker to announce their presence.
Most former Rag and Bone men graduated into becoming scrap metal merchants. With the public wise to the money to be made from scrap, they now usually have to pay to take away the scrap metal that was once left outside for them to collect for free. As for shoe-blacks, the popularity of trainers and casual shoes meant that few people needed to have their shoes polished anymore. They can still be seen in some business districts, where they have become something of an amusing oddity.