1877 | THE INDEPENDENT SHOE-BLACK

LONG and uneven war has been waged for many years between the various members of the shoe-blacking fraternity. The factions that divide those who look to our boots for a mode of livelihood are wonderfully numerous. There are boys who maintain that no able-bodied man should seek to clean boots, that this work should be monopolized by children. 
Others, on the contrary, urge that the street should be free to all, and that if an able-bodied man chooses to devote himself to the art of blacking boots, as a free British subject, he has a right to follow this or any other calling, however humble it may be. 
John Thompson & Adolphe Smith
From: Street life in London. Victorian London Street Life In Historic Photographs

1877 | The Independent Shoe Black | Street Life In London | Detail
Photograph: John Thompson

The independent boot-black must be always on the move, carrying his box on his shoulders, and only putting it down when he has secured a customer. Even then, I have known cases of policemen who have interfered, and one actually kicked the box away from a gentleman’s foot, while he was in the act of having his boots cleaned. 
John Thompson & Adolphe Smith
From: Street life in London. Victorian London Street Life In Historic Photographs


1877 | The Independent Shoe Black | Street Life In London
Photograph: John Thompson


SHINING
SHOE-BLACKS A.K.A. SHOE POLISHERS APLENTY



FOOTNOTES

The photographer John Thomson (1837-1921) used the 'Woodburytype' process patented in 1864 for the images in Street Life in London, including this photograph. This was a type of photomechanical reproduction using pigmented gelatin, usually of a rich purple-brown colour. The process was complicated but remained popular until about 1900 because of the high quality and permanence of the finished images.

Source: Victoria & Albert Museum


Street Life In London
Dodo Press Edition, 2009
A Sherlock Holmes novel
published in Russia




 

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