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"Mush Fakers" And Ginger Beer Makers
[Street Life in London]
London School of Economics - Digital Library
This item is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) license.
John Thomson & Adolphe Smith, 1877, Street Life in London, (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington).
"At Clapham Common - where the accompanying photograph was taken - Hampstead, Greenwich, Battersea Park, etc etc, on a broiling summer's day, there is a great demand for light, refreshing drinks, and more than £1 may be taken during one day by those who have a sufficient supply of ginger-beer with them, or some friend who can bring a fresh stock in the course of the afternoon. In ordinary times, however, twenty shillings a week net profit is considered a very fair reward for selling ginger-beer in the streets. Apart from the very hot days, and the pleasure-g rounds around the metropolis, the best time and place for the sale is near the closed public-houses on a Sunday morning. The enormous number of persons who have spent their Saturday evening and wages in getting lamentably drunk, come out in the morning with their throats parched and are glad of anything that will relieve the retributive thirst from which they suffer. Ginger-beer, under these circumstances, is particularly effective in restoring tone and mitigating the consequences of intemperance; and these are facts which readily account for the large sales effected on Sunday mornings.
"The real "mush-fakers" are men who not only sell, but can mend and make umbrellas. Wandering from street to street, with a bundle of old umbrellas and a few necessary tools under their arm, they inquire for umbrellas to mend from house to house. When their services are accepted, they have two objects in view. First, having obtained an umbrella to mend, they prefer sitting out doing the work in the street, in front of the house. This attracts the attention of the neighbours, and the fact that they have been entrusted with work by the inhabitants of one house generally brings more custom from those who live next door. When the job is terminated, the “mush-faker " looks about him, as he enters the house, in quest of an umbrella which has passed the mending stage ; and, in exchange for the same, offers to make a slight reduction in his charge. Thus he gradually obtains a stock of very old umbrellas, and by taking the good bits from one old "mushroom" and adding it to another, he is able to make, out of two broken and torn umbrellas, a tolerably stout and serviceable gingham."