Monthly Archives: July 2012

Victorian Job – Tosher (Sewer-Hunter)

“men who made it their living by forcing entry into London’s sewers at low tide and wandering through them, sometimes for miles, searching out and collecting the miscellaneous scraps washed down from the streets above: bones, fragments of rope, miscellaneous bits of metal, silver cutlery and–if they were lucky–coins dropped in the streets above and swept into the gutters. –

the toshers sometimes worked the shoreline of the Thames rather than the sewers, and also waited at rubbish dumps when the contents of damaged houses were being burned and then sifted through the ashes for any items of value. They were mostly celebrated, nonetheless, for the living that the sewers gave them, which was enough to support a tribe of around 200 men–each of them known only by his nickname: Lanky Bill, Long Tom, One-eyed George, Short-armed Jack. The toshers earned a decent living; according to Mayhew’s informants, an average of six shillings a day–an amount equivalent to about $50 today. It was sufficient to rank them among the aristocracy of the working class–and, as the astonished writer noted, “at this rate, the property recovered from the sewers of London would have amounted to no less than £20,000 [today $3.3 million] per annum.”

-Henry Mayhew

http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/history/2012/06/quite-likely-the-worst-job-ever/

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Filed under Victorian London, Victorian London

Poverty in Mexico

They live in what Mexicans call a “jacal,” a homemade shanty of scrap wood and tarpaper. Boulders keep the corrugated tin roofing on in case of high wind. An outhouse is a few feet away. Next to it is a washing machine set on pallets in the open air. A broken stove also lies outside, hollowed out and jerry-rigged to serve as a barbecue. A makeshift electrical line brings power from a neighbor’s house. A homemade pipe brings water from a different direction

Forty percent of Mexico’s 47 million workers are covered by union contracts, but few feel any benefits. “There are workers who don’t even know they belong to a union,” said Maria Xelhuantzi Lopez, an expert on collective bargaining at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

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Taking Belladonna

Once we’d swallowed our poison, we decided to go into the store for some snacks to wash away the taste.  Things seemed pretty normal and I picked out a package of chocolate Hostess cupcakes that used to be so popular – the ones with the white squiggles down the middle. I reached out to grab it off the shelf, but the cupcakes jumped away, eluding my grasp. The little white squiggles had turned into eyes, nose and mouth. The cupcakes laughed at me.

Somehow I made it out of the store. I can remember walking for maybe two blocks, carrying my hippie mocassins. At some point I just winked out. Even today, I still have some sense, or recollection, of what my hallucinations were like – I experienced a flash of recognition a couple of years later. When I saw Munch’s The Scream, it resonated – not just the face and the distortion but the sense that one is surrounded by some unfathomably horrific presence that probably hides an infinity of other unfathomably horrific presences both within and beyond it, endlessly layered. I also remember seeing my father sitting in a chair and smoking his pipe, disappearing slowly from his feet to his head while asking me what was wrong. Two cops found me staggering down Main Street, eyes without irises – just big pools of black. I writhed and struggled and screamed and vomited as the officers tried to restrain me. One cop wanted to take me to jail, but the other one recognized the need to rush me to the hospital and he prevailed.

From : The Belladonna Shaman (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #20)

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PT Barnum on Getting Rich Slowly

From PT Barnum’s The Art of Money Getting

* Don’t mistake your vocation
* Select the right location
* Avoid debt
* Persevere
* Whatever you do, do it with all your might
* Depend upon your own personal exertions
* Use the best tools
* Don’t get above your business
* Learn something useful
* Let hope predominate, but be not too visionary
* Do not scatter your powers
* Be systematic
* Read the newspapers
* Beware of “outside operations”
* Don’t indorse without security
* Advertise your business
* Be polite and kind to your customers
* Be charitable
* Don’t blab
* Preserve your integrity

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