“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.”
Tag Archives: Working Poor
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.