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The Independent Shoe-Black | by LSE Library
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The Independent Shoe-Black

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:


“The independent boot-black whose photograph is before the reader, found by experience that the system instituted was not altogether pleasant. He has served in two brigades, the "blues" and the "reds," and found them both equally objectionable; so, at last, he gave up the uniform and became an independent boot-black. In this capacity, though free, he experienced all the persecutions to which I have alluded, and as he grew older and more tired of this life, he finally resolved to leave the narrow streets for the broader thoroughfares of the ocean. As a sailor, he promises to become a useful help to his captain and ship. His mother has to nurse an invalid husband, and must also provide for a large family. Under these circumstances, it was not always easy for her to spare the services of her son. But when he became an independent boot-black, he could go out at his own hours, and thus was of greater use to his mother in her trouble; and it was a great help to the family to know that whenever the boy had a few moments to spare, he might run out and hope to gain some pence by cleaning gentlemen's boots.”


For the full story, and other photographs and commentaries, follow this link and click through to the PDF file at the bottom of the description

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Taken on July 19, 2010