But until recently I had not considered second hand clothing dealers. Then I came across this etching of an old clothes street vendor and I realised that this opened up a whole new outlook for the wearing of out of date clothing. Apparently not only were these clothing items bought and sold in a town or city in England, but they were also exported overseas!
Contrary to the impression generally given, the old-clothes trade was
not primarily devoted to buying and refurbishing hawkers' goods, known
as 'clobbering'. London was certainly a centre for the wholesale traffic in
used clothing. This is borne out by the known export of bales of clothes,
carpets and so on to Belgium, France and specifically to Holland and later
South America, some of them purchased by wealthy merchants from
different parts of the United Kingdom and Europe (for example, Lazarus
Jacobs48 and Samuel Wolf Oppenheimer from Paris49 and Jacob Schloss from
Frankfurt).50 The first stage of this seemingly lucrative trade was
performed by the old-clothes hawker. A traveller towards the end of the
18th century says that the poorer class wander through the streets of
London, calling 'old clothes', 'which they buy up and mostly send
abroad'.51 This export trade continued well towards the end of the 19th
century, as is confirmed by the case of Solomon Joseph, who was a dealer in
new and second-hand clothing and was said to have bought his
merchandise for colonial export.52
Old-clothes men: 18th and 19th centuries*
By Edme Bouchardon 18th century.
By Paul Sandby 1759.
A Rag Fair in Rosemary Lane By Thomas Rowlandson late 18th century.