Street cries are the short lyrical calls of merchants hawking their products and services in open-air markets. The custom of hawking led many vendors to create custom melodic phrases. During the 18th and 19th century, the street cries of major urban centers became one of the distinctive features of city life. Street cries became popular subject matter for poets, musicians, artists and writers of the period. Many of these street cries were catalogued in large collections or incorporated into larger musical works, preserving them from oblivion.
Street vendors and their cries were known in the medieval period. However, the numbers of street vendors working in urban areas increased markedly from the 17th century. In London, street vendors began to fill the streets in the decades following the Great Fire when a major rebuilding programme led to the removal of London's main produce market, Stocks Market, in 1773. The displacement of the open market prompted large numbers of street vendors and itinerant traders to fill the gap in food distribution by providing inexpensive produce in small quantities to the working classes, who for their part, worked long hours in arduous occupations leaving them no time to attend markets situated away from the city centre. This led to a large increase in the informal and unregulated trade carried out by street vendors.
The number of street vendors increased again in the early 18th century, following the industrial revolution, as many dislocated workers gravitated to the larger urban centres in search of work. As the city population increased, the number of street vendors also increased. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the streets of London filled with street vendors, stimulating intense competition between them. To stand out amid the crowd, street vendors began to develop distinctive, melodic cries. Around the same time, these criers or street vendors filled the streets of other European cities including Paris, Bologna and Cologne.
Lit by a host of lights … the Cut was packed from wall to wall… The hubbub was deafening, the traders all crying their wares with the full force of their lungs against the background din of a horde of street musicians.
Each trade developed its own unique type of street cry; a distinctive set of words or a unique tune. This operated as a means of identifying each type of seller and the goods sold, giving each trade its own "verbal and aural space".
During the 19th century, street traders came under increasing attack from the clergy and the authorities who wanted to rid the streets of the unruly and unregulated street trade. Initiatives to eradicate street trading had occurred intermittently in the past; various attempts to curtail street-based trading had been known during the reigns of Elizabeth I (1558–1603) and Charles I (1625–1649). These constant attacks contributed to a sense of group identity amongst vendors and inculcated an air of open defiance. Street traders composed their own broadsides in which they asserted their own political identity in songs.
Historians have argued that the cries of the city were far from annoying, rather they were an essential form of transmitting important information prior to the modern period of mass communications. The term, Street Cries, is written with a capital "C" to distinguish the vendors' melodic sounds from the general noise of the street. Street Cries began to disappear from the mid-20th century as permanent markets supplanted the informal and itinerant street trade.
In literature, music and artEdit
The Street Cries of major cities such as London and Paris became such an iconic feature of street life that the subject stimulated the interest of poets, writers, musicians and artists. One of the earliest literary works inspired by street cries is Guillaume de la Villeneuve's thirteenth-century poem, Les Crieries de Paris (Street Cries of Paris). In 1409, an English monk, John Lydgate, composed a ballad, London Lyckpeny which refers many street cries, including the often quoted "Strawpery ripe, and cherrys in the ryse". The ballad, is a satire that recounts the tale of a country person visiting London to seek legal remedies after having been defrauded. However, he finds that he cannot afford justice, and is soon relieved of his money through his dealings with street sellers, retailers, tavern-keepers and others. A lyckpeny (or lickpenny) is an archaic term for anything that soaks up money. Lydgate's ballad prompted generations of composers to write songs about the distinctive cries of street vendors.
As early as the 13th century, musicians included street cries into their compositions. A tune known as On Parole/ a Paris/ Frese Nouvelle, dating to the 13th century features a Parisian vendor's cry, 'Frèse nouvele! Muere france!' ('Fresh strawberries! Wild blackberries!'). From around 1600 English composers wrote tunes in which the text and probably the music incorporated street vendors' cries: Weelkes, Gibbons and Deering composed tunes that consisted almost entirely of street vendors' cries. Such tunes became very popular in the 17th century. It has been suggested that street cries may have been one of the earliest forms of popular music. The 19th century folk song, Molly Malone, is an example of a tune based on street cries that has survived into the modern era. The lyrics show the fish vendor, Molly Malone, chanting "cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh". The tune may have been based on an earlier 17th or 18th century song. The tune, "El Manisero" (translated as the "Peanut Vendor"), inspired by a Cuban peanut vendor's cries, was a popular hit in the 1930s and 1940s and was largely responsible for popularising Latin music and the rhumba with American audiences.
Between the 16th and 19th centuries, a number of non-fiction works were devoted to the theme of Street Cries to such an extent that these works have been described as a distinct genre. Most of these works were pictorial in character, with minimal text and adorned with cheaply produced engravings or etchings depicting the exuberance of street life in which street vendors were prominently featured. Individual artworks were frequently named after the street cry that typified different types of street vendor. A series of prints in this genre was found in the personal library of Samuel Pepys. It was a mid to late 16th century series of woodcuts, illustrating a book which Pepys had catalogued as "Cryes consisting of Several Setts thereof, Antient and Moderne: with the differ Stiles us'd therein by the Cryers."
One of the earliest of publications in The Cries genre was Franz Hogenberg's series of street vendors in Cologne produced in 1589. One of the first English publications of the genre was John Overton's The Common Cryes of London published in 1667. This was followed by a French publication, Etudes Prises Dans let Bas Peuple, Ou Les Cris de Paris (1737) (roughly translated as Studies Taken of the Lower People, Or The Cries of Paris); a title which became highly popular. There followed a plethora of similar publications across Europe: The Cries of London Calculated to Entertain the Minds of Old and Young was published (1760). and followed by Cries of London (1775) and The Cries of London, as they are daily exhibited in the streets: with an epigram in verse, adapted to each. Embellished with sixty-two elegant cuts (1775); a highly popular publication with a new edition published in 1791 and in its tenth edition by 1806. Other 18th century titles included: The Cries of London: for the Instruction of Good Children, (1795). As the number of street vendors burgeoned in the early 19th century, many similar titles appeared, with many titles targeting specific audiences such as children or country folk. Some of these titles include: The New Cries of London; with characteristic engravings (1804); The Cries of London; embellished with twelve engravings, The Cries of Famous London Town: as they are exhibited in the streets of the metropolis: with twenty humorous prints of the most eccentric characters; The Cries of London: shewing how to get a penny for a rainy day, (1820) Lord Thomas Busby's The Cries of London: drawn from life; with descriptive letter-press, in verse and prose (1823); James Bishop's The Cries of London: for the information of little country folks; embellished with sixteen neatly-coloured engravings, (1847); The London Cries in London Street: embellished with pretty cuts, for the use of good little boys and girls, and a copy of verses (1833). and Charles Hindley's A History of the Cries of London: Ancient and Modern, (1881).
The "Cries of London" was also a recurring theme in European painting. In the mid 1700s, the English water-colourist, Paul Sandby created a series entitled London Cries depicting English shopkeepers, stall-holders and itinerant street vendors. The Dutch engraver, Marcellus Laroon began working in London in the mid-1700s where he produced his most famous work, the series, The Cryes of London. William Hogarth's "The Enraged Musician" depicts a musician driven to despair by the cries of street vendors. The Flemish engraver and printmaker, Anthony Cardon, spent time in England in the 1790s where he produced a series of engravings of London's street sellers, known as the Cries of London. Francis Wheatley, the English painter, who had been born in Covent Garden and was well acquainted with London's street life, exhibited a series of artworks, also entitled Cries of London, between 1792 and 1795. Augustus Edwin Mulready, made his reputation by painting scenes of Victorian life which included street sellers, urchins and flower sellers. By the 18th century, card sets were being decorated with coloured woodcuts in the Street Cries genre and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the images of Cries were being used on cigarette cards and other advertising cards. For example, John Players' cigarettes produced two series of advertising cards entitled Cries of London in 1913 (1st series) and 1916 (2nd series). Grenadier cigarettes also produced a two sets entitled Street Cries, one in 1902 and another in the post-war period.
Selected engravings from popular books written on the subject of street cries published in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries
"Buy my fat Chickens" engraving by Marcellus Laroon from Cryes of the City of London Drawne after the Life 1687
"Buy a White Lone, a Iack Line, or a Cloathes Line" engraving by Marcellus Laroon from Cryes of the City of London Drawne after the Life 1687
The Enraged Musician by William Hogarth, 1741
"Lights for the Cats, Liver for the Dogs" from the London Cries series by Paul Sandby, c. 1770
- Jones, P. T. A., "Redressing Reform Narratives: Victorian London's Street Markets and the Informal Supply Lines of Urban Modernity," The London Journal, Vol 41, No. 1, 2006, pp 64–65
- Kelley, V., "The Streets for the People: London's Street Markets 1850–1939, Urban History, June, 2015, pp. 1–21,
- Harrison, G., "Review: The Criers and Hawkers of London: Engravings and Drawings by Marcellus Laroon by Sean Shesgreen", Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 54, No. 1 (Winter, 1991), pp. 79–84 <Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3817273>
- Mayhew, Henry, 1851–1861 cited in London Labour and the London Poor, Researched and written, variously, with J. Binny, B. Hemyng and A. Halliday.
- Boutin, A., City of Noise: Sound and Nineteenth-Century Paris, University of Illinois Press, 2015, p. 35
- Butterfield, A., The Familiar Enemy: Chaucer, Language, and Nation in the Hundred Years War, Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 216
- Knight, C., "Street Noises," Chapter 2 in Knight, C. (ed), London, Vol. 1, C. Knight & Co., 1841. p. 135
- Peddie, I., "Playing at Poverty: The Music Hall and the Staging of the Working Class," in Krishnamurthy, A. (ed), The Working-Class Intellectual in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain, Ashgate Publishing, 2009, pp 235–254
- Garrioch, D., "Sounds of the City: the soundscape of early modern European towns," Urban History, 2003, Vol. 30, no. 1, pp 5–25, abstract
- Shesgreen, S., Images of the Outcast: The Urban Poor in the Cries of London, New Brunswick, N.J., Rutgers University Press, 2002, p. 2
- Jones, P. T. A., "Redressing Reform Narratives: Victorian London's Street Markets and the Informal Supply Lines of Urban Modernity," The London Journal, Vol 41, No. 1, 2006 p. 64 and pp. 73–74
- Aimeé Boutin, "Sound Memory: Paris Street Cries in Balzac's Pere Goriot," French Forum, Volume 30, Number 2, Spring 2005, pp. 67–78, DOI:10.1353/frf.2005.0029
- Mayhew, H., London Labour and the London Poor, Vol. 1, (originally published in 1848) NY, Cosimo Classics, 2009, p. 4; Hindley, C., A History of the Cries of London: Ancient and Modern, London, Reeves & Turner, 1881, pp. 2–11<full text: https://archive.org/details/cu31924028074783. It may be worth noting that although Mayhew and other 19th century commentators attribute the poem to Lydgate, many contemporary historians dispute this attribution and suggest that the author should be given as "anonymous". See, for example, Shepherd, J., Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume II, A & C Black, 2003, p. 169
- London Sound Survey, Historical References to London's Sounds, http://www.soundsurvey.org.uk/index.php/survey/historical_ec/economic1/157/184
- Maccoll, E. and Seeger, P., Travellers' Songs from England and Scotland, Routledge and Kegan, London, (1977), 2016, p. 147
- Apel, W., Harvard Dictionary of Music, Harvard University Press, 1969, pp 808-9
- edited Shepherd, J., Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume II, A & C BLack, 2003, p. 170
- Waite, H. R., Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges, with Selections from the Student Songs of the English and German Universities, Diston, 1876, p. 73
- Pérez, L. A., On Becoming Cuban: Identity, Nationality, and Culture, University of North Carolina Press, 2008, pp. 203–04; Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Latin GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, Online: http://www.latingrammy.com/en/node/21337
- Bakhtin, M. M., Rabelais and His World, Indiana University Press, 1984, p. 181; Stukker, N., Spooren, W. and Steen, G., Genre in Language, Discourse and Cognition, Walter de Gruyter, 2016, Chapter 4
- The book titles named in this section represent a composite listing taken from Shesgreen, S., Images of the Outcast: The Urban Poor in the Cries of London, New Brunswick, N.J., Rutgers University Press, 2002, especially Chapter 1; Harms, R., Raymond, J. and Salman, J., Not Dead Things: The Dissemination of Popular Print in England and Wales, Brill, 2013 and London Sound Survey, Historical References to London's Sounds, http://www.soundsurvey.org.uk/index.php/survey/historical_ec/economic1/157/184
- Shesgreen, S., Images of the Outcast: The Urban Poor in the Cries of London, New Brunswick, N.J., Rutgers University Press, 2002, pp 3-4; This collection is now in the Pepys Library
- Beall, K., Cries and Itinerant Trades, Detroit, Hauswedell, 1975, p. 19
- Bouchardon, Edmé, Etudes Prises Dans let Bas Peuple, Ou Les Cris de Paris Paris, E. Fessard, 1737.
- Moore, E. K. and Simpson, P. A., The Enlightened Eye: Goethe and Visual Culture, Rodopi, 2007, p. 252 The authors note that the work was published in a new edition with engravings by Jacques Juillet in 1768
- The Cries of London Calculated to Entertain the Minds of Old and Young; Illustrated in variety of copper plates neatly engrav'd with an emblematical description of each subject, Vol. III. London, H. Roberts, c.1760 was published
- Cries of London, London, I. Kirk, 1757
- The Cries of London, as they are Daily Exhibited in the Streets: with an epigram in verse, adapted to each. Embellished with sixty-two elegant cuts, London, F. Newbery, 1775
- The Cries of London: for the Instruction of Good Children; decorated with twenty-four cuts from life, London, Booksellers in Town and Country, circa 1795
- The New Cries of London; with characteristic engravings London, Harvey & Darton, 1804
- The Cries of London; embellished with twelve engravings, London, R. Miller, circa 1810
- The Cries of Famous London Town: as they are exhibited in the streets of the metropolis: with twenty humorous prints of the most eccentric characters, London, John Arliss, no date
- The Cries of London: shewing how to get a penny for a rainy day, Wellington, Shropshire, F. Houlston & Son, 1820
- Busby, Thomas Lord, The Cries of London: drawn from life; with descriptive letter-press, in verse and prose, London, L. Harrison, 1823;
- Bishop. James, The Cries of London: for the information of little country folks; embellished with sixteen neatly-coloured engravings, London, Dean & Munday, circa 1847;
- The London Cries in London Street: embellished with pretty cuts, for the use of good little boys and girls, and a copy of verses, London, T. Birt, 1833
- Hindley, C., A History of the Cries of London: Ancient and Modern, London, Reeves & Turner, 1881, <full text: https://archive.org/details/cu31924028074783.
- "Laroon, Marcellus". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900
- L.H.W. "Anthony Cardon," Arnold's Magazine of the Fine Arts, and Journal of Literature and Science, Vol. 4, London, 1834, p. 54
- Short, E. H., A History of British Painting, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1953, p. 152
- Hewitt, M. (ed), The Victorian World, Oxon, Routledge, 2012, p. 302
- "The Cries of London," British Library [online article], https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/the-cries-of-london
- Cullingford, B., British Chimney Sweeps: Five Centuries of Chimney Sweeping, Rowman & Littlefield, 2001, p. 84
Further research and readingEdit
- BBC [Documentary], London Street-Cries and Songs, <Online: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p033xhtc> (includes audio of cries)
- Chilcott, B., Songs and Cries of London Town, [Vocal Score], Oxford University Press, 2001
- Millar, D., Street Criers and Itinerant Tradesmen in European Prints, 1970
- Parker, K.T., Bouchardon's Cries of Paris' in Old Master Drgs, vol. 19, 1930
- Shesgreen, S. (ed.), The Criers and Hawkers of London: Engravings and Drawings by Marcellus Laroon, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1990
- Wilson, E., "Plagues, Fairs, and Street Cries: Sounding out Society and Space in Early Modern London," Modern Language Studies, Vol. 25, No. 3, 1995, pp 1–42 doi:10.2307/3195370 <Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3195370 JSTOR
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