Victorian London - Advertising - Advertising vans

Sir - I am a banker. Like most of my profession, I have my town-house in Belgravia, and my villa at Roehampton, and I ride daily to my counting-house in the city. I am a fat man and am recommended horse-exercise.
    The Strand, always a crowded thoroughfare, became disagreeably so when omnibuses were permitted to ply there. The wood pavement next assisted in making it nearly impassable; and now a third plague has arisen which promises to block it up altogether.
    I allude to the advertising-vans. I am always unwilling to obtrude my name before the public (it does a man in business no good, unless, indeed, he appears as president of a charitable meeting or governor of a hospital), but, as I nearly lost my life through them last Friday, and lose my time through them daily, I entreat you to grant publicity to this complaint of mine.
    Leaving Belgrave-square at 11 o'clock, I found the Strand blocked up just beyond Messrs. Coutts's, in consequence of two wretched animals, attached to an immense French diligence, used as a means of making M. Philippe's merits known to the public, having slipped up on the wood pavement. The driver, a sensible phlegmatic man, appeared in no hurry to set them on their legs again, conceiving, with justice, that his employer's object was better attained by remaining where he was.
    It being early, there were no policeman to interfere. I believe they are at that time generally in attendance to give evidence at the police courts; and I therefore spent a very unpleasant half-hour awaiting the resurrection of the conjuror's cattle. Retreat was out of the question, from the incredible influence of omnibuses which had congregated in my rear.
    At length, however, the way was cleared, and I proceeded as far as Temple-bar - an institution of our ancestors which I highly revere, but which, from the inconvenience it occasions, I should almost wish abolished, were I certain that it would not, in these levelling days, prove a stepping-stone to the downfall of the Church. I may as well here state, Sir, that I am a staunch Protectionist. Sir John Tyrell banks with me; and so would Mr. Miles, if he were not a banker himself. 
    Well, at Temple-bar, I found the pass in the procession of two more of these accursed vehicles, which had got locked together - one was devoted to the promulgation of the merits of Holloway's ointment in curing diseased legs, and the other was adorned with sketched of a hideous monster called the "human tripod, or young easel."
    My cob, the most confidential creature that Mr. Z. ever realized two hundred for, could not stand the horrid sight. He tried to turn round, was poled by a "buss" close astern, fell, and deposited me under the wheels of a dray which, fortunately, at the time was motionless, as, indeed, it had been for three-quarters of an hour previously.
    Being active, though corpulent, I escaped unhurt; but I really think, Sir, that when we reflect on the severity with which applewomen are coerced - when the strong arm of the law sternly silences the early sweep, and stills the bell of the dustman, and the tinkle of the muffin-boy - the powers which watch over the lives and interests of Her Majesty's subjects ought to deal promptly and vigorously with such nuisances as these.
    I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
April 2                    JACOB OMNIUM

source: letter to The Times, April 6, 1846


Yesterday I met in Piccadilly an enormous advertisement-van, covered with pictures of athletic sports as practised nightly in Leicester-square. On one side the "Tipton Slasher" stripped to his waist, was to be seen in simulated conflict with a portentous negro, known by the soubriquet of "Preternatural Bill"; on the other, a dignified corporal of the Blues was depicted, calmly severing, at a single back-handed blow of his sword, the carcase of a monstrous Leicester ram; and at each corner of this gaudy vehicle, far more fitted for the decoration of the interior of the Great Exhibition that for the obstruction of the thouroughfare leading to it, were flaunting small party-coloured flags, precsiely such as are affixed to the weapons of our Lancers, for the avowed purpose of frightening the horses of their adversaries. Why should we tyranically silence the bells of our dustmen, and so rigorously coerce the industrial energies of our applewomen, if we are to swallow daily such atrocious camels as there?

source: letter to The Times, April 19, 1851


No duty is paid for tradesmen's carts and vans, if the owner's name and address is plainly written on them ; and the tradesmen, who turn everything to advantage, write their names very plainly on their carts and vans, and send them out into the streets to advertise their firms. These tradesmen's carts are the most numerous and conspicuous among the countless vehicles, which pass to and fro in London streets. There is scarcely a shop which has not its cart or van. Of course the grocers have vans, for they send their goods to any distance within ten miles; and so do the bakers, butchers, fishmongers, and greengrocers. They can't help it, for if they were to confine their operations to their immediate neighbourhood, they would soon be crushed by competition. A London tradesman, who deals in articles of daily consumption, had better not try to walk. The very lad who sells odds and ends of meat for the convenience of Metropolitan cats amid dogs, has a meat cart, and a clever pony; and on the cart there is a splendid legend, in gold letters "Dog's and Cat's Meat." The retailer of such wretched stuff, would starve in a smaller town; in London he has to keep his horse and cart, and makes a capital living, as they tell me. And on Sunday, when dogs and cats have to live on the stores that were taken in on Saturday, the lad takes his "fancy gal" for a drive into the country, with time legend of "Dog's and Cat's Meat," flaming brightly behind.

source: Max Schlesinger, Saunterings in and about London, 1853