Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - The Morning Chronicle : Labour and the Poor, 1849-50; Henry Mayhew - Letter XXXIII

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Thursday, February 7, 1850

    Before proceeding to give a statement of the earnings of the Boot and Shoe makers working at the different branches of the West-end Men's Trade, it is necessary that I should lay before the reader an historical account (so to speak) of the duties upon foreign boots and shoes, as well as the quantities introduced into the kingdom at different periods. The workmen, it will be seen, attribute the decline in the ordinary amount of their work, as well as the reduction of their wages, to five distinct causes. (1). The increase in the introduction of Northampton goods into the London market. (2). The large quantity of foreign boots and shoes annually imported from France. (3). The number of workmen who are unable to obtain employment, owing to their labour being displaced by the cheap provincial and French commodities. (4). The competition among the masters, which causes them to seek out the cheapest market, and so to encourage the production of the cheapest goods. (5). The competition among the workmen, who, being thrown out of employment by the cheap country and foreign goods, seek a sustenance by offering their labour at a lower price than the usual wages of the trade.
    Such are among the principal causes assigned for the decline, both in the amount of their wages and quantity of their work, which has taken place of late years. It is for the public to decide whether their statements concerning the circumstances producing the reduction of their income be correct or not. But it should be borne in mind - lest we mistake what is a matter of opinion for a matter of fact - that these are simply the notions and sentiments of the workmen, and that they are here given merely in a spirit of fairness to them. It will, however, be found hereafter, on referring to the account of the City Trade given in the present letter, that the introduction of the Northampton goods into the London market in 1812, did far more than the French goods to reduce the amount of wages and the quantity of work among the shoemakers of the metropolis. Nevertheless as a means of enabling the reader to judge more particularly on the subject of the French boots and shoes, I have been at considerable trouble in preparing the following tables: -
    The one immediately subjoined is a statement of the duties imposed upon foreign "boots, shoes, and goloshes," at different times. The first column gives the duties as regulated by the 9th and 10th of Vict., c.23, which is the Tariff Act of 1846. The second column exhibits the amount of the Customs duties of 1842, as determined by the 5th and 6th Vic., c.47. Column 3 sets forth the duties regulated by 3rd and 4th Wm. IV., C. 56; col. 4, those for 1819, as fixed by the act 59 Geo. III., c. 52; col, 5 shows their amount in 1809, according to the 49th Geo. 111., c. 98; and col. 6 those in 1787, as fixed by Mr. Pitt's Consolidation Act, the 27th Geo. III., c. 13. The reader has, therefore, the means of comparing the present Customs duties on foreign and Colonial boots and shoes, with the duties on the same articles as they existed in the year 1842, and at various former periods.


(The dates at the head of the columns are the periods at which the Acts imposing them came into operation.)

Feb. 1 1849 9&10 Vict. July 9 1842 5&6 Vict. Sept. 1 1833 3&4 Wm.IV July 5 1819 9 Geo. III July 5 1809 49 Geo. III May 10 1787 27 Geo. III
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. Made of leather, 75 per cent.; made of silk, prohibited Made of leather, 90 per cent. Temporary, or war duty, 30 per cent. prohibited.
Boots, shoes, and goloshes, viz:-
Women's boots, and goloshes (per doz. pairs) 0 6 0 0 12 0 1 10 0
Ditto, if lined or trimmed with fur, or other trimmings (per dozen pairs)... 0 7 0 0 15 0 1 16 0
Women's shoes, with cork or double soles, quilted shoes, and clogs (per doz pairs) 0 5 0 0 10 0 1 6 0
Ditto, if trimmed or lined with fur, or any other trimming (per dozen pairs) 0 6 0 0 12 0 1 9 0

Women's shoes of silk, satin, jean, or other stuffs, kid, morocco, or other leather (per dozen pairs)

0 4 6 0 9 0 0 18 0

Ditto, if trimmed or or lined with fur, or any other trimming (per dozen pairs)

0 5 0 0 10 0 1 4 0
Girl boots and shoes and goloshes, not exceeding 7 inches in length, to be charge with two thirds of the above duties
Men's boots (per. doz. pairs) 0 14 0 1 8 0 2 14 0
Men shoes (per doz. pairs) 0 7 0 0 14 0 1 4 0
Boys' boots and shoes, not exceeding 7 inches in length, to be charged with two thirds of the above duties
Boot-fronts, not exceeding nine inches in height (per. doz. pairs) 0 1 9 0 3 0 30 per cent.
Ditto, exceeding nine inches in height (per doz. pairs) 0 2 9 0 5 6 30 per cent.
Leather, cut into shapes, or any article made of leather whereof leather is the most valuable part, and not otherwise enumerated or described for every £100 value 10 0 0 15 0 0 30 0 0

I annex a statement of the quantities of foreign boots and shoes imported into the United Kingdom within the last ten years:-

Women's Pairs of Boots and Shoes. Men's Pairs of Boots and Shoes. Boys' and Girls' Pairs of Boots and Shoes. Boot Fronts
1841 40891 12679 13636 Entered as wrought leather until July 9, 1842.
1842 50429 18301 17287 119704
1843 81852 22531 3468 241593
1844 80114 25609 6109 279427
1845 87017 27375 9049 244236
1846 99612 35259 5222 352984
1847 77481 36742 No returns. No returns.
1848 86322 29123 1179 497140
1849 122127 30303 1076 552804

    It is difficult to obtain accurate returns as to the quantity of foreign boots and shoes introduced into England previous to 1841.
The following table exhibits the proportion in which different countries contributed to the gross amount of goods imported in five of the several years above enumerated: -




41 223 242 116 390

The Hanseatic Towns

130 565 1283 1278 1123


570 347 505 155 175


392 1348 3058 927 1144


38302 52109 68356 81238 78267

British territories in the East Indies

220 441 475 492 330


5 18 51 10 9

Other parts 

207 309 805 843 864
Total 39867 55360 74773 85059 82302

    To show the decline which has taken place in the wages of the men, the following table has been copied from the authorized publications of the trade at different periods. The statement of 1809 is exceedingly scarce, and has been obtained with great difficulty. There is no authorized statement of wages adapted to the present time. The decline, I am assured, has been considerable since the publication of 1838; indeed, so much so, that the first class of the present day is paid but little better than the third-class work of that period, while the amount of work at those prices has decreased at least 25 per cent.:- 


1809 1812 1838
First Class First Class First Class Second Class Third Class


s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d.

Plain boots

7 0 7 6  .. .. ..

Waterproof boots, copper between the soles 

12 0 12 6 .. .. ..

Silk or velvet Hessians 

8 6  9 0 .. .. ..

Jockey boots

.. .. 6 9 6 6 6 0

Wellington boots

.. .. 6 9 6 6  6 0

Hessian ditto 

7 3 7 9 6 9 6 6 6 0

Three-quarters ditto 

.. .. 6 9 6 6  6 0

Channel ditto 

10 0 10 6 9 3  9 0 8 6

Pump ditto 

.. 7 6 6 9 6 6 6 0

Footing ditto 

.. .. 6 9 6 0 5 6

Footing on heels 

.. .. 5 0 4 9 4 3

Chamois made as boots

.. .. 6 9 6 6 6 0


Five-eighths heel 

0 2 0 2 0 2 .. ..

Three-quarters ditto 

0 5 0 5 0 5 0 3 ..

Seven-eighths ditto 

0 6  0 6 0 6 0 5 0 2

Inch ditto 

0 8 0 8 0 8 0 7 0 3

Every eighth above 

0 3 0 3 0 3 0 2 0 2


Shoes (plain) 

4 6 5 0 4 3 4 0 3 9


.. 5 0 4 8 4 0 3 9

Shoes or pumps (glazed)

.. .. 4 9 4 6 4 3

Cricket shoes

.. .. 4 9 4 6 4 3

Grecian slippers 

.. .. 4 9 4 6  4 3

Cloth boots 

.. .. 4 9 4 6  4 3


.. .. 4 9 4 6  4 3


.. .. 4 9 4 6  4 3

If made to imitate boots 

.. .. 5 9 5 6 5 3


Soling, heeling, and welting

2 10 3 1 2 9 2 8 2 8



.. .. 7 0 6 9 6 6

Double vamps (extra)

.. .. 0 6 0 6 0 6

Tops, if closed outside (extra) 

.. .. 0 6 0 6 0 6

Back straps, without top linings 

.. .. 5 9 5 6 5 6


.. .. 5 0 5 6 5 6


Glaze coloured legs with tongues 

.. .. 7 6 7 0 6 6

Wellingtons (plain) 

.. .. 3 6 3 3 3 0

Stabbing round top 

.. .. 0 8 0 8 0 6

Closed outside 

.. .. 4 8 4 0 4 0

With tongues 

.. .. 5 0 4 6 4 6

Footing, with tongues 

.. .. 3 6 3 3 2 6

If countered 

.. .. 3 10 3 6 3 0

Heels and in-soles on

.. .. 3 10 3 6 2 9

Wellingtons, footing 

.. .. 2 3 2 3 2 0

If heels on 

.. .. 2 7 2 6 2 0

Topping and strapping

.. .. 2 8 2 3 2 0


.. .. 0 6 0 6 ..

False tops 

.. .. 2 0 2 0 2 0

Grecian slippers

.. .. 1 6 .. ..


.. .. 1 6 1 6 1 6


.. .. 2 0 2 0 1 6


.. .. 2 7 2 9 2 6

Stabbing goloshes on cloth boots

.. .. 2 3 2 0 1 9

If glaze

.. .. 2 6 2 3 2 0

Stabbing goloshes on boots

.. .. 1 0 1 0 1 0

Leather lace boots

.. .. 4 6  3 10 3 0


.. .. 1 6 1 6 1 0

Double row 

.. .. 1 9 1 8 1 2

Holderness plain 

.. .. 7 0 6 9 6 6



0 9  .. 0 9 0 9 0 8

If lined with silk 

0 10 0 11 0 10 0 10 0 9

Double vamps outside

1 4 1 5 1 5 1 0 1 0

Ditto inside 

.. .. 0 9 0 9 0 8

Shoes new vamped

.. .. 0 5 0 5 0 5


Shoes, binding

0 6 0 7 0 6 0 6 0 5

Boots, cording 

0 6 0 7 0 6 0 6 0 5

Cloth boots, binding 

.. .. 2 0 2 0 1 6

    I now proceed to give the results of my inquiries among the journeymen themselves.
    To enable the reader to contrast the present rate of the workman's income with the past, and so to judge of the earnings of a bootman in the palmy days of the trade, I give the statement of a first-rate workman employed by the late Mr. Hoby. My informant is now a small master on his own account. He was what is called a ready man; that is, one who can work at his trade with more than average celerity.
    "I got work at Mr. Hoby's, he said, "not long after the battle of Waterloo, in 1815, and was told by my fellow-workmen that I wasn't born soon enough to see good times; but I've lived long enough to see bad ones. Though I wasn't born soon enough, as they said, I could earn and did earn £150 a year, something short of £3 a week; and that for eight years, when trade became not so good. Mr. Hoby used to send out returned boots (misfits) to America, and in a slack time kept his regular hands going, making boots for the American market, and paying his bootmen 7s. 2d. a pair for them. I never sat still for want of work until he dropped this foreign trade. One week a shopmate of mine had twenty pairs to take pay for. The regular wages was 8s. 2d. for the ground-work of Wellingtons with three- quarter heels, and liberal extras. I could then play my LI a corner at whist. I wouldn't play at that time for less than 5s. I could afford a glass of wine, but never was a drinker; and, for all that, I had my £100 in the Four per Cents. for a long time (I lent it to a friend afterwards), and from £40 to £50 in the savings bank. Some made more than me, though I must work. I can't stand still. One journeyman, to my knowledge, saved £2,000; he once made 34 pairs of boots in three weeks. The bootmen then at Mr Hoby's were all respectable men; they were like gentlemen - smoking their pipes, in their frilled shirts, like gentlemen - all but the drunkards. At the trade meetings, Hoby's best men used to have one corner of the room to themselves, and were called the House of Lords. There was more than 100 of us when I became one; and before then there were even a greater number. Mr. Hoby has paid five hundred pounds a week in wages. It was easy to save money in those days; one could hardly help it. We shall never see the like again. 
    By way of contrast to the preceding statement, I subjoin the account of a first-class bootman of the present day, whom I saw at work in a room he devoted to the purposes of his labour, he gave me the following statement: - 
    "I have been acquainted with the business for thirty-one years, fifteen years of it as a bootman in London. The wages I received fifteen years ago, when I was first employed as a bootman in London, were the same as they are now - or nearly the same - in the shop I have worked for until lately. I had 6s. 6d. per pair for the ground-work of Wellington boots or top boots. There are no extras in the making of top boots; they are now seldom worn except by gentlemen when hunting, and among grooms when in full dress. The best week's work that ever I had in London was £2 0s. 2d. from my own labour, but I had to work late and early, with hardly leisure for meals. With the wages I have told you, taking one week with another, I did not earn, as my book shows, more than 20s. a week on an average for the whole time I have been employed. I am now on work at 8s. a pair for the bottom work, but without any extras except sockets; take the work as it comes, so much a decrease of hands. Notwithstanding the high price of provisions a man could make far more with constant work. The best workmen have often to sit idle compulsorily. I fear that wages will fall lower still. Many of the aristocracy get their boots from Paris, or from a French tradesman in London; but that matters little, for the French masters in London generally give fair wages - some employing no French workmen at all; so that we can't, as reasonable men, complain of them. For every pair of boots ordered from Paris, there is a man less employed for a day or two in London; so that the labour-market is over-stocked. Through men being forced to be idle, the masters can dictate their own terms, and men must give way, or get no work at all; and so wages fall. Masters all tell us that the repeal of the corn-laws enables us to live cheaper, and so wages may properly be reduced - also that, owing to the lowness of provisions and to compete with French goods, they must either at once, or sooner or later, lower their prices. Wages always fall as fast as provisions, and where the present downward tendency will stop I cannot form a notion."
    I was afterwards informed that this bootman's statement was not a criterion as to the average earnings of the trade, he representing merely the very highest class. I therefore saw several others, and give the following extract from the communication made to me by an intelligent man, as embodying the statements of them all. All attributed the falling off in their earnings not to any reduction in prices, but to the slackness of employment:
    "I have been more than twenty-five years in the trade, he said, "as aboy and man, and have been familiar with the London trade for nine years. At that time (nine years ago) there was decidedly more employment. I then earned 2ls. a week the year through on Wellington boots at 7s. a pair (with extras). Now my work is little different as regards the prices paid to me by the employer, but my average earnings do not exceed l4s."
    The next man I saw was a first-rate boot-closer. I was directed to him as a workman of great experience, and one who had worked only for the best shops. I found him more cautious in his assertions and less opposed to the introduction of foreign boots than any I had yet seen.
    "I am a boot-closer. I am 69, and have been working at the trade ever since I was 14. 1 work for the best shops in London. For closing the sorts of boots that I am now engaged upon I get 5s. 4d. per pair, and a pair is a good 16 hours' work. I can't exactly say how much I make all the year round, taking one week with another. I dare say that I do make 10s. a week clear in the slack nine months of the year, and about 28s. a week clear in the remaining three months, when the trade is busy; but then I often work eighteen hours a day. My average earnings I calculate are between 14s. and 15s. a week all the year round. I get the best prices paid in London: there's no shop gives more than my master does. Many give as low as 2s. 6d. a pair for what I have 5s. 4d. for, but then the work put in is not the same. The boots are made to sell cheap at the lowest-price shops. Upon an average I think about 3s. 6d. or 4s. per pair is paid for closing boots at the middling shops. A man must work many hours at this work, at least six days in a week, to get even a living at it for himself and family. Oh dear, yes! I remember the trade having been much better. I remember when I was employed nine months - and full nine months - out of the year, and at better wages, too. I was going to say, the competition arising from the great number of French shops about London has been a good part of the means of making the wages of the working men less; that's my idea of it, and I know it's generally thought to be the case both by the men and the masters. Of course, every thing French is fashionable, and has a great run. The French shops in London never would pay the workmen equal wages to the respectable English shops; and what's more, they brought foreigners over to do their work, and they worked at much lower prices than we would. The foreigners, you see, had been accustomed to receive much less wages in France, and so they thought our wages very good when they first came among us. The consequence was, that they did the work at so low a price that some of our men were compelled to come down to the same terms. There is no French shop, even now, that gives the same price as the best class of English masters. Besides this, the French shops imported a great number of cheap boots, and this again reduced the quantity of work that our hands had been accustomed to do. All imported goods must do that. I can hardly ascertain how much the French shops reduced the wages of the English workman; but I can say that there's a great many foreigners here; but then there's English workmen in France, and I don't see how governments can restrict people from going and coming where they please. Forty years back I could get £2 a week for nine months in the year, working fifteen hours a day. The price then for closing was 7s. 8d. and 6s. 4d. a pair. But almost immediately after the peace the boot-and-shoe-making trade began to decline. Before that, however, we had lost the great part of the East and West Indian orders. Speculators established large manufactories out in - Madras, I think it was - and other parts of India; and after that the export trade was lost to our workpeople. A great number then were thrown out of work. The prices paid for closing, notwithstanding this, remained the same till 1830, in the respectable shops; after which time our wages fell more than 1s. per pair. Since then there has been a partial reduction, and now the wages have come down 2s. 4d. a pair at least; so that at present we only get 5s. 4d. for what we formerly had 7s. 8d. Had it not been for the French, the reduction, I think, would not have been so great. The Northampton people I don't suspect do as much harm to us as the Frenchmen, for they do keep some of our own people employed, although it is a long way off. The Frenchmen don't injure us so much as they used. The mischief is done now. I believe the reduction of wages in our trade is due chiefly to the superabundance of workmen; that is the real cause of our prices having gone down, because when men are scarce, or work is plentiful, they will have good wages. From the year 1798 our wages began to increase partly because the number of hands was decreased by the war, and partly because the foreign orders were much greater then than now. They continued rising from that year to 1812. I should say that a man could have earned 30s. a week in 1798, and £2 in 1812. The high price of provisions was one cause of the advance in our wages; but I believe the main cause was the increase of the work and the decrease of hands. Notwithstanding the high price of provisions a man could live much better then than now. If we were to return to the high prices, I don't believe our wages would rise a 6d., because the number of men and quantity of work would remain the same, or rather, 1 should say, the quantity of work would be lessened by the high price of the provisions - people would have less to lay out upon boots and shoes. The competition of the masters, I certainly think, has something to do with the reduction of our wages. The cause of the trade being so overstocked with hands is, I believe, due in a great measure to the increase of population. Every pair of feet that is born, certainly wants a pair of shoes; but unfortunately, as society is at present constituted, they cannot get them. The poor, you see, sir, increase at a greater rate than the rich. I think the increase of hands is due to so many workmen at other trades being displaced by machinery, which, you know, enables a master to get the same amount of work done with a smaller number of hands. Of course, fathers who work at the trades where machinery is introduced put their children to those in which no machinery is employed; and hence, I think, our trade has become so overstocked as it is. I know no particular instance of this - its merely an opinion, of course - but I should say the thing speaks for itself. Another cause of our trade becoming overstocked is the lowness of wages paid to the workmen. You see, formerly a man at our trade could earn by his own labour sufficient to keep himself, his wife, and his family in comparative comfort, without excessive labour. As I said before, he could earn £2 then where he can get £1 now; and the high price of provisions was not in proportion to the high price of his labour; that is to say, he could get many more comforts for his home than he can at this time, cheap as provisions may be. You see, many things - such as coals and rents - is about the same as they were at that time. The consequence of the reduction in the amount of his wages has been that he has been compelled to make all his family work at his own business - his wife - boys - girls and all must do something for what they eat. Again, each hand is obliged to do more work in order to get anything like a living at the trade; so that the reduction of wages has done perhaps more than all to overstock the trade with workmen. It has brought the work into a smaller circle of hands. Two single-handed men will do the work now of three, to obtain a living, working over-hours, and a man with his whole family does the work of pretty near four single men. I know this from my own knowledge. I am sure that it is the gradual reduction of the price of labour that compels each working man to do a greater amount of work than he did formerly, or than he would be likely to do were he better paid; and that it is which causes the labour market to be so over-stocked as it is. That is the principal cause of all; and I know several instances of this within the circle of my own acquaintance."
    Another boot-closer whom I saw assured me that he had dealt with his baker for fourteen or fifteen years, and he had never been able to get out of his debt lately. He had done it, he said, within a very little, but never entirely - the winter is so long, and the season so short, he added. As for a coat, he said, "Oh, God bless my soul, sir, I haven't bought one for this six or seven years. and my missus has not been able to purchase a gown for the same time; to do so out of my earnings now is impossible. If it wasn't for a cousin of mine that is in place, we shouldn't have a thing to our backs, and working for the best wages, too. I have a boy nine years old, and him I do manage, somehow or other, to give a bit of schooling. Had it not been for a benefit society of ours breaking up, and so parting the money in hand among the members, I shouldn't have been able to have found him the very clothes he has on now. I bought two suits with what I got, and paid my debts, and got my things out of pawn with the overplus. I get the best wages, working for one of the best shops. Wages have been going down ever since 1830. Before that time my wife attended to her domestic duties only. I was able to keep her and my family comfortably by my own labour. I was able to pay off my winter debts by my summer's work then. But ever since the reduction I have never been able to get clear. Since that period my wife has been obliged to work at shoe-binding, and my daughter as well; but though they both worked for me, still with their-two earnings and my own I made less than I could formerly by my own sole labour. I know of my own knowledge at least fifty whose whole families have been obliged to work at the trade in order to get a mere living at it since the reduction of wages; whereas, before that, the man alone was able to keep them all comfortable by his single earnings. In 1811 my uncle and myself used to make £6 and £7 a week between us at boot-closing, and this we could do up to 1815, and working only reasonable hours - from six in the morning to nine at night; but now I can make only 27s. a week in the season by my own labour, and work at the most unreasonable hours. My average wages are 14s. - and 1 don't believe they are that quite. Up to 1815 my average wages were at least £2 a week all the year round. Then the master used to cut out the tongues for the jockey-boots (they were a great deal worn then), and keep us going in the winter; for in the summer the shop was so full of work that the hands could scarcely get through it. My master used to give some of the men 5s. premium to get hands to work for him; but now the trade is so overstocked that in the summer there are many more hands than can do the work. My comforts have certainly not increased in proportion with the price of provisions. In 1811 to 1815 bread was very high - I think about 1s. 10?d. the best loaf - and I can say that I was much more comfortable then than at present. I had a meat dinner at that time every day, but now I'm days without seeing the sight of it. If provisions were not as cheap as they are now we should be starving outright; although now some of the masters are taking advantage of the cheap prices of food to reduce our wages still lower. What we shall come to shortly I don't know. I often ask myself that question, and the only answer I can find is - the workhouse. That is the only alternative for us if things go on as they have during these last twenty years. Within the last five years they have been getting much worse than ever."
    The shoeman to whom I was directed was a fine healthy-looking man, living in a nice airy room, round which hung engravings, well-framed, and not of a common description. Everything was comfortable and orderly, and told of successful industry.
    "I have been familiar with the trade of a shoeman, as apprentice and journeyman, for 29 years. I have been a journeyman in London 23 years. 1 remember great changes in the trade in that time. Several fashionable shops, carrying on a flourishing trade then, are now discontinued. Among them were Messrs. Meyer and Miller, King-street, St. James's. I worked for them - that was the first shop, indeed, that I worked for as a journeyman. They then employed forty men, and gave them good employment. The firm of Meyer and Miller was famous for its light work. I am a light shoeman. Some of the dress shoes of that day required great time, nicety, and skill in a workman. The edge of these shoes was not thicker than a 6d. - not with pump-soles, but with welts. Theodore Hook, sir, in one of his novels, talked of 'Meyer and Miller's thinnest;' they were as fine as paper, but would wear like whalebone; they were elastic, and would give to any pressure of the feet as a kid-glove does to the hand. 1 now do the same description of work for Mr. . But the dress shoes of the days I have spoken of are altogether Out of fashion. What is at present worn in the place of the old dress shoes is the Errol and spring prunella boots. The Errol boot is rather of the style of the old Blucher boot, tying in front on the instep, the trowsers being strapped down so as to cover the tie; they are made of prunella, and (generally) patent leather toes. The spring prunella boot is made of the finest prunella, in the form of a lady's boot, but without any opening at the side in the way of lacing or buttoning. Instead of that there are two India-rubber springs to each boot on the outside and inside of the foot, below the ankle, inserted into the prunella, in the way which may be best understood as a gore. They expand to any required extent, and when the pull is removed immediately collapse, so that the prunella sets close to the foot. These boots are made with heels to hold the straps of the trowsers, so that they cannot slip even in long-continued dancing. When I first knew the trade I received 5s. a pair for plain shoes (finding my own grindery - thread, bristles, paste, wax, ink, &c.); the 5s. was without extras. The extras were in proportion to the height of heel; but these extras were rare among us. Extras are much commoner among the bootmen. At that time I have earned 40s. a week at a very busy time, sometimes 35s.; but, take the year through, say an average of 27s., and that by my own labour too. This rate of earnings continued until August, 1830, when a great strike took place. When the strike was over, a lower rate of wages was agreed to, and my earnings were reduced about 5s. or 6s. a week. My average earnings now, however, I take to be 24s. a week the year through, because since spring prunella boots were in fashion at Court, and in aristocratic parties, I get rather more extras. I have always been fortunate, too, in having constant work. The wages for plain shoes are now 4s. 6d. (before 1830 they were 5s.); but the extras on a pair of spring prunellas are 2s. 6d. In Court dress, diamond buckles are now very rarely used; there may be some odd old gentlemen that do. Decidedly, as regards wages, the trade grows worse and worse. I attribute it to competition in the work that I am employed on - that of the highest class. I do not think the introduction of French-made boots was any depreciation. We now get up boots and shoes - I know it as a practical and experienced man - lighter and more elegantly than the French; besides that, they are made more firmly, and are consequently more durable in wear. As to our unions, starvation forces men out of union. A master offers to undersell his neighbours, and he does that through grinding down the workmen to starvation wages; and if the workman will not accept the starvation wages, he may starve outright - there is no alternative. Wages get worse and worse, and indeed masters' profits are lower, gentlemen run to lower-priced shops - to French masters and such like. "
    I next visited a pump-man , an intelligent, elderly person, who kept a small stationer's shop, and carried on his work as a pump-man as well:-
    "I have been familiar with the trade for forty years. Until the last ten years my average earnings, as my account-books show, were £90 a year, the years varying very little; now it's nothing scarcely. The wages were 5s. to 5s. 9d. for making a pair of gentlemen's pumps. The shop I worked for did not reduce their wages after the great strike in '30. About ten years ago work grew very slack, and has been very bad ever since; now there is hardly any employment for a journeyman pump-man of the best class. French pumpwork has caused this partly, partly a change in fashion, and partly competition, the little masters underselling the bigger masters. The wages for pumps that I now receive are from 3s. to 4s. 6d. a pair, according to the prices of the shop. But there is now no business to do; there is no work for a regular pump-man. I haven't earned 5s. at it for these three weeks. My principal trade now is making up slippers worked by ladies. Slippers are paid the same as pumps, from 3s. to 4s. 6d.,according to the shops. 10s. a week is as much as I can average now."
    1 now subjoin a statement of the accounts of the earnings of the men working at the different branches of the trade. They have all been calculated from the books of the men, who have kindly lent them to me for the purpose. It will be seen, on comparing them with the accounts of the earnings of the men in 1838 (as given in my last letter), that they are rather above than below the receipts at that period. It should, however, be remembered that the statements here quoted are those of isolated individuals, whereas those cited in my last were the returns of some hundreds pursuing the same branches of the trade. Moreover, all agree in asserting that the decline in the trade is exhibited more in the quantity of employment than the amount of wages paid; so that the earnings of men having a good seat of work, or regular employment, would hardly show any decrease. It is only in the trade generally that this could be found.


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1840 15 0 10 17 16 4 14 0 1  13 6 11  60 14 2
Average pr week 1 3 1? 1 7 5 1 1 6? 1 1 3? 1 3 4
1841 16 18 7 18 15 3 17 9 11 16 12 4 69 16 1
Average pr week 1 6 0 1 8 10? 1 6 11 1 5 6? 1 6 10
1842 16 19 0 20 3 7 17 7 5 15 4 3 69 14 3
Average pr week 1 6 0? 1 11 0? 1 6 8? 1 3 7 1 6 9?
1843 14 6 2 19 6 9 14 6 11 15 6 8 63 6 6
Average pr week 1 2 0 1 9 9 1 2 0? 1 3 7 1 4 4?


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1847 17 0 0 16 14 6 14 2 10 13 12 11 61 10 3
Average pr week 1 6 1? 1 5 8? 1 1 9 1 0 11? 1 3 7?
1848 14 0 7  16 2 5 14 4 7 15 1 3 59 8 10
Average pr week 1 1 7 1 4 9? 1 1 10?  1 3 2 1 2 10?
1849 11 7 2  17 18 4 13 12 1 12 5 10 55 3 5
Average pr week 0 17 5? 1 7 6 ? 1 0 11 0 18 11 1 1 2?


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1845 10 14 1 13 8 8 12 3 8 12 4 3 48 10 8
Average pr week 0 16 5? 1 0 8 0 18 9 0 18 9? 0 18 8
1846 11 7 2 11 1 9 12 2 4 11 16 0 46 7 3
Average pr week 0 17 5? 0 17 0? 0 18 7?  0 18 1? 0 17 10


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1848 10 0 0 12 10 0 12 8 6 8 1 3 42 19 9
Average pr week 0 15 4? 0 19 2? 0 19 1 ? 0 12 4? 0 16 6
1849 7 7 3 9 15 3 9 3 9 7 12 8 33 18 11
Average pr week 0 11 4 0 15 0? 0 14 1? 0 11 9 0 13 0?


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1816 16 1 6 11 8 5 15 8 10? 14 19 9 57 18 7?
Average pr week 1 4 8? 0 17 6? 1 3 9 1 3 0? 1 2 3?


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1849 7 14 0 15 6 1 12 19 6  12 2 8 48 2 8
Average pr week 0 11 10  1 3 6? 0 19 11? 0 18 8 0 16 6?


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1846 14 5 10 18 12 9 17 5 3 15 8 6 65 12 4
Average pr week 1 1 11? 1 8 8  1 6 6? 1 3 8? 1 5 2?
1847 14 2 5  17 1 1? 16 10 0? 16 2 9? 63 16 4?
Average pr week 1 1 7  1 6 3  1 5 4? 1 4 9? 1 4 6
1848 15 4 5 17 6 11 17 3 7? 14 16 9? 64 11 9
Average pr week 1 3 5 1 6 8 1 6 5 1 2 9? 1 4 10
1849 11 19 11? 15 17 7 15 19 1? 15 10 8 59 7 4
Average pr week 0 18 9? 1 4 3 1 4 3? 1 3 10 1 2 10


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1849 12 9 3 16 4 2 14 4 2 14 11 2 57 8 9
Average pr week 0 19 2 1 4 11? 1 1 10? 1 2 4? 1 2 1


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1845 12 13 0 19 1 5 11 15 10 10 4 8 53 14 11
Average pr week 0 19 5? 1 9 4 0 18 1? 0 15 9  1 0 8
1846 11 5 3 16 8 4 13 17 11 12 4 11 53 16 5
Average pr week 0 17 4  1 5 3 1 1 4? 0 18 10 1 0 8?
1847 13 18 9 19 5 6 16 1 7  15 0 8 64 6 6
Average pr week 1 1 5? 1 9 7? 1 4 8? 1 3 1? 1 4 8?
1848 12 16 0 20 1 0 18 0 1 13 12 11 64 10 0
Average pr week 0 19 8? 1 10 10  1 7 8? 1 1 0 1 4 9?

    It now only remains for me to give the statements of the City or East-end division of the trade. As a means of connecting the one division with the other, I cannot do better than cite the following interesting narrative of two of the principal strikes in the trade, especially as that which occurred in 1812 was not only the means of separating the City from the West-end Society, but also the cause of the introduction of the cheap Northampton boots into the London market. It is only necessary that I should add, the following account is from the pen of one of the more intelligent of the working men: - 
    "Limebeer's strike,
which took place in 1806 or 7 - I cannot say which - was a hard-fought battle, in which the workmen became eventually the victors, Limebeer was a master living near Bow Church, Cheapside - the shop in which he resided is a shoemaker's to this day. He wanted to reduce the wages of his workmen, and they struck the shop.' That there was not a general reduction attempted at that time, is proved by the strike having been limited principally to Limebeer's shop, as is evident from its being called by his name. If it had been otherwise, the strike would not have been so called. Limebeer took every advantage that his situation as a master gave him, backed by capital, and assisted by the strong arm of the law. He sent some of his men to Newgate, where they remained for a considerable time; but there they lived like fighting cocks, for the restrictions of prison dietary had not then come into fashion. They eat and drank, and made the dark walls of Newgate ring with the praises of Crispin, while their wives and families were liberally supported. Cuflin, then a crack prizeman' and afterwards an eminent master in Spur-street, Leicester-square, and Willy, afterwards a celebrated master in the Strand, whose shop was about where Exeter-hall now stands, had the supplying them with their daily rations. I remember some doggerel verses written on the occasion, which run- 
  "'Limebeer the matter will remember- 
    Cuflin supplied the belly timber:
    Lean they went in, but by my troth, sirs,
    As fat as bears from winter's quarters
    They all came out; while Limebeer's purse
    For his mad struggling felt the worse.'
Limebeer, in revenge, swore he would ruin the trade in toto, and with that design he invented the system of making boots and shoes with nails and screws. The struggle to perfect this reduced him almost to beggary, and was eventually the cause of his death. Some people said he died from grief, others that he died by his own hand; however, be that as it may, neither masters nor men were gainers by the strike. The next, or divisional strike, was more disastrous; this took place in 1812, and through it the West-end and City separated, and became two distinct bodies. This took place as follows: the trade came to a resolution to get rid of what was considered a great grievance both by many masters as well as their men, viz.: that some shops in the neighbourhood of high-rated shops, paid a very inferior rate of wages. After several meetings of the trade, they came to the resolution of striking up the low-rated shops' to a more equal statement, by demanding an advance of 6d. on boots and 4d. on shoes from all shops that paid under a certain rate. At the same time, that the trade should not be generally disturbed, they levied a ?ne of a guinea a man that should strike for an advance from any shop of the fair statement. Everything seemed to be going on fairly, and many masters concurred in the scheme, until the men of Mr. Humby's shop, which was reckoned among the first-rates, struck for the 6d. advance. This set the whole trade in a flame. General meetings were called. and the unanimous voice of the trade came to the resolution of enforcing the guinea fine against each of Humby's men. They resisted, and the trade sent a deputation to the master, who hesitated, he not being in a condition to have his shop disturbed at the time. While matters were in this position, Hoby's men, to screen Humby's men, with whom they were leagued, struck for the advance, and gained it, so that the whole trade was thrown into confusion. Meeting after meeting was called daily, and every resource of the trade drained to bear the expenses of them. The society sent the men on strike into the country, and paid the families of the men who left home a fair subsistence money. The daily meetings were continued, and resolutions agreed to one day were rescinded the next. All was in confusion. The City men accused the West-end with being the cause, and the West-end men were glad to have a reason for quarrelling, and wished for separation. The masters formed themselves into a coalition, appointed an acting committee, and bound themselves by rules to support each other by undertaking that each shop should do the other's work in cases of emergency. Such masters as were found out, or even supposed to have done so, were immediately struck; so that there were but few shops but what were in confusion. The masters met at the Crown and Anchor. Other high-wages shops then struck, and the cry out for the division of the East and West end trade became more violent; and on a division at a general meeting called for the purpose, it was resolved by a large majority in their favour. The masters, too, were combined against the men, while they were thus broken up and divided. Several masters, not being able to get their work made in town,cut it out and sent it to Northampton and other parts of the country to be manufactured, resolving on a general reduction; while others had their export orders executed in the country, and the men left town and made the work at a far greater reduction of wages than were offered in the lowest-rated shops in town. Warehouses for the sale of the country work were then opened in many parts of the metropolis, while merchants gave their export orders to Northampton, so that the trade was lost to both masters and men, and though nearly 43 years have passed since that period the trade has never recovered the blow it then struck against its own prosperity. Thus, through this foolish system and petty quarrelling, confidence has been lost, wages depressed, the trade scattered, and a slop article forced on the consumer, whose manufacture robs the purchaser of his money, while it starves the manufacturer and his family, spreading misery and want, which spreads eventually from one branch of the community to another, for one cannot suffer without all bearing a part in the evil. Before the strike of 1812 no Northampton goods had been introduced into London, and all boots and shoes exported from London were made in the metropolis up to that time. But after that period the sale of Northampton goods became general, and they have done more harm to the trade than the reduction on the French work. Wages have been on the decline ever since then."
    The number of members belonging to the City or Eastern Division of the Associated Boot and Shoe Makers fluctuates between 500 and 600; the number increasing in the spring of each year, according as the trade grows busier, and remaining high until the autumn, when the trade begins to fall away, and the men who had come to town for the season return to the country.
An East-end bootman, who was employed in one of the best shops in the City (as regards the amount of wages given, and the regularity of employment), stated his average earnings for all the year round at 17s. a week. This, however, will be seen, by the accounts given below to be less than the ordinary receipts of his class. He is what is called fully employed at from 5s. 6d. to 6s. for the ground work. The chief extras in the best shops in the City are - for clump soles, 1s.; middle soles, 6d. to 9d.; sockets, 9d. to 1s.; 1 ?-inch heels, 3d. to 6d. Some masters pay 5s. 9d. to 6s. 9d. for Wellingtons, including high heels (any height), channel waists, and bevelled edges. This, it must be understood, is the statement of one of the best- employed workmen. At the time of the change in the tariff in 1842, the average earnings of a City bootman were returned at 15s. Now work is slacker, trade being very dull at present; and from the concurrent testimony I got, the average earnings of bootmen are considerably below that amount. The employment is very irregular; some men getting only one, some two, and some three pairs a week.
    The best East-end boot-closers working for the best shops earn on the average 15s. a week. This is the average for what is called "a single-handed closer," that is, a man who works by himself. It is far more common in the City than in the West-end for closers to work double, or treble, or more "handed," that is, with the help of apprentices, wives, and children; of course, their earnings depend upon the number of hands they can employ, the price varying from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. per pair. The closer, however, has this advantage over the maker - a master will sometimes keep on several bootmen, or shoemen, with perhaps two closers.
The best East-end shoemen (not strictly shoemen, but making button-boots) do not earn at present 10s. a week on the average.
    As to the changes which have taken place in the City trade, I had the following statement from an intelligent man: "From the strike in 1825, which was confined to the City, to 1838, there was but little change in the wages paid to the workmen, the change in the tariff in 1833 not affecting the wages, but we were obliged to change more to the French style of boot making, which involved much greater labour. In 1838 there was another strike, called the Coronation Strike, because taking place at the period her Majesty was crowned. The object was this - to bring up the lower-priced shops, paying 5s. for new boots, to 6s. (with extras), so approaching the amount paid by the best employers, and the shoes from 3s. to 3s. 6d. The masters, after a very slight opposition, gave way, the best shops being benefited by the change, because one means of their being undersold was checked, however slightly. These masters went cordially with the men to forward this new arrangement, but a portion of the masters combined to destroy the power and uses of the union, and partially succeeded. The more honourable part of these combining masters, however, did not reduce their wages to any extent, but some knocked off trifling extras. The other portion, whom we call dishonourable, endeavoured at this time to reduce the wages, as well as resist the very reasonable strike for an advance. The reduction then contemplated by such masters has been gradually effected since by taking off allowances for extras, and introducing what is called 'shop work,' which, they said, was to compete with the French. This 'shop work,' so to compete, they stated, could not be paid at the rate of 'bespoke' work; and they took care, at the same time, to insist upon even better work, and all the extras, and that on a reduction in the prices to the journeymen (closers and makers) of from 2s. 6d. to 3s. per pair. Their success in partially breaking the power of the union, of which I have told you, enabled them readily to effect this reduction, to the injury of the masters who kept faith honourably with the men. This was accomplished by degrees, but not fully until after the change in the tariff of 1842, which led people to think of French boots, and a taste for French boots sprung up; but I think that our superior skill is superseding it. At first, in effecting these low wages for 'shop work', it was agreed that the Northampton style should be the standard - that is, blind seats (the same as in shoe heels), with moderate heels (7/8 inch), and welted waists (the part that fits the hollow of the foot). In time, however, these masters insisted, and succeeded in their demand, in getting all the extras put to a boot without one farthing extra to closer or maker. At first, too, these 'shop-work' employers undertook to give not less than three pairs out at a time, but that rule they have broken, and they now give one pair, and those I have good reason to believe are often bespoke. I know some who pay 4s. 6d. for closing glazed boots,' the regular price in the City being from 6s. to 7s. They are given out by dozens of pairs, and are done chiefly by having boys to put the stitches in. This can be done only in closing. All this, mind you, is greatly to the injury of our most honourable employers; and since the practice of shop-work' has been adopted, the competition is so strong, that I fear, without an understanding between the best employers and the unions, the 'dishonourable' masters will effect the ruin of the others. Many good employers, indeed, have been long suffering a decline in their business, owing to the measures I have described. The great plea for the reduction in wages and the introduction in wages and the introduction of 'shop work' was to compete with the French, as French boots were admitted at such a reduced duty. The reducing masters could not say that the lowness of provisions enabled men to work for less, as in 1841(1 think it was) bread and meat were very dear, and so they have been sometimes since. Two winters ago the shoemakers were literally starving. This is the way: if provisions were double in price next week, I don't think any masters would increase their wages. I know they would not, they never do; but when provisions are cheap, masters will oft enough strive to reduce wages. In 'panics' I have always found trade very bad in the City; and indeed we have suffered much for want of good employment these three or four years. I will explain to you the advantages of the unions to masters as well as to men. When all masters agree to a society's statement of wages any attempt at a reduction makes us withdraw society men from a master making such an attempt. By that means we compel him to employ inferior workmen - the best workmen are in union - and so prevent that competition with the best made articles which are now, by some masters breaking through the system of the union, brought into ruinous competition with honourable tradesmen, at starvation wages to the men. I think this would be a remedy - to frame laws for masters and men in union, to pay and receive fixed wages in certain districts - to be called first, second, and third class - each to guarantee that no one class should encroach on the rules regulating the others. That might stop all strikes and disagreements, and tend to a well- regulated system, keeping out the mere 'scab shops' that go for starvation wages, driving them into the hands of only the worst workmen; and so preventing the existent competition."

Henry Mayhew, letters to the Morning Chronicle, 1849-1850