Ralph Mills

Objects of Delight

Images in words


This section is intended as a "reader", an anthology or collection of text fragments together with a few complete pieces of writing, sourced mostly from the popular media of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. It includes fuller versions of texts referred to in the body of my thesis, but others stand alone. Many are quirky and enjoyable, some amusing, some disturbing, a few mundane. All cast a little more light on the thinking of my target population(s), what they did and how they thought. Here you will find newspaper copy "fillers", poems, brief snatches of longer fictions, news stories, commentary, opinion and bombast. Some writers are sympathetic, others scornful, some bigoted, others comic, many romantic. There are jokes, some of which I don't understand. There are frequent references to people and events that have been forgotten.

We are told a little more about how "images" were made and sold, how they were regarded, where they went. We learn how journalists, magazine writers, poets and ordinary people regarded "images" and "image-sellers". Writers identify and comment on the figures that were sold throughout the century.

A significant number of fragments were extracted from newspapers accessed through the Chronicling America database maintained by the US Library of Congress. I also accessed the Trove archive of Australian newspapers and the British Library newspaper archive. These consist of word-searchable scans of surviving examples of each country's news media. Because the archives are necessarily incomplete, the texts necessarily form a fairly random sample of material that was published across the US in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Other extracts are from contemporary novels and travel writings.

Many of the smaller newspapers used material from other titles, usually larger publications. In this survey, I have not traced the articles back to those originals, both because of time constraints and because the original may no longer exist, or may not yet be digitised.

Original grammar and punctuation, as well as North American spelling are retained as far as possible. Em dashes (—) were more frequently utilised in the nineteenth century than today, sometimes adjacent to commas or full stops. The shorter pieces were often inserted as "fillers" and many lacked headings. The newspapers of the time rarely had page numbers, and if present they are omitted in this reader for reasons of time. The date in the heading is the date of publication—the texts sometimes refer to events in the distant past. Plaster of Paris appears in several forms, including plaster Paris [sic], and plaster-of-paris. Shakespeare is sometimes spelled Shakspeare. A few words have presented so far unsolved challenges (for example, although I know what "tinpot" means, what is "classic Tinpot"?). Translations from Italian and French are my own clumsy efforts and are included for information rather than linguistic excellence. A list of key words follows each fragment.

Fuser Simulacrorum: 1770

…that besides carrying on the Stone Cutting Business as usual, he carries on the Art and Manufacture of a Fuser Simulacrorum, or the making of all sorts of Images, viz., Kings and Queens; 2nd. King George & Queen Charlotte1; 3rd. King & Queen of Prussia2; 4th. King & Queen of Denmark3; 5th. King & Queen of Sweden4. Likewise a Number of Busts, among which are, Mathew Prior5, Homer, Milton, &c. — also a number of animals such as Parrots, Dogs, Lions, Sheep, with a number of others too many to enumerate: — Said Geyer6 also cleans old deficient Animals, and makes them look as well as new, at reasonable Rate. All the above-mentioned Images, Animals, &c. are made of Plaister of Paris of this Country Produce, and Manufactured at a reasonable Rate.

(Henry Geyer, Allis 1941)

Cat and parrot: 1804

ITALIA's sun-burnt native here
Does to your view display
His curious imitative ware,
With gold and colours gay.
The cat and parrot here he shows,
The poet and the priest,
With soldiers, sailors, belles and beaus,
And many a nameless beast.
Edward and Tommy gazing stand,
And each the show admires;
While puss is borne on Kitty's hand,
And Jane her bird admires.

(Harris 1804, 28)
[Key words: Italian; colours; cat; parrot; poet; priest; soldiers; sailors]

Prelude: 1805

The Italian, as he thrids his way with care,
Steadying, far-seen, a frame of images
Upon his head; with basket at his breast

(Wordsworth, 1805)
[Key words: Italian; images; basket]

A stone from Nova Scotia: 1808

This man, although his business is not so useful or necessary as some others, yet strives to please by presenting a variety of images, or representations of animals, which he carried around to sell. This is his way to get a living. They are made of plaster of Paris, which is a kind of stone that abounds at Nova-Scotia7.

(Wood? 1808, 37).
[Key words: images; animals; plaster of Paris]

Buy my images: before 1810


Come buy my image earthenware,
Your mantel pieces to bedeck,
Examine them with greatest care,
You will not find a single speck.

(Hindley 1881, 287)
[Key words: cry; images; mantelpiece]

Pity a stranger: 1826

O, YE who can feel for the offspring of grief,
Give ear to an alien, that sues for relief,
From the cravings of hunger and outcast defend,
Bereft of a parent, relation or friend:
Pity, pity a stranger, debarred of all joy,
A destitute, wandering Italian Boy.

A poor distressed foreigner crawls about here;
His hope and dependence for lodging and bread,
The image, "fine image," he bears on his head:
Pity, pity a stranger, debarred of all joy,
A destitute, wandering Italian Boy.

"What matters," he cries, "all the grandeur I see?
The world is a desart and winter to me;
To scorn and reproach, I am doomed to appear,
No shield, no protector to succour me here.
Pity, pity a stranger, debarred of all joy,
A destitute, wandering Italian Boy."

Ye Britons, with freedom for ages renowned,
With beauty and unrivalled, and valour-deeds crowned,
Give ear to a foreigner's sorrowful strain,
And snatch him from misery, insult, and pain.
Pity, pity a stranger, debarred of all joy,
A destitute, wandering Italian Boy.

(Upton 1826, 3) [Key words: Italian; boy; image; destitution; cry]

Venus in a petticoat: 1827

Monday, Andrea Giannone, an Italian, was charged by the street keeper of Walbrook ward with having offended against the public morals.—the street keeper said the prisoner had been about the ward offering "that there image for sale," (exhibiting to his Lordship the plaster cast of a sleeping Venus8), which he (the street-keeper) considered "indecent, not to say indelicate;" and he thought in his duty to take him in custody. Chief Clerk—I suppose persons of the street-keeper's delicacy will shortly seize our Apollo Belvedere (alluding to a full-sized cast of that statue, recently placed in the most conspicuous part of the Egyptian hall9 by the Corporation Committee of Taste), and break it to pieces, to prove the superior purity of their ideas. The Lord Mayor (to the prisoner).—What have you got to say for yourself? The Italian, who appeared not to understand English, looked at the street-keeper, and laughed, as if in derision at him. The Lord Mayor.—Oh, Sir, it is no laughing matter, I do assure you. I do not mind letting you go this time, but if you were caught here again, you will be punished for it. Mr Hobler (to the officers).—Make him understand that he must not come again into the City, unless he puts petticoats on his figures. All the taste is on the other side of Temple Bar, where he must keep. The Italian went away laughing.

(The Examiner, November 4th 1827)
[Key words: Italian; image; plaster cast; Venus; Apollo Belvedere; London; Temple Bar; City; Lord Mayor; court; censorship; indecency]

Cover her tail: 1827


(From the Morning Chronicle)

Says the Lord Mayor10, "Giannone,
You're a sad Macaroni11,
A subject of Boney12,
Described as the Beast by St John13:
From indecency screen us—
Go, shut up that Venus;
She hasn't a rag to put on!
Pray, buy her a veil,
To cover her tail—
The heathenish wench may be pretty;
But unless she thinks best
To have herself drest,
Hang me if she comes in the City."

(The Examiner, November 4th 1827) [Key words: Italian; Bonaparte; Venus; censorship; humour; indecency]

Considerable merit: 1828

Mr HOLMES14 has four pictures; all of which possess considerable merit, and are executed with that force, delicacy, and effect, for which this artist is so greatly distinguished. His most conspicuous and best picture, is that of an Italian Image Seller, whose tray of images has been thrown down by a little urchin, who is seen in the background, endeavouring to make his escape. The poor fellow is exclaiming, "Oime15, Santa Maria!" while at his feet lies his stock in trade of Wellingtons, Paul Prys16, Buonapartes, Apollos, and candlesticks. The expression of utter despair in his countenance is admirably portrayed. In other parts of the picture there is much spirit and humour. In colouring it is rich and judicious.

The miniature sketch of the infant Samuel…is one of the sweetest and most delicately painted morsels we have ever seen.

(Wesley and Davis 1828,190)
[Key words: Italian; image-seller; tray; images; destruction; urchin; Wellington; Paul Pry; Bonaparte, Apollo; candlesticks; infant Samuel]

Old Bailey: 1828

Thursday — John Young was indicted for stealing a miniature statue of Lysippus17, from the house of Mr Bailey, the sculptor, Percy Street, Rathbone place. —From the evidence of Mr Bailey, it appeared that the prisoner had been employed as a workman in his service for some time; but after staying five months with him, he was discharged. Shortly after the statue in question was missed, and it was one to which the prosecutor attached great value, from the circumstance of it being supposed to be executed in the time of Pericles18, which would make it about 2,700 years old. —On search being made at the prisoner's lodgings, his wife endeavoured to conceal the figure, which was standing on the mantelpiece, from the officer who made the search; and in addition to that property of Mr Bailey, several tools and implements for sculpture, also belonging to the prosecutor, were found in the prisoner's lodgings. A good deal of curiosity was exhibited on the production of the statue, which was not above four or five inches long, and was composed of bronze. Mr Phillips, who is the wit of the court, made the discovery that it was very little for its age. In defence, the prisoner said that he had found the statue lying among some rubbish in the mews near Mr Baileys; and he had taken it home to give to his children to play with. The prisoner received a good character, but the jury found him guilty.

(The Examiner, April 13th, 1828) [Key words: crime; Lysippus; fake; miniature; figurine; Pericles; mantelpiece; bronze; court; humour]

Overdoing it: 1829

It happened some time ago, that a lady, living not one hundred miles from "the second city in the kingdom19," had hired a servant, a plain well-meaning, though rather ignorant, country girl. The mistress taking her new handmade on a initiating tour through the house, led her into the drawing room, and told her, that she should expect her to be particularly careful in keeping clean sundry composition20 ornaments, which decorated the mantelpiece. The obedient servant determined not to forget the admonition, and also resolved upon giving a specimen of her superior cleanliness. The next morning, having wiped off the dust from these objects of her care, she observed that they retained a yellowish tinge, which she attributed to the carelessness of her predecessor, and that she immediately set about removing. Imagining that an immersion in the pure element would prepare them for the final process [of] purification, she placed them at the bottom of a bottle of water, and left them until its softening influence should render the dusty particles less adhesive. But, alas! the nature of the composition would not sustain the ordeal to which they were subjected, and on the poor girl going to finish her work of renovation, she found, that like "the baseless fabric of a pageant faded21," the artist's work had dissolved, and left but an unshaped sediment behind. This accident, which is a fact, should impress the necessity in giving instructions, to adapt them so far to the knowledge and understanding of those to whom they are addressed, that under a well meant endeavour to do their duty, they may not commit some irremediable mistake. York Courant.

(The Sheffield Independent, and Yorkshire and Derbyshire Advertiser, July 25 1829)
[Key words: ornaments; composition; humour]

The Italian Itinerant: 1830

NOW that the farewell tear is dried,
Heaven prosper thee, be hope thy guide
Hope be thy guide, adventurous Boy;
The wages of thy travel, joy!
Whether for London bound—to trill
Thy mountain notes with simple skill;
Or on thy head to poise a show
Of Images in seemly row;
The graceful form of milk-white Steed22,
Or Bird that soared with Ganymede23;
Or through our hamlets thou wilt bear
The sightless Milton, with his hair
Around his placid temples curled24;
And Shakspeare at his side—a freight,
If clay could think and mind were weight,
For him who bore the world!

(Wordsworth 1830)
[Key words: Italian; boy; tray; London; images; Pegasus; Ganymede; Milton; Shakespeare; Atlas]

The Italian Image-Boy: 1830

Yonder black eyed, sun-burnt urchin is too diminutive to be Atlas carrying the heavens on his shoulders; but I am strongly tempted to suspect that it is his youngest son, whom, in imitation of his fathers orbiferous exploit, has popped Mount Olympus upon his head, and walked fairly off with it. The rogue has not had time to purloin the woods, caves, and grottos; but he has made a sweeping abduction of the celestials who haunted its summit, and constituted the court of Jupiter. There they are, owing their immortality, immortals though they be, to these plaster casts, —the most delightful of all inventions, the printing of sculpture, which, diffusing and perpetuating the glorious works of Phineas and Praxiteles, enables us to place celestials upon our shelves, to set up a gallery, and keep a Mount Olympus of our own, at the expense of a few shillings. An Image Boy is the last lingering remnant of Paganism. Heavens! What a train of classical association streams from his various figures, elevating and spiritualising the very air as he walks along! His board is a moving world, carrying its own atmosphere of thought with it,—ay, and of sweet and profitable thought too, for is it not pleasant to reflect how the imaginative and the beautiful, yielding a perpetual source of delight to their admirers of all ages and religions, survive the mythology that first called them into being;—how the perishable marble, renewed by still more fragile plaster, preserves the memory of the defunct immortal that it represents;— how the diversity of genius in a human artist may make a celestial indebted to his endurance to a mortal?


You must surely remember, reader, unless the mother of the Muses have deserted you, that a few years ago our English modellers carried about an wretched collection of painted plaster dolls, lions, monsters, shapeless allegorical nondescripts, with here and there a sprawling whole-length cross-legged Milton or Shakespeare stiffly leaning over a tablet on which was inscribed an extract from their respective works.


"Buy any image! Buy any image." Oh! Here comes the boy again; So that if the reader be unprovided, he may now supply himself. There are several other busts, you see, besides those we have mentioned. Our itinerant has as many heads as a Hydra. Byron is there with his scornful lip, who having sung the beauties and the wrongs of Greece, and died upon her soil, seems to be not inappropriately placed amidst her poets and divinities, and the masterpieces of her ancient sculptors, to whom we have been indebted for those heads of Homer, Socrates, and Sappho. Mingled not incongruously with the latter, — for genius and benevolence being kindred and cognate wherever they are to be found, are of no age, no country, or rather of all, forming an illustrious brotherhood together,—you may perceive the bust of Canning, the enlightened statesman;—Franklin, the American philosopher;—of Voltaire, the witty and the naughty, but ever the amusing satirist. Our Image Boy is impartial. Provided his heads be popular, he cares not whose they are, nor whence they come. His board is a sort of Pantheon for the divine minds, the intellectual heroes and demigods, the inheritors of fame of every clime and epoch.


But I must pay and dismiss our Image Boy, or I shall moralize him into more fancies than ever Jaques did the wounded stag25. — What is your name, friend?— Nasoni26, Signor. —I thought as much: a descendent, I doubt not, of the political exile of Tomos27, for you he wears the hereditary nose, though he may have dropped the family name of Ovid. The gods and goddesses whom his industrious ancestor carried in his head, the juvenile descendant carries on his head. What a new fund of associations! And what a pity that I have neither time to follow them up!— There is your money friend, and I pray thee to be gone quickly, I shall buy and scribble about thee and thy figures until we have neither of us an image left.

(Smith 1830, 12-27)
[Key words: Italian; image-seller; boy; images; plaster; dolls; lions; monsters, Milton; Shakespeare; Byron Greece; Homer; Socrates; Sappho; Canning; Franklin; Voltaire; pantheon]

Madame Vestris's legs: 1831

VESTRIS'S LEGS.—Thomas Papera was indicted on Tuesday for stealing a variety of casts in plaster of Paris, value 2s. 6d., the property of James Millett Papera and partner. The principal article alleged to be stolen was a cast of Madame Vestris's leg28. The evidence not being sufficient to support the charge, the prisoner was acquitted.

(The Spectator, February 26th 1831, 13)
[Key words: Papera; plaster; Madame Vestris; leg; crime; court]

[Henry Heath: Etching with hand-colouring 1831, Figure A2.4]

The interior of a modeller's studio or storehouse, with many plaster casts, some from the antique. They include a huge torso, a goat, a Venus, and busts. An elderly and grotesquely ugly man, in old-fashioned dress, with a rat-tail queue and Hessian boots, stands in profile to the right, leaning on his cane. He inspects through a lorgnette, grinning pruriently, casts of a pair of woman's legs (those of Mme Vestris). He says: 'Beautiful! beautiful! no doubt equal to the Originals, but the Pair would be too much for me.—I wish some kind friend would divide them with me'. Below the design:

Oh Cunning P.—thou'rt perfect Master,
Of taking forms in Paris Plaister:
And woe unto the Man betide,
Who would such legs as these divide!
Sweet M—d—m V—29 would soon discover,
If you sold one without the Other!

(British Museum catalogue description)
[Key words: Madam Vestris; legs; Venus; plaster of Paris; humour; satire]

Body snatching: 1831

On Saturday, another case of the above description came to light, and created an indescribable sensation throughout London. Four fellows, of body snatching notoriety, named May, Bishop, Williams, and Shean, offered the body of a lad for sale at King's College; but the freshness of the body, and a severe wound over one of the eyes, gave rise to suspicion, which, after a good deal of manoeuvring, ended in the apprehension of the 4 ruffians. The corpse has since been ascertained to be that of an Italian image boy, who had for several weeks rambled about the streets almost destitute, his master having left England in September last. It was recognised by a great many persons. A post mortem examination was taken on the following day, before 4 medical gentlemen, who came to the conclusion, that "the appearance of the eyes, lips, and wound on the head, all clearly proved that the boy came to his death by violence. He was apparently about 12 years of age, and had previously been in a good state of health." The prisoners, who said they had got the body from Guy's Hospital, underwent examinations on Saturday and Monday, and were remanded till Wednesday, to await the results of the coroner's inquest30.

(Newcastle Courant, November 12th 1831)
[Key words: Italian; image boy; master; body snatching; crime]

The ghost of Napoleon: 1832

At the Mansion-house, on Saturday, M. Pierre De Bois, a French gentleman, who resides in Chambers in Leadenhall-street, was summoned before the Lord Mayor for beating Rafoel Spaglietti, an image-seller, and breaking a very fine bust of Napoleon Buonaparte. It appeared that the Italian went up stairs to the defendant's room door, at the top of which there was glass; he raised up the head of the image, which was made of pale clay, to the glass, and said softly, "buy my ghost of Napoleon." M. De Bois, who had known the Emperor, thought he saw his ghost, and exclaiming, "Oh, Christ, save us!" fell on the floor in a fit. The Italian, seeing no chance of a sale that day, went away, and returned the next. M. De Bois, in the meantime, having recovered from his fit, and hearing how his terror had been excited, felt so indignant, the moment he saw Spaglietti at his door the next day he flew at him, and tumbled him and the Emperor down stairs together. It happened that a confectioner's man was at that moment coming up stairs with a giblet pie, to a Mr. Wilson, who resided in the Chambers, and the Emperor and Italian, in their descent, alighted on his tray, which broke their fall, and saved the Italian's head, but could not save Napoleon's, which was totally destroyed: the giblet pie also suffered so much from the collision, that Mr. Wilson refused to have anything to do with it. After a good deal of explanation amongst the parties, and a good deal of laughter amongst the auditors, M. De Bois agreed to pay for the pie, and Mr. Wilson generously paid for the loss of the Emperor.

(The Morning Chronicle, January 16th 1832)
[Key words: Italian; image-seller; Napoleon; bust; humour; crime; court]

Wandering Italians: 1833

The attention of most of our readers must have been excited by the poor Italian boys that frequent our streets, selling images, playing organs, or exhibiting monkeys, land tortoises, and white mice. This numerous class is found, and generally in greater numbers than with us, in France, in Germany, even in Russia, and in other continental countries. They are not less remarkable on account of their dark expressive countenances, and picturesque appearance, then from their quiet, inoffensive conduct. It is very rare to find in any one of the many countries to which these wanderers repair, a single proof of a crime or serious offence of any kind committed by them. This is a circumstance them the more to be wondered that, as they for the most part leave their homes in very tender years, are frequently exposed to the privations and temptations of extreme poverty. Those among them who are venders of images, by selling for a few pence the plaster busts of great men and casts from ancient works of art, may pretend to the dignity of traders, and even have the merit of improving and propagating a taste for the fine arts […] As a body, if they are to be held as vagrants, they must be considered as the most inoffensive and amusing of vagrants.

The venders of images come almost without exception from the territory of Lucca, in Tuscany, not many miles from Florence. The way in which their company is formed is this: — one, or sometimes two men, who possess the art of casting figures in moulds, propose a campaign; and having collected a number of poor boys, of whom they become the captains, leave their native valley and cross the Apennines and the Alps marching in a little corps of ten, twelve, or fifteen. […] Their moulds or forms, with a few tools, had been despatched before them by the wagon to Chambery, the capital city of Savoy, where they proposed to make their first sojourn. They find the plaster and other simple materials requisite for the formation of their figures, in nearly every large town to which they go; and they never fix their quarters for any length of time, excepting in large towns. On arriving, therefore, at Chambery, the artist, or the principal of this company, having received his moulds, would set to work, despatching the boys who were with him through the city and the little towns and villages in the neighbourhood, to sell the figures which he could rapidly make. When the distance permitted, these boys would return at night with the fruits of the day's sale to their master, who lodged and fed them; but it would often happen, when they took a wider range among the mountains and valleys of Savoy, they would be absent for several days, under which circumstances they would themselves purchased their cheap food and shelter out of the money they might obtain for the goods they disposed of. When the market became languid in and about Chambery; the master would pack off his moulds and tools for Geneva, and follow them on foot with his little troop, each of whom would carry some few figures to sell at the towns and villages on the road to that city. At Geneva, he would do as he had done at Chambery; and when that neighbourhood was supposed to be supplied, he would transfer himself and his assistants in the same way to some other place.

(Anon 1833, 42).
[Key words: Italian; boys; images; France; Germany; Russia; behaviour; poverty; plaster; busts; taste; education; art]

Good likenesses: 1834

Antonio Caracel, an Italian image-hawker, charged a cab-driver with having committed wholesale destruction upon his stock in trade, consisting of a great number of Napoleon's and Wellington's head, and the heads of others who were illustrious in other respects.

The complainant stated that the public patronised him considerably in consequence of his general display of good likenesses, and that so sure as a customer bought the head of one warrior, so sure did the purchase of the head of the other follow. This was particularly the case in the city. Having received an order, he was walking along with about thirty heads on his shoulders, when the cabman, pretending to whip his horses, sent his lash in amongst them, and whipped them all off, as if he had been a common executioner. The cabman then, with characteristic good-feeling, whipped his horses most violently; but the indignation of the store-keeper, who witnessed the transaction, prevented him from whipping himself off. The defendant said that he had calculated injudiciously upon the length of his whip in laying on upon his horses, and accidentally displaced the heads. He really meant no harm to the poor Italian, and was very sorry for the accident. The complainant said that if the cabman consented to pay him for the actual money he was out of pocket, he should be convinced the affair was a mere accident; but that if no recompense was offered it would certainly bear all the symptoms of wilfulness, and ought to be punished accordingly.

The Lord Mayor approved of this view of the case, and advised the cabman to avoid a greater difficulty, by subscribing to the proposed terms. The defendant said that business was very indifferent indeed, or he would pay the image seller at once. He should, however, endeavour to let him have the amount of the loss, which the poor foreigner estimated at 20 shillings, at the rate of threepence a week.

The Lord Mayor admired this modest and liberals proposition; but said the cabman must pay two shillings a week or go to prison.

The defendant, in order to avoid the more severe alternative, consented to the arrangement; and his Lordship set up the Italian in trade up on the spot, upon the promise of the latter to refund on being remunerated by the driver.

(The Morning Chronicle, June 19th 1834) (London)
[Key words: Italian image; hawker; Napoleon; Wellington; value]

Buy images: 1834

[Leigh Hunt] 'Buy images!' Who ever hears the cry now-a-days without turning to the moving miniature sculpture gallery, and looking upwards to discover what new treasure of old art has been rendered accessible to eye and pocket? And again when the collection has been thoroughly scanned, who does not turn to the itinerant Italian boy to read in his eyes that lesson so are necessary to be studied in an age when an Archbishop refuses sanctuary to the remains of a musical composer, and a magistrate a license to a theatre, — that a thorough appreciation of art of every kind is one of the surest safeguards of the spirituality of people. Look at the faces of the Italian boys; watch their glances of expressive admiration— nay, affection—for the objects of their occupation; hear their eloquent description of the different works of art with which they are familiar; and then compare them with the ragged urchins who infest your gates, with thievish eye and harsh voices, crying 'h-a-arth-stone!' till your 'hearthstone' is no longer a place of quiet refuge,— and in that contrast you will have the whole difference between the marble of the sculptor and the rough stone of the quarry, a nation with or without the influence of the master—spirit which lives and breathes throughout the creations of glorious art. How many of these sun-tinted dark-eyed wanderers from the south have we not encountered, all with some individual charm, some touch of spirit to animate their clay, as the soul of the sculptor had animated the forms with which their pursuit had made them acquainted. One would sing Venetian barcarolles, another recite portions of the 'Gierusalemme Liberata31,' in no very precise Italian, be it confessed; but when a copy was handed to him, he has gone over stanza after stanza, rapidly turning the leaves, until his eye caught and kindled at some old known favourite, and he has wrapped himself up with the book in a state of unconscious enthusiasm, till the close of the admired passage has brought in back to himself. There was one whom we remember from amongst many others, who stands out more vividly than the rest. He came one early autumn morning; there had been a heavy rain that had afterwards cleared off to make the remaining day brighter from the contrast. The sun came out, and birds began to sing, and the blue of the sky was deep and clear, and soon there came a voice to match it, sounding down the grove, 'buy images!'— a cry never disregarded—and the travelling artist was stopped, and he bent his head, with its weight of white beauties, beneath the laburnum tree that overarched the gateway, and came smiling at the gravel path, and rested them upon the iron palisades of the stone steps. He was freshly complexioned, a thing unusual to boys of his class and country…

(The Monthly Repository 1834, 756)
[Key words: Italian; boys; art; cry]

The Irish Image-Man: 1835

Who will buy a bronze image?
A choice composition!
An ornament prime for a hall or a shelf:
'Tis fitted to charm every rank and condition;
And, by all that's unlucky I made it myself.
Come, who'll buy an image!
Just look at the figure;
Its features so talented naught can surpass.
'Tis the bust of a patriot of virtue and vigour,
And I'll warrant the bust is of genuine brass.
Come, who'll buy a bargain? The big agitator!
Come bid for the darling, and don't be asleep —
The pride of ould Ireland! the eloquent prater;
Yet I'll sell him a bargain uncommonly cheap.
Come, customers, why do you need to be spurr'd on;
Do buy Dan O'Connell, and down with your dust:
Faith I wish from my heart I was rid of my burden;
Why the plague did I make such a troublesome bust.
Of luck in my life I may boast of a sprinkling;
For straightforward dealing is always my plan:
I disposed of the great Bonaparte in a twinkling,
But cannot get rid of this bothering Dan.
Into pieces I wish to my heart I could break him,
For then I might wander in comfort and ease.
What in Heaven or on earth could induce me to make him,
Like Frankenstein's monster, his maker to tease?
Come, who'll buy an Irish man sturdy and steady?
I fear I shall hawk about Daniel in vain!
Prime soldiers I've moulded who brought me the ready;
But I'll ne'er try my hand upon Patriots again.
Then who'll buy an image? A choice composition!
An ornament formed for a hall or a shelf;
'Tis fitted to charm every rank and condition,
And, by all that's unlucky, I made it myself!

(Bell's Life October 11th 1835)
[Key words: humour; satire; politics; O'Connell]

Strange: 1836

[From Jerningham; or, the Inconsistent Man]

By the by, did you see the other day that, when the football took the unwarrantable liberty of sweeping all the gods, goddesses, Kings, philosophers and politicians off the head of that poor Italian image vender, Leicester came forward immediately, and paid 15 shillings out of his own pocket, as compensation, though he was not one of the players, which we all thought very strange.

(Kaye 1836, 61)
[Key words: Italian; image vender; gods; goddesses; kings; philosophers; politicians; value]

Spitting himself: 1836

—farmer's girl and farmer's boy on the mantelpiece: girl tumbling over a stile, and boy spitting himself, on the handle of a pitchfork—long white dimity curtains in the window—and, in short, everything on the most genteel scale imaginable.

(Dickens 1836)
[Key words: mantelpiece; farm girl; farm boy; gentility]

Nature and art: 1837

"Buy my images!"

"Art improves nature32," is an old proverb which our forefathers adopted without reflection, and obstinately adhered to as lovers of consistency. The capacity and meshes of their brain were too small to hold many great truths, but they caught a great number of little errors, and this was one. They bequeathed it to their children and their children's children, who inherited it until they threw away the wisdom of their ancestors with their wigs; left off hair powder; and are now leaving off the sitting in hot clubrooms, for the sake of sleep, and exercise in the fresh air. There seems to be a general insurrection against the unnatural improvement of nature. We let ourselves and our trees grow out of artificial forms, and no longer sit in artificial arbours, with entrances like that of the cavern at Blackheath hill33, or, as we may even still see them, if we pay our last visit to the dying beds of a few old tea gardens. We know more than those who lived before us, and if we're not happier, we are on the way to be so. Wisdom is happiness; but "he that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow34." Knowledge is not wisdom; it is only the rough material of wisdom. It must be shaped by reflection and judgement, before it can be constructed into an edifice fitting for the mind to dwell in, and take up its rest. This, as our old discoursers used to say, "brings us to our subject."

"Buy my images!" or "Pye m'imaitches," was, and is, a "London cry", by Italian lads carrying boards on their heads, with plaster figures for sale. "In my time," one of these "images" (it usually occupied a corner of the board) was a "Polly"—

Sketch of parrot

This representative of the most "popular" of "all the winged inhabitants of the air35," might have been taken for the likeness of some species between an owl and the booby-bird36; but then the wings and back were coloured with a lively green, and the under part had yellow streaks, and the beak was of a red colour, and any colour did for the eyes, if they were larger than they ought to have been. "In my time" too, there was an "image" of a "fine bow pot37," consisting of half a dozen green shapes like halbert tops38 for "make-believe" leaves, spreading like a half opened fan, from a knot "that was not," inasmuch as it was delicately concealed by a tawny coloured ball called an orange, which pretended to rest on a clumsy clump of yellowed plaster as on the mouth of a jar— the whole looking as unlike a nosegay in water as possible. Then, too, there was a sort of obelisk with a irregular projections and curves; the top, being smaller than the bottom, was marked out with paint into a sort of face, and, by the device of divers colours, it was bonneted, armed, waisted, and petticoated— this was called a "fine lady."

A lengthened mass became by colourable show, "a dog"— like ingenuity might have tortured it into a devil. The feline race were of two shapes and in three sizes; the middle one— like physic in a bottle, "when taken, to be well shaken," moved its chalk head, to the wonder and delight of all urchins, until they informed themselves of its "springs of action," at the price of "only a penny," and, by breaking it, discovered that the nodding knob achieved un-cat-like motion, by being hung with a piece of wire to the interior of its hollow body39. The lesser cat was not so very small, considering its price — "a farthing:"— I speak of when battered button tops represented that plentiful "coin of the realm."

Then there was the largest:

Sketch of cat

The present representation favours the image too much. Neither this engraving, nor that of the parrot, is sufficiently like— the artist says he "could not draw it bad enough:" what an abominable deficiency is the want of "an eye"— heigho! Then there were so many things, that were not likenesses of anything which they were "images," and so many years and cares have rolled over my head and heart, that I've not recollection or time enough for their description. They are all gone, or going—"going out" or "gone out" for ever! Personal remembrance is the frail and only memorial of the existence of some of these "ornaments" of the humble abodes of former times.

The masterpieces on the board of the "image man" were "a pair"— at that time "matchless." They linger yet, at the extreme corners of a few mantelpieces, with probably a "sampler" between, and, over that, a couple of feathers from Juno's bird39, gracefully adjusted into a St Andrew's cross41— their two gorgeous eyes giving out "beautiful colours," to the beautiful eyes of innocent children. The "images," spoken of as still in being, are of the colossal height of eighteen inches, more or less: they personate the "human form devine42," and were designed, perhaps, by Hayman43, but their moulds are so worn that the casts are unfeatured, and they barely retain their bodily semblance. They are always painted black, save that a scroll on each, which depends from a kind of altar, is left white. One of the inscriptions says,

"Into the heaven of heavens I have presumed, &c."44

and all, except the owners, admire the presumption. The "effigy" looks as though the man had been up the chimney, and instead of having "drawn empyrean air45" had taken a glass too much of Hodges's "Imperial46," and wrapped himself in the soot-bag to conceal his indulgence and his person— this is Milton. The other, in like sables, points to his inscription, beginning,

"The cloud-capt towers, the gorgeous palaces47, &c."
is an "insubstantial pageant" of "the immortal Shakespeare48,"
"cheated of feature by dissembling nature49,"
through the operation of time.
"Such were the forms that o'er the incrusted souls
Of our forefathers scatter'd found delight."50

Price51, and Alison52, and Knight53, have generalized "taste" for high-life; while those of the larger circle have acquired "taste" from manifold representations and vehicles of instruction, and comprehend the outlines, if they do not take in the details of natural objects. This is manifested by the almost universal disuse of the "images" described. With the inhabitants of the district in the metropolis, agreeable forms are now absolute requisites, and the demand has induced their supply. There are, perhaps, as many casts from the Medicean Venus54, Apollo Belvidere55, Antonious56, the Gladiator57, and other beauties of ancient sculpture, within the parish of St. George, in the East58, as in the Parish of St. George, Hanover-square59. They are reposited over the fireplaces, or on the tables, of neighbourhoods, wherein the uncouth cat, and the barbarous parrot were, even "in my time" desirable "images." The moulds of the greater number of these deformities, are probably destroyed. It was with difficulty that the "cat" could be obtained for the preceding column, and an "image" of the "parrot" was not procurable from an "image man." Invention has been resorted to for the gratification of popular desire: two plaster casts of children60 published in the autumn of 1825, have met with unparalleled sale. To record the period of their origin they are represented in the annexed engraving, and, perhaps, they may be so perpetuated when the casts themselves shall have disappeared, in favour of others more elegant.

Sketch of two little boys
The "common people" have become uncommon;
A few remain, just here and there, the rest
Are polished and refined: child, man, and woman,
All, imitate the manners of the best;
Picking up, sometimes, good things from their betters,
As they have done from them. And they have books:
As t'was design'd they should, when taught their letters;
In nature's self befriends their very looks:
And all this must, and all this ought to be—
The only use of eyes, I know of, is — to see.

When these agreeable figures first appeared, the price obtained for them was four shillings61. As the sales slackened they were sold for three shillings: now, in March, 1826, the pair may be bought for two shillings, or eighteen pence. The consequence of this cheapness is, that there is scarcely a house without them.

There can be no doubt that society is improving in every direction. As I hinted before, we have a great deal to learn, and something to unlearn. It is in many respects untrue, that "art improves nature;" while in many important respects it is certain, that "nature improves art."

(Hone 1837, 310)
[Key words: Italian; images; parrot; bow pot; lady; dog; cat; nodder; pairs; Venus de Medici; Apollo Belvedere; Antonius; boys reading and writing]

Signs of the Times: 1838

We yesterday met in Lord-street an Italian image-seller, with a full-sized bust of the Queen in one arm, and one of equal dimensions of Dan O'Connell62 in the other. Walking up over a little higher we met another image-man carrying a similar pair of busts. 'To what base uses may we come Horatio63,' may her Majesty indeed exclaim with the poet, at finding herself ranked in such company—Ib.

(The Blackburn Standard, September 12th 1838)
[Key words: Italian; image-seller; busts; Queen Victoria; Daniel O'Connor]

Art: 1839

There are, to be sure, individuals who would prefer the contents of the show-board of an itinerant Italian image vender to the frieze of the Parthenon; but such a circumstance will not prove the inferiority of the one description of art, and the superiority of the other.

(Art Union 1839, 210)
[Key words: Italian; image vender; art]

Rude and inferior multiplications: 1839

MANY of our readers have probably seen a reduced and restored copy of the Elgin friezes, which is to be met with in the collections of most lovers of Art; while rude and inferior multiplications of the same may frequently be found on the well-laden shelf owned by the peripatetic Italian image-seller:

(Art Journal Vol 1(1) 1839)
[Key words: Italian; image-seller; art]

The Victoria Mania: 1839

I walked on [in Philadelphia] and met a man with a tray on his head, full of plaster images, among which "her Majesty's" bust was very prominent.

(The Madisonian, July 3rd 1839) (Washington DC)
[Key words: tray; plaster; images; Queen Victoria; busts]

Poor countrymen: 1840

All the little savings of her pocket-money were carefully hoarded up, to be bestowed upon her mother's poor countrymen, as she called the Italian image-sellers and wandering minstrels, whom she encountered in her daily promenades round Portman Square; and not unfrequently did she incur a reprimand for the impropriety of her conduct, in lingering for a moment to regale her ear with the sweet sounds of "il cielo la rendi il merito,"64 or "la santa Madre di Dio la benedica,"65 which richly rewarded her for any self-denial the gift might have cost her.

(Anon 1840, 25)
[Key words: Italian; image-seller; busts; Queen Victoria; Daniel O'Connor]

Painted parrots: 1840

The days of highland romance are entirely gone. Instead of seeing the bonneted chieftain with his claymore, or even a kilted billy, striding down the braes, your musings are broken in upon by the apparition of an Italian image-seller, resting beneath the tufted rock by the wayside, and who is on an expedition to disseminate painted parrots and Bonapartes over the country of Rob Roy and Maccullamore66.

(Chambers and Chambers 1840, 89)
[Key words: Italian; image-seller; parrots; Bonaparte]

A good customer: 1840

[Darley Fight] had a large summerhouse erected at the top of the large field leading from the river, and on the top of this building he placed a large image representing some celebrity or animal, which was changed every few weeks for a new one of different character, the dismounted one been broken up and thrown into the river. He must have been a good customer to some of the Italian image sellers who are that time frequently came round carrying a large board on which were plaster images of various kinds.

(Dyson 1840)
[Key words: Italian; image-seller; plaster; images]

The slumb'ring boy: 1842

Lines, occasioned by seeing an Italian image boy asleep on a doorstep in London with his face turned towards the morning sun.

By Mrs Gore

Yea, sun thyself!— and may the morning beam
Cheer thy young blood,— Italianize thy dream,—
Bring to thy weary home-sick heart again
That sad-hued olive-grounds, the golden plain —
The roving vines, flung wild from tree to tree—
The orange-blooms, that drown the pilfering bee—
The pine-wood, darkening o'er the distant hill—
The gleaming lake, in snatches, calm and still,
Pure, as though Heaven, impatient of her hue,

Had shed on Earth a fragment brightly blue;—
The white-wall'd hamlets, dotted o'er the land—
The hum of men, exchanging, hand-in-hand,
Greetings in thy land's language, soft and fond,
To which thy kindling heart's quick throbs respond;—
The convent-bell, tolling the Angelus,—
The wayside shrine of Him who died for us,
Where thy young brethren, pausing in their play,
Lift up their little swarthy hands to pray,
Still naming in their prayers the exile far away!

Yea, sun thyself, and sleep!—by pitying Heaven,
Thus to thy rugged lot be comfort given!
While around thee brawls, unnoticed and unseen,
Soot-suited London's grim and harsh routine;
The rumbling wheels, — the cries of petty trade,—
The coarse rebuke of pride, in oaths convey'd,—
The hollow laugh of meretricious joy,—
The ribald jest, that mocks the slumb'ring boy, —
All— all the vulgar clamours that enhance
The dreariest city under Heaven's expense,—
Oh! Let them howl, unheeded!— 'mid them all,
While on thy head these rays of mercy fall,
Dream of thy home — thy sunbright home — afar —
And bear with what thou art, — and what we are!

(Ainsworths Magazine 1842, 317)

The Image Boy: 1841

WHOE'ER has trudged on frequent feet,
From Charing Cross to Ludgate Street,
That haunt of noise and wrangle,
Has seen on journeying through the Strand,
A foreign Image-vender stand
Near Somerset's quadrangle67.

His coal-black eye, his balanced walk,
His sable apron, white with chalk68,
His listless meditation,
His curly locks, his sallow cheeks,
His board of celebrated Greeks69,
Proclaim his trade and nation.

Not on that board, as erst, are seen
A tawdry troop; our gracious Queen70,
With tresses like a carrot,
A milk-maid with a pea-green pail,
A poodle with a golden tail,
John Wesley, and a parrot;—

No, far more classic is his stock;
With ducal Arthur, Milton, Locke,
He bears, unconscious roamer,
Alcmena's Jove-begotten Son71,
Cold Abelard's too tepid Nun72,
And pass-supported Homer.

See yonder bust adorn'd with curls;
'Tis hers, the Queen who melted pearls73
Marc Antony to wheedle.
Her bark, her banquets, all are fled;
And Time, who cut her vital thread,
Has only spared her Needle.

Stern Neptune, with his triple prong,
Childe Harold, peer of peerless song,
So frolic Fortune wills it,
Stand next the Son of crazy Paul74,
Who hugg'd the intrusive King of Gaul75
Upon a raft at Tilsit.

"Poor vagrant child of want and toil!
The sun that warms thy native soil
Has ripen'd not thy knowledge;
'Tis obvious, from that vacant air,
Though Padua gave thee birth, thou ne'er
Didst graduate in her College76.

"'Tis true thou nam'st thy motley freight:
But from what source their birth they date,
Mythology or history,
Old records, or the dreams of youth,
Dark fable, or transparent truth,
Is all to thee a mystery.

"Come tell me, Vagrant, in a breath,
Alcides' birth, his life, his death,
Recount his dozen labours:
Homer thou know'st; but of the woes
Of Troy thou'rt ignorant as those
Dark Orange-boys77 thy neighbours,"

'Twas thus, erect, I deigned to pour
My shower of lordly pity o'er
The poor Italian wittol78,
As men are apt to do, to show
Their vantage-ground o'er those who know
Just less than their own little.

When lo, methought Prometheus' flame
Waved o'er a bust of deathless fame,
And woke to life Childe Harold:
The Bard aroused me from my dream Of pity, alias self-esteem, And thus indignant caroll'd;—

'O thou, who thus, in numbers pert
And petulent, presum'st to flirt
With Memory's Nine Daughters:
Whose verse the next trade-winds that blow
Down narrow Paternoster-row
Shall 'whelm in Lethe's waters79:

"Slight is the difference I see
Between yon Paduan youth and thee;
He moulds, of Paris plaster,
An urn80 by classic Chantrey's81 laws,—
And thou a literary vase
Of would-be alabaster.

"Were I to arbitrate betwixt
"His terra cotta, plain or mix'd,
And thy earth-gender'd sonnet.
Small cause has he th'award to dread:—
Thy images are in the head,
And his, poor boy, are on it!"

(James Smith 1841, 243)
[Key words: Queen Victoria; milk maid; poodle; Wesley; parrot; Arthur; Milton; Locke; Heracles; Heloise; Homer; Cleopatra; Neptune; Harold; Tsar Alexander I; Napoleon; Italian]

Buy my Images: 1842

Buy My Images

Written and Sung by
Mr. Thomas Hudson

Will you buy Images? I Images cry,
Very fine very pretty, very cheap will you buy?
Poor Italiano him never in de glooms
All sort Images beautiful your rooms.
First one Prima LORD BYRON head,
BYRON live longtimes after him dead
Loves tales Poeta-all very true one,
Every body's knows him call DON JUAN,
Will you buy Images? I Images cry
Very fine very pretty-cheap-will you buy?

Poor Italiano better laugh as cry,
Will you buy Images? very cheap, will you buy?
Any prices charge you not pays dear
He go to High Park and steal a de Deer
Him work Play live more as Two hundred year
Every bodys know as take a de pains
To goes to Common Gardens and Drury Lanes
He make a you laugh and he make a you cry
Oftens dey murder him yet he never die.
Buy my Images.

Nex' Image here dere come in de lot
Very great Noveltist-name WALER SCOTT
In prosa-in rima-never got greater
Him SCOTT too by names and by nature
So fas' make Libro-all write his own
Fus't was call him de Large not known
When discover himself-all delighted
Jus' fore he die he was be Knighted.
Buy my Images.

Dis Image here was nobody spurn
Nother Scotch Poet you read ROBERT BURN
Poeta la Natura 'stonishing how
Him write and song wis follow de Plough
Him when alive Scotch clever confes
s So leave him starve and die on distress
Now Scotch says wis national glows
BURN ! greatest genius world ever knows ! ! !
Buy my Images.

Dis de GREAT MILTON wis a bad wife cross
So compose himself for PARADISE LOSS
When wife dies dat ease some pains
So sit down to wrote PARADISE REGAINS
Him great scholars wis wonderful mind
And see very clears wis eyes all blind
No let him daughters learn Latin stuff
One tongues for womans him says tis enough
Buy my Images.

Here LORD NELSON Inglese man o'war
Him beat Spain France all both Trafalgar
When him right arm de battle bereft
Take sword tother and fight wis left
Defend Inghilterra wis wooden wall
Die wis Victory bury him Saint Paul
Fortys year afters dey finds him loss
Make de grand monument up Charing Cross
Buy my Images.

Look a dis Images dis nex' one
Capitano Generale de LORD WELLINGTON
Him fight Buonaparte beat him too
And make fas' run 'way from Waterloo
Great as a Roman was he to de foes
Every bodys knows him well by's nose
Every body trues what every body says
De greatest man livings alive dis days
Buy my Images.

Dis PRINCE ALBERT and try all you cans
You shall never found such a nice young mans
Queen fall in Loves wis him make stir
Him Amantissimo fall in Loves Her
Soon Maritato den he kneel down
Queen give Prince Albert wis Half a Crown
Wis Thirtys Thousand a years besides
For nothing but out wis Queen to rides
Buy my Images.

Now Finitissimo nex' one seen
Dis FAIR VICTORIA Old England Queen
Got two Royal Babies ready for store
Every years mean haves one little more
Best Lady for Queen ever could known
Reign Peoples heart and grace Inglese Throne
Buy dis Images be Lealta seen
You not want Sovereign God save de Queen.
Buy my Images.

A plaster figures seller: 1843

Ein Gipsfiguren Verkäufer

Sarini Geigeri, unstreitig einer der geschicktesten Seiltänzer, produzierte sich neulich auf offenem Markte in Trevino82. Ein Gypsfigurenhandler, der gerade vorüber ging, blieb stehen, und sah ihm zu. Er hatte seinen Kram auf dem Kopfe; ein Bret, worauf Napoleon, ein Amor, eine Venus, einige Figuren nach Messerschmidt, und ein wachelnder Zwerg ausgestellt waren. Als von den Anwesenden abgesammelt wurde, wollte sich der Figurenhändler entfernen; allein Sarini rief von Seile herab: Zerschlagt ihm den Kram, wenn er nicht bezahlt; der Kerl zicht mir seit acht Tagen nach, gafft mich an und schleicht fort, wenn er bezahlen soll. Weit Du ein Stümper bist, antwortete der Figurenhandler, weit ich sammt dem Brete mit den Gyps männchen aus dem Kopfe, besser tanzen würde als Du, und auch sogleich die Probe machen werde, und flugs schwang sich der Mann aus das Seil, liesz sich seine Figuren hinaufreichen und tanzte nun, bay die versammelte Menge vor Freuden ausjauchzte. Wer bist Du? fragte staunend, Sarini? Du bist entweder Saqui83 oder der Teufel! Saqui Saqui! erscholl es, und Saqui tanzt nun täglich in Italien mit den Gypsfiguren auf den Kopfe.

(Der deutsche Hausfreund: Wochenschrift für Belehrung und Unterhaltung. Augsberg. 1843, 287)

Sarini, indisputably one of the most skilled acrobats, appeared the other day in Trevino's market square. A seller of plaster of Paris figures who happened to be passing, stopped, and looked up at him. He had his stuff on his head; a board, on which were displayed Napoleon, a Cupid, a Venus, some figures by Messerschmidt, and a nodding gnome [?]. When he was noticed by those present, the figure dealer wanted to leave; But Sarini shouted down from the tightrope: "Beat him if he does not pay; he's followed me for eight days, stares at me and sneaks away if he has to pay." "Because you're a bungler," replied the figure seller "because I, together with the board with the plaster figures on my head, can dance better than you, and I will immediately take the test," and forthwith the man swung up to the tightrope along with his figures and danced well. At that the assembled crowd shouted for joy. "Who are you?" Sarini asked in amazement. "You are either Saqui or the devil!" "Saqui, Saqui!" came the answer, and now Saqui dances every day in Italy with plaster figures on her head.
[My translation]

[Key words: plaster of Paris; figures; Napoleon; cupid; Venus; Messerschmidt; humour]

Pedro: 1845

Poor Pedro! what a strange load he bears! He has become one mass of images from top to toe. Well may he cry "images", in hopes that some one will ease him of his burden. They are very cheap. There is the head of Shakespeare, and of our gracious Queen; Tam o'Shanter and Souter Johnnie; Napoleon, parrots and I know not what besides, all made out of plaster of Paris, by poor Pedro in his little attic, which serves him for bed-chamber, sitting room and workshop. Have you ever seen these poor Italians at their work? I have, and very poorly are they lodged and fed, I can assure you. One would wonder what can make them leave their sunny Italy, where fruits hang thick as leaves upon the tress, to come and toil in darkness and dirt in our narrowest streets. But I suppose they little know what London is till they are settled down with very distant prospect of return. They hear of it as famous city, paved with gold - that is the old story, you know - where every one can make his fortune; and they come to try. Poor Pedro, he had a happy home once, too; but a terrible earthquake shook that part of Naples which contained his little hut. The earth shook so violently that houses and walls tottered and fell, nay, in many parts whole streets not only fell but were swallowed up by the gaping earth, which opens at these times just like a hungry mouth, and closes again over all that falls in.

It was in the night this earthquake came; and Pedro, than a little boy, was roused by the cries of his father and mother, who felt their house shaking round them. Out into the open air they all rushed, with nothing but a few clothes they had on. The streets were full of people, who knelt and prayed aloud to God to spare their lives. The bells in all the churches clashed wildly, as the towers rocked to and fro. It was a dreadful day, and Pedro will never forget it. By morning many of the houses were buried in the earth, and others lay in heaps of ruin on the ground. Amongst these was the poor hut of Pedro's father. It has been a shabby little home, but still it was their home and held all their wordily goods, and sorely they wept over it destruction. The little garden, too, was all laid waste. Some kind people gave money to build up once more the ruined houses; but, whilst this was being done, there was sore want and famine, and many left their native place to try their fortunes elsewhere. And so it was that Pedro came, with many more, to earn his living by selling images in London streets.

(London Cries Illustrated for the Young, Anon 1845)
[Key words: Shakespeare; Queen Victoria; Tam O'Shanter and Souter Johnnie; Napoleon; parrots; plaster of Paris; Italians]

A strange assembly: 1845

A strange assembly of images was that! Heathen gods seemed to fraternize with angels, Madonnas, and Christian saints; Napoleon and Wellington stood motionless side by side; George the Fourth and Greenacre84 occupied the same shelf; William Pitt85 and Cobbett86 appeared to be contemplating each other with silent admiration; Thomas Paine87 elbowed a bishop; Lord Castlereagh88 seemed to be extending his hand to welcome Jack Ketch89; Cupid pointed his arrow at the bosom of a pope.

(Reynolds 1845, 173)
[Key words: gods; angels; Madonna; saints; Wellington; George IV; Greenacre; Pitt; Cobbett; Paine; Castlereagh; Jack Ketch; cupid; pope]

Admiration: 1845

I saw an Italian image boy so rooted in admiration before a Madonna of Raphael's that he never seemed to perceive that there was a human being near him. I touched his shoulder at last, and asked what he admired so much in that picture. He started, and was some time before he collected his thoughts sufficiently to answer, when he said, he had often seen it before, that his brother, who was a painter at Florence, had copied it, and that they loved it because it was like a sister whom they had lost.
"Are you glad to see it here?"
"On no — it is ours," said he, with a deep emphasis, and a look of revengeful anger that would have startled Buonaparte.

(Gentleman's Magazine, 1845, 16)
[Key words: Italian; image-boy]

Murder: 1845

More recently, it has been his duty to prosecute Carl Pappenberg, a German, for the murder of an old Italian image seller in this city. The proof was very strong: the murdered man had last been seen in Pappenberg's company; his cloths were found wet in Pappenberg's pack, his tools secreted in the shop where Pappenberg worked, &c. The prisoner was poor, weak, debased and friendless; yet he was ably defended, and the jury found him Not Guilty. It would have been impossible, Mr. K. thought, to have rendered such a verdict had the penalty had been any other than that awful one which precludes all future correction of any possible error. Carl, who knew no English when the trial commenced, had picked up a little during its continuance, and at first understood that he had been found Guilty, and he received with his usual stolid indifference. Being appraised of his mistake soon after, he turned to a friend at hand and simply asked, 'How, when one man muther another, Jury say Not Guilty?'—He was remanded to prison, as a dangerous man, on a demand of bail for his good behaviour, which was of course unable to give. Soon after, Mr. K. called on him and found him involved in the new puzzle—'How when Jury say they Not Guilty, still keep man in prison?'—Mr. K. answered as well he could. He has since been shipped off to Germany — a way of getting rid of criminals which we condemn in Europe and ought not to practice ourselves.

(New York Daily Tribune, November 13th 1845)
[Key words: crime; murder; German; humour; Italian; image seller]

Unfortunate boys: 1845

Through the broken shutters of several windows came the sounds of horrible revelry — ribald and revolting; and from others issued cries, shrieks, oaths and the sounds of heavy blows — a sad evidence of brutality of drunken quarrels. Numerous Irish families are crowded together in the small back rooms of the houses on Saffron Hill; and the husbands and fathers gorge themselves, at the expense of broken-hearted wives and famishing children, with the horrible compound of spirit and vitriol, sold at the low gin-shops in the neighbourhood. Hosts of Italian masters also congregate in that locality; and the screams of the unfortunate boys, who writhe beneath the lash of their furious employers on their return some after an unsuccessful day with their organs, monkies, white mice, or chalk images, mingle with the other appalling or disgusting sounds, which make night in that district truly hideous"

(Reynolds 1845, 46-47) [Key words: Saffron Hill; Italian; boys; chalk images]

Murder: 1845

Horrible and Mysterious Murder in Philadelphia

A German, named Andrew Freager, a manufacturer of plaster of Paris images, was discovered on Monday morning in the basement story of a frame house back of Coates-st, in Philadelphia, lying in bed with his head horribly gashed with a hatchet or some other sharp instrument, and his skull broken in several places…

(American Republican and Baltimore Daily Clipper, January 22nd 1845) [Key words: plaster of Paris; images; murder]

Le Marchand de figures: 1845

Marchand de figures, nous vendons l'Apollon de Belvedère, les lapins pour les petits enfants et le grand Napoléon, l'Hercoule-Farnèse et des fruits en panier; achetez pour les petits enfants des perroquets tout verts qui chantent comme des rossignols.

(Anon 1845)

The Image-Seller

Image-seller, we sell the Apollo of Belvedere, rabbits for little children and the great Napoleon, the Farnese Hercules and fruit baskets; buy green parrots that sing like nightingales for small children.
[My translation]

[Key words: image seller; Apollo Belvedere; rabbits; Napoleon; Farnese Hercules; fruit baskets; parrots]

"Fancy" medallions and the vice society: 1845

A luckless Italian Image seller, who was in the habit of taking his stand on Saturday evening in the classic region of Smithfield, was charged before Alderman Hunter, at Guildhall, on Monday, with the sale of plaster medallions of an indecent character. For the general public, it appears that the Italian had got a stock of casts of a purely classical character, such as naked Venuses, Cupids with wings but without clothes, strapping Apollos, and similar copies of the antique; but, besides these casts intended for the profanum vulgus, he carried with him a private stock of plaster medallions to suit tastes of a more recherché order. This, the choices part of his collection, was hidden in a box, and only exhibited to such customers whose fancies led them to enquire for novelties of a peculiar character. Unfortunately for him the Vice Society's agents are abroad, and ever prowling about for something vicious to pounce upon and expose. Having got scent of the Italian's dealings, they set a trap to catching in the indecent fact. One of the emissaries contrived to lull the suspicion of the Italian by asking to see some "fancy medallions," Some were accordingly shown him from the Italian's private store of so loose and libidinous a description that the Vice Society's man, in a fit of virtuous disgust, seized his whole stock and gave him in charge to the police.

The question for Sir Claudius to decide was, first, whether the fancy medallions were indecent, of which there was no doubt in the world, and secondly, whether the Italian had wilfully exposed them. On this point at least some argument might be raised. The prisoner's defence was that he did not bring them out for sale, but to execute an order for the medallions given to him by gentlemen. This must be deemed a very transparent excuse, seeing that though "gentlemen," there is no doubt, often purchase such things, they do not go to Smithfield for them. Yet the Italian's plea might so far be held good, that he did not intend to exhibit such things until asked for them, and certainly there was no pretence for asserting that he offered them for sale. There is, moreover some, something in this sneaking way of entrapping the dealer in prohibited and profligate medallions or prints, that is calculated to excite contempt. It is, as we view it, especially hateful to see men entrapped into an offence against the laws. The immorality of this practice is hardly better than the other kind of immorality it seeks to suppress. The Italian got a month's imprisonment for being so cunningly caught by the myrmidons of the Vice Society—first enquiring of the magistrate that he could not have a fine instead of going to prison. Not being a gentleman, however, we need not say that no option was allowed him, and he has at once committed to durance vile90.

(The Satirist or Censor of the Times, December 21st 1845)
[Key words: Italian; image seller; Smithfield; casts; Venus; Cupid; Apollo; plaster; medallions; indecency; humour]

The Secret Rites of Ceres: 1847

THE SECRET RITES OF CERES91. —Mary Ann Collins, a person of singularly repulsive exterior, not much relieved by a profuse display of a dishevelled and carrotty cobra92, was charged with the illegal appropriation of a chimney ornament, representing Arcana collecting the cobs93. The prosecutrix, a Mrs. O'Brien, negatived the assertion of "poor Mary Ann" as to having lifted the goddess of provender for the purpose of employing the image as a weapon of defence, against "a man wot wor a taking on liberties with her," and to the ke varter94 sessions the old maid had in ke vourse without alternative to adjourn.

(Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Review November 13th 1847)

Committal.—On Friday morning a female named Mary Ann Collins helped herself to a chimney ornament, value about two shillings, from the shop of Mrs. O'Brien, residing on Church-hill. Mrs. O'Brien observed the theft, and gave the thief into the custody of Constable Nowland, who found the property on the person of the accused. Collins was on Saturday committed to take her trial for the offence.

(The Sydney Morning Herald, November 8th, 1847)
[Key words: chimney ornament; Ceres; value]

A revolutionist: 1848

The Presse has the following from Trent, in the Tyrol: —"As a dealer in images was hawking his wares about the streets a short time ago, an Austrian officer approached him, and perceiving a statue of the Pope crowned with a wreath, angrily asked if he could not expose other statues than those of that man. 'A man,' cried the image-seller with great naiveté, 'he is not a man—he is the immortal pope—our father—the friend and protector of Italy!' "Scoundrel,' ejaculated the Austrian officer in a fury, 'he is a revolutionist95, and this is what he merits!' As he spoke he drew his sword, and swept off the head of the statue. A crowd assembled, and, taking the part of the image-dealer, laid violent hands on the Austrian officer. He would no doubt have been torn to pieces, had not a patrol come up and rescued him. By superior order he has since, it is said, been placed in arrest."

(The Standard, January 3rd 1848)
[Key words: images; Pope]

Marlborough Street — the Italian image-seller nuisance: 1848

Jean Domingo and Augustini Chinquini, two Italian image-sellers, were brought before Mr Hardwick charged with having obstructed the public streets and annoyed the public by the mode in which they carried on their business of selling medals and images.

From the statements of the police it appeared that many complaints have been made by tradesmen at the west-end of the town, principally in Regent-street and Oxford-street, of the nuisance occasioned by the importunity and insolence of a number of sturdy Italian image sellers, towards ladies and gentlemen, in the public streets, and the obstruction they occasioned by pitching their image-cases in public thoroughfares.

(The Standard, June 27th 1848)
[Key words: Italian; image sellers; medals; images; selling; crime]

A strange throng: 1848

Looking out into the streets [of Vera Cruz, Mexico], a strange throng meets the eye…There is another class going about with baskets of cakes, pies, fruit and plaster images upon their heads, crying them for sale…

(Weekly National Intelligencer, March 4th 1848) (Washington DC)
[Key words: Mexico; plaster images]

A load of grace and worth and beauty: 1848

Punch's Police 1848

QUEEN SQUARE.— A gaunt, oldish-looking boy, who, turning up his nose at the magistrate, gave his name as HENRY BROUGHAM96, was charged with having attempted to injure Pio Nono, present Pope of Rome, by squirting at his holiness a quality of gutter-mud.

It appeared that some evenings ago an Italian was going down Parliament Street, carrying upon his head a collection of plaster-casts, modern and antique. The Italian belonged to that humble but useful class of the cognoscenti who have done so much to abolish the spotted cats and painted parrots from the shelves of country parlours and cottages; placing in their stead the forms and faces of beauty and genius. The Italian was one of the serviceable wayfarers, compliments by MR WILLIAM WORDSWORTH:—

"Or thro' our hamlets thou wilt bear
The sightless Milton, with his hair
Around his placid temples curl's;
And SHAKESPEARE at his side—a freight
If clay could think and mind were weight,
For him who bore the world."

Well, this harmless Italian paused to rest his load in Parliament Street—his load of grace, and worth and beauty. There was BAILEY'S Eve97, with FIELD-MARSHAL PRINCE ALBERT, and, among other notables, the bust of PIUS THE NINTH. The complainant deposed that, a friend with a barrel-organ coming up, they began to talk about the glorious regeneration of Italy, when the defendant passed them. "Regeneration! Humbug!" said the defendant, making a mouth, and going on…

(Punch 1848)
[Key words: Italian; plaster; casts; cats; parrots; Eve; Prince Albert; Pius IX; politics; satire]

Ugly old men: 1849

One evening, Mrs Rasper, entered my room, sans ceremonie, and drawing her tall spare figure up to its utmost altitude, with a tragic-comic smile, ironically exclaimed, "Well sir, I was in your room while when you was out"—(supposing that it must've been for the purpose of dusting; I tendered her my thanks.) "Dust the room, me dust the room, Sir, no; I came to look after my furniture, and see how it was treated. I was astonished— yes, Sir, I won't allow it, never did, and what's more, I won't have it, Sir! Being perfectly innocent of having, at least to my knowledge, given any offence, I reiterated, "won't allow it," "won't have it." "Pray, what is it you will neither allow nor have, Mrs Rasper?" Looking towards the sideboard (which in my opinion, I had decorated with a couple of handsome busts), she snappishly replied, "Why, Sir, the top of my sideboard made into a common image-board; I won't have them two ugly old men's heads (ye gods! Shakspeare and Milton); If I had let the room to a common foreign vagabond of an Italian image-boy, it could not have been worse off— it breaks my heart, it does, Sir. It shan't be, Sir! my best mahogany sideboard shan't be disgraced."

(Dalton 1849, 217)
[Key words: busts; image-board; Shakespeare; Milton; Italian; image-boy; taste; humour]

Italian Image Boys and Protestantism: 1849


My Lord, — knowing how anxious your lordship is for the purity of the Protestant religion, as established in this country, I beg, as a subject of her beloved Majesty the Queen, to call your attention to the notorious fact of certain vagabond Italians, evidently sent by his Holiness for the conversion of this country to the Roman Catholic Religion, and who are known as the "Italian Image Boys." As long as the said foreigners offered for sale the plaster busts of Shakspeare, the Duke of Wellington, and such innocent subjects, they did not act in any way contrary to the spirit of the act, passed in the 10th year of the reign of his late Majesty King George IV.; but when we, Protestants, see the kind permission of the liberal laws of this country so abused, as the attempt to sell such a Papistical images as the Crucifix, Madonnas, Angel Guardians, &c., which continually meet our eye in the public streets of her Majesty's highway, we cannot but feel disgusting and scandalised. And, my lord, of what use are such "objects and symbols" of worship, as you beautifully express similar things in your Lordship's proclamation99? Have we not small and large "Greek Slaves," "Dancing Nymphs100," dressed in every way to suit the hot season of the year?


…it has been represented to us that some subjects of the Holy See, And called Italian image boys, have a exercise the rights of our British subjects in the highways and places the public resort, And has frequently been and ceremonial dresses, Born on their heads, object or symbols of what are Catholic subjects cherish and love in their religion— Namely, images of Angel guardians, Madonnas and crucifixes in plaster to the great scandal and annoyance of large numbers of people, and to the manifest danger of being broken; and, whereas, it has been represented to us that such images have been carried under the windows in the sight, and to the annoyance of a certain portion of our female subjects have reached a certain age and are called 'old maids;' and to the scandal of those, our beloved subjects, who frequent at a sacred place called Exeter Hall101. We have, therefore, thought it our bounden duty, by and with the advice of our Privy Council, to issue this, our Royal Proclamation, solemnly warning all those whom it may concern, that whilst we are resolved to permit the said Italian image boys to offer for sale modest 'Greek Slaves' and 'Venuses,' and to protect our loving subjects in the undisturbed enjoyment of the purchase of the same, we are determined to prevent and repressed such offences as the sale of the aforesaid objects or symbols of worship…

(Public Ledger 1849)
[Key words: humour; Shakespeare; Wellington; crucifix; Madonna; guardian angel; Greek Slave; dancing nymph; ]

Public taste: 1849

"Not that the public taste improved with [the disappearance of lead figure makers in 1787]. One absurdity only gave place to another. As late as the year 1826 or 1827, painted cats and parrots, and plaster casts of the most inferior description, were hawked about the town, and met with an extensive sale. Within the last few years, however, public taste has improved considerably. All these have disappeared, and busts of poets, painters, musicians, and illustrious men, very beautifully executed, are alone seen on the boards of the Italian dealers, with copies of some of the finest models of the antique.

(Smith 1849, 12-13)
[Key words: cats; parrots; poets; painters; musicians; celebrities; boards; Italian; classical]

Marchands de figures de plâtre: 1850

Vous avez souvent rencontré suivant les trottoirs, côtoyant les quais ou arrâté aux coins des carrefours avec sa planche qu'entoure une corde en guise de balustrade. Là se dressent les bustes et les statuettes des grands hommes, les consoles cariatides destinées à l'ornement des modestes appartements, les figurines de fantaisie que recommande la mode. Le mouleur de plâtre est à la sculpture ce que l'orgue de Barbarie est à la musique.

Il adopte l'œuvre en vogue, il la popularise ; il constate à la fois et propage les succès. Sa planche est comme un muséée portatif qui s'adresse aux préférences du passant, qui sollicite sa passion et l'excite à dénouer les cordons d'une bourse que la prudence tend toujours refermer.

L'examen de ces expositions en plein air donne une idée assez exacte, sinon de l'opinion publique, au moins des préoccupatons de la foule. On peut y suivre les oscillations du goût et les variations de la popularité.

Dans notre enfance, nous nous le rappelons encore, ces planches étaient couvertes de princes et de maréchaux qui encadraient les bustes de Paul et de Virginie, les chiens à têtes mouvantes et les lapins blancs ; plus tard, nous y avons vu Bolivar, le général Foy, Voltaire et Rousseau ; puis les figures gothiques remises en faveur par l'étude du moyen âge ; plus tard encore, ce furent les têtes de Goethe, de Schiller, de Byron, faisant pendant à la Jeanne d'Arc ou aux pastiches en style Pompadour.

J'en passe, et des meilleurs.

Chacun de nos lecteurs peut lui-même compléter la liste en recherchant dans ses souvenirs. La plupart des célébrités littéraires et politiques, des fantaisies de l'art, des résurrections historiques, ont paru lá, à leur tour, comme sur un piédestal, pour en descendre bientôt et disparaître. Les anciens élevaient des statues d'airain que la guerre et les révolutions renversaient bien vite ; plus sages, du moins en cela, nous nous contentons de mouler sur le plâtre nos admirations ou nos caprices du moment, comme si nous voulions symboliser, par la fragilité de la matière, la fragilité de ce qu'elle représente.

Hélas ! combien de ces réputations n'ont pu même avoir la durée du plâtre qui les célébrait! Que de grands hommes disparus avant leurs bustes ; que de compositions devenues vieilles avant d'avoir été jaunies par le temps! Le mouleur ambulant est un terrible juge ; il constate pour ainsi dire l'arrêt du siècle. La vogue passée, il brise impitoyablement le moule, et l'oeuvre ou l'homme, illustre quelques jours auparavant, rentre aussitôt dans le néant.

Considéréé sous un autre point de vue, le marchand de figures a une véritable importance dans notre civilisation moderne ; il répand l'art, il fait l'éducation des yeux, il élève insensiblement le goût populaire. Quand on compare les plâtres qui couvrent aujourd'hui les éventaires ambulants à ceux qu'on y voyait il y a trente ans, on est frappé des progrès du style et de la forme. Évidemment l'intervalle qui séparait l'art populaire de l'art choisi, tend chaque jour à s'amoindrir ; les plus grossières épreuves vendues pour quelques centimes ont un vague reflet des grandes œuvres qu'elles copient ; on sent la main plus habile, l'œil mieux exercé, l'ouvrier qui comprend l'artiste, s'il ne l'est point encore lui-même.

Cette élévation croissante dans les productions d'ordre inférieur est un symptôme important ; elle prouve que les arts plastiques entrent de plus en plus dans les habitudes, qu'ils se font domestiques ; qu'après avoir été le privilège des nobles et riches demeures, ils tendent à devenir l'embellissement des plus humbles existences. C'est là plus qu'un progrès, c'est une véritable révolution qui révèle un mouvement d'ascension marquée dans l'éducation intellectuelle du plus grand nombre.

(Charton 1850, 588-9)

Sellers of plaster figures

You have often met him along the sidewalks, beside the quays or at street corners with his board and its rope handrail. On it stand the busts and statuettes of great men, familiar caryatids destined to ornament modest apartments, figurines of fantasy that follow fashion. Plaster casts are to sculpture as barrel organs are to music.

He adopts whatever is in vogue, and popularises it; it catches on and spreads. His board is like a portable museum that caters to passing preferences, inviting interest and cheerfully loosening the cords of scholarship that prudence always tends to keep tied.

Examination of these outdoor exhibitions gives a fairly accurate idea, if not of the public, at least of the preoccupations of the masses. One can follow the oscillations of taste and changes in popularity.

In our childhood, we remember, these boards were covered with princes and marshals as well as busts of Paul and the Virgin, dogs with nodding heads and white rabbits; later, we saw Bolivar, General Foy, Voltaire and Rousseau; then gothic figures returned for the study of the Middle Ages; later still, there were the heads of Goethe, Schiller, Byron, a representation of Joan of Arc or a pastiche of la Pompadour.

And so on and so on.

Each of our readers may themselves add to the list by searching their memories. Most literary and political celebrities, fantasies of art, historical resurrections appeared there, in turn, as on a pedestal, soon to descend and disappear. Once, bronze statues were quickly overturned by war and revolutions; now wiser, at least in this, we simply cast our admiration or our whims of the moment in plaster, as if we wanted to symbolise the fragility of the material and the fragility of what it represents.

Alas! How many of these reputations even outlasted plaster! Those great men who disappeared before their busts; that become out of date before being yellowed by time! The traveling moulder is a strict judge; what he decides can stop a century. He ruthlessly breaks the mould of anyone who is no longer in vogue, and the work of humans, which could be seen just days earlier, returns to nothingness.

Considered from another point of view, the image-seller has a real importance in our modern civilisation; he spreads art, the education of the eyes, and he unknowingly improves popular taste. When comparing the plaster on the street stalls of today to those we saw thirty years ago, one is struck by the progress of style and form. Obviously the gap between popular art and the original tends to diminish each day; the coarsest that sell for pennies only vaguely reflect the great works they copy; with a more skilful hand and a better trained eye, the worker becomes the artist, if he isn't one already.

This growing rise in enthusiasm amongst the lower orders is an important sign; it proves that the visual arts are spreading increasingly into ordinary life; after having been the privilege of the noble and wealthy homes, they are now embellishing the humblest existences. This is where there is more than progress, there is a real revolution which is revealing a marked upward movement in the intellectual education of the majority.

[Translation: the author]
[Key words: busts; statuettes; princes; marshals; Paul; Virgin; nodding dogs; rabbits; Bolivar; Foy; Voltaire; Rousseau; Goethe; Schiller; Byron; Joan of Arc; la Pompadour; image seller; art; education; cost]

Buy a bust of General Taylor? 1850

The itinerant seller of plaster casts is a regular street figure in all our great cities. By means of a few worn-out moulds which he has brought from Italy, the poor man makes a stock of casts, and mounting them on a board, cries them about the streets. He's not at all particular about prices. If he gets a piece of silver for his piece of plaster, his object seems to be gained; so that if you really do not wish to purchase, it is rather dangerous to offer him a quarter of a dollar for the cast which he wishes you to buy at two dollars.

When he has followed this street traffic for a few years, he has amassed money enough to begin business on a larger scale; and accordingly he hires a shop, and commences the making and selling of all sorts of plaster casts. He will model your bust, giving a very formidable likeness; or cast you a leaden Venus and Apollo to place on pedestals in your garden; or copy a pair of Canova's Nymphs to place in your hall. Instead of carrying a small shop on his head through the streets, he now sends forth a little army of his compatriots, poor expatriated Romans or Tuscans, regretting the glorious skies of Italy, while they are selling busts of the glorious heroes of America. When our seller of casts has made his fortune, he will go home and purchase a villa on the delightful shores of Lake Como; and tell his descendants what a wretched country is America.

(Croome 1850, 33-34)
[Key words: plaster; casts; Italy; Venus; Apollo; Canova; nymphs; heroes; America]

A great store of shepherdesses: 1851

[in a "swag shop"] a great store of shepherdesses, of greyhounds of a gamboge colour102, of what I heard called "figures" (allegorical nymphs with and without birds or wreaths in their hands), very tall looking Shakspeares (I did not see one of these windows without its Shakspeare, a sitting figure) and some "pots" which seem to be either shepherds or musicians; from what I could learn, at the pleasure of the seller, the buyer or the inquirer. The Shepherd or musician is usually seated under a tree; he wears a light blue coat, and yellow bridges, and his limbs, more than his body, a remarkable for their bulk; call the merely fact does not sufficiently express their character, and in some pots, they are as short and stubby as they are bulky. On my asking if the dogs were intended for Italian greyhounds, I was told, no, they are German. I alluded however to the species of the animal represented; my informant to the place of manufacture, for the pots were chiefly German.

(Mayhew 1851, 333-4)
[Key words: shepherdesses; greyhounds; nymphs; Shakespeare; musicians; German]

The Sense of the Beautiful: 1852

"Images! Images!"

The sound falls on the ear with a foreign accent, and there in the street, stands the poor Italian boy, with his tray balanced on his head waiting for a purchaser for his pretty wares. There are beautifully shaped vases, urns of classic mould, and various figures, among which the favorite Fisher-boy103, and Samuel are conspicuous.

"Images! Images!"

They gleam pure and white in the clear sunlight. They are radiant with beauty, though of frail and common material. Hither comes a young man who has a new home to make cheerful and beautiful. He bears off that exquisitely shaped vase, whose graceful lines shall convey an impression of beauty to many a half-conscious observer. Yonder mechanic has taken in his hard and toil-worn hand that delicate image, the kneeling Samuel. His clear eye looks with pleasure on that innocent upturned countenance. He carries it home to be a joy and a pleasure to his wife, and to shed a refining influence over his simple abode. The father has brought his little boy hither and the child full of eager delight is bearing off the Friendship, a boy and dog, while his little tongue chatters rapidly in praise of his prize. One after another the statues are borne away, till there are only two or three large and a few very small ones left.

"Images! Images!"

And the boy goes off down the street to seek purchasers for the remainder. These images,— these pure, beautiful forms, they adorn how many houses into which the costlier marble may never come! And for nearly all the pleasure the eye may derive from them they are as valuable as that less fragile material.

We always look with pleasure on those trays of images thus borne through the streets. Almost all the statues are after the designs of great Sculptors, and many of the vases are of the Etruscan models. We are always glad to see those lovely figures going into houses where there are children. A few years ago, cheap, coarse, red and yellow vases of fruit, or demi-figures in plaster of showy colors, or daubs of pictures of men in red coats and sky-blue pantaloons, of women in scarlet gowns, purple shawls, and green bonnets, of children robed in every color of the rainbow, and military men in coats like Joseph's 'of many colors,' —these were the attractions laid before the uneducated and unrefined tastes of the community. Now these pure, white images, these refined and graceful forms will gradually lift them up to a more exquisite appreciation of the truly beautiful.

Take two children of poor parents, with minds as nearly equal as may be, give them food and clothing alike, but place in the bed-chamber of one some one of these beautiful statues, the Samuel, or the Guardian Angel, or some other equally lovely; hang on his wall one or two good engravings, a landscape, or some pure, sweet, benignant face, (and the cost of these may be very trifling,)—let him in addition cultivate a little bed of flowers, and give him, besides his Bible, those dear classics of childhood, Pilgrim's Progress, Paul and Virginia, Robinson Crusoe, and a few others equally precious,—and let the other have none of these advantages, but be left to seek his pleasure in the streets, or among rude companions, and you have two boys, whose paths in life, starting from the same point, will, probably, diverge forever.

The first will have in his mind thoughts and shapes of loveliness and innocence, called up and fostered unconsciously to himself, till they have become a part of his existence. His imagination will have learned early to take a wide range, and he will form to himself scenes and notions that will elevate his being. The coarser pleasures of life, cannot relish to him, for his refinement will reject them, and rude manners will disgust that sense of propriety given by a love of the beautiful; if his life be active he will gather new treasures of beauty from the scenes and characters about him, and if sickness lays its heavy hand on him, and he is long an invalid, he can people his sick chamber with lovely forms,—angel-shapes that shall sweetly smile on him. A fresh and fragrant flower will gladden him for days; the blending harmony of colors will spread enchantment around him, and make him forget his pain, and his vivid imagination will seek to shadow out the future world, which is all of glorious beauty.

If the boy whose sense of the beautiful is uncultivated and smothered out, —if he escape being contaminated with evil habits, coarse manners, rude and profane language — yet his perceptions of grace and loveliness will be dim, the sweetest and most wonderful flower will be scarcely more to him than a weed, not nearly so much as an onion or a turnip; the loftiest tree that spreads out its mighty boughs and waves its shadowing foliage, will be cut down without the slightest touch of feeling lest it should shade his potato patch. He will look with indifference on the changing beauty of the wandering clouds, and never having learned to love refinement and beauty, will of course undervalue, if not despise the love of it in others. All the myriad pleasures and delights of taste will be utterly lost to him, and the coarse jest and rude mirth will be his preferred enjoyments. C. F. O.

(Cambridge Chronicle, May 22nd 1852)(Massachusetts)
[Key words: images; Italian; tray; vases; urns; Fisher-boy; Samuel]

Resplendent colours: 1852

The gray mist of evening, rising slowly from the river, enveloped her as she disappeared up the bank, and the swollen current and floundering masses of ice presented a hopeless barrier between her and her pursuer. Haley therefore slowly and discontentedly returned to the little tavern, to ponder further what was to be done. The woman opened to him the door of a little parlor, covered with a rag carpet, where stood a table with a very shining black oil-cloth, sundry lank, high-backed wood chairs, with some plaster images in resplendent colors on the mantel-shelf, above a very dimly-smoking grate; a long hard-wood settle extended its uneasy length by the chimney, and here Haley sat him down to meditate on the instability of human hopes and happiness in general.

(Stowe 1852, 97)
[Key words: plaster; images; colours]

Wellington's nose: 1852


Alas! Alas! Poor Image Boy, what a crash is here!
You've trod upon some orange peel, and slipped, I sadly fear,
Or else your board you've balanced wrong, or 'gainst a post have hit,
But whatsoever is the cause, it matters not a bit.
Now, little boy and little girl, if you have pence to spare,
Pray give them to the image boy, his losses to repair.
There goes the Duke of Wellington, with only half a nose,
And there's Prince Albert on his head, instead of on his toes.
Poor boy! Let's hope each passer by will pity his misshap,
And drop a halfpenny or more, into his furry cap.

(Anon 1852)
[Key words: image; boy; destruction; Wellington; Albert; humour]

White cats: 1853

The British ballad-singer has been destroyed—literally ground out of his livelihood—by the Italian organ-boy; and the old British image-seller, who was accustomed—at the due season—to appear in our streets with plaster-cats upon his head—white cats spotted with black wafer—he has also been destroyed by the Italian image man—

Who through our hamlet still will bear
The sightless Milton, with his hair
Around his placid temples curl'd;
And Shakspere at his side. Fit freight,
If clay could think, and mind were weight,
For him who bore the world!

(Lloyd's Illustrated Newspaper, October 10th 1853)
[Key words: British; image-seller; plaster; cats; Italian; image-man; Wordsworth]

Embellishment: 1853

Thenceforward we were indefatigable in our efforts at embellishment. I gave a dollar a piece to an Italian image man for two casts of the Huguenot and Catholic soldier, and when placed on the mantelpiece they had a very fine effect. But they were entirely eclipsed when Leo (our third roommate) made his appearance one day with a great plaster group of the Nymph and Satyr104, which having three figures, (including the child) and looking so exceedingly expensive altogether, I could not repress a sigh as I regarded my two soldiers, and no one would guess at a higher price than I gave for them.

(New York Times, March 5th 1853)
[Key words: Italian; casts; image man; Huguenot; Catholic soldier; nymph and satyr; humour]

A fortunate vendor: 1853

The Queen proceeded to the castle through the private grounds on the north side of the park, the entrance to which opens immediately upon the South-Western station. On her Majesty's return, about two hours afterwards, some persons had congregated to witness her departure, and among them was a poor Italian boy, with his rude frame of images upon his head. The fine expressive countenance of the lad was observed by the quick and scrutinizing eye of the Queen who herself beckoned the youth to follow, which he did to the vestibule attached to the elegant suites of apartments provided for her Majesty at the station. The boy, conscious that it was the Queen who had summoned him, hurried to the porch of a state of bewilderment, with his images upon his head, when one of the officers present seeing his confused state, assisted in bringing him and his board to the feet of the sovereign. The Queen gazed for a moment on the youth, and then selected from his little stock, "The Infant Samuel Praying," a "Venus," and a "Lady at the Bath.'" After liberally rewarding the little fortunate vendor, the Queen had her purchases placed in the train, in which her Majesty, in a few minutes afterwards, took her departure"

(Morning Post, 21st July 1853)
[Key words: Queen Victoria; Italian; boy; images; Samuel; Venus; Lady at the Bath]

A scene in a barrack-Room: 1853

The mantelpiece (and indeed the whole room) bears undeniable evidence of a recent debauch, or 'flare up.' On it are strewed the fragments of broken vases, and plaster of Paris images…but there, and amidst the mighty wreck, and opposite to a bust of the Duke of Wellington, sits my friend Snooks, with all the stoicism of a philosopher, puffing his meerschaum tranquilly.

(The Public Ledger, November 25th 1853)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; images; Wellington]

Classical: 1854

His bar, instead of being covered with a decent piles of halfpence and trays full of silver, that a right minded publican loves to accumulate towards Saturday, was tricked out with all sorts of bulbs and roots, and trumpery— nasturtiums, heliotropes, ranunculuses, and the like; and there wasn't an Italian image-man out of Leather Lane that came in to take a drop but he'd buy a Venus, or a Jenny Lind, or a Holy Family of; and these he'd stick up on gim-crack brackets under his tubs, and ask me with a simpering grin I didn't think it classical? Classical! What business has a license victualler with the classics?

(Sala 1854, 70) [Key words: Italian; image-man; Leather Lane; Venus Jenny Lind; Holy Family; humour]

Recollections of My Grandfather's Home: 1854

Ho, for the country farm-house, as it was twenty years ago. […]The quaint bits of China on the mantel have made room for far more commonplace plaster images.

(Daily National Era, March 30th 1854) [Key words: china; mantelpiece; plaster; images]

Cockshyes 1: 1854

You have doubtless heard of the sudden closing of the Jesuit College of St Michel, near St Etienne, "by order of the authorities." A great deal has been made of the fact, as though there was something very serious concealed under it. The grounds of the proceeding, as related to me by an official personage interested its investigation, were simply these. An image vender was passing by the college with his board full busts of the Emperor105. No sooner did the student see these, than they surrounded the man, took from him all his busts, set some of them upon a dunghill, and made what are called cockshyes106 of them! and solemnly beheaded others with a wooden sword! The perpetration of these deeds, committed no doubt with considerable clamour, was hushed up by the college authorities. But a maître d'[illegible] who had witnessed them, and was shortly after dismissed for bad conduct, avenged himself by carrying the tale to the prefect. The Government took the matter en serieux, and abruptly sent an order to close the college. The clergy have taken the act in great dudgeon. The Pere Ravignan107 has seen the Emperor108 on that subject; but I have not yet learned whether any revocation of the sentence has been obtained.

(The Morning Chronicle, January 31st 1854)
[Key words: image vender; Napoleon]

Stop thief: 1854

A singular case of abduction —This morning a considerable amount of merriment was created opposite our office, in Fulton Street, near Front, in which a young Italian image vender was the principal actor. A man came up to him, it seems, and under pretence of making a purchase lifted the image of the Virgin Mary from the basket, and after examining it pretty closely, all at once started off. Italian appeared at a loss what to do to regain his property, and not thinking it safe to leave his basket behind to follow the thief, and being unable to overtake him with the load, he set up a most piercing and agonizing cry, tore his hair and imprecated in Italian. A large number was soon attracted thither, and many were the inquiries and anxious looks as to the cause of his distress, when the purloiner of the inanimate Virgin made his appearance, and restored it to the distracted vender, who dried up his tears and departed rejoicing, amid the laughter of the crowd.

(The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 6th 1854)
[Key words: Italian; image vender; Virgin; humour]

Embezzling: 1855

An Italian image-boy (whose name the Court was unable to ascertain) was brought up by the police, having been given into custody for embezzling some money the property of his master; but no one appearing to prosecute he was dismissed.

(The Essex Standard and General Advertiser for the Eastern Counties, October 19th, 1855)
[Key words: Italian; image boy; master; crime]

A cure for ennui: 1855

It was a scene fit for a painter's eye. That dying dark-eyed foreigner on his lowly pallet bed; the humble room; the board of images on the floor, and the sunburnt hat and well-worn wallet hanging on a rusty nail at his head. On one side of the bed, knelt the solemn-toned, earnest, and benevolent missionary, his anxiety to teach the lad quickened by consciousness of inablity to convey intelligible instruction, and his belief that the boy hung on the verge of eternity. On the other side of the Italian knelt the young votary of the world — the gay, fashionable Frank Weston, holding the poor boy's wasted hand, and a copy of the New Testament in the Italian tongue, prepared to translate the simple comments into words that the lad could understand.

(Tolliver 1855, 71-17)
[Key words: images; board; melodrama; Italian]

Napoleon's head is gone! 1856

Charge of Stealing Money. — Peter Petertoit was charged with stealing from the dwelling-house of Matthew Pliesse two sovereigns, a half-sovereign, and 4s. in silver, also one chimney ornament, on the 10th inst. Mr. Pliesse deposed that prisoner had been in his house all day on Sunday, when they had something too much to drink. Prisoner left early on Monday morning, and on witness awaking his wife said some one had been into the room and thrown her dress on the floor and rifled her pocket, taking therefrom two sovereigns; a half-sovereign, and some silver. Prisoner slept with another wan in the front room, and witness and his wife in a separate apartment at the end of the passage. The wife on getting up went to the room where prisoner had slept, and cried, out, "Oh, dear, not only my money is gone, but Napoleon's head is gone along with it"— (laughter) — alluding to the image which was found in the Rainbow public-house, where it had been left by the prisoner. Prosecutor's wife corroborated this statement; and a witness named Wheat spoke to having seen in prisoner's possession some gold and silver. Detective Badman took prisoner into custody, he denied the charge. Remanded till this day for further evidence.

(South Australian Register, November 12th 1856)
[Key words: chimney-ornament; Napoleon; image; humour]

Come Buy My Pretty Images: 1856

Come Buy My Pretty Images

Written & Sung by
Mr. J.W. Fielder
Arranged by
J. Watkins
Also sung by
W.T.Critchfield & W. Warde
London Published by B. Williams 11 Paternoster Row
Ent. St. Hall. Price 6d

Come buy dese pretty Images, Vot to you now I show,
De old ones I have sell dem all, And dese are new you know,
Dese Images so vary sheep, to sell I now vill try,
Vary fine, vary sheep, vary pretty vill you buy,
Vill you but my pretty Images, dese Image vill you buy,
Vary fine, vary sheep, Vill you buy vill you buy,
Of a poor Italian, Vat'd sooner laugh as cry,
Come buy my pretty Images dese Image vill you buy.

Dis first is Great Victoria, de first one of dis land,
She visited de wounded, and she take dem by de hand,
De Soldiers cry wid joy such sights was nevare seen,
And tears dey trickle down de cheeks of dis our lovely Queen.
Who'll buy dis Royal Image &c.

De next is Prince Albert, to de war he nevare roam,
He get Pay for doing noting, and he stop quite safe at home,
Aldo he is Field Marshal he nevair take de Field
He played babes in nursery, but not wid sword and shield.
Who'll buy dis Brave Image &c.

Now dis is Omer Pasha109, what has always show'd his might,
A warrior so great, and victorious in de fight,
De river near de Fortress, his troops did ford so well,
At In-gore was de battle, and in gore de Russians fell.
Who'll Buy dis brave Pasha &c.

Here's de late Lord Raglan110, for now he's dead and gone,
De Army and de Navy too, his loss did deeply mourn,
Be know no man is faultless from de Cottage to de Throne,
So let dose who find de fault wif him, look vell after dere own.
Who'll buy dis faithful Image &c.

Now here's anoder Image what has brought himself to shame,
Once de first Lord of de Admirals, Jemmy Graham111 is his name
He dig a pit for Charles Napier and den de silly elf,
Forget dat he had made it and he tumble in himself.
Who'll buy dis silly Image &c.

Here's Sir Charles Napier112, what dey tried to disgrace,
But He sits in Parliament and meets dem face to face,
He sure to tell dem what he think, whatever it may be,
And make his name perhaps as great, on land as on de sea.
Who'll buy dis Injur'd Image &c.

Now here's anoder Image —he's one very gallant man,
His name is General Windham113 who fought at de Redan,
His coolness and his Courage midst de Carnage & de strife,
Has won a name in History, more lasting than his life.
Who'll buy dis Redan Hero &c.

Dis is Colin Campbell114 who has stood de brunt of all,
From de Alma, to de very time Sebastopol did fall,
Den he return to England, but as soon go back again,
For when duty calls such men as he, it nevare calls in Vain.
Who'll buy dis brave Campbell &c.

Dis is Admiral Lyons115 he's de Lion of de main,
Dat in de Sea of Azoff destroyed de Russian grain,
Hi Tars dey all are Lions too also not so by name,
But dere Lions in dere hearts you know & dat is just de same.
Who'll buy dis British Lion &c.

Here's de Earl of Cardigan, and Earl of Lucan too,
Da Charge116 at Balaclava wid de Horseman brave tho' few,
Dey pay de Russians dearly some say dey Charge in Vain,
So now dey have come back, dey want to Charge dem both again.
Who'll buy dese dashing Horseman &c.

Now here's one lovely Image Miss Nightingale117 it be,
She leave her native shore and cross de stormy Sea,
She whisper consolation in de dying Soldiers ear,
And de wound dey forget dere pain whenever she is near.
Who'll buy dis Angel Image &c.

Here's de Earl of Clarendon118 to Paris he did go,
To hold de Conference to see, if we fight or no,
He done his duty Statesmanlike widout a show of fear,
He prove himself a better judge, dan Russell119 did last year.
Who'll buy &c.

London, Printed & Published by B. Williams,
11, Paternoster Row

Pipeclay: 1857

Pipeclay Images.—A correspondent of the Ballaarat Star writes "Conceiving that every novel application of the raw productions of nature by which we are so abundantly surrounded deserves notice and encouragement at the hands of the press, I would beg, through the medium of your columns, to call attention to the German boy who has recently made his appearance in the township with a collection of busts and images, which I understand to have been moulded from the pipeclay of Ballaarat. The wares of the itinerant image boy formed the theme of inspiration of some of Wordsworth's most exquisite verses, which, doubtless, many of your readers will call to mind but looking purely at the utilitarian side of the question, I think we should hail the introduction of this manufacture as one of the many uses to which our native clays, earths, and rocks may be applied in the future."

(Bendigo Advertiser, July 14th 1857)
[Key words: Australia; busts; images; pipeclay; Wordsworth]

Immoral and indecent: 1857

THE GREEK SLAVE—The good people of Mobile seem disposed to carry their modesty a little too far. We notice in the Advertiser of Saturday, that two men have been arrested in that city for vending plaster of Paris images of Power's [sic] Greek slave, they being deemed immoral and indecent in their character.

(The Daily Dispatch, March 3rd 1857) (Richmond Va)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; images; Greek Slave]

The Mobile Advertiser says that two men have been arrested in that city for vending plaster of Paris images of Powers' Greek slave, they being deemed immoral and indecent in their character. Served them right. The Greek Slave is an "incendiary document"120.

(Burlington Free Press, February 27th 1857)
[Key words: censorship; plaster of Paris; images; Greek Slave]

House of many names: 1859

Lastly, there is a model, or sample piece of workmanship, of which copies are to this day sold, principally to the ladies, which I have known for nearly twenty years. It consists of a hollow cottage of latitudinarian architecture, composed of plaster of Paris, with stained glass windows, and with a practicable chimney. In the hollow part of the edifice an oil lamp is nocturnally placed; and the light pouring through the windows, and the smoke curling up the chimney (not altogether inodorously), produce a charming and picturesque effect. This building has had many names. When I knew it first, it was, I think, William Tell's Chalet. Then it was the Birthplace of the Poet Moore. Then it was Shakspeare's House. Then Her Majesty's Highland Hut or Shieling, near Balmoral, in Scotland. And now it is the Birthplace of Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe. House of many names! farewell!

(Sala 1859, 192)
[Key words: cottage; plaster of Paris; illumination; humour]

Buy my him-a-ges: 1859

One of the latest fashionable arrivals to be noticed in our streets is that of, if we may judge from his appearance, a real Italian "Image" man, of whom so many are to be met with in England and on the Continent. His stock of Plaster of Paris ornaments are for the most part of the old stamp—the "Sleeping Beauty," and the "Praying Boy," occupying a very conspicuous position on his board, which, like all the rest of his craft, he, of course, carries on his head.

(Bendigo Advertiser, April 5th 1859)
[Key words: Australia; Italian; image man; plaster of Paris; ornaments; Sleeping Beauty; Samuel]

A rich man: 1859

"You remember Antonio Bajocci, of Bergamo, he that put fire to the guardhouse in Brescia and had to depart very suddenly in consequence?"
Pierro gave an acquiescent nod.
"Well, Antonio fled to America, to the city of New York, where he makes plaster images—heads of Napoleon, of the grand Washington, of little Samuel, of Poll Parrot, and other things, which please that monster, the American people; and, Corpo di Dio! Antonio is well pleased with his business, which makes him a rich man."

(The National Era, December 22nd 1859) (Washington DC)
[Key words: Napoleon; Washington; Samuel; Poll Parrot; plaster; images; New York]

Peashooter practice: 1859

I then went into the plaster image business, but the boys spoiled my assortment by stealing my Napoleons to throw stones at, and abstracting all my Greek Slaves to practice at with peashooters.

(The Prairie News, February 17th 1859)
[Key words: plaster; images; Napoleon; Greek Slave]

A poem: 1859

An image-vender knocked on my front window,
Whereat enraged, I seized a pail of water,
And dashed it on him; 'twas a sin though,
Which I repent of, "'cause I hadn't oughter."

(Cambridge Chronicle, March 19th 1859)
[Key words: image vender; humour]

Body of Bacchus: 1859

Napoleon121 as an Italian Image-Boy. —Speaking to the Italians: "Buy my fine Image! Plon-Plon!122 Little Plon-Plon! Pretty King! Corpo di Baccho123, beautiful King! Real Plaster of Paris! Buy my fine Image! Buy! Cheap—cheap. You shall have him for nothing!"

(Lancaster Gazette, October 1st 1859)
[Key words: Napoleon; image; plaster of Paris; political satire]

The Sculptor's Career: 1859

We are about to relate the true story of an artist— one of the very greatest England has yet produced.

The first scene lies in a shop in New-street, Covent Garden— a very small shop, full of plaster casts, by selling which the worthy but humble proprietor managed to maintain himself, his wife, and his two boys. Arranged on the shelves around the shop and in the windows were casts from the antique, which appealed to the classical tastes—casts of the Niobe, of the far-famed Venus de Medicis—

The bending statue that enchants the world124 — of Hercules, Ajax, Achilles, and many more; but these were for the few, and art in England was then but in its infancy. For the less refined and more ordinary tastes there were casts of George II, then king; of Lord Howe and Admiral Hawke, then in the height of their fame—the naval darlings of England; of the brave General Wolfe, who gloriously fallen during that year (we are now speaking of the year 1759) on the heights of Québec, and with the praises of whose gallantry all England was then ringing; and there were also to be observed a few busts of the prominent-featured William Pitt, then a young man, but already a recognised orator in the English Commons;. Such were the mute humanities of he shop shelves; and from then we turned to the living inmates. The master of the place might be observed, through a glass door which separated the back room from the front shop, busily engaged involving a figure of one of the new popular men of the day — Admiral Boscawen125

(The Huddersfield Chronicle and West Yorkshire Advertiser, August 13th 1859)
[Key words: casts; busts; Niobe; Venus de Medici; Hercules; Ajax; Achilles; George II, Howe; Hawke; Wolfe; Pitt; Boscawen]

Liberty: 1860

At either extremity of the table were placed the very familiar plaster of Paris images, known as the "Kneeling Samuel," which our original typifier, Miss Dickey had painted black to the occasion; the one bearing as a placard the Macedonian cry, "Come over and help us!"126 the other, the memorable war cry of Patrick Henry, "Give me liberty, or give me death!"127

(Flanders 1860, 134)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; images; Samuel]

The Twin Fishers: 1860



Who is not acquainted with the two plaster-of-Paris images, borne about and sold by Italians, called the Twin Fishers? What lovely symbols of innocent childhood! In their aprons they essay to carry their fishes; but the smooth-sided creatures of the stream are ever gliding out at the sides, and the innocent children elevate one side of the apron only to let them slide out the more surely on the other; and with what earnestness of look — half perplexity, because they are dropping out, and half admiration of the beautiful captives themselves — do they gaze at them jumping at their feet, while others still are falling from the carelessly-held apron! Many thoughts come up in our mind while beholding these lovely Twin Fishers. Though they are not of marble, and would perhaps never be thought of, in connection with exhibitions of statuary, as "things of art," yet sure we are that there are many who feel the beauty of these images, where affectation of higher pretensions to taste would disown seeing it. No wonder, then, that these innocent little creatures are so popular as mantel and hearth ornaments. Thus, then, it came to pass that a pair of the Fishers had long graced the mantel of a parlor where we had enjoyed many a social hour. It came to pass, also, in the process of time, that on a sad and stormy day the veering wind sent a sudden blast down the chimney, the fire-board fell, and the little Fishers lay in wreck and ruin over the floor! Then it was that it fell to the Poet to allay the common grief, by the song of the Twin Fishers; and inasmuch as sorrow is lightened by being distributed, we invite the reader to join us in these measures of sorrow.

How oft have ye cheered me, ye sweet, tuneful Nine,
When dull, heavy sorrow has darkened my soul;
Come now with a song to this sad heart of mine.
And calm the rough billows that over me roll.
O soothing consolers! ye only have skill
To ease my heart's tremor, and bid it be still.

Not selfishly sad do I call for your aid;
Not mine was the first bitter draught of this woe;
On friends of my heart the bereavement is laid,
And theirs are the tears with which mine own now flow.
Give words that upon their stormed spirits shall fall
Like the music of David on the sad heart of Saul.

Let me touch, Muses! your tenderest vein,
And call forth your sympathy freely and true ;
Lend, lend me your numbers, and lead on the strain,
Till I sing all the sorrowful story to you —
A story beginning all cheerful as light.
But ending as sad and as fearful as night!

O joy on the day when from Italy's strand —
Yes, Italy, land of soft airs and bright skies —
Came the wit of the head and the skill of the hand,
That for pleasure of others so wittingly plies,
From flour of plaster the image to mould.
To Nature so true, with its graces untold!

Yes, joy above all, on that happiest hour.
When, with high inspiration, the artist conceived
This finest, most graceful display of his power,
Which praise above all, and from all, has received.
When the little Twin Fishers stood graceful to view,
Joy shone in his eyes like the sun in the dew.

The Brother as mild as a morning in May,
The Sister as meek as a cherub — they stand;
And, bearing the little pet fishes away.
They glide through the apron and slip through the hand.
Such innocent looks of contentment and love,
We are wont to transfer to the cherubs above.

Sweet picture of childhood! — that holiest time!
No shadow of sorrow has darkened their brows;
With hearts that hear music from Heaven's pure clime,
With love never checked by perfidious vows.
O beautiful Fishers! how mild and how sweet,
With the pets in their aprons, the pets at their feet.

When Hennie and Annie had purchased the pair,
And bore them with fondness away in their arms;
The act, to the thoughtful, was evidence rare
That their hearts were well used to the purest of charms.
And there, 'neath the mantel, the Twin Fishers stood.
The joy of the pure, and the praise of the good.

But oh! that misfortune should sadden my song,
And shadows should darken the joys that I sing!
But earth never leaves us the beautiful long,
And sweetest of flowers first attract the keen sting!
'Tis sad — yet 'tis well, for if this were not so,
We might sell our bright Heaven for the bright things below

Sad day when the storm, roaring fierce round the roof,
Sent a blast down the chimney, so sudden and strong
That the fire-board yielded — the nails were not proof
For the strength of the wind that bore down on it long.
The dear little Fishers, so lovely before,
A wreck and a ruin were found on the floor!

How changed is the place! Though new taste and new care
Have been busy around where the ruin was wrought;
In vain would the fresh-painted fire-board there
Beguile the sad eye — it is nought! it is nought ! No! gone and for ay, is the charm and the pride,
The mantel is lone with no pets at its side!

(Harbaugh 1860, 140)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; images; Italians; sentimentality; mantelpiece]

A matter of course: 1862

The use of a piano! The instrument is there, as a matter of course—like the plaster images on the mantelpiece, and the portrait of the host or hostess, in the dining-room—but it is not jangling from morning to night, and indeed is seldom touched except during the brief gloaming before the candles are lighted.

(The South Australian Advertiser, December 8th 1862)
[Key words: plaster; images; mantelpiece]

A Secret of the Trade: 1863

Buy My Images!—Galignani's Messenger128 relates the following as an actual occurrence:

"Leon Gozlan129 said, one evening, in the green room of the Theatre Français, that, perplexed at seeing the Italian image sellers eternally hawking their tray of statuettes on their heads through the streets, without a human creature ever appearing to bargain for any, he asked one of those vendors if he had exercised that profession long. 'Thirty years,' replied the man. 'And did you ever,' continued the author of the Medecin de Perq, 'happen to sell one of your figures?' 'Never, sir.' Gozlan reflected for some time on the strangeness of the answer, and then said, 'My good man, do me the favor to tell me why you have been thus walking about, for the last thirty years with the load upon your head? Is it in obedience to a vow you have made?' 'No, sir, certainly not; it is to get my living—that is the only reason.' 'But you say you never sell anything.' 'I never sell anything, it is true,' returned the man, 'but there are so many clumsy people in the world that a day never passes without some one running against me and upsetting my board. My figures are thus broken, and a crowd collects and makes the person pay for them all!

(Portland Daily Advertiser, April 23rd 1863)
[Key words: Italian; image sellers; destruction; humour] [See also 1895]

The Organ Grinders: 1863

A Philadelphia contemporary congratulates its readers on being relieved of the presence of the Lazaroni of the city as represented by the organ grinders, plaster of Paris image makers, etc. It says: "Essex Street, in old Moyamensing130, once the abode of the Lazaroni— monkeys, hand organs, hurdy-gurdies, trained dogs and kangaroos—is now as quiet as a churchyard. There is a cause for the absence of the lazy Bohemians. The enforcement of the draft frightened them from their propriety, if they ever had any. The old and young, the blind and the crippled, supposed that they were all to be pressed into the service of the country. It never was in their contemplation to fight. Their mission was to supply music for the million and thus awaken pleasing thoughts. Such a thing as drawing a sword, or shouldering a musket, was too horrible to them for contemplation. The enroller, whose bailiwick included the abode of the Lazaroni, made his appearance one day. It required several hours before he could obtain a proper idea of spelling the names that were given him. Besides this drawback, the effluvia arising from the abiding places of men and monkeys were such as to nauseate the feelings of the representative of our venerable Uncle Samuel.

(The Daily Intelligencer, July 30th 1863)
[Key words: Lazaroni; racism; plaster of Paris; image; makers]

Fertiliser: 1863

I remember seeing you, some 12 years since, in the parlour of Halls hotel in Wilmington, on one the occasion of one of the agricultural anniversaries of your county society, when Dr Maize stated that the fertilizing affects of plaster were first made known from the fact of the grass growing with unusual fertility where the maker of plaster of Paris images had shaken his bags.

(Farmer and Gardener, Vol 5, No 5 November 1863)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; images]

Nashville traders after the Civil War: 1865

They take in all classes and orders of traders, from the solid and respectable Broadway merchant to the Chatham-street Israelite and the Italian image-vender.

(New York Times, April 16th, 1865)
[Key words: Italian; image vender]

Nodding: 1865

What wonder, then, that you have got to look around the ballroom towards midnight to see every one of the heads of the aged dames in black stuff nodding away, as though they were so many plaster casts of cats with movable necks arranged along the board of some Italian image seller?

(Mayhew 1865, 55)
[Key words: plaster casts, cats, nodders, Italian, image-seller]

A monument in Aberdeen: 1866

That of the Prince Consort is a monument131 of high-backed chair and jack-boots. From one point of view you cannot see the Prince for chair from another you cannot see him for robes, and from a third you cannot see him for boots. The Prince is better represented in a sixpenny chimney ornament.

(Border Watch, February 3rd 1866)(South Australia)
[Key words: mantelpiece; ornament]

Hospitality: 1866

He had, before calling, purchased an old-fashioned plaster image from an Italian, and put it into his coat pocket. After his examination of the house one of the occupants presented him with the figure, which had been dexterously extracted from his pocket, whether as a specimen of skill, or as a hint that the visitor had been treated with a certain amount of hospitality, was not clear.

(Anon 1866, 232)
[Key words: Italian; plaster; image; crime; humour]

Extinction: 1867

The Italian plaster image makers have become almost extinct. The cheapness of engravings has driven plaster casts out of the market.

(Memphis Daily Appeal, May 30th 1867)
[Key words: Italian; plaster; image; casts; extinction]

Peregrinating merchant: 1867

…I had seen many of Ristori's compatriots engaged in the peanut trade, while others trafficked in plaster cats; and only the other day I came upon another who was disturbing the piece with a beastly organ and a dyspeptic-looking monkey…He aroused himself, however, and obligingly volunteered to find the place which he was eminently capable of doing, being, as he tersely remarked, predisposed toward peanuts from his earliest infancy, and of course, "up in his Italian." Furthermore, at a later period in his life, he had been walloped by a vender of plaster images for having in the exuberance of his youthful spirits indiscreetly fired a stick of stovewood into the stock in trade of this peregrinating merchant, much to its detriment.

(Delaware Gazette, February 1st 1867)
[Key words: plaster cats; peregrinating merchant; destruction]

Organ-Grinders and Image-Peddlers: 1867

Their Habits and Peculiarities

The Italians have been characterized by a witty Bohemian in one of our city dailies as [a] nation whose chief industry is organ-grinding, and whose principal export is maccaroni. It is curious that although nearly all organ grinders other countries are Italian, they are rarely seen in Italy itself.

Both organ-grinders and image-peddlers are much less numerous in this city than before the late war. The army and the general activity of all branches of industry attracted them from their callings by superior remuneration. The industrial arts in Italy are comparatively few especially and the long-misgoverned southern portion, lately known as the Neapolitan dominions. There abound the lazzaroni132, who are rarely acquainted with trades, and who gather a precarious subsistence by begging or doing odd jobs. It is from these that spring the two classes here discussed.

Naturally on arriving in a strange land, they seize upon pursuits that require no previous preparation. Europeans of the Latin race, comprising Italians, Spaniards and French, are not prone to emigrate. They enjoy bright skies and a mild air, their simple food is acquired the little labor, a lax morality gratifies their animal instincts with slight seeking, and the ignorance both debars aspiration and withdraws knowledge of more prosperous regions. They are contented at home.

The southern Italians are quick-witted and prompt at repatee, and much resemble the Irish in their inexhaustible fund of humor. They are indolent simply from position; with sufficient motive they are readily attracted to labor. It has long been a custom both here and in Europe for speculative Italians to induce their southern countrymen to emigrate, by paying their passage and loaning their organs for street music. The conditions are that a certain sum should be brought home nightly, the overplus being retained by the employee. This business has been conducted in past years with great success, and has in many countries realized moderate fortunes. In this city there are establishments, also, where organs are loaned for about twenty-five cents a day, to itinerants, who often realize from two to three dollars daily by their use.

The organ grinder's monkey

A more exulted step in the scale of the profession is to carry a monkey, but this requires capital, and can not be freely undertaken. A well trained monkey is valued at from fifty to a hundred dollars according to his accomplishments. There are professional trainers of the animals, and if an unschooled monkey is brought for instruction, at least fifty dollars is charged for his board and tuition. Monkeys of the freshman class commence by dancing, or giving a series of jumps as the organ plays. This is easily learned, and is facilitated by jerks with a rope. To this they add jumping on and off the organ, when bid.

The "Sophs" become accomplished in taking off and re-adjusting their caps and passing a hoop from head to foot. Beating a tambourine and holding individually to the crowd for money, requires the matured intellect of a graduate. He that fiddles deserves in his diploma.

Among the classes Italian here specified may be included the street musician of the fiddler and harp order. They are individuals naturally gifted and acquire the skills solely by ear, with a slight mechanical teaching from companions. Of musical annotation they know nothing. All these people are apt, on arrival, to betake themselves to the vicinity of the Five Points133, where both sexes, to the number of a dozen or more, occupy promiscuously one room, and sleep in an atmosphere of dirt, grease and mingled with the fumes of bodies more or less diseased. The floor, or a thin, filthy mattress, is their only bedding, the ragged blanket of the most repulsive kind. In the hot nights of summer they fly from this atmosphere of vermin and suffocation to the roof, while their fellow-lodgers, Irish and colored, resort to the carts lying in the street, or to the sidewalk. A philosophy of life with these poor people is, not how much comfort can be secured, how much discomfort avoided.

What they eat.

The food of Italian Lazzaroni upon the coast consists largely of what they call frutti de mare, or fruit of the sea. This comprises fish or any incomprehensible, inchoate being, that may be hauled in a net. Of these any fisherman has an abundant experience. They are eaten and relished. Nothing comes unwelcome to their mouths. The drawing of a fish is considered unnecessary. He is fried with garlic as nature created him, the scales merely being scraped off. Entrails are considered unctuous, and no mean portion of the food. Wheat of late years being high in price, maccaroni is much less used by them than formerly. They content themselves with coarse bread, and cheese from the milk of sheep and goats. Meat is rarely purchased. It is too expensive. Their drink is water, mingled with a cheap and sour red wine. Coffee is rarely taken; tea never.

On arrival here, their frutti de mare becomes limited. They content themselves with such fish as our own market affords, and this been no cheaper than meat, the latter receives a share of attention. Cheese is unattainable, the wine of Italy can only be substituted by that France, which is beyond their purses. They console themselves themselves with lager beer, and eke out a repast with bread and onions, maccaroni being added as an occasional luxury. Vegetables, other than onions, but few relish. Fruit they are indifferent to, with the exception of musk and watermelons, which they have been sometimes accustomed to in abundance at home. It may be said of the Italians in New York that they rarely give trouble to the police. They are quiet, law-abiding citizens, and live much about themselves.

The organ grinder at home

A dawning of prosperity often creates a removal from the Five Points proximity to the more commodious lodgings of the district west of Broadway, between Canal and Houston streets. Thereabout in in Sullivan, Laurens and Macdougal street, they may be found, still in rickety old back tenements, where stairs give an uncertain foothold, and carpets are an undreamed luxury, but less crowded numbers and in a purer atmosphere. A glance at their rooms reveals bare floors, three legged stools, tables of pine, or mahogany long innocent of polish, but no evidence of filth nauseates a visitor.

Clothing lately washed hangs in the yard: Pantaloons with colossal patches of many colours, and coarse stockings that might have been targets for bullets; but these are mingled to the eye with window sills garnished by refreshing plants and brilliant flowers.

Dances periodically occur, to the violin and harp, with a gaiety totally free from disorder. As with the Germans, the old partake as well as the young, and here they indulgence in snatches of costume worn by them at home. A white Neapolitan headdress sometimes appears among the women, as also a bright red handkerchief, thrown loosely over the hair. These charming intimations of a poetic land redeem dingy walls and smoky lamps, and earn for dark eyed wearers a gaze oblivious of all surroundings.

Advance in Life

In these houses, many of the occupants have relinquished the precarious livelihood of street musician or image-selling, and have adopted trades. They enter sugar refineries or confectioneries, toy factories, and wine establishments, and obtain permanent occupation at image casting. A few become cooks, waiters and street laborers. A number are now employed upon the Brooklyn Park at $1.60 a day. The women soon imagine that tambourine playing is not reputable, although, if pretty, no man ever refuses his contribution, and they branch off into other pursuits. Artificial flower making and the packing of confectionery are the chief occupations of their choice. A French confectioner in Broadway, who manufactures largely, has his establishment filled with Italian girls.

Soon another step is taken in the social scale, and with increased means and increased pride a removal is made by both sexes into an eligible tenement house, where they become lost in the mass of the American people, learn English, and possess nothing distinctive but their dark eyes and hair. They intermarry with Americans, and the children know nothing of the parental tongue.

Image makers complain of the decadence of their business. In former days the educated classes, who learned mythology and could appreciate a Venus, the Graces or a Cupid, were not above installing plaster images upon a mantelpiece. Plaster is now at a discount. Parian marble and clay only, are countenanced. The great American people at large may indulge in plaster, but they are quite innocent of mythology. It is not a public school study. They turn from Venus and the Graces to the more vivid realisations of the Black Crook134. Gen. Washington, however, they have heard of, and they buy him tolerably; Lincoln also, and Grant135; Sherman136 and Sheriden137 sparsely; other generals not at all; McClellan138 is "played out" as the dealers assert. A high tariff tendency leads still to a few purchases of Clay139. Webster140 is nowhere. What is he but a great name? What legacy of goodness has he left to the land? With God-like attributes, he sold himself to the slave power for the pottage of a hope for presidency. He has earned oblivion, and the image venders declare he has gained it.—New York Post.

(St. Johnsbury Caledonian, December 27th 1867) (Vermont)
[Key words: Italians; image-peddlers; taste; Venus; Graces; Cupid; Black Crook; Washington; Lincoln; Grant; Sherman; Sheriden; McClellan; Clay; Webster]

Christmas 1868

And then up the hill and over to the north end, and as far as we could get the horses up into Moon Court, that they might seem to the Italian image-man who gave Lucy the boy and dog in plaster, when she was sick in the spring. The children had, you know, the choice of where they would go, and they selected their best friends, and will be more apt to remember the Italian image-man than Chrysostom141 himself, though Chrysostom should have "made a few remarks" to them seventeen times in the chapel. Then the Italian image-man heard for the first time in his life
"Now is the time of Christmas come,"
"Jesus in his babes abiding."

(Hale 1868, 275)
[Key words: Italian; image man; boy and dog; plaster]

Savings 1869

I went to the Catholic chapel; and as I stood up while others were kneeling, I found my coat tugged at violently. This was occasioned by a combination of Roman Catholic and Italian zeal. The tug of recognition came from an Italian boy, a Piedmontese image-seller, whom we had met with before on the road— a spirited lad, who refused a shilling Torlonia offered him, and said he had saved enough by selling images and other Italian articles to buy himself land in Savoy. I understood him to say £80; but that is probably a mistake. He has however, been several years in England.

(Robinson 1869, 276) [Key words: Italian; boy; image-seller; Piedmontese; earnings]

Even in Peking: 1870

Ma un mi' amïo di Lucca che fa' gatti…
Li fa cor gesso, creda, da sbagliassi
Lui, vorsi dì', ch'è stato fra' Mulatti142,
Ch'ha visitato anch'e' Paesi Bassi143,
M'ha detto che neppure 'n der Pehino144,
Luminare di Pisa145 'un se ne vede.

(Renato Fucini, Le Poesie di Neri Tanfucio, 1870)

But a friend of mine from Lucca makes cats…
He makes them of plaster; believe me, you can confuse them with real ones,
I'll tell you, he's been around South America,
And he's also visited the Netherlands,
He told me that even in Peking,
He sees the Luminara di Pisa.

[Key words: cats; plaster; South America; Netherlands; China]

Street cries of New York: 1870

Various cries are occasionally to be heard throughout the city, the significance of which can only be guessed at from the kind of wares hawked by the utterers of them. Peddlers, with baskets full of fancy glassware, — jars, vases, and other such knick-knacks as are used for table or chimney-piece ornaments, —carry on their business in the by-streets. They utter low, droning cries from time to time, as they slowly place along by the area railings, but it is generally impossible to recognise any verbal combination in their smothered accents.

(Dawson 1870, 204)
[Key words: cries; mantelpiece; ornaments]

The taste of women: 1870

Strange and noticeable, too, is the taste of women in the cheap chimney ornament line. Mysterious animals (shapen with equal fidelity to a horse or a pig) are banded, and spotted, and ringed, as surely never four-footed beasts were before! Rare specimens of pink-nosed poodles, and of spotted tom-cats with ferocious whiskers and gooseberry eyes, predominate; but the popular fancy also inclines to members of the Highland brigade done in crockery, and to likenesses of Napoleon crossing the Alps on a jibbing horse, and pointing at nothing in the distance.

(Illustrated Sydney News, December 24th 1870)
[Key words: mantelpiece; gender; horse; pig; dog; cat; Highland soldiers; Napoleon]

A new manufactory: 1870

Canton has a new manufactory, located on fifth street. Company—some Italians; products, plaster paris images [sic].

(The Democratic Press, July 21st 1870) (Ohio)
[Key words: Italians; plaster of Paris; images]

MP: 1870

Mr Mundella, Member of Parliament for Sheffield England, who is to succeed John Bright in case the latter retires from the cabinet, is said to have first entered Sheffield as an Italian image boy.

(Daily Alta, June 5th 1870)
[Key words: Italian; image boy]

Outrage: 1871

A Pottsville paper tells the following: a party of for men had been out gunning, and upon returning to town found an itinerant Italian image peddler in the street, who they directed to stand off a certain number of paces, and keep the rack of images upon the top of his head while they shot them off. The poor fellow protested against such a procedure—cried, begged and plead to be let off—but all to no effect. He was compelled to stand the test, and did so until the gunners had shot the last image away from over his head.—Not content with this outrage, they then refused to pay the Italian for the damage done, and he was compelled to leave town a very poor man.

(The Bloomfield Times, September 12th 1871)
[Key words: Italian; image peddler; violence]

Little Italian boys: 1871

The traffic in little Italian boys, who are sent to America to play fiddles and vend plaster images, has opened briskly this year.

(The Evening Telegraph, March 28th 1871)
[Key words: Italian; boys; plaster; images]

How to pay: 1872

The next case arose from the Italian image man having been detected breaking our city bylaws, in not providing himself at Hawker's license. In broken English he stated that, as he modelled his own ware, he did not require one. He had never been interfered with in Sydney. His worship failed to fall in with the culprit's views, and advised him to take out his license forthwith. The poor fellow seemed perfectly willing to do this on the matter being explained to him the only obstacle in the way appeared to be as to how he was to pay for it. Without the Council will take the fee out in chimney ornaments, to adorn the Council Chambers.

(The Evening Star, March 12th 1872) (Auckland NZ)
[Key words: Italian; image man; mantelpiece; ornaments]

Gentle Italian: 1872

—Ye gentle Italian perambuleth ye streets with ye Plaster of Paris images.

(The St Cloud Journal, June 13th 1872) (Minnesota)
[Key words: Italian; plaster of Paris; images]

Wonders of a boarding house: 1872

A ceiling or a chimney ornament which are neither of them cracked.

(Mariposa Gazette, November 1st 1872)
[Key words: mantelpiece; ornament]

Bedizened with plaster images: 1873

To the credit of very many of them be it said that they have made their little cottages neat and comfortable. In cottage after cottage you will find the polished mahogany chest of drawers as the principal article of sitting-room furniture. It is placed opposite the outer door of the cottage to attract the attention of the visitor and the passer-by. Then to the right of the door as you enter is a table covered with a bright cloth, and bedizened with plaster images and little glass vases. An eight-day clock stands in a convenient corner. It is none of your Dutch or American time-keepers, but the good old English article, about seven feet in height with an immense dial on top, and something like a room door in front. The chimney piece and stove are brilliant in brass and black lead.

(Empire, May 8th 1873) (Sydney)
[Key words: cottages; plaster images]

Cockshyes 2: 1873

Then an Italian, with a lot of plaster casts, committed the unpardonable sin of coming into the Close without leave, and his wares were taken, and put up for "cock-shyes." (Hughes 1873, 33)

(Hughes, Thomas (1873) Memoir of a Brother)
[Key words: Italian; plaster casts; destruction]

The inquiring husband: 1873

About this time the frugal housewife finds herself compelled to admit to her inquiring husband that she traded off his winter overcoat last July for the plaster image which Johnny broke.

(The Jackson Standard, November 27th 1873)(OH)
[Key words: plaster; image; clothing exchange]

Bloodthirsty preparations: 1874

In Springfield, Mass., an Italian vender was robbed of several plaster images in a tenement house. He went straight across the street and put the remainder of his wares in a safe place. He took off his coat, rolled up his shirt sleeves above the elbows, draw a long knife, and pulled his hat down on his head in a determined way. Then he started for the tenement house with five-foot strides, remarking that blood was going to flow. On the way he was met by a trembling little boy who handed him the stolen image and scampered back into the house, from which the bloodthirsty preparations have been watched.

(American Citizen, March 21st 1874) (MA)
[Key words: Italian; plaster; images; humour]

Brittle wares: 1874

It is seldom now that we see about the streets that familiar figure of our youthful days, the Italian image seller, with his plaintive cry "Buy my images." Cynics used to assert that these itinerant vendors never sold any of their brittle wares, but that once or twice a day they used to run accidentally against a prosperous-looking benevolent old gentleman, overturn the contents of their board, and receive on the spot liberal compensation for the damage effected. But this theory cannot be strictly true, as it does not account for the existence of those numerous plaster busts which ornament the fanlights of shabby-genteel lodging houses, and which have evidently been obtained by the landladies of these establishments by purchase or barter.

(The Graphic, January 10th 1874)
[Key words: Italian; image seller; cry; humour; plaster of Paris; busts]

Duet: 1874

Mrs Partridge's hoops, the hairbrushes, the wax fruit, hymn book and the plaster image of little Samuel saying his prayers in a nightshirt with a stubby-nosed angel in a bolster-case watching him—All of these things were hurled furiously at the unseen cats; and still the duet proceeded.

(The Andrew County Republican, October 9th, 1874)(Savannah, MO)
[Key words: Plaster; image; Samuel; angel]

The Italian image man: 1874


One seldom sees in New-York— the more's the pity — the familiar figure to Londoners of the Italian image man. Dressed in black velveteens, for which he appears to have a peculiar affection, and balancing his tray of plaster casts upon his head, he makes the air musical with his low-pitched long-drawn-out cry of "Buy my images, fine images."


Doubtless Italian image men may have wandered to other parts of the world, but it is only in London that a market sufficiently remunerative can be found for the wares in which our friends deal. For, truth to tell, it seldom happens that they have anything on their trays which has the least pretension to artistic merit. Their purchasers are, for the most part, among people in humble circumstances who have still something for superfluities. The wife of the British workmen has one spot of which she is especially proud, and to adorn it she is willing to make some sacrifice. This is the mantelshelf over the fireplace. This favourite place is generally loaded with a variety of ornaments of the most singular description. Among them the images of the Italian vendor occupy a prominent position. Statuettes of royal personages, busts of the Great Duke146, cats and dogs couchant, and occasionally miniature palaces, which can be illuminated from the interior, are the staple wears. But there are venders who strike for more remunerative trade, who in some way get molds of artistic reductions of antiques, and present really exquisite casts to the educated families of small means who live in the suburbs. As a general thing the bargaining is done by the fair sex in the absence of their liege lords, and as they invariably shrink with horror from the prices asked, they are usually inveigled into giving into giving in exchange for a bust of Clite or of Niobe, or statuette of the Venus de Medicis, an amount of cast-off male clothing worth about four times the price demanded.

Although it is just as well that our fair housekeepers should not be exposed to this danger, it is a great pity that there is so small a demand for plaster casts in America. Somehow our hearts are been lifted up by great prosperity and we have a soul above plaster. If we could afford marble, then, of course, we should be only too glad to possess reductions of those famous antiques whose beauty has intoxicated the world. Why there should be a prejudice against an article for its cheapness is hard to understand, but it is the fact that the dislike of plaster has its origin in this sentiment. It is true that when a mold has been used many times the value of the cast as a faithful copy of the original is greatly lessened. But the cost of making a gelatine mold is so little that no workman would think of making many casts from it. And it is undeniable that the original can be reproduced with almost faultless accuracy by casting. This is the great advantage that the sculptor has over the painter, that his works can be repeated almost to infinity. All these beautiful statues, which we so admire and name name antiques, are proofs of this. They are not originals; those have long since perished, or are hidden still in the bosom of the earth. The statues, the torsos we possess are simply copies, rendering more or less faithfully, according to the whim of the purchaser, some extraordinary work of genius which the earlier epochs of Greek art had given to the world.


One of the results of the application of molds to antique statuary has being to give to almost all art students the same models of beauty for their instruction. In every art school throughout America there will be found almost precisely the same figures. Everyone has its Venus De Medicis and De Milo, its Venus at the Bath, its Fates, its Laocoon, its Hercules of Glykon, its Theseus and Ilyssus, its Germanicus, its Fighting Gladiator, its Dying Gladiator, its Knife-Sharpener, its Apollo Belvedere, its busts of Euripides, of Augustus Caesar, of Niobe, Clite, Paris, its Supplicating Youth, its Dancing Fawn, its Salinus with the Youthful Bacchus. Some have many more but these are universal. If one could examine the art schools in England he would find exactly the same figures. In France, Germany, and Russia they would still be found repeated in plaster, and occupying the energies of art students. In Italy the scholars of art have such a wealth of originals that plaster cast are not so prominent, but there are not a few commercial and manufacturing cities in the North of Italy where designers learn the rudiments of the industry by studying the lines of these deathless forms from the universal plaster. And it is much to be desired that ladies of refinement would admit plaster casts into their houses in spite of the material, rather than the flashy, flimsy meretricious Parian marbles which are now so much in vogue. It must be acknowledged that the material of the latter is so delicate in texture, so admirably pure in colour, that is at excellently suited for the representation of the human form. But the subjects rendered in it are almost invariably the most trashy kind, such as Peris flying to Paradise, Venuses coming out of enormous oyster-shells, and other forms all of the same weak order of sentimentality


One can learn how to see and how to appreciate the beautiful perfectly well from the casts.


As such [the Venus de Milo] is as admirable teacher of the beautiful as can be found. Therefore its multiplication by plaster casts would be an essential benefit. The statuettes and busts which are to be found in so many drawing rooms, are nearly all in marble or terracotta. Plaster seems to be rejected by all save artists, painters, and sculptors, and the circles which they control. When this prejudice against plaster is removed, and in every drawing-room and parlour one shall find casts of the water-carrier147 and the Venus of Milo; the time will not be far distant when the country will assume that artistic character which nature has evidently predestined it.

(New York Times, April 5th 1874)
[Key words: Italian; costume; plaster; casts; tray; cry; art; royalty; Wellington; cats; dogs; illuminations; Clite; Niobe; Venus de Medici; manufacture; techniques; Parian; education; Venus de Milo]

"The Image-Seller" 1874

(From a painting exhibited in the French Gallery, London.)

The artist has chosen for the subject of the beautiful painting from which this engraving is made an incident frequently witnessed in the villages of Italy. An itinerant image-seller stops to display his tempting wares to a couple of pretty peasant girls, who lean with the placid attention over the railing of the portico or porch which gives such a picturesque appearance to Italian cottages. They do not seem inclined to purchase. The image-seller apparently cannot supply them with just the cast they want to adorn their wall, or perhaps he is not willing to come down in his price. They are great hagglers, these Italian peddlers, whatever sort of wares they bring for sale, and will stand by the hour wrangling over a penny. In the end the peasant girl will get the image if she wants it, and the peddler will go away grumbling, and secretly glad to have made a better bargain than he expected. These itinerant image-sellers often find their way to this country, and their hoarse and discordant cry of "Images!" is frequently heard in far inland towns and villages, as well as in the larger cities. They are rarer now than a few years ago, the demand for plaster casts having been replaced by a love of photographs, engravings, chromos149, and illustrated books; and now, instead of a small dingy cast of "Little Samuel" in the familiar attitude, or of the "Father of his Country",150 we find in rural parlours tastefully framed family portraits drawn by the son himself, engravings of famous statesman or generals, or reproductions of some interesting historical event.

At the same time excellent plaster casts may be had, at a very low price, taken from that great masterpieces of antiquity, and these must not be confounded with the cheap and common specimens brought around by ordinary image-sellers.

(Harper's Weekly, January 31st 1874, 113)
[Key words: Italy; image-seller; selling; cry; decline; Samuel; Washington; antiquity]

Worship in Nicaragua: 1875

Disposed according to principles of order incomprehensible, a crowd of dolls, beasts, from "Noah's Ark" boxes figures off cakes and plaster-of-paris images. On the Tower of Babel was set out a doll's tea service. Tin soldiers marching in order undisturbable under parsley trees, though against them, smiling but terrible, advanced a China shepherdess with the evident resolve of eating up those little warriors. The lamb she led scowled ferociously. Herod, near by, wore a tinsel helmet. Pontius Pilate shone forth in a breast-plate made up of four spangles sewn together. Flying cupids, each provided with a decent spangle about the waste, hovered over the scene. In the immediate foreground, before the foot-lights, stood as many images of the sort of retailed by Italian boys in Europe as the householder could lay hands on. Victor Emmanuel, Garibaldi and the late Emperor Napoleon were everywhere represented. The Venus de Medici, attired in satin, had her place in several shows; in one, where her figure was larger, she was posted outside the stage for adoration of the faithful. In another place I saw half a dozen women telling their beads before Venus in a blue petticoat, of plaster representing a ballet girl pirouetting dressed in blue silk and offered for worship—not in vain. Such is the religion of Central America. Were not the old idols more dignified?—All the Year Round

(The New North-West, January 8th 1875) (Oregon)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; images; Italian boys; Victor Emmanuel; Garibaldi, Napoleon III; Venus de Medici]

A weight of care and images: 1875

…He was a home-made Italian, or an uncertain German. Upon his head , showing him to be a well-organized balancer, he carried a tray of plaster-of-paris images—little Samuels, full-grown Moseses, and the Muses. He came in just before lunch-time—a time when man's better nature does not get the advantage of his appetite. He offered to sell us two of the Muses because, we suppose, he thought they would amuse us! [No hilarity, James.] He said the price was one dollar and seventy-five cents for the pair! The gentlemen present (waiting to accompany us to lunch ) guyed the image-vendor, and ridiculed him for his avariciousness, as it might be. The image-man, not to be diverted from his fell purpose (vide cheap novels), fell to one dollar and sixty cents; but, like Enoch Arden151, no sale. Sad and discouraged, for he was selling for the conventional poor widow, be turned him toward the door; but, casting a beseeching look behind him, he stood as if undecided—as if his parents were dead, and he was left alone in this unfeeling world. That look touched us to the heart—yea, to our heart of hearts—and the charitable nature of our composition asserted its supremacy. We strided—strode sounds better. We strode to where the poor man stood, his chest upheaving with its weight of care and woe and images. "How much did you say?" was our cheering question. "A dollar and sixty cents," was his sorrowful rejoinder. "Throw off the dollar, and it's a trade." "Take 'em; they are yours." The bargain was clinched, yet we had made the offer not in sincerity, but to show that we possessed money, and to teach a lesson to the mean gentlemen who impatiently awaited our coming. Not having the sixty cents handy, for it was not a good day for gathering in money, we offered to resell the Muses to the vendor for fifty cents. "Not wort' so muchee—I geef you thairty!" And "thairty" it was. When that image man went out, his face was radiant with joy, and we felt that we had, unintentionally, done at least one good action that day. [You heard him boasting, in a beer saloon, how he had got the best of a greenhorn? That cannot be possible. Jimmy. You got one of the beers on it, did you, and that's how you know its true? Well, well, the world is all a sham, and want and penury and gratitude are all a delusion.]

(New York Clipper, September 11th 1875)
[Key words: Italian; German; plaster of Paris; Samuel; Moses; Muses; humour]

Avalanche of plaster: 1875

Photographs seem to be decidedly on the decline [in Paris]; ladies and gentlemen now inundate salons, the former with their statuettes, the latter with their medallions. It is an avalanche of plaster, sufficient to make an Italian image-seller crazy. Naughty boys, it is said, make butts152 of these productions, as they do of speaking dolls, for their drawing room carabines. One advantage, and it is an omnipotent one, statuettes possess over photos; they hide wrinkles, and further cause the figure to look younger.

(Trewman's Exeter Flying Post or Plymouth and Cornish Advertiser, February 10th 1875)
[Key words: Paris; plaster; statuettes, Italian; image-seller]

Images at Eton: 1875

The room was quite small…some little carved brackets of stained wood held little plaster figures, not badly modelled, in which an Italian image-seller drove a brisk trade amongst the boys.

(Oliphant 1875, 717)
[Key words: plaster; figures; Italian; image seller]

Curiously-wrought infants: 1875

The Firemen's Cemetery153 was the scene of many floral offerings, and crowds of people were there during the day. Refreshment stands were at the entrances, and also the Italian image venders, offering curiously-wrought infants at prayer, and representations of healthy, shiney and most impossible angels.

(New Orleans Republican, November 2nd 1875)
[Key words: Italian; image venders; Samuel; angels]

Dickens' bust: 1876

An Italian vendor of images was in town yesterday. His images were very pretty. He had a very good bust of Dickens. If he had dropped his basket he would have had a Dickens of a "bust," sure enough.

(Morning Clarion, June 5th 1876)(NC) [Key words: Italian; images; bust; Dickens; basket; humour]

Italian climate: 1876

In Colorado they speak about their Italian climate, merely because when a man gets up in the morning he feels as if he were going around with a lot of plaster images on his head.

(Lincoln County Advocate, June 14th 1876)(SD)
[Key words: Italian; plaster; images]

One-eyed plaster of Paris: 1876

As soon as he can get some one-eyed plaster of Paris, an Italian image vendor intends to change all of his "Praying Samuels" into figures of "Tilden154 at the door of the White House."

(New Orleans Republican, August 8th 1876)
[Key words: plaster; Italian; image vendor; Samuel; Tilden]

A poetic medley: 1876

Referring to an entertainment given by Mr. Marshall and Miss Webster in Boston…Miss Webster [performed] …a poetic medley entitled "The Vender's Call" in which the street cries of peddlers and firemen were faithfully rendered and the sweet notes of an Italian image vender rendered with remarkable fidelity.

(Cambridge Chronicle, April 1st 1876)
[Key words: Italian; image; vender; entertainment]

The Italy Of Leather-lane: 1876

That they are harmless creatures enough there can be no doubt; indeed, while the stranger wonderingly regards them, there occurs an incident which, while it totally destroys the romance, serves to exculpate at least one of the cloaked, moustache-twirling patriarchs from all suspicion of being anything but an honest handicraftsman. A ragged young native of sunny Italy emerges from an alley, staggering under a head-load of chalk images and monuments, calls out to one of the seeming conspirators, evidently his master, and engages with him in brief converse, the subject of which, seemingly, is the victualling for the day of the image vendor, for the former enters a baker's shop close at hand, and presently emerges with part of a loaf of the half-quartern155 size. But then comes the question, how is the lad to carry it? His old jacket is buttoned to his chin, and it is plain that an overture on the part of the aged man to break the bread in two pieces, and thrust one in each of the youth's trousers-pockets, is not favourably regarded. At last the difficulty is overcome by the ingenuity of the master. He detaches an effigy of St. Paul's Cathedral from the board on the lad's head, squeezes the bread into the interior of the sacred edifice, first compressing it between his hands to make it fit, and St. Paul's being then replaced, the boy goes on his way contented.

(Greenwood 1876, 111-112)
[Key words: Italy; chalk; images; St Paul's Cathedral; humour]

Raising Cain: 1877

War156 maps are as abundant as leaves in autumn, and after studying one fifteen minutes, and attempting to pronounce the jaw breaking names, a fellow feels that life is a burden, and goes home and raises Cain with his wife for trading off his last summer's pants for a plaster paris [sic] image.

(The Eaton Democrat, 24th May 1877)
[Key words: clothing; plaster of paris; image]

Disagreeable force: 1877

The hills are looking beautiful. The rich hues of red, golden and green, make a lovely combination of tints that are heightened by coming in contact with the deep, heavenly blue of an autumnal sky. All nature looks as smiling and happy as a bride on the day of her nuptials. October has indeed been a glorious month, the absence of Jack Frost causing the foliage to await the touch of the orb of day, whose magic brush has no equal on God's footstool157. How beautiful it is to stand and gaze upon the enchanting scene. It fills one with sublime emotion, and makes him imagine himself an angel, until a blast from the north suddenly wakes him from his daydream, only to realise with all its disagreeable force that his wife unfeelingly traded off his last winter's ulster for a pair of plaster-of-paris images.

(The Iola Register, November 3rd, 1877) (Kansas)
[Key words: clothing exchange; humour; plaster of Paris; images]

Contrary accounts: 1877

Charge Against an Italian Lad—Antonelli Commanduci, and Italian image seller, was charged with stealing a coat, the property of Mr. Robson, of the Bute Dock New Works. The prosecutor having proved the loss of the coat, Dock-constable Pulman said he saw the prisoner carrying the coat by the West Dock, respecting the possession of which he gave contrary accounts. Prisoner pleaded not guilty, and said he bought the coat for 8s. He was committed for trial.

(Western Mail, August 11th 1877)
[Key words: Italian; image seller; crime]

Image vendors: 1877

St Patrick's Cemetery No.1. Going out Canal street this is the first of the ridge cemeteries, lying on the right hand side of the road. Here the reporter got out of the car, and was immediately surrounded by the usual crowd of boys, all inquiring at once, in the most solicitous manner, "want anything done today?" Declining their polite attentions, we walked on, to be assailed by the image and flower vendors, and, as we passed through the gate, by the ceaseless rattle of the orphan children158 and their tin alms plates.

(The New Orleans Daily Democrat, November 2nd 1877)
[Key words: image vendors]

The Big Snow: 1877

All this time Peewit, in blissful ignorance of what had transpired below, had been gathering another snow mountain together, which he now launched over in time to bury an Italian image-vender with his load of wares, who chanced to be passing.

Two Irishman in a coal cart, who had witnessed the sad affair, stopped and dug him out with their shovels, but it was two hours before he ceased gesticulating and rooting around in the snow heap for his plaster of Paris mockingbirds and chalk dancing girls.

(The Highland Weekly News, March 22nd, 1877) (Hillsborough Ohio)
[Key words: Italian; image vender; humour; plaster of Paris; mockingbirds; dancing girls]

Intemperate habits: 1877

Louisa Ward was charged with assaulting Joseph Ward on June 16. Mr. Bonnin appeared for complainant, who stated that he went to his house, in Adelaide, to remove the furniture, found the door barricaded and his wife smashing the furniture with an axe. He got in, and she hit him with a chimney ornament. She had threatened and struck him on several occasions during the four years of their married life. It was her intemperate habits that caused the trouble. Defendant said she wanted maintenance for herself and child, and did not wish to return to her husband. Sent to gaol for one month with hard labour.

(South Australian Register, June 23rd 1877)
[Key words: mantelpiece; ornament; violence]

Winter clothes: 1877

A plaster of Paris image man is in town and all the married men in Burlington wear their winter clothes and ulster overcoats to the store, and go to bed in them at night. It's the only safe plan.

(Cambridge Chronicle, October 13, 1877) (MA)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; image man; clothing exchange; humour]

Hiding: 1877

On the arrival of the Wotonga, from Sydney, early this morning, the Custom House officers made a seizure of a quantity of jewellery from one of the passengers. It was concealed in a plaster of paris figure. The value of the property is worth about £900.

(The Sydney Morning Herald, December 12th 1877)

With reference to the alleged attempt to smuggle jewellery into the colony by the steamer Wotonga, which arrived from Sydney on Monday night, an inquiry was on Wednesday held by the officers of the Customs department. The jewellery seized is the property of Mr. Cattanach, a manufacturing jeweller of this city, and his explanation was to the effect that a Mr. Hogarth received an order for jewellery from Sydney some time ago. He applied to Mr. Cattanach to supply the order, and this was done, but there was only time to ship the goods, and not to enter them outwards. Mr. Hogarth, in Sydney, could only dispose of a portion of the goods, and by telegram asked if he should return the balance. A reply in the affirmative was sent, and the goods were sent by Mr. Hogarth, concealed in the plaster of Paris figure of the Queen. Mr. Cattanach denies all intention to defraud the revenue, and shifts the blame of sending the jewellery concealed to the shoulders of Mr. Hogarth, who, he thinks, was guilty of a simple indiscretion.

(The Mercury December 18th, 1877) (Hobart)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; figure; concealment]

Columbus' nose: 1877

Let us give thanks! That Italian image man fell down on Perry Street last night and smashed his wares to pieces. Chris. Columbus collided with Minerva and lost a nose, while Minerva sustained a fracture of the ear. George Washington kicked an ear off Charlie Dickens, and the bull pup fell on Dan Webster, and it is safe to say that Daniel feels "all broke up now." — Toledo Blade.

(The Worthington Advance, April 12th 1877)
[Key words: Italian; image man; destruction; Columbus; Minerva; Washington; Dickens; Webster; bulldog]

A foreigner on the street: 1877

Eliza Lamb, a woman of loose character, who lives in Steelhouse lane, was charged with having stolen £3 from the person of Bernardo Bernardi, an image vender, who at present lives in Silver street. Prosecutor is an Italian, and on Monday, according to his statement, he found it very hot. He had some beer, and towards evening he began to drink spirits. He became drunk, and was then picked up by several loose women, for whom he paid for liquor. They got him outside, and one of the women took £3 from him.— The case was not clearly made out against the prisoner, but it was proved that she bore a bad character, and, as a suspected person, she was committed to Wakefield for one month with hard labour.

(The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, June 22nd 1877)
[Key words: image vendor; crime]

Assault: 1878

John Fryer, a groom, of this city, was fined 17s 6d, including costs, for assaulting Giovanni Alberti, an Italian image vendor, of Birmingham, on 21st ultimo.

(Berrow's Worcester Journal, January 5th 1878)
[Key words: Italian; image vendor; crime]

Demolition: 1878

Wm. H. Travers, an awning and tent maker on Sycamore Street, got drunk last night and demolished a dozen or more plaster paris images belonging to an itinerant vendor. He was made to pay the damages and $3 fine this morning.

(The Cincinnati Daily Star, June 29th 1878)
[Key words: violence; crime; plaster of Paris; images; itinerant vendor]

Motes: 1878

Next Monday night the "old men's debating society" will discuss the question. "Are motes more destructive of winter clothing than plaster of Paris image peddlers?"

(Ashtabula Telegraph, December 6th 1878)
[Key words: clothing exchange; humour; plaster of Paris; image peddlers]

Liberian houses: 1878

…Nearly all of the dwellings in Liberia, outside of Monrovia, are furnished plainly— very much in the style prevalent amongst colored folks in America. There were the familiar plaster of Paris images, dogs and cats on the mantels, the familiar gaudily gilded and painted china cups and mugs, and the familiar ghastly caricatures of Scriptural scenes… I could easily imagine myself in the best room of a respectable colored family down south…

(The Anderson Intelligencer, August 22nd, 1878) (SC)
[Key words: taste; plaster of Paris; dogs; cats; mantelpiece]

A good fella: 1878

A Boston correspondent writes us this : An Italian image vendor came to our office today, and, among other things, offered for sale a plaster cast of Shakspeare, which he held up in his hand to attract attention. One of the clerks asked him, in fun, if it was Christopher Columbus. "Oh no," said the Italian, "it is not Columbus; "it is Shakspeare; he wass good feller!" — rising inflection on the last syllable.

(Southern Argus March 7th, 1878)(South Australia)
[Key words: Italian; image vendor; Shakespeare; Columbus; accent]

Goose bone: 1879

The signal service men predict that the rest of the winter will be severely cold. If Uncle Strod. Renick's goose bone159 agrees with them, we will believe it and prepare to take the consequence. If not, we shall not yet raise a row with our wife because she traded our overcoat for a plaster-paris image, sometime last summer. We want it distictly understood that we are a goose bone man.

(Lexington Weekly Intelligencer, December 13th, 1879)
[Key words: clothing exchange; plaster of Paris; image]

Hoaxing a policeman: 1879

An amusing incident took place not long ago at Arrad Foot, near Ulverston. Some wag, or wags, had removed certain plaster of Paris images out of a gentleman's garden into the middle of the road, and one of their number went back to fetch the policeman, on the pretence that a man was lying in the road with his throat cut. Off posted his highness the "bobby," but on coming to the top of the hill, which gave him a full view of the road, he perceived something white that terrified him so much as to send him off towards Ulverston for help. Speedily he returned with a couple of policeman, and after they made a circuitous road through some fields they came upon the object of their commiseration. Imagine their disgust when they found that their efforts were only to be rewarded by finding a plaster of Paris image. A hearty burst of boisterous merriment behind the "dyke" soon convinced them that they had been duped, and after a few threats of vengeance they departed.

(Whitehaven News, October 30th 1879)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; images; mischief]

Missionary of Art: 1880

An eloquent and famous American preacher once said, in an address upon the Fine Arts, that he never could see an Italian image vendor enter a poor man's cabin without feeling that he ought to lift his hat to him as to a real missionary of Art. For, rude and coarse as might be the images he carried, they still embodied at least a rudimentary idea of sculpture, and that lay latent in the mind of the poor man's son. This was a great truth that the preacher uttered, and recalls the old familiar proverb, "Despise not the day of small things."

(The Theosophist, Vol. I, No. 6, March, 1880, p. 163)
[Key words: Italian; image vendor; art; education]

To go west: 1880

For a poor man to go West means to economise, to abstain, suffer, toil, to wear clothes which here would be exchanged for plaster of Paris images, to live without society, and endure what none seemed willing to do here.

(The Canton Advocate, October 14th 1880) (Maryland)
[Key words: old clothes; plaster of Paris; images]

Christmas harvest: 1880

On Christmas morning the plaster-of-paris image man finds his harvest. The tailor has sewed, and the plaster-of-paris man comes around to reap. At least it seems sew. Your husband, if you are a married woman, probably has a warm Ulster with fish-horn buttons160 on the back. You are aware that a broomstick is one of the most warming things in the world, and your aesthetic tastes argue what's the use of an Ulster to him? You therefore, make a trade. You get a plaster-of-paris cat in seven colours, and make home beautiful, even if the head of the family does tear his hair.

(The Highland Weekly News, December 23rd 1880)(OH)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; clothing exchange; cat; colour]

Images in Burbank: 1880

Four Italians are making plaster of Paris images at Burbank, which they intend to peddle through the territory.

(The Canton Advocate, October 14th 1880) (SD)
[Key words: Italian; plaster of Paris; images]

Fiends: 1881

The plaster Paris image fiends infest this community.

(Towanda Daily Review, November 17th 1881)(PA)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; images; nuisance]

From The Forger's Fate: 1881

The wanderer looked up; a young man of one or two-and-twenty had come out of the inn, and stood near under the shade of the tree, having placed a large image-box that he carried by his side. His eyes were fixed on the wanderer, and he half smiled as he met the stranger's steady look. 'What has brought you from Parma?' said the wanderer. 'What takes many from home, signor,' he replied; 'seeking my bread.'


'Are you going from here into France ?' he asked.
He had spoken before in the Tuscan dialect, it was the Parmese dialect he used now, and the image-seller's eyes lighted up as he replied, 'Yes, I have been in France before. I am going back there now.'
'And you come from Parma!' said the wanderer.
'Yes,' replied the Parmese.
The wanderer glanced at the speaker. He wore the usual peasant's dress; gaiters lashed with red cords, a grey flat-crowned felt hat, adorned with tassels and a peacock's feather, red sash, and jacket of dark brown cloth.

(Evening News August 25th, 1881)
[Key words: image box; Italy; Parma]

Cruel treatment: 1881

There is an old Italian padrone in Bradford who has a number of small boys under his control, brought from Italy, and who sell plaster-of-Paris images for their task-master. These boys are very scantily clothed, poorly fed and receive the most cruel treatment if they fail to fulfil the labor imposed on them.

(Centre Democrat, August 4th 1881) (PA)
[Key words: Italian; padrone; boys; plaster of Paris; images; abuse]

Aesthetic longings: 1881

The husband of the woman whose esthetic longings go out in the direction of plaster Paris [sic] images has not been seen on the streets since the severe weather has rendered it necessary to wear winter clothing.

(The Emporia News, January 14th 1881) (Kansas)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; clothing exchange]

Second best suit: 1881

Before a woman trades off her husband's second-best suit for a seven cent plaster image, she should feel in the pockets for the letters she gave him to post last winter.

(Taranaki Herald, July 29th 1881) (NZ)
[Key words: plaster; image; cost; clothing exchange; humour]

Bitten: 1881

At Clerkenwell police Court, London, on Tuesday, an Italian image vendor was committed for trial on a charge of disfiguring a man for life by biting off a piece of his nose. The prisoner's stucco figures, it appears, were broken by some lads, and the prosecutor, who was passing at the time, was knocked down and bitten by the Italian.

(Birmingham Daily Post, January 27th 1881)
[Key words: Italian; image vendor; crime; violence]

Cartoon: 1881

The Duke of Argyll's resignation has given rise to some very clever cartoons. One of these represents the Premier as a stucco-image vendor who has just made an awkward stumble over an obstacle on the ground labelled "Land Bill." The result is that Argyll has fallen of the board upon his head, the Home Secretary is lying on his back and threatening to roll off, while Lords Kimberly and Spencer are nodding forward ominously. The members from Birmingham, indeed, are the only ones remaining fast and firm.

(The Derby Mercury, April 27th 1881)
[Key words: stucco; image vendor; humour]

Fire: 1882

Nelson, this day.

A six-roomed house in Brook-street, Valley, occupied by Mr. Pusch, was destroyed by fire today. Considerable difficulty was experiencing in rescuing his wife, who is an invalid. The house belonged to Mr Cullen, of Picton, and was insured in the Liverpool, London, and Globe for £100. Mr Pusch, who is a maker of plaster of Paris images, had his furniture and models insured in the New Zealand office for £400, and his stock of images for £250.

(Interprovincial News, January 6th, 1882) (NZ)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; images]

He wasn't a count: 1882

[Oddities of Kissing]

An Italian image peddler was sent to prison for kissing a Cleveland woman. Wonder how she found out after the kissing that he wasn't a count?—Philadelphia News.

(The Columbian, November 24th, 1882)
[Key words: Italian; image peddler; humour]

Chamber of horrors: 1882

…I hear a gentle tap at the door. I open it to confront a blandly smiling Italian image vendor.
"I vants to see ze mistress of ze house."
"We don't want anything today," say I.
"But I vants to see ze mistress of ze house," with a look of profound contempt at me.
"Well, she don't want to see you," retort I, utterly exasperated, as I slam the door in the face of the son of the sunny South, leaving him to take himself to the woman next door, who has a perfect chamber of horrors in a collection of scriptural and historical personages in plaster, ranging from a praying Samuel whose legs, owing to an entirely original conception of the artist, seem to terminate at the knee, to an "eyestrian state" as she calls it, of George Washington, who seems to have gotten on horseback with great difficulty, and to be in a very doubtful state as to what he is to do there, and how he is ever to get off.

(Willamette Farmer, June 30th 1882) (OR)
[Key words: Italian; image vendor; taste; Samuel; Washington; humour]

Madame Vestris' foot: 1882

40 years ago England had another Mrs Langtry — Madame Vestris. She was as lovely as she was liberal and as attractive as she was accessible. She was the daughter of F. Bartolozzi, a royal academician, and just a little over the average height, of full and voluptuous figure, with a foot the symmetry of which was said to be unparalleled. It had been sculpted and plaster casts were on sale by Italian image boys in the streets. Her stage shoes, after being once worn, were bought at fabulous prices and used as drinking vessels by "bloods" of the time. Who M. Vestris was, nobody seemed to know or care. The unstamped press used to describe him as a bibulous loafer, who dodged about stage doors at treasury times, and levied tell on madame's salary.

(Lancaster Daily Intelligencer, December 11th 1882) (Pennsylvania)
[Key words: Madame Vestris; foot; plaster casts]

A likeness in plaster: 1882

I occasionally employed a little black-eyed black-haired and dark-skinned Italian as a formatore in plaster work, who had related to me a short time before that himself and a comrade image-vender were 'doing' Switzerland by hawking their images. One day a Swiss gentleman asked him if he could make his likeness in plaster. "O, yes, signor; I am a sculptor.' So Matteo Mattei—such was the name of the pretender—got some plaster, laid the big Swiss gentleman on his back, stuck a quill in each nostril for him to breathe through, and requested him to close his eyes. Then 'Mat,' as I called him, poured the soft plaster all over his face and forehead; then he paused for reflection; as the plaster was beginning to set he became frightened, as he had never before undertaken such a job, and had neglected to prepare the face properly, especially the gentleman's huge beard, mustache, and the hair about the temples and forehead, through which, of course, the plaster run and become solid. 'Mat' made an excuse to go outside the door; 'then,' said he, I run like—.'

(The Daily Cairo Bulletin, January 21st 1882) (Illinois)
[Key words: Italian; plaster; Switzerland; images; humour]

A luv of a Bishop 1883:

"Faith, an he's a luv of a Bishop, pace be to his sowl!" I turned to see whence this benediction came, and saw an image vendor laden with his wares presenting the image of a bishop to the Bridget you see in the picture. Cute fellows are these image venders. They study your eyes while you study their handiwork.

(The Great Empire City, 1883, 29)
[Key words: image; bishop; selling]

Personal and business injuries: 1883

An Italian image vendor in the United States Court has secured judgement against certain citizens of Douglassville to the amount of $1,250 for personal and business injuries sustained. This entire amount was paid by Col. J. V. Edge, Ordinary of Douglass county he being the only one able to pay the judgement.

(Advertiser and Appeal, Brunswick GA , June 2nd 1883)
[Key words: Italian, image, vendor, crime, violence]

Emperor William: 1883

Emperor William172 is said to have a very extensive wardrobe, some of the articles having been in his possession and use for twenty-five years. The Emperor's wife is very different from other women, or else plaster of Paris image vendors never call with busts of Napoleon and Bismarck, which they offer to exchange for second-hand clothing.

(The Canton Advocate, November 8th 1883)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; image vendors; Napoleon; Bismark; clothing exchange]

A New Italian Industry: 1883

"Yes—a bizz-a-ness is-a good-a now, not so good as a-spring-a, but pret-a good," said a plaster image manufacturer in classic Tinpot to a Commercial Gazette reporter, Saturday afternoon. His business is to turn out plaster images of all kinds, from a building to a head of Minerva, and from the pure white plaster of Paris through all the shades of impossible bronzes to the pink hued tint of the mixture of plaster, marble dust, acid and whatnot. There are four of these manufacturers in the city, and they supply the hundred peddlers with their wares. The molds are all of Eastern make. They are made of zinc, in two or three pieces, according to the work, and so accurately formed that with care no traces of the joints can be seen in the cast. Making the images is quick and inexpensive work. The plaster is mixed to the consistency of thick cream, the mold set up and the liquid mass run in. In some of the firms air is used to force the plaster well into the mold; in a few a flat shapes a plunger is brought into play as in making pressed glassware, and others are run solid. The molds vary in price from $1-$10 dollar according to the work on them and the number of pieces. When the market is been glutted with any one shape, the mold is sent back East to be sold in another locality, so that they are not expensive in the long run. As there are but two profits— the manufacturer's and the peddler's — it is easily see why so many of Italy's sons go into the business. It leaves the organ and the monkey away out of sight and gives the peanut stand a hot race with the chances about even.—Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette

(Arizona Weekly Citizen, August 4th 1883)
[Key words: plaster; image; building; Minerva; bronze; manufacture; techniques; costs; Italian]

Plaster in Paris (Kentucky): 1883

Paris can now boast of having one manufacturing establishment. An Italian is manufacturing plaster of Paris images on upper Main street.

(The Bourbon News, February 27th, 1883) (Kentucky)
[Key words: Italian; plaster of Paris; images]

What a woman likes: 1883

… to trade old clothes for China vases and plaster of Paris images.

(The Morristown Gazette, September 5th 1883) (Tennessee)
[Key words: old clothes; plaster of Paris; China vases; images]

Italian Images: 1883

The Manner in Which the Dark-Eyed Sculptors Work and Live.

"Buy my images?" The speaker, a slender, knob nosed, dark-eyed youth, stood on the corner of Seventh and Chestnut streets161 and piped his plaintive melody in sixty-four different keys. He was a ragged Italian, redolent of garlic and maccaroni. He wore a dusty slouch hat, and his toes peeped out into the soft sunlight in a suggestive sort of way. There was about him the look of chronic hunger. His voice ran up the gamut and down the gamut, first harsh and decisive, anon soft and supplicating, like that of a woman, alternately loud, low, cracked and round-toned. Rich people and poor people, policeman, bootblacks, and dogs of all degrees, with muzzles and without muzzles, passed him without turning their heads. Still the pedler kept crying his disjointed images, until at last a press reporter, with his heart full of commiseration in his pocketful of five cent pieces, tapped him on the shoulder and said:

"How much?" "A dollar and a quarter," replied the Italian. "Too much; I give twenty-five cents." "Basta! one dollar." "Twenty-five cents?" "I take fifty." "Twenty-five? "Take him along."

And the reporter lifted the plaster of Paris image of a female diver, from the nomad's willow basket and laid it tenderly across his arm as if it were a baby. The image was tolerably well moulded, is made of genuine plaster of Paris, and is a counterpart of those sold in the retail stores for one dollar.

The marvel is how the beggars can sell them so cheaply, and yet keep from starving. Every trade has its secrets, and that of image-making is no exception to the rule. To begin with the Italian plaster sculptors live upon almost nothing. Six men will occupy two small rooms. In the other room is their workshop. For dinner they have a bowl of soup the principle ingredients of which are bones, scraps of meat, a few slender wisps of maccaroni, and pepper and salt in profusion. Two huge slices of bread and a butcher knife complete the meal. The men eat and work, and work and smoke. They buy the cheapest sort of plaster of Paris for one dollar a barrel. A barrel of plaster will make 500 images. The moulds are made of gelatine, which costs $1 per pound. An ordinary mould costs $2. Each mould is made to produce not less than fifty images. An industrious maker can turn out, every day, 100 images. By calculation upon this basis appears that the images cost about ten cents each, not including time, of which however, the wily Italian makes no reckoning. This is the whole secret The retail dealer says that the image cannot be made from less than forty cents. So they cannot when first class materials are employed. The American manufacturers of images employ a skilled laborer to scrape off the mould marks and tone up the anatomy. This counts. So does the time consumed in the moulding. The gelatine costs twice as much as that used by the Italians. The moulds are not made to produce over a dozen images. Here is another big saving for the macaroni-eater. The latter seldom lives long in one place. He and his countrymen travel in droves of six and a dozen. They move from city to city, making their images. They sell one subject "into the ground" as the retailers say, and then make a vast quantity of another. Just now every Italian image maker in Philadelphia are making female divers. In a few weeks they will be making something else. That are and have a sharp eye to business. They find that a certain image catches the popular whim. Forthwith they make nothing else. Thousands of the favourite images go bobbing up and down Chestnut Street. The houses are full of them. And so it goes. The business of image making is declining. In former years the pedlers over-ran the country. Now they seldom go into rural districts. In the winter they make images. In the spring they divide their time between selling their wares and collecting cigar stumps. In the summer they deal in ice cream and figs and cheap fruit. When they die they are buried in the Potter's field, and that is the last of them. The images are cast in the ash barrel and that is the last of them.— Philadelphia Press.

(Millheim Journal, July 26th 1883)
[Key words: Italian; images; diver; manufacture; techniques; selling; decline]

Bric-a-brac: 1883

We were sitting by the fire,
And the tender twilight gloom
Made a picturesque interior
Of the "friezed" and "dadoed" room:

For my fair Elsie was cultured
In the most aesthetic style—
She grew wild upon her platters,
And quite raved upon a "tile."

She could carve a dainty bracket,
She could paint a silken screen;
She could broider birds and beetles
Such as eye had never seen.

She had decorated beer-jugs
In the highest style of art,
And her bric-a-brac collection
Was the treasure of her heart.

But I loved her—ah, I loved her,
As she sat beside me there,
With a comb of antique silver
Looping back her golden hair!

How I loved that sweet face, hidden
By the hideous painted fan,
On which sprawled such fearful monsters
As hail only from Japan!

The flame leaped up and flickered—
Was its glow upon her cheek?
Or did tender, changing blushes
Tell my coward heart to speak?

One white, dainty hand was fluttering,
Like a snow-bird on her knee.
Ah, sweet trembler, was it waiting
To be caught and pressed by me?

I must speak now—now or never!
Perish all my doubts and fears.
I must speak! Hope's sudden sunburst
Seemed to flush the coming years

I must speak—the spell was broken!
Fierce, impassioned, fearless, rash,
I fell on my knees before her—
Fell with—horrors! what a crash!

Such a crash, it echoed round me
Like the final crack of doom!
For her eyes' volcanic fires
Seemed to light the shadowed room.

I had toppled o'er a table,
Full of strange Pompeian-ware,
And I caught my hat and vanished—
How, I didn't know or care.

Twas my last, my farewell visit
To that charmer of my heart;
I discreetly left my goddess
To the worship of her art.

She was married to old Golding,
On a pleasant day last week.
He is flabby, fat, and sixty—
So a valuable antique.

(South Bourke and Mornington Journal, December 5th 1883) (Victoria, Australia)
[Key words: bric-a-brac; humour]

An escaped lunatic: 1883

Ma tried to reason with him, but he was awful worked up and said he was no old charity hospital, and he stormed around to find his old suit of clothes but ma had sold them to a plaster Paris image peddler, and pa hadn't anything to wear, and he wanted ma to go out in the alley and pick up the suit he had thrown from the window, but a rag man had picked them up and was going away, and pa grabbed a linen duster and put it on and went out after the rag picker, and he ran and pa after him, and the rag man told the policeman there was an escaped lunatic from the asylum, and he was chasing people all over the city…

(Peck 1883, 24)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; image peddler; clothing exchange]

Senseless popularity: 1884

A manufacturer of plaster of Paris images in Philadelphia, says that busts of Garfield have been so popular that the firm in Germantown has decided upon a large supply of soap busts to place in drugstore windows. There are instances in which popularity become senseless.

(The Dallas Daily Herald, July 26th 1884)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; images; Garfield]

Plaster Images: 1884

The Venders, and Where They Get Their Stock

"Imachees, imachees, only seventy-five-a-cent!" cried a little, swarthy, half-clad Italian, as he passed along the street yesterday. His stock in trade was in wooden tray. This rested easily on the top of his head, balanced as only a foreigner can balance a weight on his top-knot. In the tray were some thirty plaster-of-Paris figures. They were in rows of six each. The first row was of cats, setting on their haunches; each feline had a queer expression in its eyes, as if it was tired of continually nid-nodding at the multitude. Then came a row of mild looking bull dogs; next some rabbits, succeeded by half a dozen busts of Mercury, and at last six statuettes of Venus—the last two mentioned been "done" in bronze.

"Business good, John?" asked a reporter of the vendor.

"No; very bad-a," was the reply. "Sell-a more-a Christmas. All-a busy ina dashop."

"In the shop? Where is that?"

"Wess side. Seven-a men make a de imachees."

And securing the number a visit was made to the shop. It consisted of two rooms, and it were the "sculptors." The place visted was one in which the better class of plaster-of-Paris images were made, the cats, dogs etc being "executed" by a lower grade of "artists." In one room were several barrels of the plaster; in the next a quantity of dusty statues and an immense amount of litter and clean—or white—dirt, reminding the visitor of his back kitchen after the kalsominers162 had cleaned it for the spring. While statues were there in plenty, no modern Phidias163 was carrying out human-like figures from blocks of stone. Instead the workmen were fashioning the Joves, the Ganymedes, the Apollos, and other mythological personages with moulds. Others were putting on the finishing touches of paint and bronze, the latter being burned on. It was learned that there are about seven establishments of this kind in the city, all doing a rushing business. This is the season when the stock is made for the fall and holiday trade, and the artists have their hands full. All of the workshops are run on the co-operative plan, the three to seven men working on shares, and selling their joint stocks to the vendors. A good workman will make about forty bronzed figures in a day, and they all are able to earn first-rate wages at the business. It seems, however, that they are all native Italians, learning the trade before coming to this country, and the men who engage in it of the superior class. The best sort of images are made in gelatine moulds, for these can be cut cleaner, giving the outlines of the features better; the second grade are fashioned in moulds of white metal, while the poorer class are made in plaster moulds. The whole industry in the city supplies a large number of men with work, both as makers and sellers, while the effect in beautifying homes, though it may be in a minor degree, is not without its value.—Chicago News

(The Salt Lake Herald, July 19th 1884)
[Key words: images; cats; nodders; dogs; rabbits; Mercury; Venus; bronzed; manufacture; techniques; plaster; Jove; Ganymede; Apollo; colours; numbers; Italians]

Broken wares: 1884

Joseph Forrey ran against an Italian image vender on South Queen street this afternoon, and broke his wares. He was held for a hearing by Alderman Donnelly.

(Lancaster Daily Intelligencer, September 27th 1884) (Pennsylvania)
[Key words: Italian; image vender; violence]

A model for modern times: 1884

Pause before Venus de Medici with no vulgar gaze, but with admiration at so true a conception of the goddess of love and beauty and such a model for modern times. Of course the originals are perfect, but they are beyond our reach; it would be sufficient however for us if the works of 'Phidias' were correctly modelled from the originals, and no matter where obtained whether from a statuary in the New Road, London, or from an Italian image boy ia the streets.

(The West Australian, October 30th 1884)
[Key words: Venus de Medici; Italian; image boy]

Piccolino: 1884

PICCOLINO. An Italian image seller. Waistcoat of scarlet cloth fastened round the waist with a sash of brown silk. Green plush knee breeches. Drab cloth gaiters. Sugarloaf hat trimmed with wild flowers. Board of images on the shoulder, the jacket slung at the back.

(Anon 1884, 69)
[Key words: Italian; image seller; costume; images]

Short legs: 1884

I remember.
With it he sent me something of his making,—
A Mercury, with long body and short legs,
As if by any possibility
A messenger of the gods could have short legs.
It was no more like Mercury than you are,
But rather like those little plaster figures
That peddlers hawk about the villages
As images of saints.

(Longfellow 1884, 165)
[Key words: Mercury; plaster; figures; peddlers; saints]

Outlandish parrots: 1884

Well, there was a big outlandish parrot on each side of the clock, made out of something like chalk, and painted up gaudy. By one of the parrots was a cat made of crockery, and a crockery dog by the other; and when you pressed down on them they squeaked, but didn't open their mouths nor look different nor interested. They squeaked through underneath. There was a couple of big wild-turkey-wing fans spread out behind those things. On the table in the middle of the room was a kind of a lovely crockery basket that had apples and oranges and peaches and grapes piled up in it, which was much redder and yellower and prettier than real ones is, but they warn't real because you could see where pieces had got chipped off and showed the white chalk, or whatever it was, underneath.

(Twain 1884)
[Key words: parrot; cat; dog; fruit basket]

The Italian Image-Maker: 1885

(Philadelphia Times)
"I maka a plastair figure in winter, sella dem in street in country in spring and sommer," said Guiseppe Antonelli, looking up from his work in a third-story room in a tenement house. "I maka only leeta figures; no can sella larcha ones—to heavy. Leeta ones put in basket, on tray, carry easy. Make all myself."

"Do you make some models yourself?

"Model? Oh for models. No I buy de figura and maka de cass from figura. Image in plaster just so good as clay model— all same; not quite so fine; but I can make a phone with life. Ze mold in many pieces—every pieca differen'; one pieca for face, 'noder for handa, 'noder for drap. See?"

"What are the favourite figures?"

"Differen' time differen' figura. Some time sella lot, some time not at all. One time maka figura lade going to dive; not can maka enough. Zen people get tired, not can sella zem. Differen' heads, busts, zey sella all time. Venus, Clytie, Proserpina, good; maka zem always. Angels, head of Christ, Sanata Madonna, all ze tima; sella zem everywhere. Zen maka bracket for place vasa; always sell bracket if preety.

"We don't send out any canvassers from here," said Luccarini, the figure molder. "Our trade is a custom one. We make no models, we buy them. We only make the plaster casts and molds. When I came to this country, more than thirty years ago, there were very few Italians over here and very few people in this business. The men who sell casts images and figures on the streets generally make them themselves or act as agents for a man who makes them. There are now quite a number of these plaster-cast makers in Philadelphia, it is a flourishing trade. Some of the work turned out is really good, but most of it is not well finished; it is too smooth. It is done quickly and often without proper tools."

(The Hazel Green Herald, April 29th 1885) (Kentucky)
[Key words: Italian; accent; plaster; methods; Venus; Clytie; Proserpina; angels; Christ; Madonna]

Teach them a lesson: 1885

For the past eight or nine months an Italian has been seen on our streets pedalling plaster images of various designs. About a month ago two other Italians arrived in the city and commenced in the same line of business. They were evidently jealous of the established countrymen, and made it very unpleasant for him, finally assaulting him. The latter being an offence against the law, they will have to appear before Police Justice Bickerton, who will no doubt teach them a lesson.

(The Pacific Commercial Advertiser, October 30th 1885) (Honolulu)
[Key words: Italian; plaster images; competition; violence]

A smiling child's face: 1885

Some years ago, when I first saw him, he had a number of small plaster busts of smiling child's face. The workmanship was much better than the ordinary character of such articles, and the face was repeated with sufficient faithfulness on half a dozen busts to show that they were copies of some model.

"Are these likenesses of any child, or all mere fancy heads?" was asked of the image vender.

"Eet ees my little girl Tita," said he, and he laughed and showed a set of wonderfully perfect teeth.

"Does it look like her?"

"Oh yees!" he exclaimed, with an earnest protest in his tone against the imputation that his art was faulty.

A few days ago I saw the same man, with a basketful of small casts his arm. Stopping him from idle curiosity, one of the heads was taken from the basket and examined. It was Tita again, just as it had been years ago — the same smiling happy face.

"You still copy your daughter's face as it used to be?" said the writer.

The man look surprised, and then his face clouded.

"You told me once long ago that this was your little girl Tita, who face you modelled. "Has she not changed, and does she not look older?"

He took off his tattered hat, and his voice trembled as he answered,—

Tita ees dead, but I see zee face in zee clouds, Signor. She eez dead, and no changa."

(Indiana State Sentinel, August 5th 1885)
[Key words: plaster; busts; basket; sentimentality]

Onions are ripe: 1885

—It is only the woman who is given away in marriage. The man gives himself away before the honeymoon is over.—Ex.

He does, but it is a woman who gives his overcoat away for a plaster of Paris image, about the time onions are ripe.

(The Sedalia Weekly Bazoo, May 5th 1885)
[Key words: clothing exchange, plaster of Paris, image]

The overcoat: 1885

Whether it was wise, after all, to sell the overcoat last summer the plaster image that got broken so easily.

(Staunton Spectator, 25th November 1885)
[Key words: clothing exchange, plaster, image]

Shakespeare: 1885

PERHAPS the best known of all the portraits professing to represent Shakespeare is the Chandos. Certainly it is the most familiar to the large mass of people. The cheap plaster cast, hawked about the streets by the Italian image vender, is modelled after this portrait, while the handsome bronze that one puts over his clock has the same features.

(Norris 1885, 67)
[Key words: Shakespeare; plaster cast; Italian; image vender]

An abbreviated sacque: 1885

A rather good story is going the rounds on Louis Merriam, the good-looking policeman from France, while he was asleep yesterday morning. Officer Leyde sent an Italian image peddler up to his room and Louis was awakened from his dreams by the Dago's song. Jumping out of bed, the policeman grabbed the water pitcher and chased the frightened Italian down the hall. Clothed in an abbreviated sacque164, he flew after the retreating Dago and dumped the contents of the pitcher on his head. Louis laughed long and loudly at the half-drowned Italian, but when he "right about faced" to return to his room, three ladies who had been disturbed by the noise had stuck their uncombed heads through the doors of bedrooms and were sizing him up. When Louis saw them he dropped the pitcher, yelled and jumping down the stairs shouted to the women to get out of sight, they made him nervous. The females retired, pushed their bureaus against their doors and Louis sneaked into his room, put on his overcoat and jumped into bed.

(St Paul Daily Globe, October 19th 1885)
[Key words: Italian; image peddler; humour; racism; mischief]

Images not graven 1885

The Child of Italy Who Sells Them, With a Smutty Face, a Broken Dialect and a Smile.
A Visit to the Studio Where the Works of the Old Masters Are Reproduced.
Some Plaster of Paris, Salt and Water, With a Mould, the Only Tools Needed.
Favorite Figures in the Plaster—the father of His Country at a Premium.

A little dried up dago with a bronzed image in each hand and another hanging by a string around his neck, strolled into the capitol the other day and asked Gen. MacCarthy if he wanted to buy. While he was trying to dispose of his ware a GLOBE reporter stood by when the image vender turned to go, after an unsuccessful showing, he was asked where he got the images and how much he paid for them. He smiled a sort of of half smile, half cynical grin and refused to answer the latter question, but said he had them made at the corner of Third and Commercial streets.

"You wanna learna make?" he asked when the reporter told him that he was coming down to see how they were made, and then in his broken English gave a very cordial invitation to visit his place and with his images in his hands and sickly, pleading smile on his somewhat dirty face glided out of the room and a minute later was holding up one of his images to some other official while he looked an interrogation point165.

A day or two later a trip was made to the corner of Third and Commercial streets, where the man had said the images were turned out. It is in a little shop, hardly a foot higher than one's head, with one small window to furnish light. Three men, looked about dried and baked as their countryman, the Roman soldier166, said have been done to a crisp while on guard at Pompeii, were the occupants of the little room, and though they could not talk much English they indicated that a visitor would be no intruder. In the faint light, and to an eye that was not too exacting on definitions, the little workshop was not unlike the working room of the American artists in Florence and other cities in that sunny land. There were models that in the dim light might have been St George killing the dragon, or an ordinary jockey ready for a two-mile running race, the main outline being a man and a horse. There were statues that might have been the Venus of Milo or the Goddess of Liberty; at any rate they were female figures, with about as many clothes on as the females wear at some variety theaters. There were a dozen or more curious-looking objects of a greenish colour and about the shape of a rough log, three or four feet long and a foot in diameter. These, it appeared, as the men went on with their work, WERE THE MOLDS in which these statues were carved, and which the three humble disciples of Praxiteles167 took apart and knocked around with the recklessness that would give a shock to an artistic eye.

"What are those moulds made of?" was asked of the only man whose English could be well understood.

"I dona know," was the reply, as the artist went on this work without raising his eyes.

"What are the images made of?" was asked.

"We maka plaster ana salta.. Salta? You knowa him?" and the artist grinned again as he went on with his work.


"Yesa salta."

"What do you put salt in for?"

"Makastronga," was the reply all in one word. Two of the the men then began taking apart one of the molds, which was in a half dozen or more pieces that fitted to each other like the pieces of a Chinese puzzle. They were first put together with a coating of varnish to cement them and prevent the plaster, water and salt from leaking out, and then bound round with a small rope to hold them firmly. A hole in one end allowed the plaster to be poured in, and then the whole was put away for a couple of hours while the plaster hardened. The images seemed to be made without the arms, which were run in separate molds and then stuck on. Another kind of mold, used for the more elaborate faces and for such pieces as had fine work, were made of glue that would bend like thick pieces of rubber. These were in several pieces, like the other kind, and were put together in about the same way.

It takes about two hours, the men said, for the plaster the harden, and then it takes a half hour more to trim and cover them with a varnish mixed with bronze, so that with a hunk of glue dug out in proper shape, a quantity of plaster of paris, a little salt and some ordinary water it is possible to turn out George Washingtons or Abraham Lincolns in about two one half hours per George or Abraham. While the reporter was there another man, evidently the proprietor of the factory or studio, came in. He could talk English.

"What are those molds made of ?" was asked him. He looked rather curiously at his questioner and said:

"You liva in Sainta Paula?"


"You wanta learna maka?"


"You wanta buya?"


"I don'ta tell what theya make of. Thena youa know how. I knowa. I don'ta tell. I keepa secret." And he grinned and looked at the other three men, who grimaced back. No amount of questioning would induce him to give up.

One of the men sat on a barrel polishing a two-foot-high George Washington with a piece of sand paper. The Proprietor said this had to be done before they were vanished and bronzed. The whole cost of a piece of that size would be about 50 cents.

"What do yiu sell most of?" asked the reporter.

"Georgawash, he sella, but nota much now. Mena have no money. Saya don't wanta buy."

"They don't sell well?"

"Noa, too much cost. Pretty ladya sella some. Not much."

As it was getting dark the three men gathered up two or three busts of Venus, a statue of the martyred Garfield168, a couple of horses, a rabbit or two, three statuettes of Abraham Lincoln and a dozen or so loose arms and hands, put them all in a box, put the box in a corner and locked their shop for the night.

(St Paul Daily Globe, November 29th 1885)
[Key words: racism; bronzed; image; image vender; manufacture; techniques; Washington; Venus; Garfield; horses; rabbits; Lincoln; humour]

Brittle distortions: 1885

It is a well-known fact that while immigration is almost unknown to the thriving peasantry of Tuscany, the neighbouring province of Lucca furnishes a very large proportion of the wandering Italians who go to seek their fortunes beyond the seas. These are nearly all figurinaj, the plaster image men who, with their trays of brittle distortions of famous statues, are to be met with in almost every part of the globe. Few peasant families of the Lucchese valleys are without some Gianni or Pietro, who, forsaking the parental corn- or hemp-patch, has trudged away to attack the world's oyster by means of sulphur-moulds and wax and plaster. But the Italian race being ever essentially home-loving, these Lucchesi seldom settle abroad. Sooner or later they find their way back to their native place, lay out their savings on a scrap of ground, tell wondrous tales of travel and golden possibilities, and keep up the family tradition by packing off all superfluous sons to seek their fortune in the same way"

(Villari 1885, 137-8)

A Cheap Peachbloom Vase: 1886

Shortly before the flowers began to bloom in the spring a Rockland woman heard a knock at the door, and when she opened it she encountered a peddler gentleman standing on the street and smiling blandly over a large basket of prehistoric plaster images.

"Matam," he said, smiling an inch or two wider, "I haf—"

"Don't want 'em," the woman snapped, beginning to shut the door.

The image man held up a vase temptingly, besplashed with much red and yellow paint.

"Haf you read of ter Shonny Morgan vase169 dot soldt for $18,000 in New York?" he asked, with his head on one side.

The woman slowly opened the door again and said she had.

The image man looked cautiously up and down the street and, sinking his voice to a hoarse whisper, said:

"I have here a vase dat ish a gombanion biece, only it is larger. So hellup me cracious, mine brudder shtole dis vase, and if you will not give me avay, I sells it to you for $2.50."

And she finally bought it for 35 cents and a last year's calico dress —Rockland (Me) Courier.

(Democratic Northwest, September 2nd 1886)
[Key words: plaster; images ; basket; humour; vase; clothing exchange]

Man as a Reformer: 1886

He wouldn't trade off old clothes for plaster-of-Paris images in bronze and other foolishness in bric-a-brac to hang on the walls.

(Burlington Free Press, June 26th 1886)
[Key words: clothing; plaster of Paris; images; bronze; bric-a-brac]

A fashionable craze: 1886

"What's them things made of?" asked an old lady of an Italian image vendor. "Plaster of Parees, madam. Vera beautiful." "I've heerd a good deal lately 'bout this Pasture of Paris, an' I suppose it's all the go. I guess I'll take them two cupids for the settin' room."

(Sausalito News, March 25th 1886)
[Key words: Italian; image vendor; plaster of Paris; humour; cupid]

Injuring a figure: 1887

Thomas Crane, 27, tanner, was charged with maliciously injuring a plaster of Paris figure, valued at 5s 6d, the property of Dangello Rosario. He was fined, at the Central. 20s.

(Evening News, September 13th 1887)(Sydney)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; figure; value; crime; violence]

An Italian Bulletin: 1887

Detroit free press. The latest reports as to the cholera among the 500 Italian immigrants on an island in New York bay go to show that at least 400 of them will pull through to monkey with plaster of Paris images and hand-organs this winter.

(St. Paul Daily Globe, October 17th, 1887)
[Key words: Italians; immigration; plaster of Paris; images]

Works of art: 1887

An Italian with the deprecating bow and abbreviated knowledge of English, has been selling the town plaster images, brackets and ornaments in flesh colored composition. Some of the statuary for instance, while happy in conception, cannot be held beyond criticism as works of art

(Jamestown Weekly Alert, June 2nd 1887)
[Key words: Italian; plaster images; statuary; criticism]

A Tuscan's Misfortune: 1887

It is a stately Italian who stalks majestically down Washington Street with a two-decked board on his head, supported also upon his shoulders, which is covered with plaster-of-paris images of distinguished persons and of holy saints. To him comes a newsboy, with papers under arm and face expressive of mischief, and shouting:

"Record, sir?" The Italian bends neither to the right nor to the left, but says;

"No-no-no! G'waya, you!"

But the news boy thrusts his paper still insinuatingly under the statuette man's nose and repeats:

"Record, sir — one cent?"

"G'waya now, or I keeks you!"

The newsboy turns to go, but as he does so he deftly extends his foot before the Italian's toe, who trips, staggers, and falls full length, his precious board full of statuettes crashing in a thousand pieces upon the sidewalk. Meanwhile the newsboy has disappeared up an alley.

It is a cruel loss to the image-vender. His entire stock in trade is gone in an instant. He obeys the impulsive instinct of his race, and, sitting down on the curbstone, gives way to a torrent of tears and lamentations.

There arrives upon the scene a tender-hearted gentlemen, buttoned up in a snug overcoat and wearing a glistening beaver. He takes in the situation.

"Did you lose them all?" Asks the tender-hearted gentleman.

"Every one gona smash," sobs the Italian. "Me broka all up!"

"What did you have on board?"

What I have? Oh, I have one Grova Cleveland, one Gen'la Grant, tree Garibaldi, tree Pio Nono170, four St. Joseph, five St. Peter, six Virgin Mary, all gona hella 'gedder. — Boston Record

(Mower County Transcript, January 14th 1887) (Minnesota)
[Key words: Italian; plaster of Paris; images; celebrities; saints; trickery; humour; emotion; Cleveland; Grant; Pio Nono; St Joseph; St Peter; Virgin]

A Marketable Husband: 1887

In Siam a man who has sold himself at gambling, can compel his wife, if she has money, to redeem him, but he thereupon becomes her property and chattel. This is a very equitable arrangement. The wife, if she so desires can sell her husband off, along with his summer pah'ben, for a plaster of paris image of Bismark or a spotted dog.

(The Butler Weekly Times, July 13th 1887)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; image; Bismark; humour]

Servants rooms: 1888

The Italian image man bore upon his head figures he had moulded in clay and painted in bright colours. There was the Virgin child, the crucifix, the Madonna, St Peter's church at Rome, the Capitol at Washington, Jenny Lind, Daniel Webster171, roosters, rabbits, dogs, etc. These images generally adorn the mantels of the servants' rooms.

(Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 27th 1888)
[Key words: Italian; image man; colours; Virgin; crucifix; Madonna; St Peter's Church; Capitol; Jenny Lind; Daniel Webster; roosters; rabbits; dogs; mantelpiece; customers]

Vocabulary: 1888

A well-read man of fair ability is said to use from 6,000 to 7000 words; but when he discovers that his wife has exchanged his summer vest for a plaster-of-paris image of the late Emperor William172 he doesn't use more than six or ten, but he manages, on the spur of the moment, to hit upon the wormest [sic] words in his vocabulary. — Morristown Herald.

(The Ohio Democrat, June 23rd 1888)
[Key words: Emperor William; clothing; plaster of Paris; image]

Dago Alley: 1888

And the people who live in Dago Alley, what of them? They are a vicious lot and claim the place as their own by right of pre-emption and graduation in crime and misfortune. Residence in the alley is the last jumping off place in the wretched run of a miserable existence. Negroes with razors and Italians as dark, with stilettos, lie about the open doorways and amuse themselves in sleep, or the harmless diversion of beating the miserable women who cling to them and seem to thrive on their blows; or, if perchance the claims of hunger demand food, with nothing in sight to steal, the negro sallies forth in search of chores and the Italian roams about with plaster images. One of the Italians was arrested on my visit to the alley — a swarthy, muscular man, with a red handkerchief about his forehead and brass pendants in his ears, and while fellow protested his innocence with much gesticulation at the station, a dirk a foot long was taken from him.

"Me good ceeteesen; me no anything bad; sell de nice poppy corn and de big banan.," he said in response to the usual enquiry regarding his occupation.

"Then what yer doin' with the great big cheese carver?" asked the jailer.

"Why use him to cut de big banan, see?" the fellow answered.

(Omaha Daily Bee, May 27th 1888)
[Key words: Italians; plaster; images; racism]

They will be sent back: 1888

A batch of five miserable looking half starved Italian lads were saved from a life of slavery by Collector Magone173 of New York, on Tuesday. , The boys, who gave their names as, Luigi Ghitardi, Sentani Cario, Spitard Fabbri, Ermindo Fabbri and Bertolomero Fabbri, arrived in the steerage of the French steamship La Normandie174 and were landed at Castle Garden175. There the fact that they were imported by a padrone176 to sell plaster of paris images was developed. The elder of the five boys, whose ages range from 11 to 22 years, said that their parents had bound them to Sebastiano Ascamio, of Philadelphia, for thirty months. They were to receive $3 a month and their board and lodging. Collector Magone, to whom the case was referred, promptly ordered their detention at Castle Garden until the emigrant commissioners could send them back to Italy.

(Lancaster Daily Intelligencer, September 13th 1888) (Pennsylvania)
[Key words: Italian; boys; padrone; plaster of Paris; images; slavery; wages]

A good-looking woman: 1888

Last time the club met, we sketched the Venus of Milo, or rather a plaster image representing that lady, who is now dead. I have never been to Milo and consequently never saw the lady, or was shown the point where she lived. The statue that we have left behind affair is probably inaccurate, as it represents her as having no arms or hands. People who become exhausted abruptly at the shoulder and have no place to carry the pulse and no crazy bones to hit on the mantelpiece are hardly worth while making a statue for. Venus is a good-looking woman about the back hair, and means of locomotion, but a party with no arms would have made a much more pronounced success as a freak in a museum writing receipts for making cake with her toes then in a matter of statuary. Venus made a good model at the last meeting, and although unarmed and having nothing to defend herself about her person but the temperature of the room, did not appear at all nervous. I understand that this marble revised statue of Miss V. de Milo was found in the bottom of the deep excavation. If it were not Lent I might say that this is why she is called Venus of Mile-low, but I hasten to not do so.

(Springfield Daily Republic, March 10th 1888)
[Key words: Venus de Milo; humour]

Not so cheap as plaster images: 1888

In the window of a Broadway bric-a-brac store was displayed a handsome piece of bronze with a label on it bearing the simple inscription "170." There was a lull in business yesterday afternoon, and then the door opened slowly and a tall, rather poorly dressed old man came in. "I like that figger in the window," he said, judiciously, taking out his spectacles. "Yes it's a beautiful piece of bronze," replied the dealer courteously.

"I think I'll buy that," said the old man, thoughtfully.

"All right, sir," assented the dealer, concluding this must be a Croesus in shabby clothes.

"There's niche in my house over'n Hoboken and I think she'll just fit into," pursued the old man. "I see you've marked the price of at one dollar seventy. I suppose I can get a plaster image cheaper'n that, but I like this figger, and I'll give you a dollar fifty cash. What do you say?"

For a second the dealer was speechless and then he shouted: "Merciful heavens, old man, the price of that bronze is one hundred and seventy dollars!" and then there was a silence, broken only by the rapid patter of the old man's galoshes towards the door, and the gasps of a Broadway dealer in bric-a-brac.

(New York Tribune, February 19th, 1888)
[Key words: plaster image, prices, humour]

The Image Peddler: 1888

Right in the midst of an elbowing and jostling crowd walks the Italian image vender. On his head is a tray, crowded full of his fragile wares. How little it would take to destroy their equipoise and send them, crashing, to the pavement. But he pursues his way with perfect ease, and does not seem to fear such calamity. Neither you, nor I, could carry them thus for a dozen steps, even when there was no throng to disturb, without an accident. Any few years ago the image vendor confined himself to figures of saints, virgins, and kindred subjects, but now his wares include almost everything in animate nature. Some of them are really beautiful and artistic, and find their way into homes of culture. Very often the vender and the maker of these images is one and the same person. He molds them of plaster, but there is no little skill and genius required to dress them down and get the right shade of colouring. He does not confine his operations to the city, but makes his regular trips through the country, disposing of his merchandise in towns and villages. He does not talk when it is not necessary, but studies your eyes, and when he sees a little admiration, quietly presses you to buy. He is a cute businessman. When he is seeking sales among Protestants his tray is laden with deer, antelope and things of similar nature. When he is among those of his own faith to find customers his goods consist of bishops, saints and other personages dear to the Catholic heart. In the picture the image vender is presenting the figure of a bishop to Bridget, who is undoubtedly delighted with it. If he does not make a sale it will be because her supply of money is too small.

(West Kansas World, April 7th, 1888)
[Uses the same woodcut as The Great Empire City, 1883, see Appendix I, Figure A1.72]
[Key words: Italian; image vender; saints; Vigins; animals; colour; plaster; selling]

Ire: 1889

An Italian image vender, who had been hawking his wares about the city, was walking along Bleecker Street last evening. A huge basket contained his objects of high art, and across his shoulder hung suspended by string two pieces of especial value to himself and which he doubtless prized most highly. Just when a particularly hard part of the pavement was reached the string parted suddenly and the works of art lay in fragments at the feet of the sunburned offspring of Italy. The shout of the gamin177 aroused his ire, and it exhausted his entire vocabulary in two languages to do justice to the occasion.

(The Utica Daily Observer, April 17th 1889)
[Key words: Italian; image vender; basket; humour; expletives]

The Little Image Merchant: 1889

By Horatio Alger, Jr178.

On a pleasant afternoon, early in September, two persons—a man and a boy—were trudging slowly along the main road running through and connecting the town of Chester with the adjacent village. They belong to the class not seldom seen in our country towns; namely venders of cheap plaster images, which, though coarse and rude, are not altogether unserviceable in developing a love of art among the people.


Both were coarsely dressed; but in spite of his attire, the boy's appearance was decidedly prepossessing as his companion's was the reverse. Each bore upon his head, arrayed on a board, a variety of plaster images. "Cospetto!" muttered the man in a grumbling tone, "the afternoon is one-half gone, and you have sold nothing. You must stir yourself, boy, or you shall have no supper."


…I believe I must buy something, if only for your sake. What have you got."

"Here is the image of two boys fighting."

"I won't take that; it would be setting a bad example to any boys who might see it. What is this?"

"That is the image of Napoleon Bonaparte."

"Do you know who Napoleon was?"

"He was a king, wasn't he?"

"He was the Emperor of the French. How much do you ask for it?"

"You may have it for two shillings."

"Here is half a dollar. You may keep that for yourself."


The image of Napoleon was handed to Bridget, who bore it off in triumph, and the Corsican Emperor in plaster still adorns the mantel of the kitchen, over which that lady holds sway.

(The Wahpeton Times, April 25 1889) (North Dakota)
[Key words: plaster; images; art; board; two boys fighting; Napoleon; cost; abuse; humour]

Something for Nothing: 1889

From the Philadelphia Record.
Philadelphia Dame—"See this elegant Parian marble statuette I got in exchange for your storm-overcoat which you won't need any more this winter, I don't suppose, and—"

Husband—"Greatsnakes! I paid $25 for that overcoat."

"Yes, but this statuette is worth $40. It came from the Vienna Exposition. The man said so."

"My, my! What fools women are! That's the new kind of plaster images an Italian is making around the corner for old clothes men. It's worth 10 cents"

"Mercy! Is that all?"

"Yes, that's all. If I hadn't my life insured for $50,000 you'd starve to death when I'm gone, and I shall have that insurance money fixed so you can't get anything but the interest, so much each day. Well it's time for me to go around to the [illegible] Hall to pay my promises.

(Pittsburg Dispatch, March 5th 1889)
[Key words: clothing exchange; humour; Italian: plaster; images; cost]

Girls who waste money: 1889

[The average servant girl] will trade five old dresses for a quarter's worth of plaster of paris images and think she has made a big bargain…Those who often wonder how these same peddlers live forget the servant girls and their foolishness.

(Pittsburg Dispatch, April 21st 1889)
[Key words: clothing exchange; cost; plaster of Paris; humour]

Art in Plaster of Paris: 1889

What the Image Peddler Finds Most Profitable—His Experience in Busts of Politicians

The Italian image vender is here a surer harbinger of spring and jay or blue-birds. He must needs have a sure foot and a head like a rope-walker to carry upon it so large array of his fragile commodities in safety. He does not, as one might suppose, seek the byways and unfrequented places as fearing someone might run against and jostle him and in an instant bring wreck and ruin, but he takes the crowded streets, and is oftener seen in a pushing, struggling eddy of humanity at street corner than elsewhere.

There is from season to season a change in the variety of art demanded by the fickle populace. The higher colors of a few years ago are no longer au fait. Plaster of Paris fruit-pieces and parrots in the uncompromising cardinal colours green, red and yellow, have had their day, and the demand is for quiet tints and bronzes. On South Meridian Street, a few doors below the Union tracks, in an old frame building, a party of Italians are now busily at work supplying the public with the current demand in gypsum art. A handsome, black-eyed young fellow, who spoke fairly good English, answered the reporter's questions. "We sell more Shakespeare and Milton busts than any other kind— always bronze— always by the pair. Figure pieces, to represent spring and summer, will sell, and the "Dancing Girl" is good. The boy and girl with an umbrella over them is a good selling piece."

These specimens of plaster of Paris art are all really excellent, the patterns being made by artists. "Berlin Horses" as they are called in the trade, are good sellers. This plaster Pegasus179 is taken from statue in Berlin, celebrated for its fine proportions. In the animal line the best sellers are pug dogs. These they make in several sizes, coloring them to a close resemblance to the natural animal. The pug is now in fashionable and the plaster counterpart in brisk demand, selling, according to size and ugliness, from 15 cents to 50 cents each. Busts sell at $1 a pair and are cheap at the money.

"Why don't you make a bust of President Harrison180 and sell it? There would be money in that, suggested the reporter to one of the sons of Italy, who with a sharp knife, was relieving William Shakespeare of the creases left by the mold from which he had just been shucked.

"We tried Clev'lan'181; he no sell," was the answer given with a dubious shake of the head.

"But Harrison would sell," persisted the reporter. We tried-a Clev'lan,'" was again the reply. Evidently the Italian had had a sad experience in debasing art to the level of American politics and is not to be again beguiled from "the legitimate."

(The Indianapolis Journal, March 17th 1889) [Key words: plaster of Paris; fruit; parrots; bronzed; Milton; Spring and Summer; Dancing Girl; boy and girl with umbrella; Berlin Horse; Pegasus; cost; pug dog; Harrison; accent; Shakespeare: Cleveland]

Brilliantly coloured: 1889

There was a tiny book-shelf, a few cheap pictures scattered about, and a bracket in one corner holding a brilliantly colored plaster of paris image. "The fruits of Dan'el's industry," Mrs Briggs was wont to say with pardonable pride.182

(Phillipsburg Herald, August 2nd, 1889)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; image; colours]

Signs of coming Christmas: 1890

Venders of plaster paris images, paper flowers and other knickknacks moved along the street apparently meeting with an encouraging amount of trade…

(The Indianapolis Journal, December 21st 1890)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; images]

Boys at Two Dollars Each: 1890

Children must be cheap in Italy. The authorities were recently notified that the parents of five little boys had sold their offspring for a bottle of olive oil and $2 apiece. The purchaser took them to Hamburg, whence he intended to ship them abroad to peddle plaster images. The police were informed, however, and the children were returned to their unnatural parents.— San Francisco Chronicle.

(The Opelousas Courier, June 28th 1890) (Louisiana)
[Key words: boys; plaster ; images; abuse]

Infant industry: 1890

Now that works of art are likely to be placed on the free list, the Italian image and plaster cast peddlers of this country should rise as one man against a cut so radical which promises to smash with one blow an infant industry crying for protection.

(Omaha Daily Bee, March 29th 1890)
[Key words: Italian; image; plaster cast; peddlers; humour]

A beautiful bust of his majesty: 1890

Down sat Mr Jones the dairyman, and immediately after dinner, seeing in Italian image-man passing by with a number of heads—"God bless me," said he, "Mr. Wilson, there's a beautiful bust of his Majesty; be good enough to lend me eighteen pence, I must have it to put opposite your cows." The artist instantly borrowed the money from the landlord, and Jones ran after the Italian, but turned down a wrong street, and could never find the way back.

(Glasgow Herald, September 17th 1890)
[Key words: Italian; image-man; royalty; cows; fraud; humour ]

Art: 1890

Home art may include fancy work in its simplest pretensions; but if high art is sought one must go higher than the average means will permit. High art may be seen, but not possessed by the average beholder. A Vanderbilt may pay $6,000 for two sheep and four cows on canvas, and consider it but a small purchase in the realms of high art. Another person wishing for something akin to high art, is blighted in the wish for the real, so buys a plaster of paris figure containing some pretense to symmetry of form, drapes it with a gossamer texture and places it in a shady corner on a dark pedestal.

(Sacramento Daily Union, September 7th 1890) [Key words: plaster of Paris; figure; art]

A brutal and depraved nature: 1890

Although the famous Devonshire savages are now extinct, many Englishmen of an even more brutal and depraved nature exist, especially in some of our large towns. Such a one has just turned up at Liverpool, when a man named William Mitchard was charged with having assaulted an Italian name Pietro Passarotti, and also with having robbed him. The Italian, who was an image seller, called at prisoner's house and offered his goods for sale. Prisoner took a couple of busts from him, and put them on the mantel-shelf. He then took the man into his backyard, poured a couple of buckets of dirty water over him, first of all taking 15s out of his pocket. The chairman asked Mitchard why he did this, and the reply was, "Because he wanted me to stop pouring water on him, and I said I would if he would give me some money." The Chairman—but this was a most unprovoked assault. The prisoner—Oh you don't understand. He gave me the money because I promised not to pour any more water on him. The prisoner was committed to the assize.

(The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post, June 23rd 1890)

Play image boy: 1891

To walk well, one must first stand well. That's as good practice as any for this is the balance a large tea tray loaded with several wooden things which will not break as they fall and play image boy for 15 minutes at a time. It would be well if the contents were plaster and dinner depending on their safety, for a steady carriage would sooner be the result.

(Pittsburg Dispatch, November 8th 1891)
[Key words: image-boy; posture; tray; humour]

Crockery: 1891

"…Once in a while a purchaser gets nicely taken in. I recollect one of our sales we got $13 for a large crate billed 'crockery.' A well-known physician was the purchaser, and when the crate was opened it was found to contain a lot of plaster of Paris images, such as Italians peddle about the streets."

"Worth $5 perhaps to one of those peddlers!"

"Possibly, but not worth five cents to the doctor."

(The Eugene City Guard, July 11th 1891) (Oregon)
[Key words: Italians; plaster of Paris; crime; cost]

Broken Idols: 1891

Early yesterday evening the air on Harrison-street Wharf was blue with large-sized chunks of the choices profanity. The cuss words came from an Italian peddler of plaster images who, in pursuing the even tenor of his way with a tray of precious Columbuses and Washingtons on his head, ran full tilt into a lumber-laden wagon and shivered his merchandise into a thousand pieces. Overcome by his emotions as he gazed upon the wreck of his statuary strewed upon the old wharf, he opened the safety-valve of his pent-up feelings and let her go.

(The Morning Call, March 14th 1891, p2) (San Francisco) [Key words: Italian; peddler; plaster; images; Columbus; Washington; destruction; humour]

Generosity: 1891

Two English visitors, a man and a women, passing out of the St. Petersburg Cathedral, after witnessing therein one of the ceremonies of the Russian Church, come across a little image-seller in tears, because one of his wares had fallen and been broken. The gentleman generously puts in the weeping child's hand a piece of money that more than pays for the broken image, whereat the little fellow, evidently believing that God had interfered in his behalf, falls on his knees, beats his breast with his childish hands, crosses himself repeatedly, all the while that his lips move in prayer. To his benefactor he gives but one swift upward glance of gratitude, and then "gathering his poor garments about him, he ran quickly away and disappeared in the gloom."

(The Sacred Heart Review, May 30th 1891) [Key words: image-seller; child; destruction]

Two dimples for ten cents: 1891

Delightful Remit of a Recent Whimsical Purchase.

A young Brooklyn Benedict183 sauntered down Nassau street184 several months ago in a reverie. He was thinking of his home across the bridge. An interesting event was soon to happen there, and he was on his way to a fruit store to buy some dainties for his young wife. His face beamed with happy anticipation of the thanks of the little woman who awaited his return. He pushed through the crowd of pedestrians without heeding anything or having the train of pleasant fancies diverted until he passed a young Italian image peddler. The Italian's stock of plaster work was displayed in a high doorway out of the way of the busy throng. The sunbeam lighted up the statuettes. The Benedict looked down at them, walked on a few steps, then turned back. Two tiny busts had attracted his attention, one represented a boy crying, with his cap pulled away over his right eye. The other was a dimpled cheeked girl, laughing. They captivated the young Benedict's fancy. "How much are they?" he asked the Italian.

"Tena centa," replied the peddler, his face lighting up gayly at the prospect of a purchase. "All right, I'll take 'em," the Brooklynite said, and when the peddler had wrapped them in an old newspaper he tucked them in his overcoat pocket and continued on his way to the fruit store. He hid the images when he got home, and without his wife's knowledge placed them upon the mantel in the diningroom, where she would see them the first thing in the morning. "It will be a little surprise," he thought. The plan worked to perfection. The mistress of the household gave a little cry of delight as she caught sight of the girl's head. "What pretty dimples," she said, when the young Benedict came down to breakfast.

"Yes; rather pretty for the price. I thought you'd like 'em,'" the husband replied. In two months' time the happy event that the household had been looking forward to anxiously had happened. A good-natured girl baby had come to further distract the Benedict's mind from the dry details of business. He had weeks before forgotten the trilling purchase from the humble Nassau-street art purveyor. A week later the healthy infant looked up at the ceiling and smiled. Her fat cheeks creased into two unmistakable dimples. The Benedict laughed, he was immensely tickled. The dimples looked as pretty as could be, and he was proud of the fact. "But where on earth did the dimples come from?" he said. "There haven't been any in our families." "A happy whim of nature, I suppose," said the young mother, and she kissed each dimple several times. The Benedict went down to dinner alone half an hour later. His eye chanced to scan the mantel and rested on the five-cent bust of the laughing girl. "By George!" he fairly shouted, "there are those dimples now—the very ones. Well. I call that about the best investment of a dime I ever made.'"

It was another illustration of the whims of nature. The dimples had captivated the young wife. She saw them daily. They had made a lasting and pleasing impression upon her mind, and, as often happens, what the mother most admired had been reproduced in her child. "It's lucky it wasn't a boy" said the Benedict philosophically. "It might have been a crier of the worst description." — New York Sun.

(Sacramento Daily Union, April 28th 1891)
[Key words: Italian; image-peddler; boy crying; girl laughing; cost; humour]

Licence fee: 1891

On each peddler or vender of plaster of paris or other images or ornaments each day, 1.00.

(Roanoke News, June 8th 1891)(North Carolina)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; ornaments; licence; images]

Injured with an image: 1891

Jerry Sullivan was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon Wednesday at his home at 21 Crocker Street by officer O'Malley. Sullivan, who is a junk dealer, claims that he found his wife and three or four women neighbers [sic] intoxicated. He remonstrated, and his wife picked up a fancy image made of earthenware. He took it from her to throw it away, but she turned and was hit in the back of the head. A scalp wound with some loss of blood caused the women tipplers to go into hysterics. They afterwards invoked the majesty of the law with the result recorded.

(Morning Call, June 5th 1891)(PE)
[Key words: image; earthenware; crime]

Future archaeology: 1892

Who knows but what the plaster of Paris images now peddled out by Italians will be unearthed by some archaeologist 4000 years hence and gravely called idols worshipped in this day and age of the world?

(The Saline County Journal, May 26th 1892)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; Italians; images]

Must pay license: 1892

Image venders will hereafter pay the pedlars license. Judge Mahoney decided a case yesterday which will make a considerable difference in the manner of dealing with the peddlers who sell plaster of paris bric-a-brac about the streets. Heretofore the officers about the court and policemen have allowed this particular class of peddlers to ply their trade unmolested and without license, the impression generally prevailing that they were exempted from the license ordinances by the fact that they manufactured their own wares. Yesterday, however, Casino Melloni and Elia Prezeiri were arrested for selling plaster of paris images and when Judge Mahoney brought the ordinance to bear upon the case it was found that, while it permitted farmers and hucksters to sell produce of their own raising, there was no provision to let out the manufacturing peddler. The prisoners were therefore find $5 each, and hereafter they and others of their class will be required to pay licence.

(St. Paul Daily Globe, January 22nd 1892)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; bric-a-brac; licence; images]

Without a license: 1892

Casino Melloni, who was fined $5 in the municipal court Thursday for peddling plaster of paris images without a license, was brought in again yesterday on the same charge. He was fined $10 in the second offence.

(St. Paul Daily Globe, January 23rd 1892)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; images; licence; court]

Exquisite figures: 1892

"Form and colour are cheap," says Edmund Russell185; "it is texture which is costly. Put form and color in your homes if the fabric be not of the best." This advice is recalled before the Italian image vender's stand. Exquisite figures in plaster of paris of famous marbles can be had for two or three dimes, in which grace and poise, force of action, everything but the enduring quality are reproduced. A bust of Beethoven or Mozart, in a striking likeness, can be got for 20 cents, and when placed up on a piano with a scarlet paper Japanese fan open behind it becomes a suitable and pleasing ornament. Or a bust of Goethe, Schiller or Dante on a corner bracket in the library, with a bit of crimson drapery to bring it out, satisfies as well in plaster Paris as in marble, while it lasts. A suggestion is to paint the figures in orange shellac to give them the rich tinge of old Ivory. Every home with growing children should have reproduction in some form of the Venus of Milo. It is an education in itself to be brought up with it.

(Pittsburg Dispatch, June 12th 1892)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; image vender; cost; Beethoven; Mozart; Goethe; Schiller; Dante; Venus de Milo; education]

Supplying the natives: 1893

The Mississippi Valley Statue manufacturers have their craft moored at this point [Port Byron] and are supplying the natives with everything in the line of plaster of paris images.

(Rock Island Daily Argus, May 4th 1893, p7) (Illinois)
[Key words: statue; manufacturers; plaster of Paris; images]

Bronze statuary: 1893

The white plaster casts which the image venders sell for a trifle may be converted into bronze statuary scarcely distinguishable from the real thing by the following process: first apply a coating of thin shellac; when this is been allowed to soak into the plaster, paint with dull brown paint, and rub in with the hand a greenish bronze powder until the entire surface is evenly covered.

(The Evening World, May 19th 1893) (New York)
[Key words: plaster; casts; cost; bronze]

A Hero Brought Low: 1894

It is really surprising at times to find out how little men know about the wares they are attempting to sell.

Quite recently an Italian with a basket full of plaster images over his arm entered a downtown business office and attempted to make a sale.

It was a dull afternoon, with no business doing, and the clerks and salesmen were engaged inn reading the newspapers and in idle conversation. They turned their attention to the Italian as he entered, and one of their number began to guy him.

The Italian understood little English, and his replies to the crossfire of questions were conducive of laughter. This he took in good part, and finally he began to exhibit his merchandise. Among the images was a plaster bust of Mars.

"Mars, Mars," said one of the men to him, as he read the name on the bust, "who in the world was Mars?"

"Oh," replied the vender, not willing to admit his ignorance, "don't you know? Why, Mars is chief of police in Paris."

"Chief of police in Paris? Is he living now?" continued the gentleman.

"Yes," replied the other. "He is a famous man. A great man. As great as your great Byrnes186. Won't you buy a bust of Mars, gentlemen? It's an excellent likeness." New York Herald.

(The Roanoke Times, January 28th 1894)
[Key words: Italian; plaster; images; humour; Mars; Byrnes]

She Bought His Images: 1894

Busts of Bacon and Shakespeare at Fifteen Cents a Pound

You know those Italian peddler boys who go about with a tray load of plaster images on their heads? They make up a lot of the images in the dark and next morning they name them.

One of the peddlers went into a grocery on a storm-quiet day and begged with the customary pitiful eyes and guileful heart for a buyer. He was so persistent, he assured his hearers so emphatically that all the images were imported, he moaned are perfectly over the ruinously low prices, that the young woman who had charge of the pickle department asked him what he would take for a bust of Shakespeare. He said: "Two dollar."

"Who's this?" asked the fair patron.

"Bacon187," said the boy.

"How much for him?"

"Three dollar."

"I'll give you twenty-five cents for the two," said the girl.

"All right," said the boy calmly and quickly setting the twain upon the counter.

But she was game. She bought them, solemnly declaring with beautiful heroism they were perfect likenesses, wrapped them tenderly in tissue paper and started home with them in the evening. But the butcher boy from the other side of the store said next morning he had followed her part of the way home, and he vowed he saw her smash them against a fire plug188 and skip along without once glancing at the pieces.

(The Guthrie Daily Leader, May 23rd 1894) (Oklahoma)
[Key words: Italian; peddler boys; plaster; images; Shakespeare; cost; Bacon; humour]

Marksmanship: 1894

Dunphy volunteered to fight any man in the house, and Walsh drew a revolver and said he was going to clean out the place. As a specimen of his marksmanship he shot the head off a plaster image on the mantle. The shot caused a stampede, during which Walsh continued firing. The only result of his shooting was that he wounded himself in the left hand.

(The Sun, July 21st 1984)(New York)
[Key words: crime; plaster image; mantel]

Italian Boys: 1894

I pass frowning old Hanover Chapel189, which is said, in the guide-books, to be an edifice of the Ionic order, and in its internal arrangements somewhat to resemble St. Stephen's, Walbrook. I only mention this, to me, uninteresting pile for two reasons. First, because Hanover Chapel will, in all probability, speedily be swept away, and replaced by some secular building; and next, because the portico used, when I was young, to be haunted by Italian image boys, a race who appear to me to have almost entirely vanished from the Metropolis. They were wont to loiter on week-days under the columns of the portico, and rest their burdens on the pedestals. When did you last make acquaintance with the peripatetic youth with swarthy complexion and flashing black eyes, bearing on his head a board crowded with plaster-of-Paris effigies of the Venus of Milo, the Huntress Diana, the Triumphal Augustus, Canova's Three Graces, the Dying Gladiator, Shakespeare, the Great Duke of Wellington, and last, but not least, Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria?

I used to haunt the portico of the Chapel when I was a boy of fourteen190, and at an English school at Turnham Green; and my visits to the Italian image boys were for the purpose of purchasing plaster casts of antique medals and alti rilievi191, which they sold for a penny and twopence each.

(Sala 1894, 228-9)
[Key words: Italian; image boys; plaster of Paris; Venus de Milo; Three Graces; Dying Gladiator; Shakespeare; Wellington; Victoria; medals; cost]

Despised Plaster Casts: 1894

No one who has not seen them knows the really beautiful objects into which common white plaster casts may be transformed, and that, too, with only a trifling outlay of time and expense. In the streets of most large cities in the east, more than the west, and in New York city most of all, picturesque Italians hawk these commodities about at quite low prices. They may be found, too, in many of the small art stores, sometimes in beautiful designs, and perhaps costing a little more. But the hawkers are the originals in the business and have the largest assortment. One may pass you often on the street, his nut-brown skin offering strange contrast to the trayful of chalky white statuettes and busts; but beyond a vague impression of this contrast you let him pass unnoticed. Pause next time, if you have an eye to the beautiful and a thought for economy, and examine his wares

Here, first of all, is a pair of little brackets, the size of which would just support an old miniature. From beneath the shelf of each peers one of Raphael's immortal cherubs. There are real gems in spite of their whiteness. Someone has very truly said that these casts are to sculpture what photography is to painting. Certainly, if you will take the time to examine into the delicacy and artistic quality of his wares, you will be able to add materially to the fin de siecle tone of your home. Some years ago the home of the plaster cast was the studio and art gallery, perhaps sometimes the club room; now they lend relief to a tinted wall, hang conspicuously over a mantel, peep from behind portieres and decorate many an otherwise characterless nook and corner.


… The next time you meet the dark-eyed image vendor do not thoughtlessly pass him by.

(The Evening Star, February 10th 1894) (Washington DC)
[Key words:plaster; casts; Italians; white; brackets; mantel]

A Secret of the Trade: 1895

One evening, being perplexed at seeing some Italian image sellers continually hawking their trays of statuettes on their heads through the streets without a human creature ever appearing to buy any, the writer asked one of them if he had exercised his vocation long.

"Some years," replied the man.

"And did you ever chance to sell one of your figures?"

"Only now and then, sir."

"My good man," said the reporter, "do me the favor of telling me why you've been thus walking about for years with that load upon your head. Is in obedience to a vow which you have made?"

"No, sir; certainly not. It is to get my living."

"But you say you only rarely sell anything."

"I don't often sell anything, it is true," returned the man; "but there are so many clumsy people in the world that a day seldom passes without someone running against me and upsetting my tray. My figures are broken, and a crowd collects and makes the person pay for them."—Edinburgh Scotsman.

(The Daily Bulletin, February 7th 1895) (Honolulu)
[Key words: Italian; image sellers; destruction; humour] [See also 1863]

Westminster Abbey: 1895

…he smiled when I put to him the all important question, "Where is my VON BÖOTZ?"

"This is what I have done with him, Sir, said my house-renovator, leading me gently into what I take must have been his study. The apartment was furnished with two spades, a saw, two hammers, a pot of glue, a model of a fire engine, a couple of stools, and a sideboard.

"Look at this little lot, Sir," cried Mr Wilkins, whipping off a cloth, and exposing to view two earthenware flower vases, and a small model (in chalk) of an easily illuminated (there was a receptacle in the interior large enough to contain a taper) cathedral.

"What are these?" I demanded, in a voice more or less suggestive of thunder.

"That's what he gave me for the picture, and, asking your pardon, Sir, I think I've done well with him. It was one of those Italian image-men, who took a fancy to it. He offered at first only those vases. Then he sprang to a statuette of GARIBALDI. But, after a great deal of discussion, I got him to chuck in Westminster Abbey, Sir, which, as you see, can be lighted up magnificent."

"For a moment I was struck speechless with sorrow and indignation. No doubt the foreign hawker, having received an art education in Italy (the renowned dwelling-place of the Muses), had recognised the value of my picture, and had——, I paused in my train of thought, and jumped from despair to joy. There, resting on a newly-renovated perambulator, was my Old Master. I almost wept as I recognised my nearly lost VON BÖOTZ.

"But there it is!" I hoarsely whispered, pointing to the picture.

"The canvas, yes Sir — the Italian chap only wanted the frame. He called the donkey lot rubbish."

(Punch, or The London Charivari, January 12th 1895)
[Key words: Italian; image man; Garibaldi; Westminster Abbey; humour]

So very naked: 1895

On the other side of the stile, in the footpath, she beheld a foreigner with black hair and a sallow face, sitting on the grass beside a large square board whereon were fixed, as closely as they could stand, a number of plaster statuettes, some of them bronzed, which he was re-arranging before proceeding with them on his way. They were in the main reduced copies of ancient marbles, and comprised divinities of a very different character from those the girl was accustomed to see portrayed, among them being a Venus of standard pattern, a Diana, and, of the other sex, Apollo, Bacchus, and Mars. Though the figures were many yards away from her the south-west sun brought them out so brilliantly against the green herbage that she could discern their contours with luminous distinctness; and being almost in a line between herself and the church towers of the city they awoke in her an oddly foreign and contrasting set of ideas by comparison. The man rose, and, seeing her, politely took off his cap, and cried "I-i-i-mages!" in an accent that agreed with his appearance. In a moment he dexterously lifted upon his knee the great board with its assembled notabilities divine and human, and raised it to the top of his head, bringing them on to her and resting the board on the stile. First he offered her his smaller wares—the busts of kings and queens, then a minstrel, then a winged Cupid. She shook her head.

"How much are these two?" she said, touching with her finger the Venus and the Apollo—the largest figures on the tray.

He said she should have them for ten shillings.

"I cannot afford that," said Sue. She offered considerably less, and to her surprise the image-man drew them from their wire stay and handed them over the stile. She clasped them as treasures.

When they were paid for, and the man had gone, she began to be concerned as to what she should do with them. They seemed so very large now that they were in her possession, and so very naked.

(Hardy 1895)
[Key words: plaster; statuettes; bronzed; Venus; Diana; Apollo; Bacchus; Mars; images; accent; board; kings; queens; minstrel; Cupid; cost; bargaining]

Nelson: 1895

Sailor runs up against Italian image-boy. Boy: "Oh, my poor saint, my poor saint; you have broken his arm off." Sailor (flinging the boy a shilling): "Never mind, mate; knock out one of his eyes out and sell him for Lord Nelson."

(The North-Eastern Daily Gazette, December 2nd 1895)
[Key words: Italian; image boy; humour; Nelson]

Lovely but terrible: 1895

From her account it would seem that the hero of the narrative was a godlike individual, to whom Antinous and other supernally beautiful persons were but as shilling plaster casts on the board of an Italian image-vendor are to the Phidian marble. Not only lovely was he but terrible.

(Hunter-duvar 1895, 82)
[Key words: plaster casts; cost; Italian; image-vendor]

The Plaster Kitten: 1895

Once upon a time there was a figurinaio who went about the streets selling plaster figurines:

"Figurines, who wants my figurines!"

On the tray on his head, pot-bellied cats and rabbits nodded their heads and seemed alive192.

"Figurines, who wants my figurines!"

One day he had done a good trade and had only a single kitten left. No-one wanted it, though it was no different to any of the other figures.

The unfortunate figurinaio shouted himself hoarse to no avail:

"Look! Here's a nice kitty! Who wants this kitten, who would like it!

At that moment he was beneath the windows of the royal palace:

"Figurinaio, come in."

He had never been lucky enough to sell any of his little things at the palace, so, barefoot, he rushed in, mounting the stairs four at a time. But as he reached the top landing, he stumbled and fell full-length. The kitten was shattered.

The princess, who was running to the door, began to cry:

"I want the kitten! I want the kitten!"

"Princess, it is nothing; I'll make another."

"No ! No! I want this one!"

"If I had a little glue, I could stick it together again."

Before he had finished speaking, the pieces of the kitten rearranged themselves and joined together. The figurinaio was as stunned as anyone. He almost wanted it back; that marvellous kitten might have made his fortune. But the King was serious, and he had to sell it to survive.

"How much do you want?" asked the King.

"Your Majesty; the kitten is priceless."

The King gave him a gold coin.

The figurinaio had hoped for more, and pocketed the money sulkily.

"Are not you happy? Here's another."

"Give him three your Majesty."

The King, in order not to displease his daughter, gave the figurinaio two more gold coins.

"God help you!"

The princess took the kitten to her room, and had fun all day making it nod its head.

"Kitty, do you love me?"

And the kitten said yes [i.e. it nods its head].

"Kitten, will you still love me when you are a cat?"

And the kitten said yes.

"Kitten, shall we get married?"

And the kitten said yes...

(my approximate and clumsy translation)

Il gattino di gesso

C'era una volta un figurinaio che andava attorno per le vie vendendo figurine di gesso:

"Chi vuol figurine, chi vuole!"

Su la tavola che portava in testa sopra un cércine, vecchi panciuti, gatti e conigli crollavano il capo e parevano vivi.

"Chi vuol figurine, chi vuole!"

Un giorno aveva fatto buoni affari; gli rimaneva soltanto un gattino. Non lo aveva voluto nessuno, quantunque niente diverso dagli altri venduti.

Il povero figurinaio si sgolava inutilmente:

"Oh, il bel gattino! Chi vuole questo gattino, chi vuole!"

Si trovava in quel momento sotto le finestre del palazzo reale:

"Figurinaio, venite su."

Non gli era mai capitata la fortuna di vendere qualcuna di quelle sue cosucce alla casa del Re. Dalla contentezza non stava nei panni, e montava gli scalini a quattro a quattro. Arrivato all'ultimo pianerottolo, inciampa e casca quant'era lungo. Il gattino andò in pezzi.

La Reginotta, ch'era corsa all'uscio, cominciò a strillare:

"Voglio il gattino! Voglio il gattino!"

"Reginotta, non è niente; ne farò un altro."

"No ! No! Voglio questo qui!"

"Se avessi un po' di colla, lo incollerei."

Non aveva ancora finito di parlare, che i pezzetti si movevano, si ricercavano tra loro e s'incollavano da sé; e già il gattino crollava la testa e pareva contento di quella prodezza. Il figurinaio era più sbalordito degli altri. Quasi quasi avrebbe voluto riportarselo via; quel gattino portentoso forse sarebbe stato la sua fortuna. Ma col Re non si scherzava; bisognava venderlo per forza.

"Quanto ne vuoi?" il Re.

"Faccia Vostra Maestà; il gattino non ha prezzo."

Il Re gli diede una moneta d'oro.

Il figurinaio s'attendeva di più, e intascò la moneta di malumore.

"Non sei contento? Eccotene un'altra."v

"Gliene dia tre, Maestà."

Il Re, per non far dispiacere alla figliuola, diede al figurinaio altre due monete d'oro.

"Dio t'aiuti!"

La Reginotta portò il gattino in camera, e si divertiva tutto il giorno a fargli scrollare la testa.

"Gattino, mi vuoi bene?"

E il gattino rispondeva di sì.

"Gattino, vuoi la gattina?"

E il gattino rispondeva di sì.

"Gattino, ci sposiamo?"

E il gattino rispondeva di sì.

(Capuana 1894, 137)
[Key words: plaster; figurines; cats; rabbits; magic]

An Iconoclast: 1895

By Elizabeth Pullen193.

Young Mr. Broughton was, unawares and gradually, in process of evolution from the Journalist to the newspaper man. It took all sorts of rubs and surprises and facers and disillusions to form him. That morning he was hurrying through Printing House Square194 on an assignment when he noticed before him a woman carrying on her head a tray of plaster images, and walking with the stately gait and even poise of the South Italian. She was small, brown; she wore a gown of blue cotton, a woolen shawl, plaided in olive and yellow, and a red kerchief on her head. These glaring colors, however, made her a picture. To observe her Broughton passed by her and then looked back.

She regarded him calmly. "Buy a lit' San Samuele says-a his oration, signor?"

female image-seller

Broughton had no particular use for a praying Samuel195, but he had various theories about our adopted citizens, and might have acquired something in the plaster cast line if at that moment a broad shouldered fellow had not come and jostled the little woman so roughly that the tray was thrown from her head and went ruining to the sidewalk. It was the end of the world for that population of graven images. They fell in a heap of indistinguishable fragments, mixing their dust in a replete democracy of saints, politicians, lambs, the three graces, and even a model of a beautiful foot labeled "Trilby"196. Little Samuel was past praying for, but he was no more thoroughly pulverized than the bust of Napoleon. Young Mr Broughton felt stirring within him an essay on the frailty of mundane things.

Then the air was torn with the lamentations of the woman.

"Oh, Madonna!" Next she denounced the cause of the disaster, who was moving away. "Head of big, you are-a. Why-a you hit-a me? What I ever done at you-a? You break-a my image—I not eat-a more!" She rattled her finger-nails along her front teeth to indicate the hunger which would be the consequence of the breakage of her stock in trade.

Meanwhile two bootblacks had seized the man by the elbows and, turning him around, ran him back face to face with the woman. She stood wringing her hands and wailing: "What ruin! Poor-a me!"

The aggressor was evidently also an Italian.

"Soy!" one of the bootblacks said, "yoose has gotter reach down inter yer clothes an' square up wid de dago lady!"

"He's a bloomin' dago hisself," commented the other boy.

Broughton had been painfully composing a few phrases of such colloquial Italian as his Harvard studies of Dante had rendered possible to him, and now uttered them in a stiff and toneless accent. In effect, he said that it was necessary to pay the compatriot for that which was broken.

"I only got-a ten cent-a, signor," said the offender, handing the coin to the woman. He was permitted to go in peace.

"Ten-a cent-a! Madonna mia! For so mooch image!" sobbed she.

So Broughton put a dollar into his own hat and passed it around among the throng that had been attracted by the noise. When he gave the collection to the woman, she wiped her eyes, kissed his hands with many benedictions, and went her way.

Broughton's assignment had taken him in the direction of Mulberry Bend197. As he returned through that quarter he saw a hundred yards in front of him a woman with a tray of images on her head. He quickened his pace and soon was near her. It was the same Italian; she had replenished her tray with more saints and heroes and graces. "So it is," mused young Mr. Broughton—who still trailled clouds of the glory of journalism—"that in this world no one is indispensable. One perishes, another replaces him!"

breaker of images
Little Samuel

Just then, swaggering around a corner, appeared the former breaker of images, and again, as if on purpose, he swung his arm rudely against the woman. As before, a crash, lamentations, and a crowd. The dwellers of Mulberry Bend, themselves well acquainted with poverty, gave of their few copper coins to her, who sat wailing among the ruins of her wares. They helped her to pick up such casts as were not irremediably broken, and to replace them on the tray. This time Broughton did not stay to act, as consoler. The aggressor had walked off rapidly, and the reporter followed him. After five minutes' chase, they turned Into an unspeakably dirty alley, where the Italian entered a doorway, without noticing that any one pursued him. Broughton, having made sure that he should recognize the house again, hastened to the nearest police station and told the story. "She was a quiet, decent little body," he said to the officer.

"That great hulking brute struck her on purpose the second time, even admitting that the first time might have been by accident."

Two policemen were detailed to accompany Mr Broughton, who was known to the chief of the station, and he led them straight to the door where the Italian had entered. Up the dark and broken stairs they climbed. Broughton shrunk from contact with the slimy walls; it seemed to him that evil odors were depositing themselves there in a pestilential fungus growth. At last they emerged upon a landing. A child leaned over the baluster of the story above. Broughton tossed him a nickel.

"My little man, is there an Italian living in this house?"

The child picked up the coin and stared in silence.

"Say kid, is there a dago here?" one of the policeman translated.

The boy pointed with a thumb to a door at the left of the landing where the three men stood. Broughton felt the thrill of the righteous avenger. The malicious brute who had twice destroyed the wares of the poor little image vendor would soon be sent to the Island198. And a good riddance for the community. One of the police opened the door and they entered. They saw at one side of the room a long work bench, covered with plaster images. The iconoclast sat there, carefully mending a broken figure. The woman was leaning over his shoulder, laughing as they chatted in their own language.

"Eh, I always say it, Pietro, you have a holy hand at mending them! If not we might lose by the game."

"I don't say, Marianna, that Saint Samuel is better than new, but at least he will stick until he takes another tumble."

So that was their trick! A piece of real Neapolitan cunning. Broughton decided that he ought to have seen through it sooner. The woman caught sight of the visitors, and ran forward with hands clasped: "We ain't done-a nottin'," she pleaded. "Dis our beez-a-ness. We all-a right-a!"

"Yes, you're all right," said Broughton, impulsively. "It was my mistake. I owe you a dollar for it." And he laid a legal tender coin—65 cents' worth of silver and 35 of faith, which is pretty well for the times we live in—on the work bench of the maker, breaker and mender of images. The Italian looked up with a real Neapolitan smile, radiant, many-toothed, wide and irresponsible.

"Tell me all about it," said the reporter.

"You not give-a me away, gent'emen cops?"

"No; go on."

"Look; it like this. We not sell image. And I say, you hear-a me, Marianna, we get more money to break all! She carry de image. Den I come-a wit grand force-a. Patatrae! All ruin-a! A-a-a-ar me! Dat Marianna. A-ah, poor! Dat people! Somebody take-a money in hat-a. Don't-a cry, poor voman! After, I mend-a what-a can, After, I, Marianna. babies, all eat. See?"

All this time the wife stood with four rather clean and very beautiful children clinging to her skirts and peeping shyly at the strangers. How could Broughton or any one else blame this happy family?

Indeed, Broughton has never formulated his views upon the case, although he used to take social problems very seriously. Whenever he meets Pietro in the street they exchange a glance of intelligence. Sometimes the Neapolitan, by a quick gesture, indicates Marianna further along the avenue.

And then Broughton, if he has time, assists at the —nth performance of the comedy of the iconoclast.—St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

(The Princeton Union, June 20th 1895 and The Goldsboro Headlight, January 2nd 1896 (NC) [Key words: Italian; plaster; images; costume; Samuel; saints; politicians; lambs; the Three Graces; Trilby's foot; Napoleon; humour]

Gold pieces: 1896

One of Mr Herrman's199 pet tricks when he was out in with a crowd was to strike a street vendor with plaster casts to sell or a confiding Italian in charge of a corner fruit stand and, after buying half a dozen oranges or small plaster images as the case might be, to break them open one after the other and find a five dollar gold piece inside of each one. It invariably resulted in the Italian taking a hand in the game and cutting open half of his stock of fruit or smashing three or four of his plaster casts in hope of finding a few of the gold pieces himself. Herrman was very generous, however and always paid his victim back when fun was over.

(The Anaconda Standard, December 25th 1896) (Montana)
[Key words: plaster; casts; images; humour; trickery]

Pell mell: 1896

…il avait a son bras un immense panier dans lequel étaient pêle mêle, des platres de la Vénus de Milo, de Bonaparte, de la République, de la femme piquée par un serpent de Clésinger, de Daphnis de Prézieux, de Bayard, des figurines italiennes et des statuettes religieuses.

…he has in his arm a huge basket in which were pell mell, plaster casts of the Venus de Milo, Bonaparte, the Republic, of Clésinger's Woman Bitten by a Snake200, of Prézieux's Daphnis, Bayard201, Italian figurines and religious statuettes.

(The Weekly Thibodaux Sentinel and Journal of the 8th Senatorial District, October 10th 1896)
[Key words: basket; Venus de Milo; Napoleon; the Republic; Woman bitten by Snake; Daphnis; Bayard, Italian; figurines]

Fast driving: 1897

Birney Barnett and William Willis, both colored, were found guilty in the police court yesterday of assaulting and robbing Candidi and Morris Barsatti, young Italian plaster image peddlers. They were also convicted of fast driving when Mounted Policeman Bradley attempted to arrest them on Florida avenue, near Nineteenth street. Aggregate fines of $25 each were imposed.

(The Times, June 23rd, 1896) (Washington)
[Key words: crime, assault, Italian, plaster image, peddler]

William Willis, aged fifteen, and Bennie Burnet, aged nineteen, both coloured residents of South Washington, Were arrested by Policeman Bradley of the county mounted force, and locked up on charges of fast driving, petit larceny and assault. The complainant's were Candide and Monica Barsotti, two Italians, who make a living by vending plaster images. The Italians were out near Connecticut Avenue extended and Pearce Mill Road Friday afternoon, when the two negroes, who were in a wagon, took several plaster images, valued at fifty cents, placed them in their wagon, and started to drive away.

The Italians endeavoured to recover their property, when they were assaulted. The negroes lashed the horse and nearly escaped. Policeman Bradley, who was in Cleveland Park, heard the screams of the victims, and, learning the cause, started after the robbers, capturing them, after a long chsce, at Kalorama Heights, on 19th street, and brought both men back.

(Evening Star, June 21st 1897)
[Key words: Italian; plaster; images; peddlers; assault; court]

Fight over an Italian Girl: 1897

On the wedding day her employer refused to let her go until $75 was paid. Binghampton, Dec. 10—Joe Christie, an Italian, who keeps a fruit stand in the city, some time ago went to New York and brought back a young and pretty Italian girl who had just arrived from Italy. The girl bore the name of Ondonea Barbari, and her beauty soon attracted the attention of the Italian residents. The little store did a rushing business, the young men being attracted to the place by Christie's protégé.

While her suitors were many, it was soon easy to discover that she preferred Joe Lamberto, who makes his living by selling images made of plaster of paris. Joe was infatuated with the girl and he went to Christie and proposed for her hand. He was told that Ondonea was there to work and not to waste time love-making. Lamberto was persistent, and was finally told that he could have the girl by paying $36, which was the amount that he (Christie) had paid out for her. To this young Lamberto readily agreed, and the wedding was announced to come off yesterday morning at 11 o'clock.

When Lamberto went to the store for his bride Christie refused to let him have her until he paid the $36. Lamberto said did not have so much money, but would make a payment down and then settle the remainder by instalments of $4 a week. This wouldn't do, and Christie and Lamberto got into an argument that threatened to end in bloodshed. In the meantime the guests began to arrive, and Lamberto went amongst them and succeeded in raising enough money to make up the $36. He went joyfully to Christy and tendered the money, but Christie refused it, saying that Ondonea was worth much more. In fact, $60 had been offered for the girl, and he wouldn't take less than $75. There was a big row in less time that it takes to tell it, and but for active interference murder would have been committed. As it was, Christie's place was partly demolished. The girl was locked in a back room, and has since been kept there. Roberto says he will have his bride even if he has to cut Christie's heart out to get her.

(The Sun, December 12th 1897) (New York)
[Key words: Italian; plaster of paris; images; humour]

Had No Use for Images: 1897

Harry Williams, an engineer at the waterworks, was fined $3 at police court yesterday on a charge of assaulting Peter Brucina, of 544 Gillis street202, who peddles plaster of paris images. The assault occurred several days ago, when Brucina solicited Williams to buy of his wares.

(Kansas City Journal, September 11th 1897)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; images; assault; court]

An Unhappy Couple: 1898

The husband used a dishpan and the wife a pistol. James and Mary Silvestre were arrested this morning by Marshal McMillin and Policeman Rossi, the former charged by his wife beating and otherwise mistreating her, and the latter with taking a shot with a 45 calibre revolver at her dear hubby.

The Sylvesteres are from the land of Italy, but have been in the United States for a number of years, coming to the city from Pueblo or Cripple Creek, Colo, about two weeks ago. They are "image" builders, and on arriving in the city rented an adobe house on south Second Street, where they manufactured their wares and had their living rooms.

They have had quarrels innumerable, and this morning was no exception to the rule. The wife asserts that her husband took a washpan, in which they mixed the plaster of paris for their images, and used it over her head, smashing her in such a vigorous and cruel manner as to bring big welts of flesh on her head and to momentarily craze her.

This is the wife's story, which is somewhat over-balanced by the "tale of woe" told by the husband. He states that they, as usual, had a family jar, which enraged his wife to such an extent that she hurriedly secured a 45 calibre revolver, and as he was going out of the door took a shot at him. He yelled "perlice," and a telephone message was answered by Marshal McMillin, who, with Policeman Rossi, took charge of the unhappy husband-and-wife and placed them in the city jail. The marshal found the bullet imbedded in the adobe wall of the house occupied by Silvestres solicitors, and will keep the flattened missile as a memento. Later. The case was brought before Justice Crawford at 2 o'clock, this afternoon, and as friends interceded in their behalf, after the husband and wife had agreed to no further violate the law, they were discharged. They have a child a year and a half old.

(Albuquerque Daily Citizen, October 15th, 1898)
[Key words: Italian; image makers; plaster of Paris; crime; humour]

A damaged statue: 1898

Venus De Milo Taken for a Very Poor Piece of Work.

A swarthy son of Italy stepped into the office with his basket of wares —not bananas and oranges, but statuary, alleged. Pretty enough the samples were, stained with a light tinge of sienna to make them look like aged ivory.

"Who is that?" asked one of the boys. "Dat-a Napolyun, Napolyun ze gret. Dat-a good likeness." "You make these?"

"Yaas, I mak-a dem. Mak-a de mould, too. You want-a buy dat-a piece uv Vognah, de gret moosishin. Dat look-a fin on a da piano." "What's that?" asked the sporting editor, pointing to an armless figure. "Dat-a Venus duh Meelo. Thirty cent-a. Dat cheap."

"Why, that's damaged. John. Whatcher trying to work off an old broken piece like that for? Thirty cents for an old broken plaster of paris figure? Throw it away."

"Nah; nah! Dat-a no broken. De statute hav-a no arrums. Dah nevveh find-a da arrums. Nobody know what-a she do with her arrums. Dat no broke."

"Aw, John, you can't play us for greenies. Of course every woman had arms. I'd like to have that statue. That woman's got a good shape on her, but I couldn't take a second-hand piece like that home. My wife would throw it out of the window. I tell you what I'll do. If you make me one of her with the arms on it I'll give you thirty cents for it, but I wouldn't give you a nickel for it in that damaged condition."

"I tell-a you dat no damage. Dat Statue de fines' in all de worl'. It ees wort millions dollas."

"Without any arms?" said the sport. "Come off."

"Yessah. Without any arms. Dis-a good copy. Thirty cents I make it to you foh a quarter."

"Oh, no, John; I wouldn't buy a woman without arms. Got any ballplayers in plaster of paris?"

John was disgusted and left. He thought the sporting editor was off his base. —Cincinnati Commercial-Tribune.

(Sacramento Daily Union, May 4th 1898)
[Key words: Italian; statuary; Napoleon; Venus de Milo; accent; humour]

Going broke: 1898

Just as the party were about to start an Italian image vendor came up and offered for sale to plaster-of-paris busts, one of Christopher Columbus and the other of George Washington. In a spirit of fun Colonel Chadbourne, who had become impatient at the long delay, picked up the bust of Columbus and dashed it to pieces on the ground. The Italian gazed ruefully at the broken fragments, and then with some quick movement, as if impelled by a sudden idea, threw the other bust down to join its shattered companion, saying: "Georga Washa, he go broka too203." It was whispered that the Colonel also went broke settling the damage, but the truth of the rumor not be confirmed.

(The San Francisco Call, February 23rd 1898)
[Key words: Italian; image-vendor; Columbus; Washington; destruction; humour]

Bigotry: 1898

A Belfast man (says the "Manchester Guardian") was charged in the police courts of his native city with entering the shop of an Italian image-seller and smashing up all her stock of statuary—Virgin Marys, saints and all. "Why," asked the magistrate reproachfully, "did you destroy all this poor woman's goods?" "Well," answered the culprit, "ye see, the way it is wi' me, Ah can't stan' bigotry"204.

(Auckland Star, April 27th, 1898)
[Key words: Italian; image-seller; Virgin; saints; humour]

Ashes: 1899

A New York woman filled up with wine and smashed things around in a lively manner because of the newspaper story that she traded the urn which were the ashes of her deceased husband for a plaster of paris image. The "storied urn" started her upon an "animated bust"205 as it were — Exchange.

(Marietta Daily Leader, May 11th 1899)
[Key words: humour; plaster of paris; image]

Italians Versus Portuguese: 1899

We learn with regret, but not without a certain misgiving as to facts, that the traffic in little Italian boys, who are kidnapped in Naples, Genoa, and Milan and sent to America with false parents has opened briskly this year. We cannot but think that the Neapolitan journal which makes the charge must be mistaken as to their destination. Of course, there used to be a great deal of that sort of thing when the immigration laws were less stringent and less rigorously enforced than at present. Advices from South America, however, leave no doubt that if wholesale kidnapping has been going on in the above named Italian cities, the destination of the urchins is not the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, but Brazil, where already the Italian colony is said to be uncomfortably large. And we pity the respectable, dignified Portuguese families of Rio de Janeiro and other towns, for we know from past years experience what is in store for them. The little Italian boys play fiddles upside down and vend plaster images. And the playing is as barbarous as the sculpturing. It will be years before they can be graduated into fruit venders or organ grinders. In the meantime the nerves of innocent Portuguese will suffer.

(The Washington Bee, June 10th 1899)
[Key words: Italian; boys; kidnap; plaster; images; Brazil]

Unlucky to pick up pins: 1899

Why One Little Man Will Carefully Avoid Them in the Future.

"Do you believe that it is lucky to pick up a pin from the ground when it's pointing towards you?" asked the little man with side whiskers.

"Well I don't know," replied the fat man. "Do you?"

"I used to, but I don't any longer. You see, I did it once. I was walking along and happened to see a pin straight in front of me, and pointing my way. The street was crowded. I hesitated—and was lost. I stooped down for that pin. A woman carrying a 3-month-old baby fell on top of me, and an Italian with a basketful of plaster of paris images fell on top of the woman. Then the fun began. The baby yelled, the Italian swore, the woman shrieked, and I did all three. And when they pulled me to my feet the crowd was shouting, 'Lynch him! Lynch him!' The Italian wanted to fight me, and the woman was shaking her fist in my face. The crowd got bigger and bigger and began to press around me.

"'Kidnaper!' [sic] yelled somebody. 'He tried to steal the poor woman's kid!' Then the crowd took it up. 'Kidnaper!' they yelled. 'Lynch him!' Then someone, I think you he was hackdriver, tripped me up from behind and I felt suddenly and harshly on the broken remains of the statuette of Diana. Just when I thought the end had come two big policeman rushed through and got the three of us into a patrol wagon and took us to the station. Of course everything was arranged and explained in five minutes, and I squared myself with the Italian with a $2 bill. And just as I was brushing the flakes of plaster of paris from my trousers, and going down the steps, a detective came out on collared me; swore I was William Jenkins, alias 'Two-Toed Finegan,' Alias 'Billy the Bum,' and showed a photograph and a description to prove his assertion. So I was taken back and held until I got three friends to come and identify me. I went home at 10 o'clock. The lieutenant said he was sorry. So was I.

"Now," concluded the little man with the side whiskers, after a moment of reflection, "I believe there are luckier things than pins to be found."—Chicago Inter-Ocean.

(Juniata Sentinel and Republican, November 22nd 1899) (Pennsylvania)
[Key words: Italian; plaster of Paris; images; Diana humour]

Beatricia and the Image Vender: 1900

The snow flurries were blinding the eyes of the passing throng, but Pietro stood valiantly at the curb, holding out his plaster images for sale. It seemed bitterly cold to the muffled, skurrying crowd, but it was warm and balmy to Pietro. Though the hands which held up the little white image of the winged victory or a bust of Beethoven were blue and stiff, and the narrow shoulders of the thin frame were doubled together in an attitude of cringing subjection, yet the eyes of Pietro were looking far beyond the brilliant shops of Fifth avenue. In his imagination he was wandering in the Elysian fields with his Beatricia, where the sunlight gilded the meadows and the smile of nature shone everywhere.

...the plaster Venuses and Mercurys and Sacred Marys stood side-by-side along the shelves of his shop, gazing down on him from their classic grandeur with a cold, unpitying eyes. Sometimes at night he thought he saw the imperious Milo shake her head disdainfully when he cried aloud. Mercury sneered, and a dimpled Cupid's head, by Praxiteles, broke into amused mirth…

(The Cook County Herald, July 14th, 1900) (Minnesota)
[Key words: plaster; images; Winged Victory; Beethoven; Venus; Mercury; Mary; Cupid]

Miss Repplier's Cats: 1900

Miss Agnes Repplier206, who is a prominent figure in Philadelphia's coterie of literary people, has a passion for cats, says the "Record." But, strange to say, the deader they are the better she likes them. She has 39 altogether, and there isn't a live one in the lot. They are mostly plaster casts and images that have been presented to her by friends.

(The Times, July 15th 1900) (Washington)
[Key words: cats; plaster; casts; images]

Mistake: 1901

The only serious mistake she207 made was once in yielding to the blandishments of a persuasive Italian image man and promising to buy his whole tray of statues. I found the hall filled with these works of art, and Malia208 tendering, with sweetest smiles, a few pence in exchange for them. It was a disagreeable job to have to persuade the man to depart in peace with all his images, even with a little money to conemn majestye him.

(Arkansas City Daily Traveler, February 23rd 1901)209
[Key words: Italian; images]

The Middle-Aged Woman: 1901

…It is like one of those old-fashioned plaster-of-paris castles which image peddlers used to carry in numbers on their boards which held that ware. White and smooth and flawless and inane these castles were, until, a lighted candle being placed within them, the tiny windows became radiant and the small structure a thing of beauty.

(The Philipsburg Mail, August 23rd 1901)
[Key words: image peddlers; boards; plaster of Paris; castle]

Humour doesn't pay: 1901

If he comes your way, don't try to be funny at his expense. He is selling plaster images for—well, for anything he can get.

"Selling out," he said with a broken English pronunciation of which type can convey no adequate impression. "Marked down, five dollars to two dollars seventy-five cent."

"Don't want it," returned one of the clerks in the office he had invaded. "Two dollar seventy-five cent," he repeated. "Need money."

"Don't want it," again asserted the clerk.

"Make offer," persisted the peddler. "How much?" Here is where the humorist of the office force put himself in evidence. Winking at the others, he offered 50 cents.

"It's yours," promptly returned the peddler, handing it to him. As before remarked, there are occasions when humor doesn't pay.

(The Evening Kansan-Republican, February 15th, 1901) (Kansas)
[Key words: plaster; images; cost; humour]

Pasted the Image Man: 1901

The son of Italy who is endeavoring to eke out an existence in Butte by peddling plaster of Paris images is having a hard time of it. A few days ago he stood an open-handed tap210 for some of his wares in an East Galena street resort211, and although he had the man arrested that performed the feat the matter was compromised. Yesterday he entered a North Main street saloon and showed a bronzed bust of Ben Franklin to the barkeeper with the remark that it was a correct imitation of George Washington and would be be an elegant think [sic] to keep on tap212 on the anniversary of the birth of the first president, which would be next Friday. The bust was branded "George Washington." The barkeeper took two of the images, gave the peddler a glass of beer and a smash on the jaw and began to wipe the surface of his bar with a towel. The peddler liked the beer, but did not fancy the smash. Today he called at the county attorney's office to enter a protest, but when told it would cost him about two days' time to prosecute the bartender he replied: "Thank you sir; good day," and left.

(Daily Inter Mountain, February 19th 1901) (Montana)
[Key words: Italy; plaster of Paris; images; crime; violence; humour; Washington; Franklin]

Basket of idols: 1902

Retailer of Plaster of Paris Images Meets with an accident

An unknown man whose home is in El Reno, who has been selling plaster of Paris images and bogus statuary to the people of Chickasha for a week or so past, held on his basket Saturday night at the Rock Island depot and broke his arm.

Jack Sawyer, landlord of "Jack's Place," picked up the injured man and took him to his place of business, where Dr Brown was sent for. Dr. Brown broke the record on setting an arm, fixing the peddler up in exactly twenty minutes, so he was able to take the train for home. His basket of idols will follow him today.

(The Chickasha Daily Express, November 10th 1902)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; images; statuary; basket; humour]

A dream of fair women: 1902

…on the coping of the wall, an image-seller had set out his wares. They were a dream of fair women, classic and modern. The solemn majesty of the great Venus was contrasted with Phryne213 hiding her eyes in a spasm of modesty. Clytie, with the perfect fall of her shoulders, rising from the lily leaves that fold back as if unwilling to hide so much beauty, stood droopingly beside the proud nakedness of Falguiere's Diana214. The boy who presided over this gallery of loveliness— a meagre Italian, his facing nipped with frost—stood a hunched up, wretched figure, his eyes questioning the passers-by.

(St Paul Globe 25th September 1902)
[Key words: image-seller; Venus; Pgryne; Clytie; Diana boy; Italian]


Petit métier, petit marchand!
Regardez, faites vos emplettes.
Plâtre ou biscuit, mes statuettes
Sont gentilles, d'air alléchant.
S'il n'en est point à votre guise,
(Plaire aux clients est ma devise)
J'en ai d'autres à l'atelier.
J'ai besoin de gagner ma vie.
Aussi je vais vendant et crie:
Petit marchand, petit métier!
Achetez, achetez, mesdames,
Dieu rend le bien aux bonnes âmes!
Faites-moi gagner quelque argent
L'hiver est dur, la bise est froide ;
Voyez, ma main est bleue et roide:
Petit métier, petit marchand!

(E. Roche, nd, on the reverse of an early twentieth century postcard, Figure A1.126, p 150)

Small image, small seller!
Look, buy.
Plaster or bisque, my statuettes
Are nice, with an attractive air.
If there are none to your liking,
(Pleasing customers is my motto)
I have others in the workshop.
I need to earn a living.
So I will sell and shout:
Small seller, small image!
Buy, buy, ladies,
God rewards good souls!
Let me make some money
Winter is hard, the wind is cold;
See, my hand is blue and stiff:
Small image, small seller!

(My translation, of sorts)

Where the art came in: 1903

I remember the figure of Napoleon Bonaparte was the leading article of our industry at this toy factory. When Napoleon was finished he stood up with arms folded across his breast, his right leg a little forward, looking defiance at his own English makers. He had a dark blue coat on, tightly buttoned, a buff waistcoat and white breeches. There were touches of gold on his coat and on his large black hat, with flat sides and point, with a high peak. These Napoleons must have been in large demand somewhere, for shoals of them were made at that time.

It is curious how a man who thirty years before had been a veritable ogre and demon to the English people should now have become so popular. If all the Napoleons made at this toy manufactory could have had life given them, then England, if not invaded, would have been crowded by military Frenchmen, and of the dreaded Napoleonic type.

I remember looking pensively at the figure many times, and wondering about all he had been a generation before, and of which I had heard so much.

It is difficult in these days to realise how the terror of Napoleon had saturated the minds of the lower classes in England. Yet, as I looked at the figure, it only then represented a name.

At this toy manufactory we did not make many figures so tragic and terrible in suggestion as Napoleon. George H. had designed a little toper publican with his left hand in his breeches pocket, and in his right hand a jug full of foaming beer. The face wore a flabby smile, which carried welcome to all.

We made cats, too, on box lids, representing cushions. We made dogs of all sizes, from "Dignity" to "Impudence." We made the gentlest of swains and the sweetest of maids, nearly always standing under the shade of a tree, whose foliage must have been blighted some spring day by an east wind, as it was so sparse in what seemed to be midsummer time.

It is astonishing what amiable squinting those swains and maids did in pretending not to look at each other. I have never seen squinting so amiable looking in real life. But that was where the art came in.

(Shaw 1903)
[Key words: Napoleon; toy; manufacture; publican; cats; dogs; swains; maids]

A transplanted bit of Italian life: 1903

…Who would dream of looking for Italian romance and tradition in prosaic Indianapolis? And yet what is more tinged with romance than the art of the statuette maker…

Some day when you feel in the mood for a long walk just take a stroll down South Delaware Street, and about two blocks beyond St Vincent's Hospital you will come across a dingy, uninviting little frame structure215. Its one big window is almost impenetrable with the dust of years and the weather-beaten door, with its dirty windowpanes, gives one the impression that it was never meant to be opened to visitors. The little building, as a whole, seems to have been forgotten in the march of progress, and your first thought is that it is unoccupied. And then you chance to notice, scrawled across the dusty window up near the topmost framework where the spiders are, the name "E. Gauspari" painted in modest little letters, and directly under it the information that "statuettes are made here." It is the house of Guaspari216.

You will not find the building so uninviting inside, but when you come out of doors again you're pretty sure to be covered with a fine white dust that refuses to be brushed off with anything less than a stiff broom. The floor, the walls, the long wooden table where the image makers labor, the workmen themselves, are white from their shoes to their naturally black hair, for plaster of paris is like the alkali of the Arizona desert—its conquest of everything in its way is not to be withstood. In the main room of the place three men with their sleeves rolled up above their elbows and their shirt collars turned back, disclosing swarthy necks, sit near the long wooden table, busily engaged in the manufacture of the little images that are afterwards to be sold in the big department and notion stores or peddled about from house to house by fellow-countrymen.

Erigo Guaspari has three assistants—Antonio Tomeoni, Orosco Mariani and Pietro Lena—all of whom learned the trade of the image maker, when boys, in sunny Italy. They are all artists, too; to watch them at their work is to admire the wonderful precision with which every little feature of their work is accomplished. They know more about the masterpieces of sculpture than do many of the self-satisfied art critics, and, when one comes to think of it, is not a community greatly benefited by 44improve the general taste, to place copies of known sculpture within the reach of all, and to familiarize the public with what is good, then any school (which only a few can attend), then any gallery (which the working classes seldom visit), or any other institution in the country.

Guaspari is the controlling force of the little art shop. He it is who feels the public pulse and decides whether the next lot of statuettes had better been Madonnas, or Beethovens, or Shakespeares. He contracts with the big department and china stores to keep them supplied with everything they might require in the way of plaster of paris images, and he it is who sends out the young Italian peddlers to solicit trade in the residence portions of the city. Hundreds and hundreds of little statuettes that are to be seen in Indianapolis households were carefully planned and more carefully manufactured down there at Guaspari's modest little workshop in the shadow of the great hospital.

The image-makers are an interesting little company of men. Antonio Tomeoni, the youngest of the party, is but a mere lad, who has been in the United States only long enough to learn something of the English language, which he speaks with difficulty and with frequent lapses into his own soft, musical tongue. Handsome as many of statuettes of Apollo which he makes himself, he is just the sort of fellow to be sent out into the city in quest of customers, and when Guaspari thinks it is time to secure some extra trade, Tomeoni is the one to go forth after it. With twinkling black eyes, Tomeoni explains that he "likes not to go from house to house when the snow and ice is on the ground, and then, you know"— and he points, with a humorous gesture, first at the frail little images on a table near-by and then at his own graceful limbs—"I am not so vera gooda on da slip'ry," and laughs at the imaginary catastrophe.

A little apartment, hemmed off from the workshop by thin board partitions, is the wareroom, and here are to be seen statuettes of all descriptions. Mozart, wrapped in thought, rests beside a wicked little Bacchante; Venus de Milo poses in all her wondrous loveliness near a triumphant Napoleon, who stands with folded arms surveying a laughing African dancer. Over in one corner under a shelf is a bust of Cyrano de Bergerac, but alas! the end of his nose has been broken off. Cyrano without all of his nose!—No wonder that he has been relegated to an obscure hiding place where the scornful eyes of his brother and sister statuettes may not cause him to crumble all to pieces. The curious little apartment is a picturesque place; the workshop that surrounds it is even more picturesque, and the-dark skinned image-makers are the most picturesque of all. Decidedly the house of Guaspari is well worth a visit.

(The Sunday Journal, January 25th, 1903) (Indianapolis)
[Key words: manufacture; Italian; plaster of Paris; Madonna; Beethoven; Shakespeare; accent; Mozart; Bacchante; Venus de Milo; Napoleon; African Dancer; Cyrano de Bergaerac]

Homes and their decoration: 1903

With discretion and little money almost any house maybe made interesting with plaster casts. This discretion, it goes without saying, it must be displayed in the choice which the buyer makes. Streets of large cities are full of image-venders; large important stores on principal avenues are now devoted to reproductions in plaster, so that one is no longer obliged to search, except for purposes of economy, in narrow side streets or tenement-house districts as one was obliged to do not so many years since.

These large stores, of course, have carefully selected examples, and one pays for the knowledge and judgement of the shopkeeper. But if one has money enough, these stores are always to be recommended, more particularly when one does not know what to buy. The grotesque and the ephemeral avoided in them, and when the grotesque is indulged in, as when the gargoyles of Notre Dame are shown, it is because a special genius has stamped it, or because some historical association has made it famous.

The image-venders, on the other hand, carry everything in their heavy heavily laden baskets, displaying on the steps of some empty house worthless casts of diving women together with the head of the Venus de Milo or the marvellous "Winged Victory," pipe-rests, and busts of French dancers. They have among all their trash some good examples, and they come from out of the way shops in which any number of other good models may be found. Every example, for instance, shown in the illustrations has been purchased from a street vender with the exception of the beautiful Andromeda, by Bauer, on which there is a copyright, so it is only sold in certain places, and the lovely Tanagra figurine reproduced for museums.

The image-vender carries all of these in his baskets, none of them more than seventy-five cents, in many cases only fifty or twenty-five, and, if desired , he will tone the cast with yellow without extra charge. One must remember that the pure white cast, while agreeable in certain places, is often too strongly accented in others, so that toning becomes a necessity.

One wants, of course, to avoid making a "spot" of the plaster cast. For instance, one small cast on a dark wall with nothing about it in the way of pictures or books is apt to prove the only visible thing in a room. On the other hand, when a cast is large and important, it may be treated with the dignity that one observes in hanging pictures, as that famous group of "Singing Boys," by Luca della Robbia, in bas-relief, from the Duomo at Florence. This deserves a place to itself over a mantelpiece, or a panel at one side of the room maybe given to it. So, too, many of the Madonnas, always in bas-relief, may be treated.

The "St Cecilia" is well known, and is to be found in almost every group of plaster casts. It is in bas-relief. It has been toned to a yellow, although it is even more lovely in pure white. This, too, deserves the panel to itself, and should be treated with dignity.


Many names have been given to "The Diver," by Thorwalsen: like the "Narcissus," he costs about fifty cents from a vender. In stores he sometimes costs many dollars. He is the very embodiment of strength, vigilance, and manly courage, and becomes a companion in almost every room.

All of the large stores and most of the better-known image-venders publish catalogues of casts, with their names and prices. These catalogues are sometimes a great service, although I have never chanced to find in any of them the name of a little bas-relief I have known for years. It is a very beautiful Madonna, with exquisite face, and her hands folded across her breast, looking down the infant Jesus and St John. The young Italian image-vender who gave it to me one Christmas years ago told me that it came from the altar of an Italian Church, where it was considered so precious that the doors of a small shrine were always kept closed before it. He added that a priest allowed a young sculptor to take a cast of it at night, the man stealing in through a window to do so. At any rate, some ten or eleven years ago not many had been seen in this country. And yet it now costs about twenty-five cents, its staining not being counted extra. It is too small to be treated by itself unless special panel is prepared for it.

Barye, the famous French sculpture, who died in 1875: made the four groups of animals shown outside the Louvre in Paris. These belong to the history of art, and almost every image-vender has one of his casts, some good models having been put on the market. His "Tiger Devouring a Crocodile," and a beautiful lioness are also sold. None of these is expensive—the lion costing but fifty cents. The cost of it in bronze is enormous, and well out of the reach of most of us. But the fifty and seventy-five cent casts of it give us the form and the movement and wonderful detail. I do not know where the mould was secured, nor whether it is made from one used for the bronzes, but everything in all these casts depends on the mould. Image the image fender endeavours to get the best, and goes to find new ones. Occasionally he is permitted to take a cast of some original statue, just as the young Italian sculptor did in the church at night. Or he is fortunate enough to get a mould from some cast in a museum. Then his fortune is made. Very few of the small casts of the Venus of Milo, however, are made from beautiful models, and I have never seen a small one that did not disappoint me. I never buy one. The casts of the "Winged Victory" are better, especially when made from a large model, but then they cost of six or eight dollars, and must be given a place by themselves.

"The Narcissus" on the other hand, is beautiful wherever placed, although the smaller models show a bad forefinger. The original is in the Museum at Naples among the group of masterpieces. Its beauty the whole world has recognized.


But enough has been said to prove how easily a plaster cast lends itself to decorative purposes, and to the pleasure of the householder as well. That it involves no serious outlay has been shown. Fifty cents is the average price, a good cast being always possible for that sum.

(French 1903, 363-368)
[Key words: plaster; casts; image-venders; location; baskets; diving women; Venus de Milo; Winged Victory; French Dancers; Andromeda; Tanagra; Singing Boys; Madonna; St Cecelia; The Diver; cost; Narcissus; animals; taste]

Art Discouragement Deplored by Hawker: 1904

Arrested for Selling Clay Images Without Licence
Derides Spirit of Materialism Reflected by Ordinance
By James C. Crawford

Signor J Pelechi's hair flicked his velveteen shoulders as with head aback he derided the public lack of art appreciation reflected by his arrest for hawking clay statuettes without license. It was sad commentary on the vaunted culture of this community, he averred, that no discrimination is shown as between the peddler of fish or vegetables and the vender of articles promoters of aesthetic taste.

"Whatta da use." He demanded, "of the artist trya ta maka da leev if he peenched when he no hava da lice? Ha, ha! Itta maka me seeck."

It was Signor Palechi's second arraignment on the charge of violating the license ordinance, the first one having resulted in his dismissal with a warning, a fact of which he was gently reminded by Police Judge Morgan. "Malatesta217," was the rejoinder. "Whatta da diff, eh? Sella da stat no maka damon lack sella da feesh. Catcha da feesh—maka da stat, eh? Paya da lice an' be brok all da time, eh? Ha, ha! Notta mooch! No, sare!"

The judge explained that his function was not to make laws or repeal them, but to aid in the enforcement of such laws as operative. Regrettable as was the non-exemption of art works from taxation by license, such taxation must be obeyed by the court until it is wiped from the ordinance book.

Enquiry developed the information that Signor Palechi's endeavour to elevate the art standard of this materialistic city consisted of his manufacture at home and offering for sale abroad miniature plaster images of personages famed universally or locally. His collection of molds enabled him to turn out exact counterfeits of Napoleon Bonaparte, Mrs Carrie Nation218, Garibaldi, Young Corbett219, William J Bryan220, Aguinaldo221 and May Irwin222. He was preparing casts of "Battling" Nelson223 and Mrs Chadwick224 but was uncertain as to whether he would finish the former.

Case continued till January 6.

(The San Francisco Call, December 22nd 1904)
[Key words: Accent; licence; humour; court; plaster; images; Napoleon; Carrie Nation; Garibaldi; Corbett; Bryan; Aguinaldo; May Irwin; Battling Nelson; Mrs Chadwick]

Trouble: 1905

I have seen a good deal of trouble in my life, but never one yet that did not have an Italian image-vendor somehow or other mixed up in it. Where these boys hide in times of peace is a mystery. The chance of being upset brings them out as sunshine brings out flies.

(Jerome 1905)
[Key words: Italian; image-vendor; destruction; humour]

Sympathy: 1905

Mrs Ogden Goelet is very charitable and is almost leading in Paris at the present in charitable works, which are becoming fashionable. The latest to win her sympathy have been the little Italian image sellers of the boulevards, and, with the countess de Bearn, she arranged an aristocratic concert in aid of them.

(Omaha Daily Bee, November 5th 1905)
[Key words: Italian; image-seller; children; Paris; charity]

A common-enough sight: 1906

During this stage of his journey, to make matters worse, he had rather a fright. He met an Italian image seller — a common enough sight in those days — who spoke to him and sat down beside him when he was resting, and when he started again the man rose also and walked on with him.

After a time time the pedlar draw out a penknife and admiringly displayed before him its large, bright blade, which only made little Herbert225 shudder, for it crossed his mind that perhaps a man meant to murder him!

At last they reached a little inn, and it was the greatest relief to the boy to find that although they would give him a bed, they refused one to his companion, who accordingly had to walk on.

(Two 1906, 135)
[Key words: Italian; image-seller; threat; racism]

Le Petit Marchand de Statuettes: 1907

"Jacques!" "Mother"! They give each other one a last embrace. His mother sobs as her child turns around again and again to see her in order to etch deeply in his eyes the face that he senses he will never see again, while his beaming selfish father waves a satisfied paternal goodbye to the child he had just sold. His master is cruel, the child inexperienced. Lost in a brutal Paris where life is like a battle, chased by the police, rejected by passers-by, the small statuettes seller often comes home at night with a full basket and few earnings. Then he faces beating, starvation, unbearable persecution, exploitation of the weak by force. One day little Jacques returns with his basket full of debris, his statues smashed into pieces. Ah, if only he could disappear a hundred feet underground with his pieces of plaster! In any case, there was no time, for the master walks in, casts his cold eye over the basket and the child, grabs him by the shoulders and sends him tumbling into the street. Little Jacques wanders with a heavy heart, anxious, sensitive, terrified amidst the thousand cries of Paris, the rumble of its cars, the panting breath of the huge, bustling city. His imagination is at fever pitch, his heart races and he is overwhelmed by terror of this human swarm in the midst of which he feels so small, so weak, so lost! Almost starving and worn out by fatigue, the child slumps against a wall and begins to sob. A passing stranger saves him from his distress. Rescued and finally adopted, little Jacques repays, with tenderness and generosity, his appreciation of this good man.

(Paraphrase by the author of synopsis in French at Filmographie Pathé)

Travesty: 1907

[Easter at the Theatres] George H Carr and Marjorie Jordon will supply laughs for all. They are travesty226 artists and Carr will portray an Italian image vendor and later give a burlesque of Sparticus the Gladiator.

(The Sunday Oregonian, March 31st 1907, 39)
[Key words: Italian; image vendor]

The bookworm: 1907

[The 1907 film The Book Worm features a young man who walks the streets reading a book, bumping into a variety of characters as he makes his way and of course: "he encounters an Italian image-seller, whose tray is knocked off his head and the sidewalk covered with broken images. The Dago demands pay, but not getting it, pelts the bookworm with the fragments"


Cupid: 1908

Would you, then, be in fashion in your proffer of valentines in the progressive year 1908? If so, you must dispense with illustrated postals and discard the time-honored creations of lace paper and hand-painted satin in favour of a more up-to-date love token. The new keepsake, if you will be abreast the times, must be a statuette or a plaster cast of Cupid. The sculptured image of the god of love may be in any one of a variety of forms and, likewise, is there a wide range of poses to choose from.


On the other hand, the young man of modest means may secure, perhaps, a replica of this same statuette, or at least, one equally artistic, moulded in plaster or composition, for one or two dollars.

[…] Statuettes of Cupid have long been among the most cherished art objects in many American homes.

(Los Angeles Herald, February 16th 1908)
[Key words: Cupid; plaster cast; statuette; cost]

Mother-in-Law is Blamed: 1909

Matters came to a crisis December 16 last. Mrs Janosky, Goldsmith swears, at that time made an attack on him with a plaster image of dog and might have damaged physiognomy considerbly [sic] and he not pushed her away and wrested the artificial canine from her. Goldsmith admits that in the scuffle, Mrs Janosky went to the floor, but says this was necessary or else an accident.

(Omaha Daily Bee, February 11th 1909)
[Key words: crime; assault; plaster; image; dog]

Le Petit Marchand de Statuettes: 1909

Le Petit Marchand de Statuettes
C'était un tout petit enfant,
Venant de Rome;
Il avait à peine sept ans,
Pauvre petit bonhomme!
Sans pèr ni mèr, seul dans la vie,
Venant de la ville jolie,
Il avait de grands yeux très bleus,
Des yeux étranges,
De longs cheveux bouclés, comme ceux d'un ange
D'un ange blond de cieux!
Jolies statuettes, Monsieur?
Jolies statuettes, Madame?
Santa Belli!
Et c'est ainsi que chaque jour
L'enfant offere sa merchandise;
Hélas! Il n'en vend pas toujours
Et le pauvret fait mine grise.
Car l'homme qui l'ènvoie travailler
Exige que chaque jour il rapporte
De l'argent pour aller ripailler,
Et gare si vides sont ses menottes,
Lors, le soir tout seul dans un coin,
Il songe au beau ciel d'Italie:
Puis il s'endort, le cher bambin,
Revant d'une maman jolie!
Un jour qu'il venait de s'installer
Au coin d'un rue près d'une impasse,
Il vit un chien abandonné;
Alors il lui dit à voix basse:
"Tu es tout seul comme moi, eh bien? Viens!
Puis, lui faisant mille caresses,
Il emmena le bon vieux chien,
Dont les yeux brillaient de tendresse,
Et depuis avec son ami,
Quand il va vendre ses statuettes,
Notre bambin lance son cri
Joyeux ayant le coeur en fete!
[Au Refrain]
Mais voilà qu'une nuit soudain,
La brute qui lui servait de pere
Lemit à la porte, avec son chien
Malgré ses larmes et ses preires;
C'était l'hiver, il faisait froid,
La neige tombait en silence;
L'enfant, le chien, remplis d'effroi
, L'un contre l'autre tremblaient d'souffrance,
Dans le coin d'une porte tous deux,
Ils tombèr' nt là, puis s'endormirent,
Tandis que làhaut, dans les cieux,
La lune commençait a luire!
C'était un tout petit enfant,
Venant de Rome;
Il avait à peine sept ans,
Pauvre petit bonhomme!
Sans père ni mère, seul dans la vie,
Venant de la ville jolie;
La vie, hélas! Pour lui paraissait si étrange
Que le Bon Dieu
Fit descendre deux anges
Pour le porter aux cieux!227

(Luccia Folver 1909)
The Little Statuette Seller
Was a little child,
Who came from Rome;
He was barely seven years old
Poor little fellow!
Without a father or mother, alone in life,
He came from a lovely town,
He had very large blue eyes, strange eyes,
Long curly hair, like that of an angel,
A honey-coloured angel from heaven!
Pretty statuettes, sir?
Pretty statuettes, madam?
Beautiful saints!
And so every day
The child offers his merchandise;
Alas! It does not always sell
And poverty makes him frown.
For the man who sent him to work
Demands that each day he brings in
Money so that he can go carousing,
And beware if his hands are empty..,
In the evening, alone in a corner,
He thinks of the beautiful sky of Italy:
Then he falls asleep, the dear child,
Dreaming of a beautiful mother!
One day when he was resting
At the corner of a dead-end street,
He saw a stray dog;
Then he said softly:
"You're all alone like me, are you? Come!"
Then, giving him a thousand caresses,
He adopted the old dog,
Whose eyes shone with tenderness,
And since with his friend,
When it will sell its statuettes,
Our toddler launches his cry
Happy to the heart!
But then one night, suddenly,
The brute who acted as his master
Closed the door, with his dog
Despite his tears and prayers;
It was winter, it was cold,
The snow fell silently;
The child, dog, full of terror,
One against the other trembling with pain,
In a doorway both,
They fell there, then fell asleep,
While up there in the sky,
The moon began to shine!
It was a little child
Coming from Rome;
He was barely seven years
Poor little fellow!
Without father or mother, alone in life,
From the pretty town;
Life, alas! For it seemed so strange
May God
Send down two angels
To take them to heaven!
Translation of sorts by the author.

Master Cupid: 1910

If there is a plaster image or two on the table of Master Cupid with his bow and arrow—one of the dainty eight-inch figures which may be had of the Italian image man for 25 cents or so—the table would be still more suitably garnished.

(The Sunday Oregonian, February 6th 1910) [Key words: plaster; image; Cupid; image man; size; cost]

Why He Got His: 1910

The vender of images, who had just been thrown out of a large office building, wept bitterly as he looked it his torn clothes and broken wares.
"Who did this?" inquired the friendly cop. "I'll pinch 'em if you say the word."
"No; it was my fault," said the victim, gathering up the remains of a plaster image. "I insisted on trying to sell a bust of Noah Webster228 to a meeting of simplified spellers229."—Denver Republican.

(The Holbrook News, March 11th 1910)
[Key words: image-vendor; violence; Webster; humour]

Velvet voiced: 1910

As they swung past the corner the squat, velvet voiced Italian from the store in his basket offered the man a small plaster image of the Christ child. Big Jim tossed the man a dollar and put the little symbol of goodwill to men into Molly Shane's willing hand.

(The Argus, December 5th 1910)
[Key words: Italian; basket; plaster; image; Christ child]

Kiddynapped: 1911

O! My Billy! My head will turn right round If he's got kiddynapped with them Italians: They'll make him a plaster parish Image-boy, they will, the outlandish tatterdemalions230!

(The Times Dispatch, April 16th 1911, p 6)
[Key words: Italian; image-boy; accent; humour]

And He Did 1911

(McAlester Capital) The threat of the Western Republicans to begin slashing the tariff in general because dissatisfied with some of the provisions of the Canadian agreement, recalls the old story of the Italian vendor of images. "Sellee ze image! Sellee ze image! Garibaldi, George Wash." A brutal stranger picked up an image of Garibaldi, asking whose it was. "Garibaldi Who is he?" With natural pride the Italian said: "Garibaldi, ze grand, ze noble Italian patriot." The stranger remarked: "D— Dago." And he smashed the image on the pavement. "You smashee ze Garibaldi," screamed the Italian. "I smashee ze George Wash!" And in his rage he proceeded to destroy half his stock.

(The Guthrie Daily Leader, June 23rd 1911)
[Key words: Italian; image-vendor; Garibaldi; Washington; humour; racism; destruction; humour]

El Dorado: 1912

Those of us who are no younger young will remember the Italian image-sellers who haunted the streets of London in our childhood with their pretty little figures of the Madonna and the infant S. John, busts of Garibaldi, and sentimental groups of sleeping children and dogs. We have probably forgotten or may never have known that many of these bright-faced men and lads came from Barga. The trade of figurinaio has always been followed by the Lucchesi, but Barga is especially known as the metropolis of the figurinai. Though passionate lovers of home, the citizens of this mountain fastness leave it to penetrate into the farthest corners of the world. They may be found anywhere from New Zealand, to Copenhagen, but the United States is now their El Dorado. Since they have added some education to the characteristic energy of their race, they often go out at [sic] figurinai and return as men of substance.

(Ross and Erichsen 1912, 353-4)
[Key words: Italian; image-seller; Madonna; St John; Garibaldi; sleeping children; dogs; Barga; New Zealand; Copenhagen; US; success]

Misbilling: 1912

Anthony Moriconi231 and David Guidugli232 doing business as the Moriconi Statuary company233 in Cincinnati, plaster of paris images as crockery. The Castnucci company234 of Cincinnati; plaster of paris images. …it is alleged the shipper defeated the published railroad freight rate by securing through false representation of the character of shipment a lower rate than that to which he was entitled.

(The Topeka State Journal, February 22nd 1912) (Kansas)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; images; crime]

A Good Belfast Story: 1913

The "Manchester Guardian" contains some good Belfast stories. A Belfast man was charged in the police courts of his native city with entering the shop of an Italian image seller, and smashing up all her stock of statuary— Blessed Virgins, saints and all. "Why?" asked the magistrate reproachfully, "did you destroy all this poor woman's goods?" "Well, answered the culprit, "ye see, the way it wi' me, A can'a stan' bigotry".235

(The Catholic Press August 7th 1913) (Sydney NSW)
[Key words: Italian; image-seller; Virgin; saints; humour]

Le Petit Marchand de Statuettes: 1913

Little Joseph Nulli, the son of poor artisans, is forced to leave his village to make a living in Rome. His father sold him to an Italian, who taught him the image-selling business. But little Joseph has no sense of commerce. He daydreams in the streets of Rome, swaps statuettes for schoolbooks or uses them to throw at nasty kids. So at the end of the day he dares not go back home to his master. He falls asleep beneath a tree where the Marquise de Riarzo, passing by, finds him. The chance meeting decides the future of the child. The Marquise, who lost a son the same age, pities the fate of the small statuette seller and adopts him. Raised with his adoptive sister, Mary, the little boy's friendship with her soon turns into love. His studies, however, separate him from his girlfriend. Sent to the Naval Academy, he becomes a naval officer and when he qualifies, returns to his family. But in his absence, Mary, who considers him a brother, got engaged to Baron Ventimiglia. The return of the young officer reveals their mutual love. But it is too late! Joseph, to forget, decides to go to war and joins a squadron of torpedo boats crossing the Dardanelles. He returns, covered with medals and glory. But nothing matters to him! He has not forgotten and believes his wound is incurable. But the former little statuettes seller was born under a lucky star! Back in Rome, he learns that his love is returned and that Mary broke her engagement in order to marry him.

(Paraphrase by the author of synopsis in French at Filmographie Pathé)

Peddling without a license: 1917

Later, while on city business in the eastern part of the city, the officials came across two Greek peddlers of plaster Paris images and took them in tow. The Greeks who gave their names as G. Brassi and G. Landi236 and Des Moines as their headquarters, were taken before Judge Johnson on a charge of peddling without a license and were given time to get the money to pay the fines. Imposition of sentence was set for this afternoon. The men left their wares with the municipal judge as security while they sought the money. Is not unlikely that the mayor and superintendent of public safety will provide themselves with night sticks and become a special auxiliary to the police force, and should the Greek pedlars fail to reappear Municipal Judge Johnson may enter the plaster statue business.

(Evening Times-Republican, October 30th 1917) (Iowa)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; licence; humour]

Municipal revenue: 1917

Specified sources of municipal revenue, including special assessments, business taxes other than on the liquor traffic, general license taxes and license taxes on dogs, in cities having a population of over 30,000.
Little Rock: Images or statuary
Jacksonville: Images sold on street
Tampa: Images, street vender
Macon: Images sold on streetMemphis: Images, plaster of Paris, etc

(The Ogden Standard, March 17th 1917) [Key words: licence; images; statuary; plaster of Paris]

Valuable it ain't: 1917

The plaster image of a saint stood safely in the shed
While John West, the owner, slept soundly in his bed.
A thief came down the alley and stood before the door,
Looked through a tiny crack and saw the dirty floor.
On the floor there rested in the dead still hour of night
The plaster image of the saint, calm, serene and white.
The thief paused not a moment, gently he op'ed the door,
And picked the plaster-paris saint right up from off the dirty floor.
John West lives on Sixth street, number 1232,
And 'twas early in the morning, before the theft he knew
John took the loss to heart, 'twas as much as he could bear,
To stand in the empty shed and see the saint not there.
He called police headquarters and told them of the theft,
His voice it trembled strangely, as of man bereft.
'Twould seem the owner valued this plaster-paris saint.
He did, but not in money, for valuable it ain't.
"How much was it worth?" the policeman asked routinely.
"It ain't worth but 50 cents, the owner said serenely.
So if anyone sees a burglar with a plaster-paris saint,
Tell Mr West about it, he'll make a strong complaint. 237

(The Washington Times, January 9th, 1917)
[Key words: plaster of Paris; image; saint; cost; value; humour]

Veteran of Italian war in Bismarck: 1918

Sebastine Torti, who claims that he fought 22 months in the foremost trenches of the Italian army without sustaining a scratch but was honourably discharged at the end of that time because of ill health, is in Bismarck selling plaster of Paris images and other wares common to his country. Sebastine was in Des Moines, Ia., when his country called him two years ago. He possesse [sic] a remarkably accurate knowledge of affairs at the Italian front, and there would seem to be no reason for doubting his story that he is one of the first real veterans of the Italian campaign to return to this continent.

(The Bismark Tribune, September 3rd 1918)
[Key words: Italian; plaster of Paris; images]

A personage of sufficient importance: 1920

It was a tradition that Sanguinetti's grandfather had been an Italian image-vender in the days when those gentlemen might have claimed in America to be the only representatives of a care for the fine arts. In the early part of the century they were also less numerous than they have since become, and it was believed that the founder of the transatlantic stock of the Sanguinettis had by virtue of his fine Italian eyes, his slouched hat, his earrings, his persuasive eloquence, his foreign idioms and his little tray of plaster effigies and busts been deemed a personage of sufficient importance to win the heart and hand of the daughter of a well-to-do attorney in the state of Vermont. This lady had brought her husband a property which he had invested in some less brittle department of the Italian trade…

(James 1920, 122)
[Key words: Italian; plaster of Paris; images]

Snow: 1922

Coming slowly along the white highway two small boys were espied, each carrying on his head a raft-like platform laden with plaster-of-Paris images. They were dark-complexioned little fellows, not more than twelve or thirteen years old; and were having difficulty to keep their feet and stagger along with their preposterous burdens.

The plaster casts comprised images of saints, elephants, giraffes, cherubs with the little wings tinted pink and yellow, at all Madonna and child, a bust of George Washington, a Napoleon, a grinning Voltaire, an angel with a pink trumpet and an evil looking Tom Paine238.

I suppose the loads were not as heavy as they looked, but the boys are having a hard time of it, to judge from their distressed faces peering anxiously from underneath the rafts which, at each step, rocked to and fro and seemed always on the point of toppling. Frantic clutches of small brown hands and the quick shifting of feet alone save the smash-up.

The master was still in this courthouse were some of the older boys and girls; but the younger ones had rushed out when the bell rang. "Hi, where are you going?" several shouted. "What you got on your heads?"

The little strangers turned their faces and, nodding violently, tried to smile ingratiatingly. Someone let fly a snowball, and in a moment the mob of boys, shouting and laughing noisily, chased after them. No harm was intended; it was merely excessive spirits at getting up from school. But the result was disastrous. The little fellows faced round in alarm, cried out wildly in an unknown tongue and then, in spite of their burdens tried to run away.

The inevitable happened: one of them stumbled, fell against the other, and on the both went headlong with the crash. The tall Madonna was broken in two; Washington had his cocked hat crushed; the cherubs had lost their wings; and as for the elephants and giraffes, there was a general mixup of broken trunks and long necks.

The little fellows scrambled to their feet, and after a frightened glance set up wails of lamentation in which the word padrone recurred fast and fearfully.


A padrone had brought them with nine other boys from Naples to sell plaster images for him; we gather that this man, who lived in Portland, cast the images himself. The only English words he had taught them were "ten cent", "tewenty-five cent" and "fifty cent"— the prices of the plaster casts.

A few days before, in spite of the bitterly cold weather, he had sent them out with their wares and bidden them to call every house until they had sold their stock. Then they were to bring back the money they had taken in. He is given a package of dry, black bread to each of them and told them to sleep at night in barns.

Sales were few, and long after their bread was gone they had wandered on, not daring to go back until they had sold all their wares. What little money they had taken in they dared not spend for food, for fear that the padrone would whip them!


One of the boys were slightly larger and stronger than the other; his name, he managed to tell us, was Emelio Foresi. The first name of the other was Tomaso, but I've forgotten his surname. Tomaso, I recollect, had little gold rings in his ears. His voice was soft and, and he had gentle manners.


They found the padrone in a basement, engaged in casting more images. At first the Italian was very angry; but partly by persuasion, partly by putting the fear of the law into his heart, they make him promise not to send his boys out again until May.

(Stephens 1922, 277-280)
[Key words: Italian; plaster of Paris; images; saints; elephants; giraffes; cherubs; Madonna; Washington; Voltaire; Napoleon; Thomas Paine; abuse; padrone]

Barga: 1926

An attractive figure that used to decorate the streets of London was the Italian image seller with his tray of plaster figures, writes the London correspondent of the "Manchester Guardian." Mr Pennell in his new book tells how he discovered in the eighties in the hill town of Barga, near Lucca, that nearly all the men had been to America selling images of Christopher Columbus, and spoke some English with American idiom. I happened to visit that delightful remote town just before the war, and found nearly all the townsmen speaking English with the Glasgow idiom and accent. The founder of the ice cream trade in Scotland was a Barga man who ultimately possessed some fifty ice cream shops, with the chief ones in Glasgow. […] It was very curious that the same small town within thirty years should have been centre of American-Italians and Scottish-Italians with a quite different trade connection.

(Evening Post, May 8th 1926) (NZ)
[Key words: Italian; image-seller; plaster; figures; Barga; Lucca; Columbus; accent]

A craze for the miniature: 1929

Modern bric-a-brac, as distinct from antique pieces, reveals a craze for the miniature (writes P.H.E. in the London "Daily Chronicle"). Innumerable tiny houses and cottages, whole farm-yards, packs of hounds with huntsmen, and ever[y] fox, every description of quaint bird and beast, natural and grotesque, parade on our mantelshelves and occasional tables. The little figures are of china, blown glass, ingeniously carved, or oddly jointed knobs and geometric shapes in wood, or first cousins of the painted lead soldiers of our early youth.

(Sunday Times May 19th 1929) (Perth WA)
[Key words: miniature; houses; farmyards; birds; beasts; china]

The mantelpiece: 1931

On Grannie's mantelpiece there stands
A golden clock with golden hands.
Its face is very white and neat,
And it has little golden feet.
And there are lots of china things;
A little boy with feathery wings,
A prickly sheep, a dog with spots.
A funny house with chimney-pots.
And in a frilly, flowery dress,
A very smiling shepherdess.
And at the end of all the rest
Are vases (which I like the best),
All hung with crystal bars and balls,
Making bright places on the walls.
—Rose Fyleman, in the School Journal.

(Chronicle, July 23rd 1931) (Adelaide)
[Key words: mantelpiece; china; cherub; sheep; spotted dog; house; shepherdess]

Marchand de Santi-Belli: 1939

Le marchand de statuettes de Saints de plâtre, vêtu d'une longue blouse blanche, é talait ses modèles sur un é ventaire à rebords bien é quilibr é sur sa tête. Le petit Saint-Jean, la Vierge, la Sainte-Famile, etc., s'alignaient à côt é des tirelires "dinhèirolos" à couleurs vives : tomates, pommes, etc.et des jouets naïfs:canaris, petits lapins blancs à collier pointillé de rouge, dans lequel balançait la tête. "Santi belli, belli !" annonçait sa voix trainante, et, en un clin d'oeil, un essaim de jeunes mamans, b é b é sur le bras, s'empressait autour du modeleur italien. Et ce n'é taient que cris de joie et petits bras tendus vers ces fragiles merveilles, jouets d'un jour, dont les mamans, aïeules aujourd'hui, n'ont pas perdu le souvenir.

The seller of beautiful saints.

The vendor of plaster statuettes of saints, dressed in a long white coat, displayed his models on a rimmed tray balanced on his head. Miniature St. Johns, Virgins, St. Familes, etc., were arrayed beside piggy banks "Dinhèirolos" in bright colors: tomatoes, apples and the like, naive toys: canaries, small white rabbits with red dotted collars which swayed their heads. "Beautiful, beautiful saints!" he drawled, and in a wink, a swarm of young mothers, babies on their arms, gathered around the Italian modeller. And the mothers, grandmothers now, haven't forgotten the cries of joy and the little arms extended towards those fragile wonders, toys for a day.

(Gardel 1939, 174)

[Key words: plaster; tray; St John; Virgin; St Famile; piggy bank; tomatoes; apples; toys; canaries; rabbits; nodders]

Last updated 1st February 2020


These notes appear as footnotes in the original text.

1 King George = George III (1738-1820):

2 King of Prussia = Frederick William II (1744-1797);

3 King of Denmark = Christian VII (1749-1808);

4 King of Sweden = Adolf Frederik (1710-1771), famous for eating himself to death.

5 Matthew Prior (1664-1721) was an English poet whose achieved notable success in the early eighteenth century.

6 Henry Christian Geyer (1727-1786) of Boston is remembered for his skills in carving gravestones, although as well as producing plaster of Paris figures, he was a fisherman, his shop being close to Boston's South Fish Market (Mould and Loewe, 223).

7 Nova Scotia is still a significant producer of gypsum, the raw material of plaster-of-Paris.

8 "Sleeping Venus" was presumably a rendering of the painting by Giorgione.

9 The Egyptian Hall was built in Piccadilly in 1812 and had exhibited Napoleonic relics as well as large-scale works of art. It was demolished in 1905.

10 The Lord Mayor of London was Matthias Prime Lucas.

11 "Macaroni" = Italian.

12 "Boney" was Napoleon Bonaparte, who ruled the north of Italy at the time.

13 The beast with seven heads in the Book of Revelation may originally have referred to the emperor Nero, but here it is applied to Bonaparte.

14 James Holmes (1777-1860).

15 "Alas!"

16 Link to follow as content added.

17 Lysippus was a Greek sculptor active in the 4th century BC. Given the clash of dates and its unlikely identification, the miniature was probably a fake, hence the amusement in the court.

18 Pericles was a Greek leader during its "golden age," 495-429 BC.

19 The "second city" was Birmingham

20 "Composition" was another description of Plaster of Paris.

21 "The baseless fabric of a pageant faded," is a misquotation from Shakespeare's The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1.

22 The "milk-white Steed" was probably a play on the white plaster and, perhaps, Pegasus?

23 The "Bird that soared with Ganymede" was Zeus, in the form of an eagle.

24 Busts of Milton invariably show his hair as being long and curly.

25 "Shakspeare" was a common spelling in the nineteenth century, when busts of Shakespeare and Milton were very popula

26 A misspelt reference to Jacques in Shakespeare's As You Like It, who laments at length the wounding of a stag

27 "Big Nose"

28 "Tomos" = Tomis, on the Black Sea. Ovid's family name was Naso, which translates as "nose". This has often led to the suggestion that Ovid had a large nose, but this is disputed, and the nasal over-abundance may have belonged to an ancestor.

29 "P—" was Thomas Papera; "M—d—m V—" was Madame Vestris

30 The boy was identified as Carlo Ferrari, and his murderers were sentenced to death (Bishop and Williams) and transportation (May, who died in Tasmania).

31 "Gierusalemme Liberata", Jerusalem Delivered, is a romantic poem by Torquato Tasso, published 1581, that tells a fictionalised version of the First Crusade.

32 In this piece Hone plays with natura potentior ars, the artist Titian's motto.

33 The "cavern at Blackheath hill" refers to Jack Cade's Cavern, Blackheath, rediscovered in c1780.

34 Ecclesiastes 1:18.

35 "All the winged inhabitants of the air" is from Genesis 1:20;

36 A "booby-bird" = sea bird.

37 A "bow pot" (bouquet pot) was a small pot containing artificial flowers;

38 "Halbert tops": axe-shaped

39 A "nodder", the head of which is counterbalanced and swings on a wire axis.

40 "Juno's bird" = peacock.

41 An X-shaped cross.

42 "Human form devine" quotes William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience.

43 Francis Hayman, 1708-1776, English artist.

44 John Milton, Paradise Lost.

45 "Empyrean air" is a quote from Paradise Lost.

46 "Hodges's Imperial" beer.

47 "Gorgeous palaces" and "insubstantial pageant" are from Shakespeare, The Tempest.

48 Samuel Johnson referred to "the immortal Shakespeare" in Prologue Spoken at the Opening of the Theatre in Drury-Lane (1740).

49 "Cheated of feature by dissembling nature" is from Shakespeare, Richard III.

50 I have been unable to find the source of this quotation, though it is also reproduced in Goodman 1845, 261.

51 Uvedale Price, An Essay on the Picturesque, as Compared with the Sublime and Beautiful, 1796.

52 Archibald Alison, Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste, 1790.

53 Richard Knight, An Analytical Inquiry into the Principles of Taste, 1805.

54 "Medicean Venus" = Venus de Medici.

55 "Apollo Belvidere" = Apollo of the Belvedere, Vatican Museum.

56 "Antonius" = Marcus Antonius.

57 "the Gladiator" = (probably) the Borghese Gladiator, The Louvre.

58 "St George in the East" = Hawksmoor church in working-class east London;

59 "St George Hanover Square" = church in a fashionable and affluent area of central London.

60 These figures are still available today, though now moulded in resin, (Gino Ruggeri, Tuscany) and costing about £60.00 for the pair.

61 In today's values, an 1826 shilling would be worth about £4.00.

62 Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847) Irish political leader who campaigned for the repeal of the Act of Union and Catholic Emancipation.

63 Shakespeare: Hamlet, Act 5 Scene 1.

64 "Il cielo la rendi il merito" = "May Heaven reward you".

65 "La santa Madre di Dio la benedica" = "may the Holy Mother of God bless you".

66 The Duke of Argyle, who fought against Charles at Culloden.

67 Somerset House.

68 "Chalks" = Plaster of Paris figures, which were often called "chalkware".

69 "celebrated Greeks" = figures of Greek gods, heroes and mythological figures.

70 "Our gracious Queen" = Queen Victoria, a very popular figurine.

71 "Alcmena's Jove-begotten Son" = Heracles;

72 "Abelard's too tepid Nun" = Heloise.

73 "The Queen who melted pearls" = Cleopatra, whose "needle" stands beside the River Thames in London.

74 "Son of crazy Paul " = Tsar Alexander I.

75 "the intrusive King of Gaul" = Napoleon.

76 The poet is either using artistic licence here or has confused his geography. Almost all image sellers came from Tuscany. "Her College" = University of Padua.

77 Jewish street boys sold oranges until displaced by Irish immigrants.

78 "Wittol," a term of contempt = cuckold.

79 "'Whelm in Lethe's waters" = forget.

80 Grecian urns were popular ornaments (see above).

81 Francis Leggatt Chantrey (1781-1841) was a noted sculptor of celebrated people.

82 Treviño, northern Spain.

83 Madame Saqui (1786-1866) was a well-known acrobat and tightrope walker.

84 James Greenacre (1785-1837): The "Edgware Road Murderer", hanged for the murder of his fiancée in 1837.

85 William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806): politician, Prime Minister.

86 William Cobbett (1763-1835): parliamentary reformer.

87 Thomas Paine (1737-1809): politician, philosopher, revolutionary and opponent of organised religion.

88 Robert Stewart, Vicount Castlereagh (1769-1822): statesman.

89 Jack Ketch (d 1686): executioner.

90 "Durance vile" = lengthy prison sentence.

91 Ceres was goddess of agriculture.

92 "Cobra" = Slang for long hair, perhaps originating with the snakes in the Medusa's hair, or describing hair projecting either side of the head;

93 "Collection of cobs" = presumably Ceres harvesting wheat sheaves.

94 "Ke varter" = wordplay on "quarter"; "ke vourse" = "course," both mimicking the woman's accent.

95 The Austrian Empire was beset by a number of nationalistic revolutions in 1848, in which Lombards and Venetians took part.

96 Henry Brougham (1778-1868) British statesman. The Brougham carriage was named after him. Was involved in the "Catholic question" in the 1820s.

97 "Bailey's Eve": Eve at the Fountain (1822) or Eve Listening to Adam (1842); statues by Edward Hodges Baily.

98 Lord Derby, Edward Smith-Stanley (1799-1869) was leader of the Tory party and its "protectionist" wing.

99 "Your Lordship's proclamation": Lord Derby was seen as sympathetic to the Catholic church.

100 "Dancing Nymphs": a sculpture by Canova; "Greek Slave": a notorious sculpture by Powers.

101 Exeter Hall, on London's Strand, was often used for political gatherings, especially by those against slavery and the corn laws.

102 "Gamboge" = a deep brown colour.

103 "The Fisher Boy" – probably representations of the Neapolitan Fisherboy by Francois Rude (1831).

104 "Nymph and Satyr" – this refers to the group including a baby Bacchus, or sculptures of Mars, Venus and Amour.

105 Either Napoleon Bonaparte or (perhaps) Napoleon III.

106 By the nineteenth century, cock-shying, the once popular blood sport of throwing stones or sticks at a captive or half-buried cockerel, had become a memory, and the term, when used, referred to throwing objects at a target, sometimes a metal cockerel.

107 Pere Ravignan (1795-1858) was a Jesuit preacher who argued against the suppression of the order.

108 "The Emperor" was presumably Napoleon III.

109 Omar Pasha (1806-1871) was an Ottoman general who, during the Crimean War, defeated a large force of Russians at Eupatoria.

110 FitzRoy Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan (1788-1855) commanded the British troops in the Crimea in 1854-55 and gave the order that led to the Charge of the Light Brigade. He was held responsible for the poor conditions of British forces during the Siege of Sevastopol.

111 Sir James Graham (1792-1861) was a conservative politician who as First Lord of the Admiralty was blamed for the lack of progress in the Baltic Campaign and resigned in 1855.

112 Charles Napier (1786-1860) served in the Royal Navy 1799-1854 and was criticised for deciding not to attack Sveaborg and Kronstadt during the Baltic Campaign. His refusal was later justified, but he remained in dispute with the Admiralty after being elected MP for Southwark in 1855.

113 Charles Ash Windham (1810-1870), the "Hero of the Redan" commanded a charge in the Battle of the Great Redan during the Siege of Sevastopol in 1855.

114 Field Marshall Colin Campbell (1792-1863) commanded the Highland Brigade during the Battle of Alma. He returned to England when he was not given overall command in the Crimea, but returned after being given a command when the army was split into two corps.

115 Edmund Lyons (1790-1858) was commander of the Black Sea Fleet and took part in a sea battle in the Sea of Azov in 1855.

116 The Charge of the Light Brigade took place at Balaclava on 25th October 1854.

117 Florence Nightingale (1820-1910).

118 George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon (1800-1870), as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, took part in the 1856 Congress of Paris to end the Crimean War.

119 Lord John Russell (1792-1878), retired temporarily from politics in 1855 after unsuccessful Crimean War negotiations in Vienna.

120 Perhaps a reference to abolitionist Hinton Rowan Helper's 1857 book The Impending Crisis, which was called "an incendiary document" by pro-slavery southerners. However the phrase was in frequent use at the time.

121 Prince Napoleon-Jerome, Napoleon-Joseph-Charles-Paul Bonaparte (1822-1891). In 1859 married Princess Maria Clotilde of Savoy, daughter of Victor Emmanuel II, King of Sardinia. Commanded French forces in Tuscany during Second Italian War of Independence.

122 "Plon Plon" was a term of derision used by troops who regarded Napoleon as a coward.

123 Body of Bacchus: he was somewhat portly.

124 Misquotation of James Thomson: "So stands the statue that enchants the world/So bending tries to veil the matchless boast/The mingled beauties of exulting Greece." Refers to the Venus of Medici. (The Seasons 1726-1730).

125 Edward Boscawen (1628-1685). In 1759 commanded British naval forces in the Battle of Lagos.

126 "Come over and help us!" from Acts 16:9: "And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us."

127 "Give me liberty, or give me death!": quote from Patrick Henry (1736-1799), Virginian Governor speaking against 1765 Stamp Act.

128 Galignani's Messenger: an English language newspaper published in Paris.

129 Léon Gozlan (1803-1866); French writer.

130 Moyamensing = an early township, later a neigbourhood of South Philadelphia.

131 Refers to a statue of Prince Albert by Carlo Marochetti unveiled in 1863.

132 "Lazzaroni": the poorest of the lower classes in Naples, named after the St Lazarus hospital.

133 "Five Points" was a notorious New York "slum."

134 The Black Crook was the first successful Broadway musical, and ran for 474 performances in 1866.

135 Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), US Civil War General in Union Army and 18th President of the US.

136 William T Sherman (1820-1891), US Civil War General in Union Army.

137 Philip H. Sheriden, US Civil War General in the Union Army.

138 General George B. McClellan (1826-1885) was a Union commander and later politician, becoming Governor of New Jersey.

139 Henry Clay (1777-1852), politician and lawyer.

140 Daniel Webster (1782-1852) was a US politician who stood unsuccessfully for the presidency three times.

141 John Chrysostom (c349-407), considered to be the greatest-ever Christian preacher.

142 Mulatto is an archaic term for those of mixed black and white parentage, but was also used without insult to identify South Americans;

143 Literally the "low country": the Netherlands.

144 "Pehino" = archaic Italian for Beijing;

145 "Luminare di Pisa" = a candle-lit festival of St Ranieri on June 16th in Pisa.

146 The "Great Duke" was Wellington.

147 The "Water Carrier" was an Egyptian statue.

148 Gallery in Pall Mall, 1854-1929

149 Chromos = chromolithographs: coloured prints using lithography.

150"Father of his Country" = George Washington.

151 "Enoch Arden" was the tragic hero of Tennyson's 1864 poem.

152 Boys use the statuettes as targets for toy guns.

153 "The Firemen's Cemetery" was probably Greenwood Cemetery, established by the New Orleans Firemen's Charitable and Benevolent Association.

154/sup>Samuel Jones Tilden was Governor of New York and the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the presidency in 1876.

155 "Half-quartern" = weighing two pounds.

156"War" = the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.

157"Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool." Isaiah 66:1

158 Tragically, the disease that created so many of these orphans, yellow fever, returned in 1878 to result in many more.

159 The colour of the dried breastbone of a Thanksgiving goose was believed to predict the severity of the coming winter.

160 An Ulster was a long casual overcoat; "fish-horn buttons" were presumably buttons made from horn, with a "fish eye" in the centre.

161 "Seventh and Chestnut streets" = Central Philadelphia.

162 Kalsomine was a trade name for a whitewash (calcimine).

163 Phidias (c480-430BC): Greek sculptor and painter best known for his statue of Zeus at Olympia.

164 At this time, a short jacket, usually worn by children, fastened at the neck.

165 His posture resembled a question mark

166 "The Roman soldier" was a reference to a passage in The Last Days of Pompeii by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1834) or Edward John Poynter's (1865) painting Faithful unto Death.

167 Praxiteles was "one of the most celebrated of the Attic sculptors" (ancientgreece.com)

168 President Garfield, the 20th President of the US, was assassinated in 1881.

169 A Chinese peach bloom glazed vase previously owned by Mrs Mary Morgan was bought by William T Walters for the then extraordinary price of $18,000 in March 1886. It is likely that this humorous piece was invented in reaction to that notorious purchase, which inspired many an imitation, perhaps including the products of Italian image sellers.

170 "Pio Nono": Pope Pius IX

171 Daniel Webster (1782-1852). US nationalist conservative senator and lawyer.

172 "Emperor William": William I of Prussia (1797-1888).

173 "Collector Magone": Daniel Magone (1829-1904) who was appointed Collector of the Port of New York in 1886.

174 La Normandie was a steamship built 1882 at Barrow for Compagnie Générale Transatlantique.

175 Castle Garden was the first US immigration centre.

176 Padrone = master/employer, esp. of immigrants.

177 "Gamin" = a street urchin.

178 Horatio Alger (1832-1899): prolific US author of "rags to riches" stories

179 Possibly Pegasus by Hugo Hagan, 1869.

180 Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd President of the US (1889-1893).

181 Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th President of the US (1885-89) (1893-97).

182 From Philip Raynor's Bride or Major Villar's Fatal Mistake, by Rett Winwood.

183 A "benedict" was a newly-married man who had long been a bachelor;

184 Nassau Street was a New York thoroughfare between Wall Street and the foot of Brooklyn Bridge.

185 Edmund Russell was an artist and lecturer.

186 Thomas F. Byrnes (1842-1910) was a detective who headed the New York City Police detective department between 1880 and 1895.

187 Francis Bacon (1561—1626), English polymath.

188 "Fire plug" = fire hydrant

189 Hanover Chapel stood in Regent Street, London, from 1832 to 1896. It was replaced by Regent House, in 2015 the location of the London Apple Store.

190 Sala would have been 14 in 1842

191 alti rilievi = high reliefs

192 The animals are "nodders" with separately cast heads attached by a wire and counterbalance, so the head can move up and down.

193 Portland author and poet Elizabeth Jones Cavazza Pullen, 1849-1926 was briefly married to an Italian (McGill 2008, 166) which might explain the sympathetic tenor of this piece. She was published by Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain).

194 Printing House Square was part of Chatham Street (later Park Row), New York, nicknamed "Newspaper Row".

195 "The Infant Samuel at Prayer" was no doubt a representation of Joshua Reynolds' painting of 1776. These figures are mentioned several times as part of the stock in trade of image sellers. The figure seems to have been well known at the time, though few have survived. P.G. Wodehouse describes the therapeutic effect, especially to "aunts of a choleric disposition", of smashing a small statuette, preferably depicting the Infant Samuel At Prayer (P.G. Wodehouse Society, Netherlands 2009).

196 Trilby: The title of a novel by George du Maurier published in 1894, and the name of its heroine. A jocular name for the foot (with reference to Trilby's feet, which were objects of admiration).

197 Mulberry Bend was an area of New York within the Five Points neighbourhood, infamous for its poor living conditions. It was demolished in 1997.

198 A prison on Blackwell Island, New York (Rikers Island was also known as "The Island", but did not become a gaol until the 1930s)

199 Alexander Herrmann (1844-1896) French magician — "Herrmann the Great". Toured the US several times.

200 Clésinger's Woman Bitten by a Snake: original in the Musee d'Orsay;.

201 "Bayard' was a magic horse

202 This house still stands, part of Kansas City's "Little Italy"

203 As a result of the American revolution and other drains on his finances, George Washington was virtually penniless by 1789.

204 See also below: 1913.

205 "Can storied urn or animated bust/ Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?" Lines 41 and 42 of Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.

206 Agnes Repplier (1855-1950): Philadelphia essayist.

207 "Mary", a Zulu woman, Mary Anne Barker's nurserymaid in London.

208 An Italian mispronunciation of "Mary"

209 Later used in Barker 1904, 212.

210 "Open-handed tap" = tricked out of his wares, or stolen?

211 "East Galena street resort" = a brothel in a notorious red light district. Location of the US' longest-operating brothel.

212 Second use of "tap," meaning not clear. To keep nearby?

213 In 4th century BC Greece, Phryne was a famous courtesan, not known for her modesty. Figurines of her were usually of a naked woman, shielding just her eyes.

214 Falguiere's 1882/1891 statues of a nude Diana were much criticised. One commentator wrote that she was too plump, was "not Nudity but Nakedness" and the statues were merely "clever".

215 The manufactory was at 505 South Delaware Street according to a contemporary directory.

216 "Gauspari" = a typo in the original.

217 "Malatesta" = literally "bad head", a malicious person.

218 Carrie Nation (1846-1911) was a temperance activist who wielded an axe on several taverns in Kansas.

219 "Young Corbett" was probably James "Gentleman Jim" Corbett (1866-1933), heavyweight boxer.

220 William J. Bryan (1860-1925) was a leading Democratic politician.

221 Emilio Aguinaldo (1869-1964) was the first President of the Philippines, having led the country to independence from Spain in 1898.

222 May Irwin (1862-1938) was a vaudeville actress and singer.

223 Battling Nelson was the nickname of Oscar Nielsen (1882-1954), Danish boxer and world lightweight champion.

224 Using the name Cassie Chadwick, Elizabeth Bigley (1857-1907) passed herself off as Andrew Carnegie's illegitimate daughter, and defrauded several banks.

225 "Herbert" = Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) Philosopher, sociologist and biologist.

226 "Travesty" was a form of comic imitation of well-known characters, topics or productions, often involving cross-dressing.

227 Bibliotheque National de France, 2015.

228 Noah Webster (1758-1843) was the publisher of the American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), which promoted American spellings.

229 The Simplified Spelling Board was created in 1906 to reform American English spelling, financed by Andrew Carnegie. The initiative had failed by 1920.

230 A tatterdemalion is "a person in tattered clothing" (Collins Dictionary).

231 Antonio Moriconi (c1873-1928) emigrated from Calomini near Lucca to Cincinnati in 1898;

232 David Guidugli (1877-1918) cousin of Antonio Moriconi.

233 Moriconi Satuary was at 420, 430 Sycamore St and 242 Main St Cincinnati.

234 W. Castrucci Company

235 See also above, 1898.

236 G. Brassi and G. Landi are obviously Italian names rather than Greek!

237 I have reformatted this doggerel poem for readability.

238 Thomas Paine (1737-1809): politician, philosopher, revolutionary and opponent of organised religion.