For me, the fascination of collecting Victorian photographs, particularly high resolution magic lantern slides, is that they capture a fleeting moment in time that show how our ancestors lived. Today’s image is of a street (quayside actually) trader that we will never see the likes of again. The location is Glasgow docks and he is selling long, white, bendy, snake-like objects. What on earth are they?
His target market is the men on the many fishing and general cargo boats that used this bustling port. Most of them would have been pipe smokers and when they were at sea with spray and rain, a lit pipe could easily be extinguished by the elements. The solution to this problem was a round, tin disc with a small hole in the middle that fitted over the bowl of the pipe, as and when required. These ‘pipe lids’ cost just one pre-decimal penny per dozen and he must have sold lots of them, as the ‘snakes’ are, in fact, discs packed tightly together on pieces of string. So, he’s a Victorian, pipe lid seller!
What was his life like? Did he make the lids or buy them wholesale? How many days and hours did he work? Where did he live? Did he have hopes and ambitions? Was he a husband and father? Did he have descendants who might one day read this post? We’ll never know the answers, of course, but his surviving image makes me wonder about the man himself.
I will feature occupational photographs in future posts.