On The Road: Street Sellers And Children

The pioneers of real emigration were those who did street jobs and were therefore able to pass on news and reliable information for long-term emigration.

In Tuscany, peasants moved to Corsica for farm work, and then to France, attracted by better wages, even though the most common qualified job was that of the image maker. Street musicians from all over Italy left for many European countries, and then for the Americas, while sellers of prints and haberdashery, together with woodmen and diggers, left the eastern regions of the peninsula.

The so-called “itinerant jobs” - musicians, acrobats or animal tamers, and sellers of various goods - were but a step removed from the unashamed street begging which had been endemic for centuries in times of great poverty.

With the improvement of transport and the beginning of large-scale emigration, the routes of the wanderers extended, first all across Europe, and then as far as America. The police did not look favourably upon them, as they were constantly accompanied by children whose role was to help keep the begging undetected. Their miserable fate aroused pity and indignation among the upper classes who, whether in favour of or against emigration, saw begging as evidence in support of their views. The phenomenon developed increasingly, while laws for regulation of juvenile work remained ineffective. Sometimes it was fathers who brought their own children with them, sometimes it was trusted acquaintances. The ultimate hope was that, along the highways and byways of the world, children would learn a job which would give them a livelihood.

Great Britain, England, London,1924. Domenico Vidi from Pinzolo, near Trento, plies his trade as a knife sharpener
Great Britain, England, London,1924. Domenico Vidi from Pinzolo, near Trento, plies his trade as a knife sharpener
Brazil, Southern Rio Grande, early 1900s. Men, women and children working in a brickworks
Brazil, Southern Rio Grande, early 1900s. Men, women and children working in a brickworks
U.S.A., New York, Rochester, 1901. Studio portrait: professional prideù
U.S.A., New York, Rochester, 1901. Studio portrait: professional prideù
France, 1906. Orsanti
France, 1906. Orsanti
Great Britain, England, London. The Bruccianis with their ice-cream cart
Great Britain, England, London. The Bruccianis with their ice-cream cart