Image of English journalist and sociologist Henry Mayhew.

Henry Mayhew

(1812 - 1887)

Henry Mayhew helped to found the magazines Figaro in London in 1831 and Punch in 1841. From 1849 to 1850, he published eighty-two articles for the Morning Chronicle that served as the basis for his four-volume survey of midcentury London street life, London Labour and the London Poor. Mayhew wrote that in his metropolis, “We find almost every geographic species of the human family,” adding, “if India has its thugs, London has its garrote men.”

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Voices In Time

1851 | London

Pit Stop

Henry Mayhew on nightmen’s work.More


In the “Those That Will Work” section of Henry Mayhew’s London Labor and London Poor, published in 1861, there is a profile of Jack Black, whose self-appointed title was “Rat and Mole Destroyer to Her Majesty.” In addition to exterminating vermin royal and common, Black kept a collection of rats, which included a rare white one. Noting the white rat’s popularity with audiences, he bred it to sell the offspring; novelist Beatrix Potter is believed to have bought her albino rat Samuel Whiskers from the exterminator. It is speculated that the majority of albino rats, the variety most often used in science experiments, are descended from Black’s original pet.

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