"There is a sort of blackguards' literature, and the initiated understand each other by slang [cant] terms, by pantomimic signs, and by HIEROGLYPHICS. The vagrant's mark may be seen in Havant, on corners of streets, on door posts, and on house steps. Simple as these chalk lines appear, they inform the succeeding vagrants of all they require to know; and a few white scratches may say, 'be importunate,' or 'pass on.' [Mr. Rawlinson's Report to the General Board of Health, Parish of Savant, Hampshire]"
Tuesday, 18 January 2011
An interesting map in the Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words (1860) ... showing the street markings of professional beggars. I've always been a little skeptical about how much such marks were used, but you find this stuff in various sources: