Tuesday 18 January 2011

Cadger's Map

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:

"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]"


  1. There was a reference to the use of these symbols during the Depression in America in the first series of Mad Men. I know its a popular US fictional drama, but I thought an interesting nod at social history all the same.

  2. There was something stranger recently about an artist 'designing' similiar symbols for (I think) homeless people, but possibly something else - it may have been some contemporary art thing!