The Jew as Other: A Century of English Caricatures 1730-1830

Rag Fair

Thomas Rowlandson (?)
(London, c. 1800)
Etching, hand-colored with water color
[20.8 x 29.5 cm]

The street market at Rosemary Land, Houndsditch, popularly known as Rag Fair, was the mecca of the old-clothes trade in London. The prominence of the Jews in this trade is evident from the shop signs which include (from left to right of the print) MOSES MONCERA Old Hats & Wigs bought Sold or Exchanged; Widow Levy dealer in Old Breeches; most money given for Bad Silver Moses Eatardo; and Peter Smoutch MONY RAIS'D on Good security. Closely connected to Jewish involvement in the old-clothes trade was the belief that counterfeit coinage came from the same source. Several of the old-clothes dealers standing by their stalls are bearded, wear long coats and carry piles of hats on their heads, all features traditional to the iconographic depiction of street Jews. In Lights and Shadows of London Life (2 vols., 1842, I, 128-9), James Grant describes a visit to Rag Fair a few years later:

The buyers and sellers...are thorough men of business. They are persons of few words; they have no time for talking.... "How much?" says Moses, snatching a coat, or waistcoat, or pair of trousers, from the arms or shoulders of Solomon, and giving it a hasty inspection. "Van and sixpensh," answers the later. "Take van and twopensh?" says the former. "No," remarks Solomon; and thereupon Moses tosses the article of "old clo" contemptuously on his arms and marches away with a snarlish expression of countenance.
The print is in the style of Thomas Rowlandson.