The Brooklyn pots-and-pans peddler

Berenice Abbott photographed this vendor and his giant wooden wagon of kitchenware on May 22, 1936, probably in the downtown/DUMBO area. 

tinmanwagon1

Berenice Abbott: Changing New York commented:

“Once the lifeblood of New York’s poorer neighborhoods, vendors like this traveling pots-and-pans salesman were a disappearing breed when Abbott took this photograph in 1936. . . . The location of Abbott’s photograph is not specified, but the neighborhood resembles Talman and Jay Streets, which she photographed the same day.”

So what happened to Talman Street? Once a small road that followed the remnant of a cow path, it got wiped out when the BQE was built in 1950.

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6 Responses to “The Brooklyn pots-and-pans peddler”

  1. CelestialCharms Says:

    In the late 1800’s, my Great Grandfather was a peddler of various goods in Brooklyn. First a fruit peddler….then a fish peddler. Growing up in Queens in the 1970’s, the only peddlers I can remember were the knife sharpeners that also sold various tin wares and knives from their small open flat bed trucks.
    Maureen

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    There’s a knife peddler/sharpener I’ve seen in the West Village a few times. He works out of an old truck with a bell. Such a strange throwback to another era.

  3. Scallionboy Says:

    There’s another reason for the disappearance of the men who operated the grinding trucks: more people have better cutlery. I would no more hand over a high-quality chef’s knife for one of them to put against his wheel than I would sharpen it on the curb. The grinding wheels heat the blade, ruining the temper, and change the angle of the cutting edge.

    This is not intended to be disparaging; they tended to be very nice fellows, social and honest, and I dealt with quite a few in my years as a chef. But their time-honored techniques didn’t mesh very well with the demands of expensive cutlery. I wouldn’t use any kind of mechanized sharpener. Only a flat stone, or a series of progressively smoother flat stones, followed by a few passes on a steel, will produce the proper edge. A professional chef’s knive can easily run a couple of hundred bucks, and top-shelf specialized sushi slicers sell for as much as three THOUSAND dollars, no one in his right mind who owned such an instrument would allow another person to sharpen one of them.

  4. david Says:

    Anyone know where to get heaps of information on this??

  5. Al Lucia Says:

    I would like to know the possibility of using this picture in a book I am writing.

  6. wildnewyork Says:

    It’s a Berenice Abbott photo from her collection Changing New York. Contact the Museum of the City of New York, which owns the negatives of those photos. http://www.mcny.org/museum-collections/berenice-abbott/abbott.htm

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