Jessica Harris to Lecture on Charleston’s Food Peddlers

Nearly two centuries ago, a Charleston curmudgeon wrote to the Post & Courier to complain about local peddlers’ sing-song patter:

“The public cry should be regulated,” the anonymous writer asserted in an 1823 edition of the paper. “The negro should be taught to announce what he has to sell and suppress his wit.”

According to food scholar Jessica Harris, who quoted the correspondence in a 2010 Southern Foodways Alliance address (posted above), street sellers “kept on keeping on” in the African tradition, using flirtation, rhythm and rhyme to hawk their porgy, she-crab, strawberries, oysters and watermelons. While Tony the Peanut Man is now one of the last living links to the era of shouted advertisements, Charleston was once a capital of Old World-style marketeering. Continue reading