“Street Smarts” was a phrase first heard on city streets in these years, vernacular street lingo or urban slang for  opportunistic and shady street types. In the genre of visualized street “character studies.”Sigmund Krausz Street Types of Chicago (1892) was the first book of its kind published in the U.S., including both full-page studio photographs and an accompanying text.  “Character” studies were a familiar feature appearing in nineteenth-century newspapers.

The trade audience for Krausz’s attractive book of pictured stereotypes were visitors to the city for the Chicago World Fair. “The men who meet us in this book,” Krausz wrote, “are not of the order of those who control the destinies of the city by the vastness of their enterprises they direct, but all of them in their modest sphere contribute their mite to the active rush which ebbs and flow along our busy thoroughfares.”

Sweet-talking Fakirs or Fakers, Hustlers, Hucksters, Hawkers, Drummers, Dandys, Mashers, Beggars worked along oblique and slanted city streets. Intimately allied with this moving street business were children–boys mobbing the fakir, newsboys or newsies hyping the headlines to boost sales, street musicians, organ grinders, messengers, shoe shine boys. Children were a powerful presence in Krausz’s Photo studio at 29th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.

Buyer beware! A sucker born every minute! Every hook has its fish! Suckers lie in wait for bait!–newspaper headlines shouted. Shopping society women, heed the obsequious Masher on busy streets.

The dominant central commercial city in the Midwest, Chicago attracted hawkers and walkers–itinerants making a living on the streets by fast talk, sharp advertising, practiced deception, and a quick wit. These street types were practiced in the skills of their peripatetic trades. Hawking and hustling worthless goods and banal entertainment to the ever-present gullible tourists, transient bargain hunters, and adventure-seekers–urban “rubes” all–was an urban gold mine, Chicago style.  bjb