If Eliza Doolittle had followed in her father’s more intemperate footsteps (and if the family had lived in Birmingham), she might have been the “flower seller” who found her way into Birmingham’s Black List of habitual drunkards.
In order to enforce the 1902 Sale of Liquor to Habitual Drunkard’s Licensing Act, the Watch Committee of the City of Birmingham provided licensed liquor sellers and clubs with photos and descriptions of people deemed “habitual drunkards,” who were not to be sold liquor. The 82 persons in the book were convicted of drunkenness between 1903 and 1906, typically at the Birmingham City Police Court.
Each entry includes both a picture (usually with a front and profile view) and a description with such details as:
- Name and alias
- Place of Employment
- Physical description, including hair, eyes, complexion, shape of face, and scars or marks
- Date and nature of conviction and sentence
The pages are populated with the likes of Richard Flemming, known as “Dirty Dick” and “Dick the Devil,” and Alice Tatlow, whose tattoos included “Prince of Wales Feathers back right hand; heart, clasped hands, true love K.B. back left arm.” They work at professions ranging from bedstead polishers and hawkers to grease merchant and tube drawer, as well as one street performer who “plays tin whistle outside Licensed Houses.”
If you find a member of your family here, you’ll discover a marvelous snapshot of an individual at a moment in time — albeit a difficult moment. If not, you’ll still find a compelling portrait of a segment of society that rarely takes center stage.