The Flea Trade. - No business is perhaps more brisk, or the subjects of it more lively, than the dealers in fleas and the small cattle which they drive.  It appears to have received a new impetus in our city, by the recent arrival of some distinguished flea dealers from Europe. -


On Tuesday two of these scientific admirers of fleas, clothed in broad-rimmed hats, gaiters up to their knees, scarlet vests, drab small clothes, and short frocks, invaded, in pursuit of their game, the famous archway No. 37 Orange street, inhabited by biped cattle of almost every size and color, and particularly famous as a fat nursery of fleas.  The inmates of the arch, not having been often honored with the visits of any "strangers of distinction," other than the illustrious thief-takers of our city, supposed the gentlemen flea merchants to belong to the suspicious class of Christians, and began to be filled with all that consternation attendant on the domiciliary visited of the police.  In order to ascertain that, to them important fact, some of them slipped out and ran from Mr. McGrath, street Inspector of the 6th ward, who lived hard by, and urged him to come immediately and tell them, whether the gentlemen visitors belonged to the thief-taking tribe or not.  Mr. McGrath, ever willing to oblige such respectable neighbors, hastened to the arch, and on penetrating its dark and dirty labyrinth, discovered the two flea merchants turning over filthy straw beds, and with the keenness of hounds upon the scent, picking up and putting into small funnels of white paper the little fugitive fleas whose sanctum sanctorum having been thus cruelly invaded, and thing the police officers were after them,  were scampering off as fast as their legs would carry them. 


Mr. McGrath, after watching the operations of the illustrious flea dealers, inquired of them if they were officers, as they appeared to have a very taking way with them.  They very politely then informed him that they were flea merchants, and carried on a profitable in the purchase, use, and exhibition fleas.

That they had brought over with them 1000 first rate insects of the flea tribe from England, to be harnessed to miniature carriages, and broke from driving, but that they had suffered the entire loss of their original capital by the sudden death of every flea they brought over, owing to the rigors of our climate.  That they were now engaged in scientific researches after American fleas, n order to train them up to their business of drawing carriages and burdens, as draft horses are trained and broken.


They said that they gave 9 cents a head for fat, healthy active fleas, or $1 per dozen, but that they must be Christian or human fleas, as those raised on cats, dogs and horses, had two legs each less-were of an inferior race-and would not answer the purpose.  After this interesting information, and inviting Mr. McGrath to call at No. 187 Broadway, to see the progress their small cattle made in the harness, they, proceeded to their business again with the utmost zeal, delighted, apparently, at having found so fruitful a field in which to hunt their game.


We cannot see why this business should not increase in briskness, and have no doubt whatever that the enterprising inhabitants of the Five Points can, by proper care and attention, not only sell off their stock of fleas to great advantage, but furnish a supply of the most lively kind, sufficient to draw all the small coaches in the United States; and we have no doubt also that they would finish plenty of cattle, of even smaller caliber, to act as postillions on the occasion.


Article from the New York Sun, November 21, 1834



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