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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Gipsies don't grind their music


settled in Pennsylvania and

Maryland, where they own farms. Some of them leave their farms in charge of hired hands, during the summer, and proceed South with their tents. In the State of Pennsylvania, there is a settlement of them, on the J---- river, a little way above H----, where they have saw-mills. About the Alleghany Mountains, there are many of the tribe, following somewhat the original ways of the race. In the United States generally, there are many Gipsy peddlers, British as well as continental. There are a good many Gipsies in New York--English, Irish, and continental--some of whom keep tin, crockery, and basket stores; but these are all mixed Gipsies, and many of them of fair complexion. The tin-ware which they make is generally of a plain, coarse kind; so much so, that a Gipsy tin store is easily known. They frequently exhibit their tin-ware and baskets on the streets, and carry them about the city. Almost all, if not all, of those itinerant cutlers and tinkers, to be met with in New York, and other American cities, are Gipsies, principally German, Hungarian, and French. There are a good many Gipsy musicians in America. "What!" said I, to an English Gipsy, "those organ-grinders?" "Nothing so low as that. Gipsies don't _grind_ their music, sir; they _make_ it." But I found in his house, when occupied by other Gipsies, a _hurdy-gurdy_ and tambourine; so that Gipsies sometimes _grind_ music, as well as _make_ it. I know of a Hungarian Gipsy who is leader of a Negro musical band, in the city of
New York; his brother drives one of the Avenue cars. There are a number of Gipsy musicians in Baltimore, who play at parties, and on other occasions. Some of the fortune-telling Gipsy women about New York will make as much as forty dollars a week in that line of business. They generally live a little way out of the city, into which they ride, in the morning, to their places of business. I know of one, who resides in New Jersey, opposite New York, and who has a place in the city, to which ladies, that is, females of the highest classes, address their cards, for her to call upon them. When she gets a chance of a young fellow with his female friend, she "puts the screws on;" for she knows well that he dare not "back out;" so she frequently manages to squeeze five dollars out of him.

Many hundred, perhaps several thousand, of English tented, and partly tented Gipsies, have arrived in America within the last ten years. They, for the most part, travel, and have travelled every State in the Union, east of the Rocky Mountains, as well as the British Provinces, as horse-dealers, peddlers, doctors, exhibitors, fortune-tellers, and _tramps_ generally. Such English Gipsies, above all men in America, may, with the greatest propriety, say,

"No pent-up Utica contracts our powers, But the whole boundless continent is ours."

The fortune-tellers, every time they set out on their peregrinations, choose a new route; for they say it is more difficult to go over the same ground in America, than it is in England. The horse-dealers say that Jonathan is a good judge of a horse; that sometimes they get the advantage of him, and sometimes he of them; but that his demand for a warranty sometimes bothers them a deal. "What then?" I asked. "Well, we give him a warranty; and should the beast _happen_ to turn out wrong, let him catch us if he can!" It is really astonishing how sensibly these English Gipsies talk of American affairs generally; they are very discriminating in their remarks, and wonderfully observant of places and localities. They do not like the Negroes. In their society they drop the name of king, and adopt that of president. "Cunning fellows," said I, "to eschew the name of king, and look down upon Negroes. That will do, in America!"


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