This image was published in John Thomson?s `Street Life in London? of 1877, which describes the hard lives of the city?s labourers. In his book, Thomson explains how the independent shoe-blacks are treated differently from the organised groups, or `boot-black brigades?: `An independent boot-black who has not secured a licence - for which, by the way, he must pay five shillings a year when, if ever, he does obtain it - is severely handled by the police. They will not allow him to stand in one place. If he deposits his box on the pavement, the policeman will kick it out in the street? the independent boot-black must be always on the move, carrying his box on his shoulders, and only putting it down when he has secured a customer.?