Pearly King jacket decorated with pearl buttons; 1901-1940

Pearly King jacket decorated with pearl buttons; 1901-1940

Henry Bliss

© Museum of London

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Pearly King jacket decorated with pearl buttons. The suit, comprising of a jacket, waistcoat, trousers, tie and braces was worn by Henry Bliss, Pearly King of Islington. On the back of the jacket is written in buttons 'Pearly King of Islington'.
Pearly Kings evolved from the costermongers, tough market traders who decorated their battered work clothing with pearly flashes.
In 1875 the road sweeper and rat catcher Henry Croft took this a stage further and smothered an old dress suit and top hat in patterns of pearl that he found discarded in the street. His decoration incorporated patterns, symbols & slogans including ‘All for Charity’. Henry was influenced by the costers ‘brotherly’ and charitable attitude to each other. Costers working in each London borough nominated a King & Queen family to represent their rights and to raise funds for those who had fallen on hard time. Henry joined the costers on their hospital fund raising parades and carnivals. Soon all the Coster families adopted his idea of smothering their clothes in pearlies to attract greater funds for their charities.
1901 AD - 1901 AD
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