Mary Smith earned sixpence a week shooting dried peas at sleeping workers windows.
A Knocker-up (sometimes known as a knocker-upper) was a profession in England and Ireland that started during and lasted well into the Industrial Revolution and at least as late as the 1920s, before alarm clocks were affordable or reliable. A knocker-up’s job was to rouse sleeping people so they could get to work on time.
The knocker-up used a truncheon or short, heavy stick to knock on the clients’ doors or a long and light stick, often made of bamboo, to reach windows on higher floors. Some of them used pea-shooters. In return, the knocker-up would be paid a few pence a week. The knocker-up would not leave a client’s window until sure that the client had been awoken.
There were large numbers of people carrying out the job, especially in larger industrial towns such as Manchester. Generally the job was carried out by elderly men and women but sometimes police constables supplemented their pay by performing the task during early morning patrols.
Photograph from Philip Davies’ Lost London: 1870 - 1945.
During the Jack the Ripper murders many letters were received by the police including people investigating the murders independently and those claiming to be Jack the Ripper. Here are two examples of people claiming to be Jack the Ripper with very different hand writing. The one on the left is dated October 1888 while the second is not dated. Both letters state that there will be another murder and that they will not be found. The question is why would multiple people write in as Jack the Ripper, and were any of them really Jack the Ripper?
Both letters from Nineteenth Century Collections Online