Street traders

Street traders, historically referred to as hawkers, add to the colour and character of a city. The City of Adelaide Archives Collection holds a considerable amount of records relating to them. 

Administrative history

Historically, street traders' licenses were administered under the provisions of the Licensed Hawkers Act of 1863, which empowered local government authorities to make by-laws for licensing traders and to set fees and conditions under which they operated.

The first such by-law was passed by the  Adelaide City Council on 7 December 1868 (By-Law No. 46 To Provide for the Licensing of Hawkers Trading within the City of Adelaide). It proved difficult to implement however, due to an anomaly in the 1863 Act which stipulated that Hawkers' Licenses were not needed for selling certain kinds of goods - including fish, food, fruit and vegetables (Section 18 of Act No. 4 of 1863). An amended Hawkers Act of 1898 failed to rectify this situation. It was not until 25th November 1915, that the Council was able to introduce a new by-law, framed under the Municipal Corporation’s Act Amendment Act of 1914, which provided for the licensing of all street traders and which fixed the size and location of their stands (By-Law No. XXXIII "In respect of street hawkers and itinerant traders").

During 1979-80, the Legislation, Properties and General Committee conducted a review and revision of the Corporation’s traffic and streets by-laws. As a result By-Law No. XXXIII was repealed by Council on 24 March 1980. It was replaced by By-Law No.10 - Street Traders. You can see a copy on pages 592 to 600 of the 1979-80 Council Digest of Proceedings.

Archival records

The City Archives holds several series of records relating to street traders. Among the most useful of these are:

Reference: Adelaide City Archives. Town Clerk's Department (ClS) Annual Reports (S21).

Annual Reports present a complete summary of the activities of the Corporation from one municipal year to the next. City Archives contain Annual Reports from 1878 until the present day. They are printed, bound and indexed. 
Note: Annual Reports were known as Mayors' Reports before 1900.

The Annual Reports can be used to trace the policies of the Council in dealing with street traders. Most relevant are the sections by the City Inspector and Licensing Officer, who was directly responsible for enforcing the Councils street trading by-law. This section was added from the late 1870s. 

Every year his report included details of the number of traders' licences issued and revoked. It showed the number and location of stands allocated to vendors and newspaper kiosks in the principal street of the city. The reports also records details of offences and prosecutions committed under the street trading by-law.

Reference: Adelaide City Archives. Town Clerk's Department (ClS) Digests of Proceedings (S35).

These annual volumes date from 1871 and are records of the business of the Adelaide City Council. They contain the minutes of Council and reports of Committees, including the Parliamentary and By-Laws Committee which was responsible for determining Council policies towards the licensing of street traders within the precinct.

The Digests were printed and bound and indexed from 1891. Indexes for earlier volumes (1871 to 1880) have been prepared by Archives staff, while several original handwritten indexes exist for some years before 1891.

The Digests also provide references to two other major record series, the Town Clerk's Dockets and Special Files, which can contain much more detailed information about a particular subject.
You'll find further information about these records below.

Reference: Adelaide City Archives. City Inspector's Office (C54.) Index of Licences Issued (S_) Accession 5629ITEM0001:01

This lists licences issued 1913 to 1939 for the following:

  • restaurants and coffee stalls 
  • chimney sweeps
  • explosives and fireworks 
  • hide and skin stores
  • horse and carriage bazaars
  • lodging houses
  • private hospitals
  • public entertainment 
  • boating 
  • municipal golf links subscription fees.

It also includes references to corresponding Town Clerk’s correspondence docket numbers.

Reference: Adelaide City Archives. City Inspector's Office (C54.) Registers of Licences (S_) Accessions 671 and 1875.

  • Licence registers volumes date from 1888 to 1952, although there are some gaps. They show: 
  • names and addresses of licensed hawkers trading in the city
  • type and location of their street stands
  • licence number and fee paid 
  • whether the licence was reissued or transferred. 

Details of news vendors, coffee stallholders, shoe shine stands and hawkers' assistants are also given for some years.

Reference: Adelaide City Archives. Town Clerks Department (Cl5) Town Clerks Dockets (S3).

The Town Clerks dockets were the Corporation's main administrative series of correspondence records for most of its existence. Records date from 1865 to 1976 and contain incoming correspondence received by the Town Clerk's Office. This included applications for street traders' licences.

By the turn of the century the Dockets had become more voluminous, with copies of replies and other material relating to the particular matter being attached to them. This included reports and opinions relating to the administration of street trading and the renewal of licences, along with copies of Council decisions, newspaper clippings and other relevant material.

For your convenience we've compiled a list of some of the Town Clerks Dockets which deal with street traders. Note this is only a very small sample of the Dockets relating to this subject. 

Other Dockets may be identified by means of the Digest of Proceedings, or the Register of Town Clerk s Letters Received (Accession 4182) and the Index to Town Clerk’s Letters Received (Accession 4183).

Reference: Adelaide City Archives.Town Clerks Department (Cl5) Town Clerks Special Files (S4).

The special files were created for matters of major importance which required ongoing attention. Files were usually made up initially of Town Clerk's Dockets, but also contained reports, correspondence, newspaper clippings and extracts from the Digests of Proceedings relating to the particular subject. The series dates from about 1905.

The following special files contain information relating to street trader activities in the city:

  • Special File No. 27 parts A-C Street Hawkers 1898-1918. Contains correspondence, reports and other papers relating to the occupancy and use of street stands and the licensing of street traders.
  • Special File No. 139 News vendors. Consists of newspaper clippings relating to news vendor stands within the city, dated 1927.
  • Special File No. 201 Fruit Stands. Correspondence and other papers about fruit barrows in the principal city streets during the 1930s.  The file includes lists of stands, locations, names of proprietors and fees paid.
  • Special File No. 403 Parts A-E Street Hawkers Stands 1945-1960. Material on these files concerns mainly newspaper kiosks, including papers relating to the renewal of licences, transfer of stands and schedules of fees.

Need more information?

For further information and assistance please contact the friendly staff at the City of Adelaide Archives Office:

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