"Chiiiiiiiiffonnier!" ("Any old rags!") This cry rang out regularly through city streets as recently as the 1960s. This ancient profession—this engraving on wood taken from the collection of Paris street cries Cris de Paris dates from the very end of the Middle Ages—reached its peak in the 19th century, when burgeoning industry became hungry for "raw materials".
J'achepte vieur fer : vieur drapeaur
Aussi la mesnagere sage
En ramassant petis lambeaur
Fait tout servir a son mesnage.
Cris de Paris, vers 1500.
An example of a Paris street cry for rags and scrap metal
Today, the occupation has not gone away, far from it. In spite of the industrialization of waste collection and the introduction of selective sorting, city trashcans are regularly rifled through for the discards of consumer society.