A gentleman (his name was not reported – possibly to save his embarrassment) came along to the Marlborough Street Police Court in July 1850 to complain that he had been conned. He had been walking along Bond Street when a large notice in a window caught his eye. It declared that ‘£7,500 of foreign merchandise, consisting of India, Turkey, China and French shawls, silks and dresses were to be cleared off in six days, at any sacrifice’.
He rushed off to the venue – the ‘New Exhibition Rooms in Bond Street’ and bought a colourful length of printed material for his wife. However, when he presented her with it she thanked him but laughed. She told him the print (which had been sold to him as ‘colour fast’) was actually ‘composed of devil’s dust* and pigment’ all of which would wash away as soon as the cloth was washed.
The angry gentleman immediately returned to the shop to demand a refund but was ‘abused and pushed out’ on to the street. He came before the magistrate looking for ‘justice’. Unfortunately the magistrate told him there was nothing he could for him, if the gentleman ‘had been taken in’ he would have to go to the County Court instead. So off he went.
- Devil’s dust (according to the OED) is ‘Flock made out of old woolen materials by the machine called a devil; shoddy.’
[from Daily News, Monday, July 29, 1850]