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A huckster is anyone who sells something or serves biased interests, using pushy or showy tactics. Historically, the term meant any type of peddler or vendor, but over time it has assumed pejorative connotations.
In Scotland, the term "huckster" referred to a person, usually a woman, who bought goods, watered them down, and resold them in tiny quantity to others who were too poor to buy quality products available at market value. These items tended to be in the poorer quality range, since economy was paramount. Scots burghs often felt the need to control hucksters because they operated without a stall, on the economic fringes. In particular, they were subject of accusations of forestalling, in this case the practice of buying goods wholesale, "before the stall" and therefore before tax was paid.
In England and Europe during the medieval period, the term "huckster" was synonymous with peddler. Hucksters and peddlers belonged to a broad group of resellers who purchased surplus stocks from weekly provincial markets and fairs and then resold them at larger daily markets or engaged in door-to-door selling.
As time passed, the distinction between hucksters and peddlers became more pronounced. During the medieval period, the term "huckster" came to refer to market-based food vendors, while peddlers referred to itinerant vendors of a wide range of merchandise. Hucksters were often women who dealt in low-priced goods such as meat, poultry, dairy, bread and baked goods, including pies and pastries. They sourced raw materials from their own holdings or purchased goods from other sellers and carried their products to the market place in baskets or on their heads. These women either lived in the market town or travelled into the market place from the surrounding area. Hucksters were at the bottom of the market hierarchy, both in terms of wealth and status, since they made only small returns.
In Philadelphia, in the early 1900's, hucksters were seen as primarily men who came around with carts, horse or hand-drawn, of fresh produce. They made their presence known by crying out loud what they had to offer. In earlier Philadelphia dialect, to say "like a huckster" meant to be too loud in one's speech.
In the novel "The Black Stallion" by Walter Farley, the supporting character Tony is described as a huckster, in the sense that he works as a vegetable salesman in New York City's smaller streets, selling from a horse-drawn cart.
c. 1200, "petty merchant, peddler" (often contemptuous), from Middle Dutch hokester "peddler," from hoken "to peddle" (see hawk (v.1)) + agent suffix -ster (which was typically feminine in English, but not in Low German). Specific sense of "advertising salesman" is from 1946 novel by Frederick Wakeman. As a verb from 1590s. Related: Huckstered; huckstering.
One evening the student came into the shop through the back door to buy candles and cheese for himself, he had no one to send, and therefore he came himself; he obtained what he wished, and then the huckster and his wife nodded good evening to him, and she was a woman who could do more than merely nod, for she had usually plenty to say for herself. The student nodded in return as he turned to leave, then suddenly stopped, and began reading the piece of paper in which the cheese was wrapped. It was a leaf torn out of an old book, a book that ought not to have been torn up, for it was full of poetry.
There he stood on the old landing, with the autumn wind blowing down upon him through the trap-door. It was very cold; but the little creature did not really feel it, till the light in the garret went out, and the tones of music died away. Then how he shivered, and crept down stairs again to his warm corner, where it felt home-like and comfortable. And when Christmas came again, and brought the dish of jam and the great lump of butter, he liked the huckster best of all.
He told me the story of his start in the produce busines