The arabbers of Baltimore

6 02 2007

Arabber, originally uploaded by mobtownblues.

Fans of the magnificent Homicide: Life on the Street may remember the word “arabber”: derived from Victorian slang, it refers to mobile urban merchants who sell produce from horse-drawn carts. There are still a few left on the streets of Baltimore, although they were once a common sight in eastern American cities. The arabbers, who are usually male and black, travel around the city singing out their wares. The Arabber Preservation Society was formed in 1994 to aid the few who are left, defending them from city officials and animal rights groups who would like to see the trade stamped out.

Their turnout is gorgeous: the wagons are painted bright red and yellow, and the horses wear special “Baltimore harnesses”, black with gold trim, red tassels and red plumes with bell drops.

Further reading:

Arabbers: an endangered species (

The Wanderers’ Songs (Preservation Online)

We Are Arabbers (IMDB; documentary about the arabbers)

The Arabbers of Baltimore (Amazon; book by Roland L. Freeman)

Junkyard and Arabbers (flickr photo set by hot_tea)

An arabber's horse and cart




3 responses

6 02 2007
Horse IQ » A Dying Breed. The Owners, That Is. Not Their Horses.

[…] however, Arabbers are becoming a dying breed. According to Bridlepath, social and economic forces have been at work over the decades to force them out of business, […]

6 02 2007
Sierra Lynch

Thankfully, the Arabber Preservation Society appears to have made some headway to preserve arabbing as a way of life. And in 1996, their Board of Directors approved an equine veterinary assistance for the Arabbers’ horses. They even established an emergency fund to come to the aid of the horses who need medical attention in a pinch.

They even established a farrier assistance and apprenticeship program. This helps the Arabbers with their horseshoeing needs and also gives on-the-job-training for young farriers at the same time. This is a true win-win situation. Very nice to see.

Sierra Lynch
Horse IQ

12 08 2007
The end of an era? « Bridlepath

[…] The arabbers of Baltimore […]

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