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What was a commission agent?

ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date


Kate Report 13 Aug 2006 13:07

I'm trying to track down the right family in the 1891 census, and wondered what a commission agent was? I've tried Googling but it doesn't seem to help. Thanks!


Heather Report 13 Aug 2006 13:09

Hi, you can always google Old Occupations if you are stumped. This is the result for your chap: Commission Agent Salesman who derives his income solely from commission on sales


Kate Report 13 Aug 2006 13:13

Thank you. I wish it told me what he was selling! It does say 'Em'ee' after Commission Agent, but it says that after lots of occupations.


Heather Report 13 Aug 2006 13:17

Well, that means Employee. Just showing that he isnt self employed. Poor devil, bet it was a hard job selling just for commission then. I always think that commission agent sounds a bit like the man from the Provvie who used to come round to us when I was a kid. Mum would buy clothes and stuff for us and get the money from the Provident Agent to pay for them. Then shed pay him back with interest every week. But I guess anyone selling anything would be called a Commission Agent. Is there no other clues on marriage or death certs?


Kate Report 13 Aug 2006 13:26

No clues on any certs yet I'm afraid. I don't even know if this is the right family I've found yet. They did live next door to a warehouse, don't know if that's connected. Thanks for that occupations link; very comprehensive.

Uncle John

Uncle John Report 13 Aug 2006 17:16

Another meaning for commission agent is an unlicensed bookmaker. Until bookmaking was legalised about ?30 years ago, it was all very hole-in-corner. My dad bought his first (and only) house in 1947 from one such. Being a keen gardener (and having an urgent need to feed his family) he starting digging. Wherever he dug he found heaps of buried betting slips. J


Jools Report 13 Aug 2006 17:41

One of mine was a bookie - he used various euphemisms for this on the census, commision agent being one.

♥Betty Boo from Dundee♥

♥Betty Boo from Dundee♥ Report 13 Aug 2006 19:12

As far as I know a commission agent was someone who didn't receive a wage, they worked on a commission only basis. Many company's still do thing in insurane etc. If they don't get a sale they don't make any money, if they do they maybe get a 20% commission. A Bookie would work for a large betting company on commision only. Betty.


Sheila Report 15 Aug 2006 16:50

Thanks for this. My great great grandad was a bookie according to family tradition but according to the censuses he is a commission agent or a turf commission agent, so I appreciate the clarification. Either way he did OK out of it. I have photo of him in tuxedo looking very prosperous and his grandaughter said that he never paid any income tax, kept his not inconsiderable wealth in sovereigns under the mattress. Sounds good to me. Sheila


margaret Report 28 Jun 2020 12:22

The legalized betting act was I think in 1963. Until them illegal betting activities- back street bookies operated from private houses ect with bookies runners, collecting bets from pubs and such.
It has an interesting history=

The Race course betting was always controlled and came into force very early, the two options didn't mix...

"In 1750, the Jockey Club was formed in Newmarket with a specific brief to bring order to the chaotic world of horse racing. The first set of rules was to be introduced while an overall organisation of the various meetings across the UK was also set up.

Their actions aided the introduction of Tattersalls in 1789 which was a body for the regulation of gambling.
The order brought about by the Jockey Club had seen the introduction of many famous races such as The St Leger, The Oaks and The Derby so while its goal was being achieved, the betting fraternity had become increasingly dysfunctional.

At that point, betting had effectively remained a wager between two people but as demand increased, so did the need for proper facilities. Previously, the majority of races had seen two horses go head to head but with some of the sport’s great ‘classics’ having been born, there were greater fields. The original ‘back and lay’ system had started to become redundant and in the years that followed, bookmaking as we know it finally saw the light of day.

like a number of gambling rulings, the Betting House Act of 1853 was introduced to answer some issues that hadn’t been addressed by previous legislation

The Act didn’t actually outlaw gambling but it ruled that a wager was an unenforceable contract and the subsequent problem was that the losing party simply didn’t have to pay up.
Some bookmakers that were in existence just ran away with clients’ money and it’s largely fair to say that the 1845 act did more harm than good.

In order to take advantage of this new landscape, unlicensed betting shops began to crop up in all places. Private houses saw an opportunity and this was the primary issue that the Betting House Act of 1853 sought to address.

The 1853 ruling made it illegal to use or to provide any property for the use of betting. Once again, it wasn’t perfect as a lot of wagers were suddenly being made on the street but it did deal with those unlicensed houses.

The main benefit of the act saw a limited amount of licensed betting at racetracks around the UK. In Victorian Britain, this proved to be a popular pastime and this was essentially the birth of on track betting which continues to thrive in the present day.


ErikaH Report 28 Jun 2020 12:25

You've added to a 14 year old thread!!!!!!!!!!

Please return to your OWN thread on which you asked for help, which has been provided, and not acknowledged