How did Jewish peddlers keep kosher in 18th century Europe?
I always assumed that they probably didn't, or at least that they kept very minimal standards of kashrut. But the always-excellent historical blog, On the Main Line, has an excerpt from an 1887 book by Israel Solomon, an English Jew who moved later in life to New York. He reminisces:
" . . . in that time (i.e., appr. 1740 - OTML), down to 1830, inns where Jewish travellers rested were to be found in all the roads and towns of England.
The landlord then, especially to gain their custom, kept a cupboard or closet containing cooking utensils entirely for their use, so that they might eat kosher. The landlord kept the cupboard locked and guarded the keys on his own person, and when a Jew used the utensils he saw to the cleaning of them, and before putting them away he wrote with chalk within the bottom of the utensil his name, day of the month, and year, with the portion from the law read on the Sabbath of that week - all in Hebrew.
Some of these hotels were in the centre of populated districts, and the pedlars going the rounds of the district would congregate of a Friday evening at these hotels and stay over Saturday, and on Sunday they trudged again on their laborious rounds.
They generally formed a club and one of the number, who was licensed by the rabbi to slaughter animals, was paid by the club for one day's less of profit from his business to get to the hotel on Friday early enough to kill animal or poultry, purchase fish, etc, and either cook or superintend it that it should be quite kosher by the time the brotherhood came there, and ushered in the Sabbath gladly singing hymns, and after a copious but frugal repast, some Hebrew literature or tales of the past and present were related by one or the other with all the happy freedom allowed to speech in dear old England; although these happy lovers of English soil were not allowed the perfect equity now enjoyed by their children.
The custom, On the Main Line says, probably came via continental Europe.