The squeegee man who washes your windshield and demands a tip is engaging in an old tradition.
“Have a light, Sir?”
It is a small boy, smutty-faced and keen-eyed, who says it as he steps up with a flaming match in hand — a light for your cigar or cigarette when you come through the theatre entrance.
No, the youngster is not interested personally in your comfort. In fact, he doesn’t care a rap whether you get the light or not — except that it comes from him. He expects a “tip” for his effort. It is simply one of the first steps in the “hold-up” game that runs riot in Manhattan.
One small urchin — he wasn’t over a dozen years old — told a Times reporter that he “pulled down” about $10 a week at the apparently simple match-lighting stunt.
THE HOLD-UP GAME AS NEW YORK’S TIP-HUNTING CORMORANTS PLAY IT: How People in This City Are Forced to Spend Money for Needless and Worthless Services (PDF)
From July 9, 1911