Dating from the early 1900s, this photograph shows four Liverpool rat-catchers employed by the Port Sanitary Authority. What is striking is the smartness of the men. Each is wearing a peaked cap, collar and tie, what looks like an oilskin ‘onesie’ tucked into their leggings, and highly polished boots. The operative on the left is holding a bag of rats whilst his colleagues are holding calipers with which to grip captured rats. They are also wearing strong gloves – they were at a high risk of being bitten and catching disease. On the ground are two rat traps.
Preventing disease from entering the port in ships and in the docks and warehouses was a primary port health concern. Not only could rats cause damage to the enormous amount of food being imported into Liverpool but they could also spread deadly diseases such as the bubonic plague.
Image courtesy of the Wellcome Collection