Commercial Street, London, E1. Photo ©RogerDean 2014
Street Life in London – J.Thomson and Adolphe Smith, 1877:
Apart from the legitimate bill-sticking on hoardings for which rent is paid, there is also another and special branch of work called “fly-pasting,” and this is practised principally in the summer. It consists of sending men out to certain distances, either on foot or with a cart and van, to post bills indiscriminately wherever they can find a convenient spot which is not let to, and reserved by a contractor.
The road selected generally leads to a racecourse, or to some other great rendezvous. Now the road to the university boat-race is the scene of extraordinary activity on the part of the bill-stickers. They often start at two in the morning on the day of the race and paste their bills up all along the road. But rival bill-stickers soon make their appearance, and the paste of one bill is hardly dry before another one is daubed over it. Thus the contractors have to send out a fresh batch of men a few hours later to paste each other out. For instance, a firm in Soho assured me that they sent out men on the boat-race day at two in the morning, then at six o’clock, again at eight, and finally at ten, with orders to paste their bills over all other advertisements.