Green’s Dictionary of Slang

grubber n.1

[SE grub v./grub n.1 (2); note Yid. grobber, a coarse or rude person]

1. a beggar [grub v.1 (3)].

[UK]G. Stevens ‘The Portrait’ in Songs Comic and Satyrical 202: A Grubber in Kennels for old Iron seeks.
[UK]J.T. Smith Vagabondiana 44: These grubbers now and then find rings that have been drawn off with the gloves.
Maryville Times (TN) 29 June 1/5: In our cities there are a great many cigarette-grubbers [...] boys and girls who scour the streets in search of half-burnt cigars and stumps.
[US]Number 1500 Life In Sing Sing 249: Grubber. A beggar.
[US]Appleton Post-Crescent (WI) 4 May 9/4: Flapper Dictionary grubber – One who is always borrowing cigarets.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 407: Grubber. Mendicant.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 87/1: Grubber. One who grubs [i.e. scrounges, begs].

2. (UK tramp) an itinerant mender of old hats.

[UK]Paul Pry 5 Mar. 4/2: W—m D—s, the running grubber to the sheriffs of Surrey and Middlesex, to attend a little more to his duties.
[UK]Yorks. Eve. Post 15 Apr. 1/7: The [...] variety of occupations adopted by tramps is enormous [...] The ‘grubber’ [...] renovates old hats.

3. work, presumably legitimate.

[UK]Chelmsford Chron. 21 Feb. 7/4: The hawkers [...] did a little bit of ‘grubber’ (work) and roamed about doing a bit of ‘gagging’ (begging) .

4. a vagrants’ casual night shelter or workhouse.

Derbys. Advertiser 2 Dec. 25/4: Derby casual or vagrant ward is known to the tramp as a [...] ‘derrick,’ or a ‘grubber’.
[UK]M. Marshall Tramp-Royal on the Toby 174: Class war in the grubber, Mac; can you beat it!
[US]W.A. Gape Half a Million Tramps 137: I [...] asked a policeman the way to the spike. ‘You mean the “Grubber,‘ don’t you?’ he answered.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 509/1: since late 19C.

5. (US) a disgusting person.

[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 179: He could not be expected to know a Grubber of the Middle Class.
[US]P. Kendall Dict. Service Sl. n.p.: grubber . . . lowest ranks in the army.
[US]G. Underwood ‘Razorback Sl.’ in AS L:1/2 60: grubern Person considered to be disgusting.

6. (US) a working man [note also grub along under grub v.2 ].

[US]J. Conroy World to Win 161: Alan said that prosaic grubbers knew nothing of the divine madness of poets and dreamers.

7. see nail groper under nail n.1