Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bagman n.

[SE bag, whether of samples or possessions]

1. (also bagsman, bagster) a commercial traveller.

G. Gambado Academy for Grown Horsemen 26: By a man of business, is not meant a Lord of the Treasury or a Commissioner of Accounts, but what is called on the road, a rider, a bagman or bagster.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Dec. III 145/2: It is a common trick played upon bagsters [...] when they are not generous enough to the servants in the inn.
[UK]‘Peter Pindar’ ‘Peep at the Academy’ Works V (1812) 360: The Bag-men, as they travel by Survey it with a raptured eye.
[UK]T.L. Peacock Headlong Hall (1816) 3: In later days, when the commercial bagsmen began to scour the country.
[UK]R. Barham ‘The Bagman’s Dog’ in Ingoldsby Legends (1840) 319: There were a score / Of Bagmen and more, / Who had travell’d full oft for the firm before.
[UK]Thackeray Paris Sketch Book I 53: ‘Pogson is a commercial traveller.’ [...] ‘A bagman, sir! and what right has a bagman to gamble!’.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Handley Cross (1854) 133: It is a common trick played upon bagsters [...] when they are not generous to the servants at the inn.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 4 Oct. 3/4: [headline] The bagman Bagged [...] Albert Cooper, Esq., formerly a commercial traveller [etc.].
[UK]J.E. Ritchie Night Side of London 221: Gents and bagsmen on their way home from the city.
[UK]Empire (Sydney) 27 July 5/5: ‘A Botany Bay Bagman’ / Says they, with lots of cash / We saw on Epsom Course / A coming of it flash.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Facey Romford’s Hounds 31: At first he thought Facey was a bagman — we beg pardon, representative of a commercial establishment.
[US]Night Side of N.Y. 11: She goes on bewitching and befoozling these English sports – dukes or bagmen.
[UK]Glasgow Herald 10 Oct. 2/4: Such views are the views of a Bagman, sweet Bob.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 306: He is very apt to become a drummer, an agent of other houses of commerce, represented in England by the ‘touting bagsman,’ or the more ambitious ‘commercial gent.’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Feb. 20/1: Having seen to his horses, and fixed up his kit, the bagman requested the landlord to show him where the bath-room was.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Coming Across’ in Roderick (1972) 184: The bagman told the steward that he could not compliment him on the quality of his liquor.
[UK]E. Pugh Man of Straw 334: Soon there entered a man of a different calibre – a lively, voluble bagman, travelling with liqueurs.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 21 July 11/4: A bagman distilled poison into her ear, and the poison worked so that she eloped with him to a convenient watering-place much used for that purpose.
[UK]C. Holme Lonely Plough (1931) 105: From Brack it smacked of the travelling bagman.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 321: And his old fellow before him perpetrating frauds, old Methusalem Bloom, the robbing bagman.
[Aus]N. Lindsay Age Of Consent 14: The bagman alone talked, guzzling rapidly in order to gabble while guzzling.
[Aus]Worker (Brisbane) 15 Apr. 15/3: [headline] Flying Bagman. Britain’s first flying commercial traveller is a washing machine salesman.
[UK]S. Hanna Bell December Bride 53: Come in, son, and don’t stand there like a bagman.
[Ire]J. Morrow Confessions of Proinsias O’Toole 68: The Isle of Man has been invaded by a legion of Pakistani bag-men.
[US]J. Ellroy ‘Gravy Train’ in Pronzini & Adrian Hard-Boiled (1995) 490: Big guys with that hinky look indigenous to bagmen worldwide.

2. a second-hand clothes street dealer.

H. Neuman New Dict. of Spanish and Eng. Langs I n.p.: Andrajéro, sm. Bagman, who deals in old clothes.
[UK]J. Greenwood Low-Life Deeps 72: These places are resorted to by dealers only – those who collect old wearing apparel – the ‘bagmen’ who are of the lingering race of London street criers.

3. (Aus. und.) a sneak-thief.

[Aus]Mercury (Hobart) 15 Aug. 3/4: As a ‘sneak-thief’ or ‘bagman,’ I should convict him by his face; the same indictment would make me acquit him instantly of assassination.

4. (Aus./US) one who collects or administers the collection of money obtained by various criminal activities [bag n.1 (2c)].

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 22 Dec. 11/1: It is getting an evil repute as a hanger-on at the gates of the affluent and weak-minded persons whose property it grabs [...]. The [Salvation] Army, in short, has grown to be a Great Ecclesiastical Bagman of the most sordid and baggy order, and a diseased and snuffling autocracy.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks n.p.: Bagman, a bill collector.
[US]J.D. Horan Blue Messiah 317: You can select your own bagman [...] but I want to make a tour with him. I want to know everybody we’re paying.
[US]J.B. Rubinstein City Police 374: The ‘fixer’ and the ‘bagman’ became established fixtures in the police stations and courthouses.
[US]V.E. Smith Jones Men 91: The bag man gotta damn near carry two or three bodyguards with him.
[US](con. 1964–73) W. Terry Bloods (1985) 76: I was the bag man. They allowed me to carry the money because of my temperament.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Real Thing 10: The painters’ and dockers’ union used them for bagmen.
[Aus]Tupper & Wortley Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. [Internet] Bagman. A corrupt official who actually collects bribes, etc. from criminals. Thus one who acts in an intermediary role.
[US]N.Y. Times 2 Nov. sect. 6 26: A bagman, in underworld parlance, is ‘one who carries the boodle, or money, from the beneficiary of a corrupt deal to the grafter.’.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 10 Nov. 6: His friends are his fellow hoods – gunmen, bagmen, bank-rollers.
[US]Mad mag. Sept. 27: Alcoholics, sexaholics, drug abusers and Mafia bagmen.
[UK]Vanity Fair 16 Mar. [Internet] Bill Lincoln was nobody’s idea of the ideal bagman. He suffered from incontinence, sleep apnea, and a recent double hip replacement.
[UK]V. McDermid Out of Bounds (2017) 40: Sometimes she wished for a bagman with a few more functioning synapses.

5. (Aus.) a bookmaker [bag n.1 (2)].

[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 1 June 4/6: He is an unregistered bookmaker [...] the aforesaid Burswood bagman.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 12 Aug. 4s/7: A well-known ex-member of the A.I.F. [...] has booked a couple of small bets with a bagman.
[Aus]Mercury (Hobart, Tas.) 30 Jan. 6/8: He buttonholed the ‘bookie’ just as the race was about to start, and the ever-obliging bagman relieved him of another note.
[Aus]Western Mail (Perth) 3 Oct. 8/1: The bagman appriasing Joe as a despised ‘two-bob’ punter, consulted his race-book.
[Aus]T.A.G. Hungerford Riverslake 98: If I meet any bagmen on the way, I’ll tell ’em where to come.
[Aus]J. Holledge Great Aus. Gamble 140: At the end of the day Mr. Wilson, who had kept betting and doubling up, had accumulated liabilities of £2000 with the bagman.
G. Sweeney Plunge 173: They will want specimen original signatures of the bagmen.
‘Crackers Keenan’ Australia’s Funniest Racing Yarns (2003) 113: One thing about the bagmen, they’ll always tell you when they’ve lost.
[Aus]T. Peacock More You Bet 14: His father Bill who [...] ‘carried the bag’, or who ‘swung the bag’, or who ‘slung the bag’ and this bag was known as the ‘bookie’s bag’ [...] was referred to as the ‘bagman’.

6. (Aus.) a tramp who travels on horseback; thus bagman’s leg, the loss of a leg through falling under rolling stock; bagman’s union, the brotherhood of travellers.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 15 Dec. 30/4: A muster was called, and it was found that there were 26 genuine bagmen and four strangers who were waiting for work in the vicinity.
[Aus]Morn. Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld) 7 Apr. 8/6: A bagman [...] had his eye on that particular van with a view to ‘jumping the rattler’.
[Aus]Morn. Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld) 25 June 12/3: A bagman with a cigarette swag (50 per cent hessian).
[Aus]‘The Dying Bagman’ in Seal (1999) 96: A strapping young bagman lay dying / His nosebag supporting his head.
[Aus]R. Park Poor Man’s Orange 267: Knocking around the bush with a half-crazy bagman.
[NZ]G. Meek ‘Station Days in Maoriland’ in Station Days in Maoriland 10: We rarely heard a bagman’s tale – the saddle made him sore, / But nowadays, by farmer’s dogs, he’s hunted from the door.
[Aus]F.J. Hardy Yarns of Billy Borker 48: Sundowners never pay fares. It’s against the rules of the Bagmen’s Union.
[Aus]K. Willey Boss Drover 48: They drifted on, like all bagmen did, and I never heard of either of them again.
[Aus]D. Ireland Glass Canoe (1982) 193: I’ll lounge about in the heat of the day / Chat with bagmen that come my way.

7. (orig. US) a messenger, a go-between, esp. one who conveys a bribe from the one who offers it to the one who accepts.

[US](con. 1920s) ‘Harry Grey’ Hoods (1953) 297: They were bag men for themselves and higher-ups.
[US]‘Ed Lacy’ Lead With Your Left (1958) 63: I’m not the captain’s bagman.
[US](con. 1949) J.G. Dunne True Confessions (1979) 162: When you were running whores [...] I was your bagman in Wilshire Vice. I did the payoffs.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 33: ‘Bagman’ is a colloquialism I find offensive, lad. ‘Reciprocity of friendship’ is a more suitable phrase [...] but money is at the root of Mr. Loew’s request.
[US](con. 1964–8) J. Ellroy Cold Six Thousand 20: Ruby: Bagman/pimp/Littell’s old snitch/ strip-club entrepre—.
[US]D. Winslow Winter of Frankie Machine (2007) 107: I was the bagman. I brought cash to a cop. He was undercover.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 174: Backhanders [...] lawyers working as bag-men, corrupt bankers.
[US]D. Winslow The Force [ebook] Usually one cop from every precinct was the bagman—he’d collect the payoff and distribute it out to his fellow officers.

8. a major narcotics dealer, i.e. one who has ‘the bag’ [bag n.1 (6b)].

[US]C. Cooper Jr Scene (1996) 266: Thoroughbred! Champ! Mackman! Bagman! No man!
[US]W. King ‘The Game’ in King Black Short Story Anthol. (1972) 308: When a cat gives a bagman dough, he loses everything if the bagman gets copped.
[US]J. Webb Fields of Fire (1980) 25: Addicts in their twos and threes [...] scratching and sniffing, searching for the bag man.
[US]C. Hiaasen Strip Tease 137: Garcia said his official title was Executive Assistant [...] ‘Bagman too, according to the rumors.’.
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 2: Bag man — [...] a person who supplies narcotics or other drugs, a pusher.

9. (Aus. Und.) in a shoplifting team, the person who actually takes the targeted object.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 26 Apr. 45: Another time when we all worked London, he kinged a floorwalker just to let the bagman off the hook.

10. (orig. US) in fig. use of sense 5, an employee, a menial, esp. one who takes the blame for the decisions and activities of their employer.

[US]C. Hiaasen Strip Tease 6: ‘No fucking way,’ said the bagman.
[Aus]S. Maloney Big Ask 23: His true function was that of Howard’s bag man [...] and general gofer.

In compounds

bagman’s gazette, the (n.)

1. (Aus.) the Worker newspaper.

[Aus]Western Champion (Barcaldine, Qld) 1 May 8/1: [They] have never had a chance of seeing any other paper but the Worker, commonly called the ‘Bagman’s Gazette’ amongst them.

2. (Aus.) gossip and rumour, reified as an imaginary ‘newspaper’ and 'distributed’ by travelling salesmen.

Wellington Times (NSW) 30 Aug. 2/3: According to the ‘Bagman’s Gazette’ good rain fell all over the district.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 26 Dec. 16/2: The town gets a black mark in the Bagman’s Gazette, and sends others to blew their cheque in Sydney, ‘where a man can bash the old woman cheaper.’ The irony of it all is that the ‘dinkum’ tramp – the ubiquitous, useless beer-sparrer and borrower of threepenny-bits – never becomes over-joyful, fightable or voluble.
[Aus]Queenslander (Brisbane) 11 Aug. 11/2: The news would be collected mostly by ‘bagmen,’ and distributed free gratis, with a little bit of embellishment, and that is how the mythical newspaper, the ‘Bagman's Gazette,’ came into renown. A bagman [...] would gather enough news to fill an ordinary newspaper about shearing tallies, droving camps, [...] deaths of old identities, marriage of some popular man or woman, racing news, boxing news, and last, but not least, that some old bush identity [...] had won a big stake [...] playing two-up.
[Aus]Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld) 1 Apr. 3/3: The ‘Bagman’s Gazette,’ a journal that could be relied upon for the latest and most trustworthy In formation.
[Aus]Advertiser (Adelaide) 19 May 4/3: The chief medium of transmission is still the mythical ‘Bagman’s Gazette,’ an intangible publication circulating constantly through the outback, its ‘news’ being shaped and reshaped to such an extent that it soon loses whatever relation it originally possessed to the actual truth.
Longreach Leader (Qld) 7 Mar. 14/2: ‘It come be Mulga Wire an’ th’ Bagman’s Gazette. Jerry didn’t get pas’ th’ township of Meetucka’.
[UK]H.G. Lamond Towser the Sheep Dog 267: Bagman’s Gazette: A fictional newspaper by which news is passed up and down the river or stock route.