A display custom of children in the 19th and early 20th centuries, where they arranged flowers, small dolls, dolls’ house furnishings, etc., inside a shoe-box or similar container; adults or other children would be asked to pay a penny, or sometimes only a pin, for the privilege of looking in through a slit in the side. Poppies were not necessarily used; the name may be a misunderstanding of ‘peepshow’. As children carried their boxes through the street, they would chant such rhymes as:A pin to see the poppet showAll manners of colours oh!See the ladies all below!
A recent informant recalls how, as a little girl living in Hove (Sussex) in the 1920s, she would put ferns or beach pebbles on the bottom of a shoe-box, and then flowers and ‘little bits and pieces of coloured glass, feathers, shells—anything to make a pretty pattern’, especially, if possible, ‘coloured paper from a sweet wrapping’. Boys in Norwood (London) at the same period made peepshows in cereal boxes, depicting scenes from stories or nursery rhymes.
Gomme, 1894: 41–2;Irene Saxby, London Lore 1:2 (1978), 19–20.