Traveling Salesman

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A Traveling Salesman is an older character type that sometimes overlaps with the Snake Oil Salesman. Typically, the traveling salesman is well-dressed and has some aspects of the Intrepid Merchant to his character, or he may be more of an Honest John-type of fellow.

As the numerous jokes linking his type to the Farmer's Daughter suggest, he might be a somewhat lecherous character, because being always on the move isn't conducive to carrying on lasting relationships.

A British term for the profession is a "busman", and this is the origin of the term Busman's Holiday. Not to be confused with Traveling Salesman Montage. Lends its name to the Travelling salesman problem, a classic task in which one must compute the shortest route between a number of arbitrary points.

Examples of Traveling Salesman include:




  • Harold Hill of The Music Man is a Snake Oil Salesman who fits the lecherous part of the trope (until he becomes a Ladykiller in Love). Other traveling salesmen (including the villain, the anvil-toting Charlie Cowell) hate Harold for giving their profession a bad name, because when they visit towns Hill has just left, the populace generally assume they are con artists as well and give them a less than welcoming reception (read: tar and feather them).
  • Ali Hakim, the peddler in Oklahoma!.
  • Paris in The Golden Apple travels by balloon.
  • Willy Loman, the eponymous character of Death of a Salesman.

Newspaper Comics

  • In Blondie, Dagwood had to deal with traveling salesmen as recently as the 1980s.

Western Animation

  • Daffy Duck played one in "The Stupor Salesman".
  • The Flim Flam Brothers from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. It's implied that they travel from town to town to sell their products (in this case, a giant cider-making machine on wheels). In an interesting subversion, it's also implied that they tend to simply stay in town for as long as they can exploit it, rather than migrating constantly, as indicated by their desire to either work with Sweet Apple Acres (in a rather predatory manner) or put it out of business and take over the local cider market (in a similarly predatory manner).