Have you ever pondered what individuals did for a living in the past? Your grandparents probably have stories to tell you about the most bizarre odd occupations that were once commonplace before technology took over. Check out the following weird jobs from the past that don’t appear to exist anymore if you’re interested in learning what they were.
The employment associated with coal mining is already starting to go extinct, according to the most recent ABS statistics. It’s expected that over the next several decades, green employment like solar panel installers and wind turbine technicians will largely replace those in the fossil fuel industry (among others).
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We thought we’d look at some more now-extinct occupations as a warning to our lawmakers and everyone else about how rapidly jobs may vanish when technology changes:
We may be the most difficult weird job on this list for you to comprehend. Ratteners were those who worked capturing rats, frequently by hand. People used to play with rats back then as amusement at neighborhood taverns.
This was typical throughout the Victorian era, and dogs would frequently devour the rats as fun. This method became well-liked when the black plague epidemic started in order to slow the disease’s spread.
If you’ve seen the well-known Disney film Frozen, you undoubtedly have a fair sense of what this profession entails. Professional ice-cutters had it big in the 1800s or thereabouts. Their primary responsibility was to cut ice, but it’s not as simple as it would seem.
“Ice-men” were in charge of assisting people in storing their food during severe weather, from daily hand-carving of large blocks of ice to even delivering the items. However, shortly as refrigerators were invented, this taxing job was rendered redundant.
3. Switchboard Operator
Switchboard operators were utilized by businesses to connect incoming calls prior to the 1960s.
Women first entered the profession in switchboard operations because their “courteous demeanor” was seen to be more suited for this kind of position. Sadly, because they could be paid far less, they were also viewed as better workers.
The sight of a “milkman” was one of the most frequent scenes that used to occur in the early mornings in the 1950s and 1960s. High-spirited milkmen used to carry fresh dairy to houses’ front doors in jugs and other jars and bottles while scouting mostly the suburbs.
If you were lucky, you could even occasionally discover additional cooking and household necessities delivered right to your doorsteps. The development of refrigerators, however, signaled the end of milkmen and their tenacious line of work.
5. Scissors grinders
Scissors grinders would use an abrasive wheel to sharpen scissors, knives, or other instruments, and would frequently perform the service door to door. By the 1970s, the procedure was no longer used since most individuals discovered that purchasing new tools was quicker and more cost-effective than sharpening their old ones. Because of the sound they make, cicadas are sometimes referred to as “scissor grinders” by certain people.
6. Elevator Operator
For those of us in Generation Z, this might sound strange, but elevator operators existed in the past. In fact, hotels and other significant buildings with a lot of daily visitors used to pay personnel particularly to run the elevators in the 1950s.
The previous elevators’ complexity, which guests evidently didn’t want to use, is the major cause of this. But as time passed, automatic elevators appeared, replacing these operators.
7. Food Taster
Ancient Egypt and ancient Rome were the first civilizations to employ someone to taste the meal for a member of a royal family or an important person to make sure it wasn’t poisoned. People can be poisoned with a variety of substances, but only cyanide can kill them in a matter of minutes. Most royals didn’t want to wait days before eating a meal to see whether the food taster would become ill because some poisons take time to manifest their effects.
8. Human Pinsetters
Playing a round of bowling with your buddies is among the most enjoyable things you can do. People in the past believed the same thing, however, their games had little distinction.
Before 1936, “professional alley pinsetters” were required to reset bowling pins between frames. It may sound simple to sometimes lay down pins, but it’s not at all straightforward! To stay in the game, pinsetters were continually on the move.
9. Linotype Operators
Making and disseminating news has never been simpler than it is in this century. But in the 1960s, this was certainly not the case. Then, people relied on “Linotype Operators,” who used a metal typesetter to press down articles on newspapers one at a time.
Since there was no other way to get news at the time, people really joyfully accepted the patience and time demands of this employment. But soon after, the advent of phototypesetting caused this profession to gradually lose ground.
Phrenology, which dates back to the 1820s, is the study of the brain based on the size and form of an individual’s head. Phrenologists would study a skull’s protuberances and make a diagnosis of a person’s personality based on these features. Based on a person’s head shape, they would advise customers on professional routes and the qualities to search for in a romantic partner. The profession of a phrenologist was rendered extinct as a result of the widespread discreditation of this technique.
11. Railroad Keepers
Despite having nothing to do with dance, those who worked in this field were sometimes referred to as “Gandy Dancers.” In the 1960s and 1970s, railroad firms used these people to carry out manual repairs and upkeep on railway lines.
There was a great demand for this profession, which involved long hours of strenuous manual labor. That need decreased when technology took over, just like it did for many of the vocations on this list. Gandy Dancers may still be seen performing on trains all over the world but in very limited numbers.
12. Chimney Sweepers
Chimney sweepers were highly popular in the past, however, they are still common in some regions of the world. At least more than a century ago, during and after the Industrial Revolution, this profession began to grow.
To maintain and clean the chimneys of the wealthy residents in the community, both the young and the old joined forces in this profession. However, following the introduction of electrical stoves and other gas appliances, this occupation began to dwindle.
This occupation was quite popular in the 1940s. They resembled modern-day professional typists, except they typed on typewriters rather than keyboards. Transcribing millions of words per day was undoubtedly made much more difficult and complicated by these cumbersome devices.
However, because of the tremendous demand for this activity, the remuneration was excellent. Women predominated in this profession as well. Even though the typewriters they used to do this work are no longer in use, the profession still exists today.
14. Log Drivers
The globe was not as technologically evolved in the 1970s as it is now. Then, everything needed manual assistance. Some workers no longer require any physical help to do duties like riding trunks as technology advances.
However, there was a period when moving these trunks from the forest to the mills for additional building industry activities needed human work. As a result, as the transportation system developed, this task was completely neglected.
Young and elderly were referred to be “egglers,” and they sold large quantities of fresh eggs at various marketplaces in order to make money. As you can observe at any nearby farmer’s market, this occupation is still practiced today to a certain extent.
Egglers started selling numerous other necessities with their eggs as the economy grew to enhance their income. Because of their adaptability, this occupation was able to survive and may still be seen in some locations today.
Physiognomy, a theory that gained popularity in the early 1900s, was founded on the notion that you could tell something about a person’s personality or character just by looking at them. Racist beliefs served as the foundation for physiognomists’ theories; they thought that characteristics common to Western Europeans showed honesty whereas characteristics common to other races and ethnicities, such as hooked noses and almond eyes, represented lying.
You’ll be happy you were not born in the 19th century after doing this eerie job. Resurrectionists assisted the medical students back then when they needed dead patients to do surgery on. How? They excavated graves and used to deliver the pupils’ bodies.
Give your parents a sincere thank you for bringing you into the world at this time. Although there have been disagreements on this, it is reasonable to infer that this position was eliminated on moral grounds.
Contrary to those of us who live in the present day and can take small breaks to read through social media, folks spending long hours in cubicles in the 1920s had no access to any type of entertainment to break up the tedium of the workplace.
Professional “lectors” were hired by employers to read news, tales, and other types of literature aloud to office workers as they worked. We’re not really sure how this was entertaining; in fact, it seems fairly annoying.
19. Toad Doctor
Toads were first used in the practice of medicine in the 1600s because physicians and scientists began to assume that toads had therapeutic abilities. Up to the end of the 19th century, toad physicians in western England used dried and powdered toads to treat headaches, scrofula, and other skin conditions while also reducing inflammation.
20. Monkey Powder
When sailing was a common vocation, young boys would accompany sailors who were going to battle. They referred to these young guys as powder monkeys. There is speculation that the word “monkey” originated from the expression “monkeying around,” however there is no hard evidence to support this assertion.
To assist the sailors in preparing for battle, these lads were charged with carrying sacks full of gunpowder from one location to another and loading the powder into the ship’s guns.
This word could first be confusing to you, as it was to us. Is someone being paid to badger people? Was it a real job you had? But history suggests differently. Farmers didn’t sell their products to customers directly during the market revolution.
There were intermediaries who were used. They obtained the products from the farmers, then resold them at a premium in the farmers’ market. Even if the position may no longer exist, intermediaries are still used in many industries.
Since electrical street lighting had not yet been invented, street lamps in the 1800s had to be manually lighted. Every night, these “Lamplighters” were relied upon by the locals to brighten the streets. To get the tall street lighting, these individuals frequently employed ladders and long sticks.
As electrical street lighting proliferated, this line of work gradually lost its demand. However, there are a few Lamplighters still in some regions of the world, so if you’re lucky, you might still be able to see them at work today.
In the 1800s, a “hobbler’s” primary responsibility was to pull both small and big ships as well as other kinds of watercraft to the nearest port. Young men in that time and place really desired this employment since it was tough.
Hobblers were in charge of pulling the vehicles to their allotted locations, including balancing the boats and controlling their positions on the water. The same profession has remained popular in subsequent years. The profession’s name, nevertheless, has evolved over time.
24. Gong Farmer
Up to the turn of the 20th century, gong farmers were employed to remove all the waste from a home’s privy and transport it to a landfill where it might be used as building materials or fertilizer. Gong farmers occasionally had to live a long way from the rest of a hamlet or town, could only labor at night, and were at risk of contracting infections.
This may initially appear to be someone being paid to pest individuals. Confused? We also were. Thankfully, that isn’t the case. During the market revolution, “badgers” functioned as intermediaries between farmers and customers.
Farmers instead sold their products to badgers, who then sold them in local markets for a higher price. This avoided selling directly to consumers. These types of intermediaries still exist in many market segments even if they are no longer known by this name.
The term “haberdashery” refers to sewing-related things, and the person in charge of running haberdashery shops was referred to as a “haberdasher.” Women used to visit haberdashery establishments in previous times, specifically in the 19th century, to purchase apparel.
The first and most well-known haberdashery shop back then was Brook Brothers. Haberdashers are no longer necessary due to the development of the craft industries and the availability of these items in craft stores.
27. Crossing sweeper
People in the 19th century hired crossing sweepers to clear a passage in front of pedestrians as they crossed the street since roadways were typically filthy, cluttered, and overflowing with sewage. Rich people would gladly hire sweepers to keep their long skirts or other garments clean and away from the muck. The standard was that a crossing sweeper was superior to a beggar. Since beginning a company just required a broom, many people chose this line of work.
The name “Redsmith” was inspired by the vivid hue of unfinished copper. A red smith, whose profession was comparable to that of a blacksmith, used copper to create objects. The 1700s saw the introduction of this popular career.
These days, those who carry out such copper-related labor are referred to as Metalsmiths. Even though metalsmiths often deal with a range of metals, the profession has many similarities to a red smith in terms of tasks and responsibilities.
What do you suppose people in the past used to wash their garments because they didn’t have access to washing machines? They used “Fullers,” as it turns out, which is the solution to that. Those doing this strange job were in charge of doing mass laundry.
Factory employees were the primary clientele that those in this line of employment interacted. As a result, Fullers were responsible for cleaning all kinds of industrial stains from their clothing.
30. Stone Eater
To the wonder of audiences, individuals known as stone eaters traveled around and ingested pebbles and stones throughout the Georgian and Victorian eras. Even the bringing of one’s own stone for the stone eaters to devour was encouraged. Stone eating was exposed as a fraud by newspapers, though, and people started to question the practice.
31. Book Peddler
Perhaps you’ve seen a door-to-door salesperson in today’s world, but in the 19th century, this was a considerably more typical sales strategy. Instead of opening a physical location, some book marketers went door to door to try to sell books, frequently bringing samples and slick sales techniques.
Some businesses continue to use this sales strategy even though it is less common. The occupation is far less common today since individuals do not respond to cold calls as favorably as they did in the past.
Alchemists once attempted to transform chemicals or other materials into gold. Because they usually attempted to create unique elixirs to treat disease and provide immortality, alchemists were also regarded as “wizards.” Due to their employment of base metals and other chemicals, some people now believe that early alchemists were chemists.
33. Human computer
Calculations to ascertain, for instance, how many rockets would be required to lift a plane into the air would be performed by human computers at NASA and other institutions. It often took up to a week to complete the computations, which were done on graph paper. Over time, the profession nearly entirely employed women. Because she thought male computers would undermine the organization, Macie Roberts decided to solely recruit female computers in 1942.
Although the occupation has nothing to do with the British musical group afterward known as “The Beatles,” if you are well-versed in the history of popular music, you could recognize this as their initial moniker. The economy underwent tremendous change in the 19th century as urbanization and the industrial sector grew.
The working class was hit particularly hard by this transformation. They frequently found employment as quarrymen, which required them to dig stones for various reasons on building projects. It was a demanding and exhausting profession.
Here is a position that is still in demand in some areas and that many of us may have accidentally discovered. Signalmen used to keep an eye on the tracks that the trains were traveling on. They also operated the levers and signal lights by hand.
Additionally, they had to confirm that the train was operating safely and had arrived on schedule. The modern transportation infrastructure has taken up this role.
36. Film Boxer
In the 1990s, the film was frequently the most valuable thing you could find in a production facility for the entertainment industry. For the purpose of caring for and maintaining the film canisters, video entertainment firms recruited specialized “film boxers.”
The majority of their duties comprised correctly keeping the film canisters and sending them to different locations in accordance with their instructions. This occupation has fast lost favor since modern cameras and filmmaking techniques are so much more sophisticated.
37. Telegram Messenger
Telegram messengers played a crucial role in communication in the second half of the 19th century. After the General Post Office gained management of inland telegrams in the United Kingdom in 1870, telegraph boys came to represent the subsequent era of communication. Around 82 million telegrams were sent in the U.K. in 1913, and the majority of them were delivered by bicycle-riding telegram couriers. Telegrams were gradually displaced by telephones and other forms of communication after 1946, nevertheless.
38. Leech Collectors
Anybody you ask will tell you that their primary concern while swimming in an uncharted river is the possibility of encountering leeches below. However, individuals in the 19th century did not hold this opinion, as using professional “medical leeches” to cure various ailments was actually extremely common at the time.
In that century, people believed that leeches had the supernatural power to draw all types of diseases with their blood. However, after infections became more prevalent, this practice was abandoned.
39. Radio Actors
Radio dramas were a common source of entertainment before television was created. As a result of the fact that people in the 1920s relied on radios to listen to news, music, monologues, and drama, some people found jobs as voice actors for these performances.
Of course, people still work in this field. This occupation has steadily declined with the advent of television and, subsequently, the internet, but we can still hear radio actors providing passionate performances in people’s vehicles on the way to work.
40. Pre-Radar Listener For Enemies
Saying that there was a period when armies couldn’t rely on the radar in order to prepare for war is nothing new. Instead, there was a time when forces had to develop alternative methods for spotting nearby hostile aircraft.
Prior to the invention of radar, listening devices and acoustic mirrors were employed to identify the sounds of hostile aircraft. They could track the engines’ noises specifically.
41. Gandy dancer
The term “gandy dancer” refers to a railroad worker who does any work that has to do with the track, such as laying, spreading, changing rail, hammering spikes, and installing ties. Since the 1820s, when the railroad business first began to take off, gandy dancers have been a crucial component of railroad maintenance. Tens of thousands of job seekers, many of them immigrants or former slaves, sought employment as gandy dancers.
42. Dispatch Rider
In terms of our ability to transfer information from one location to another, we have gone a long way. These days, all it takes is a button click. But in the early 1900s, things weren’t always straightforward. Using dispatch riders was one method for transferring information across large distances.
Between the two World Wars, motorcycles were utilized to transport these messengers. Dispatch riders were seen as being more dependable at the time because of the unreliability of radio broadcasts.
People who could run a telegraph were in high demand and well compensated throughout the war (or at least, they were when telegraphs were still in popular use). Both soldiers on land and at sea placed a great deal of reliance on telegraphers for reliable information.
As Morse code was gradually becoming less and less useful, the telegraph proved to be a speedy and effective means of transmitting information. The telegraph also served as a significant precursor to many of our current communication technologies.
44. Barber Surgeon
Given that both occupations still exist, the next old job is sort of cheating. However, there was a time when certain employees had dual specializations in dangerous patient procedures as well as the art of hair cutting. Many barbers served as surgeons back in the Middle Ages.
When not amputating limbs, they would be cutting troops’ hair while they were on the battlefield. Nowadays, employees are almost never both, either one or the other.
45. Hush Shopkeepers
Imagine not being able to unwind after a long, arduous day with a glass of your favourite beverage! In contrast to the 21st century, individuals back then relied on specific “hush merchants” who dealt with illegal substances in secret.
The fundamental responsibility of these store owners was to avoid legal trouble while selling their wares and to maintain the loyalty of their devoted clientele. Due to the huge demand for their services, hush-shop owners received hefty wages.
46. Water Carrier
Although they still exist today, water carriers aren’t regarded as a legitimate vocation as they formerly were. People have made their life by merely moving buckets of water from one location to another for hundreds upon millennia.
The plumbing infrastructure has improved, gradually making this task obsolete. However, a water carrier from India told the BBC in an interview that only 30 years prior, individuals were still earning a career by carrying water.
Although we are confident that no one likes current debt collectors, it appears that they used to be known as “Catchpoles” in past times. Catchpoles were individuals who used to roam the British colonies collecting enormous sums of tax and financial obligation.
Even then, their labor was difficult and was met with the disdain of common people. Though the catchpole’s job description may have remained the same over the years, we are delighted that it did!
48. Dictaphone Operator
Today, there are several options for how we might set up our shopping lists. We don’t even have to think about it when we can tell voice-activated software on a smartphone what we want to buy. However, there was a period when that wasn’t feasible.
Dictaphone operators helped create dictation machines in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and voice recorders ultimately followed, giving rise to the technology we use today.
49. Breaker Boy
As you travel further back in time, you’ll see that people used to start working at much earlier ages than they do now. Boys between the ages of 8 and 12 who lived in America in the 1920s frequently worked as “breaker boys,” helping coal breakers, in contravention of child labour restrictions.
Fortunately, as the regulations governing child labor tightened throughout time, kids could be kept out of these hazardous workplaces. In addition, technology for more effective coal separation was developed, which reduced the demand for such jobs.
50. Necessary Women
Prior to the colonial era, this type of job was quite widespread. As the name implies, women were typically given this responsibility. They were in high demand for the position as well. The actual job was to empty a lot of waste-filled chamber pots.
Women had to perform these laborious activities all day long. These duties were nearly immediately superseded when the colonial era began with the invention of indoor baths. People began using the bathroom flush instead, which is what caused it.
51. Caddy Butcher
Horse meat, which was popular in the UK and the US until the 1940s, was prepared and sold by a caddy butcher who was an expert in the field. The meat was seen as a cheaper alternative to beef or venison because of its affordability. However, eating horse meat became frowned upon, and the custom was abandoned.