Naturally, some people who formerly held positions that were regarded important may find themselves out of a job as technology develops and operations become automated. Although employment in the US is predicted to rise by 11.5 million over the next ten years, manufacturing and federal government positions are predicted to lose ground.
Throughout the course of human history, jobs have appeared and disappeared, and frequently, this has been for the better. After all, because of the development of toilets, people are no longer at risk of getting illnesses, and thanks to advancements in medical science, people no longer need to infer a person’s personality attributes based solely on the form of their skull.
Check out some of these weird occupations from the past that don’t exist in the modern world if you want to learn more.
1. Plague Doctor
Some could argue that in these modern times, plague physicians might use a resurgence in prominence. In the 1600s, several occupations were favored by this recognizable and slightly frightful clothing.
These were useful despite their strange appearance. Similar to the face masks we wear today, the long mask contained spices and plants that were believed to filter the air as well as act as a physical barrier. These medical professionals also employed wands to treat patients without having to touch them.
2. Leech Collector
Leech collectors were in charge of removing the blood-sucking insects from their native environment for doctors to employ in the mid-1800s when medical practitioners believed that bloodletting might heal an ailment or sickness. Leeches would be drawn from rivers and streams using the legs of animals, or even the workers’ own legs. Eventually, as medical research developed, this occupation was rendered unnecessary.
We could be the weirdest job on this list that you have a hard time understanding. Ratteners were people who were employed in the rat-catching business. Back ago, people used to entertain themselves by playing with rats at the local bars. This was common throughout the Victorian era, and dogs frequently enjoyed eating rats. When the black plague outbreak first emerged, this strategy was widely used to contain the disease’s spread.
If you’ve watched the popular Disney movie Frozen, you probably have a good idea of what this line of work entails. Around the 1800s, professional ice-cutters enjoyed great success. Their main duty was to cut ice, but it was more complicated than it first appeared.
“Ice-men” were responsible for helping people store their food during bad weather, doing everything from hand-carving enormous blocks of ice by hand every day to even distributing the supplies. However, as soon as refrigerators were developed, this labor-intensive task became obsolete.
5. Gong Farmer
You can see that our civilization didn’t always know how to manage human waste by looking at many of the positions on this list. To deal with this significant issue, various vocations existed, one of which was referred to as a gong farmer.
Gong farmers excavated human waste from privies and cesspits between the 15th and 17th centuries. What a miserable job that is! We’re happy to live in a period when this occupation is obsolete.
The image of a “milkman” delivering fresh dairy in jugs and other jars and bottles to the front doors of homes used to be one of the most frequent scenes that used to take place in the early mornings of the ’50s and ’60s.
If you were fortunate, you may occasionally even receive more cooking and home supplies right at your door. However, the invention of freezers marked the end of milkmen and their stubborn profession.
7. Human Pinsetters
One of the most pleasurable things you can do is play a game of bowling with your friends. In the past, people shared this belief, but there were few differences in the games they played.
Before 1936, bowling pins had to be adjusted between frames by “professional alley pinsetters.” Laying down pins may seem easy at times, but it’s not at all simple! Pinsetters were constantly moving to stay in the game.
8. Elevator Operator
Elevator operators were a thing in the past, which can seem bizarre to those of us in Generation Z. In reality, in the 1950s, hotels and other important buildings with high daily visitor counts used to hire employees just to operate the elevators.
The main reason for this is the difficulty of the old elevators, which visitors obviously didn’t want to use. However, as time went on, automatic elevators emerged and took their place.
9. Linotype Operators
News disseminates readily and swiftly these days thanks to the internet, like wildfire. The times were very different in the 1960s. Newspaper stories had to be duplicated by “Linotype Operators,” who used a metal typesetter to press each piece onto the newspaper individually before they could be distributed.
Although it was a time-consuming and tiresome task, individuals joyfully embraced it because there was no other way to disseminate the word. The prevalence of phototypesetting technologies caused a gradual decline in this profession.
10. Railroad Keepers
People in this occupation were frequently referred to as “Gandy Dancers” in the 1960s and 1970s, but they weren’t dancers at all! Instead, the job required workers to manually maintain and care for the railroad rails that carried trains.
Their labor was in great demand and required lengthy shifts of nonstop, physically demanding work. As big machines were deployed in their place, the demand for employment quickly appeared to decline. Gandy Dancers are still employed, albeit in a small number, by several railroads all around the world.
In the 1940s, this kind of work had significant popularity. With the exception of using typewriters rather than keyboards to type, they resembled modern-day professional typists. Using these unwieldy instruments surely made the transcription of millions of words each day considerably more challenging and complex.
However, the pay was fantastic since there was such a high demand for this activity. Additionally, women dominated this profession. The profession still exists today, despite the fact that the typewriters they used to complete their task are no longer in use.
After completing this creepy task, you’ll be glad you were not born in the 19th century. When the medical students back then required dead patients to perform surgery on, resurrectionists helped. How? They dug graves and used them to transport the students’ remains.
Thank your parents for bringing you into the world at this particular time. Despite differences of opinion, it is plausible to assume that this job was terminated for moral reasons.
13. Chimney Sweepers
Although they are still ubiquitous in various parts of the world, chimney sweepers were formerly quite common. This profession started to expand at least a century ago, during and after the Industrial Revolution.
Both the young and the old joined forces in this vocation to maintain and clean the chimneys of the rich people of the neighborhood. However, this profession started to disappear after the invention of electric stoves and other gas equipment.
14. Human Calculators
For those of us who used portable calculators growing up, this may seem like the oddest profession imaginable. Numbers had to be computed by hand in the 17th century, thus humans (typically women) were employed as human “computers” to do the math!
Women who worked in this field spent the whole day manually adding up each figure, with just brief breaks here and there. Thankfully, when technology produced mechanical and electronic calculators, they were finally able to rest their hands.
15. Billy Boys
Tea drinkers in the past relied heavily on men known as “Billy Boys” to manufacture their hot beverage from scratch as well as bring it to them! Billy Boys were often young males who performed primarily tea-making tasks as part of an apprenticeship in the 1960s.
These Billy Boys had memorized and perfected the skill of preparing tea by heart. In reality, if you consider all the tiny cafes and baristas around you, this employment has become very common in more recent years.
16. Monkey Powder
Young boys would join sailors who were heading into combat back when sailing was a prevalent occupation. These young men were referred to as “powder monkeys” by them. There is no concrete evidence to back up the theory that the phrase “monkeying around” is where the term “monkey” first appeared.
These young men were tasked with transporting bags of gunpowder from one place to another and placing the powder into the ship’s weapons in order to aid the sailors as they prepared for combat.
In the 1800s, street lamps had to be manually lit because electrical street lighting had not yet been developed. The villagers relied on these “Lamplighters” to illuminate the streets each night. These people usually used ladders and long sticks to access the lofty street lighting.
This profession steadily declined in demand as electricity street illumination became more common. In some parts of the world, there are still a few Lamplighters, so if you’re lucky, you might be able to observe them in action right now.
18. Switchboard Operator
Being a “switchboard operator” was formerly common odd employment. These individuals used to put in day and night labor to connect and transmit international calls from various cities and nations. The work needed a great deal of commitment and, of course, the desire to spend the entire day sitting in the same spot and performing the same task over and over again.
Switchboard operators had to ensure that their consumers got accurate information about various issues, just like call centers do today. But eventually, this activity likewise dwindled to nothing.
People in this profession used to wind and maintain clocks so that they could display the right time, working day and night and, in a very literal sense, around the clock. In general, winding a clock today is not as difficult as it was in the past, which is why being a “clock-winder” was a highly sought-after career.
The Industrial Revolution created hundreds of employment for human clock-winders, but shortly afterward electrical clock-winders began to appear, eliminating those positions.
The term “egglers” was used to describe people of all ages who sold a lot of fresh eggs at various markets in order to gain money. This job is still done to some level today, as you can see at any local farmer’s market.
As the economy developed, egglers began selling a variety of other requirements alongside their eggs to increase their revenue. This vocation was able to persist and may still be found in certain places now because of its flexibility.
21. Knocker Upper
Imagine being awakened by someone pounding on your window from below with a long stick! Individuals known as “Knocker Uppers” were employed only for the purpose of rousing people from slumber.
Office workers relied significantly on these folks to wake them up for work because there were no alarm clocks back then. They would either knock on the windows with a long stick or just hurl peas at the glass! Only in 1847 did this strange odd vocation predominate; mechanical alarm clocks were then adopted.
The major duty of a “hobbler” in the 1800s was to draw both small and large ships as well as other types of watercraft to the closest port. Given how difficult it was, young men in that period and location truly wanted this job.
The boats had to be balanced and their positions in the water were controlled by hobblingers, who were also responsible for dragging the automobiles to their designated sites. In succeeding years, the same occupation has continued to be well-liked. However, the nomenclature of the occupation has changed over time.
At first glance, this would seem like a person being paid to bother others. Confused? We were as well. Fortunately, that’s not the case. “Badgers” served as middlemen between farmers and consumers during the market revolution.
Instead, farmers sold their goods to badgers, who subsequently resold them for more money in nearby markets. This prevented selling to customers directly. Even though they are no longer known by this name, these sorts of middlemen are still present in many market categories.
People in the late 1920s did not really have much to amuse themselves with as they spent hours on end in their workplace cubicles, in contrast to enjoying a little social media browsing in the middle of work in the 21st century.
Due to the slowdown in productivity, professional “lectors” were hired to read aloud news, books, and stories to the staff as a form of amusement. The fact that it seemed so distracting to us makes it difficult for us to understand how it was amusing.
The rich color of unprocessed copper served as the inspiration for the moniker “Redsmith.” Copper was utilized in the creation of goods by a red smith, whose trade was similar to that of a blacksmith. The 1700s witnessed the advent of this well-liked profession.
Nowadays, those who perform such copper-related work are known as Metalsmiths. Although metalsmiths frequently work with a variety of metals, their duties and tasks are quite similar to those of a red smith.
26. Log Driver
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.
27. Book Peddler
In the modern day, you may have seen a door-to-door salesperson, but in the 19th century, this was a far more common sales technique. Some book marketers went door to door to try to sell books rather than creating a physical facility, usually carrying samples and slick sales methods.
Despite being less frequent, some companies still utilize this sales tactic. Since people do not respond to cold calls as favorably as they formerly did, the vocation is much less frequent nowadays.
If you are familiar with the history of popular music, you would recognize this as the name of the British musical group that would later become known as “The Beatles,” despite the fact that the occupation has nothing to do with them. As urbanization and the industrial sector expanded in the 19th century, the economy underwent a significant transformation.
This change had an especially negative impact on the working class. They commonly found work as quarrymen, which required them to excavate stones on construction projects for a variety of purposes. It was a grueling and difficult job.
Women who fought with the army during the American Civil War were referred to as “vivandieres.” These ladies assisted the troops by cooking, carrying canteens, tending to the injured, and more.
In terms of duties, a vivandiere may have been virtually comparable to a maid, but even now, people still hold them in the highest regard and respect. However, just before they entered World War I, the French War Ministry outlawed the position of vivandiere.
The treatment of those living in poverty has historically included brutality, and this was no different. In the past, sifting through the mud in search of riches was seen as a respectable line of labor by those who called themselves “mudlarks.” In fact, the needy frequently embraced this occupation with vigor in order to sustain themselves and their families.
People rushed to the river every day to search through the mud and filth for riches. After gathering these things, they made money by selling them to the general population.
The first camera that could be used in public was the daguerreotype, and people who would take the pictures and develop them chemically were known as daguerreotypists.
This method gained popularity quickly when daguerreotypists photographed a number of significant figures, such as Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. As time went on, less expensive methods were eventually used, rendering daguerreotypists’ work obsolete.
Phrenology was the technique of analyzing a person’s skull’s bumps and grooves to try and predict personality traits, mental states, and ailments. Although it was an abstract idea within the discipline of psychology, this was first regarded as a reliable and accomplished science.
Phrenology was formerly thought to be cutting edge and revolutionary, but it has now been thoroughly disproved and is now regarded as a pseudoscience. By 1967, it had been outlawed and ceased to be used.
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.
34. Film Boxer
The movie was typically the most valuable item in a production facility for the entertainment sector in the 1990s. Video entertainment companies hired professional “film boxers” to take care of and repair the film canisters.
The majority of their tasks involved maintaining the film canisters in line with their instructions and sending them to various destinations. Since contemporary cameras and filmmaking processes are so much more advanced, this profession is quickly falling out of favor.
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.
36. Radio Actors
Before the invention of television, radio dramas were a popular form of entertainment. Some people got to work as voice actors for these performances because people in the 1920s relied on radios to listen to news, music, speeches, and drama.
Of course, there are still people employed in this sector. With the rise of television and the internet that followed, this line of work has progressively faded, but we can still hear radio actors giving impassioned performances in people’s cars on the way to work.
37. Herb Strewer
When regulated sewage systems were still a pipe dream in the 17th century, a sizable volume of human excrement from London ended up in the Thames. That combined with London’s inherent unkemptness rendered the city odiferous to be in.
However, thank the Herb Strewers! To combat repulsive odors, they would spread herb and flower aromas throughout the royal family residence. They would also attend royal events, dressing up in fancy gowns and carrying herb baskets in their hands.
38. Dispatch Rider
We have come a long way in terms of our capacity to move information from one place to another. Nowadays, all it takes is the push of a button. However, things weren’t always simple in the early 1900s. One way to transmit information across long distances was to use dispatch riders.
Motorcycles were used to convey these messengers in the years between the two World Wars. Due to the unpredictability of radio transmissions at the time, dispatch riders were perceived as being more trustworthy.
Throughout the war, there was a great need for telegraph operators, and they were paid generously (or at least, they were when telegraphs were still in popular use). In order to get accurate information, soldiers on land and at sea relied heavily on telegraphers.
As Morse code lost its usefulness over time, the telegraph emerged as a quick and efficient method of information transmission. The telegraph also had a crucial role in the development of several of our modern communication technologies.
40. Pre-Radar Listener
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. Hush Shopkeepers
Imagine not being able to enjoy a glass of your favorite drink after a long, difficult day! People back then relied on particular “hush merchants” who dealt with illegal narcotics in secrecy, in contrast to the 21st century.
These business owners had two key responsibilities: keeping their loyal customer base faithful while selling their items legally and staying out of problems with the law. Owners of hush shops were paid well since there was such a high demand for their services.
42. Toad Doctor
Without a sure, this is one of the most absurd occupations on our list, and it is easy to see why it is no longer a thing. Toad physicians were quite popular in the 19th century, particularly in the west of England. “Toad medicine” was constructed on the principles of folk magic.
At the time, scrofula was a major problem in this region of the world. Practitioners thought that applying a toad to the patient’s neck while it was enclosed in a muslin bag would cure them!
43. Breaker Boy
You’ll notice that individuals used to start working at far younger ages than they do now as you go further back in time. In America in the 1920s, boys between the ages of 8 and 12 routinely assisted coal breakers as “breaker boys,” in violation of laws against child labor.
Fortunately, as laws against child labor became stricter throughout time, children could be kept out of these dangerous jobs. Additionally, the need for such professions decreased as technology for more efficient coal separation was created.
44. Soup Tester
It sounds like a scene from a vintage film. However, there was a time when individuals were paid to ensure that particular individuals weren’t ingesting hazardous soup. Almost every royal family and someone of some importance would pay a person to taste-test their soup, and other delicacies as well.
Margot Woelk, for instance, had the difficult responsibility of evaluating the food and soup for German authorities during World War II.
45. Necessary Women
This sort of work was fairly common before the colonial era. Women were frequently assigned this job, as the name suggests. Additionally, they were in high demand for the job. The true task was to empty many chamber pots that were overflowing with trash.
All day long, women had to execute these strenuous tasks. When indoor baths were developed at the start of the colonial era, these responsibilities were almost quickly replaced. Instead of utilizing the toilet flush, people started doing it.
However, it appears that they were once known as “Catchpoles” in the past, despite the fact that we are convinced that no one loves the present debt collectors. Catchpoles were people who used to prowl the British colonies collecting astronomical amounts of tax and debt.
Even then, the common people looked down on them and their task was onerous. We are happy that the catchpole’s duties haven’t changed throughout the years, even if they could have.
47. Groom of the Stool
Do you believe your employer is not good? Be cautious! What career in the Tudor era offered good pay but was also completely humiliating? That would be the stool’s groom. The Groom of the stool would have to undress the king and wait till the monarch was done with his bathroom duties.
Then he would use cotton and water to clean the king’s backside. Sometimes the feces were removed so that doctors could examine them to make sure the monarch was healthy.