Linotype operators were people who, well... operated a linotype machine. These machines used molten metal typesetting to create large matrices of letters to make printing easier and faster. In order to get these strings of metal types, there were people who were trained to create them and recycle them, creating new types for newspaper companies all over the world.
Of course, now we have computers so it isn't necessary to have them anymore. But back when the printing press needed them, they were all the rage. At least, until it was replaced by phototypesetting. There are only two newspapers in the world that still use this method as of 2021.
Gandy dancers were those who worked on and maintained the railroad tracks. As well as laying down the tracks, they'd check for defects and change anything that needed fixing. The term is actually slang that came from the way they seemed to "dance" as they synchronized their work to the caller telling them what to do. As for the "Gandy" part of it, that comes from the belief that they used tools from the Chicago-based Gandy company.
While you can obviously still find people working the track today, they are typically aided by the use of machinery and they certainly aren't called Gandy dancers anymore.
To be fair, there are still people who exist as chimney sweeps as some of the older buildings in the world still require regular sweeping in their chimneys. But for the most part, you won't need to find one because you likely have a newer fireplace that doesn't require it whether it's because it doesn't produce the creosote that regularly needs to be removed or because you have a ventless fireplace.
In time, the only place you'll be able to find the people who do this are in such classics as "Mary Poppins". At least that'll help people remember the job existed.
Billy Boy is a term used to refer to the men that would boil tea for other men that were hard at work and coming for a break. The reason they got the name "billy boy" is because they would boil the water in a billy can which is basically a bucket or a pot that is specifically made for making tea or coffee over a campfire. While obscure at first, this term now makes a lot more sense.
They eventually stopped being necessary because it's pretty easy to get boiling water these days and make yourself some tea. Alternatively, you can buy some while you're on break.
You may not have thought about this before, but bowling is quite an old game. There's evidence that suggests the game is thousands of years old, though bowling in its modern form has only been around since 1862. That's still a long time, though, and there weren't the same machines we use today to put the pins in place so they needed what they called "pinsetters".
Though it's pretty obvious at this point, these people had the job of placing the pins in the precise order and spot that we use in the rules to this day.
Before we had the phones we have today, almost all calls that you made needed to be intercepted by a switchboard operator in order to complete the call. These people were almost always women and they would plug different switches and plugs into their respective plugs in order to connect you to the person you were trying to reach. This was eventually phased out when we switched to more automatic systems.
In addition to reducing labor costs, switching to an automatic system also meant more privacy to the caller since the operator pretty much had complete control over your call and could even listen in if they so wished.
Nowadays, we have all sorts of writing jobs but typically these jobs are typically all up to the people writing. Back in the day, there were people who were hired to write and copy things that were already written out. These people were different from authors and other self-publishing writing positions. You might be able to find a job like that now, too, but you'll be using a computer.
That's for the most part why these jobs don't exist anymore. No one uses typewriters (except for a few exceptionally hipster writers) and everyone can use a computer so there's no need for typists anymore.
Basically the same as a typist but before typing was a thing. These people were paid to handwrite and copy scripts word for word. They were educated enough to be iterate which (during certain periods) was not always common. Scribes were famously used to write copies of bibles, especially the "sofer" (Hebrew for scribe) who would make copies of the Torah onto other scrolls.
In the case of the sofer, there are still many today as the Torah can only be handwritten on specific types of scrolls. Aside from that, however, the job is all but extinct.
Before we had freezers we were obviously still using ice. Even before the freezer, and in the early days of the refrigerator, we needed ice in order to keep certain products fresh. So as early as the 1800s (and probably earlier in more limited capabilities) there were people whose job it was to cut out pieces of ice and sell them to those who needed them.
Now that we have freezers we just need to stick some water into it and we'll have our own ice. You can still buy ice at the store, but it definitely wouldn't have come from an ice cutter.
Someone's gotta sell the eggs, right? Well, when the egg carton was invented in 1911, that was the job of Eggler. They would go out and sell their eggs in large batches and turn a profit. They would also sell some poultry to. After all, the eggs must have come from somewhere. Although they weren't able to solve the equation of which came first, they provided everyone with a perfect breakfast.
There are some countries that still have egglers around but in the United States you'll probably miss out on them. All of your eggs are typically found at the local market.
Fulling is a step in woolen clothmaking that cleanses the textile of impurities like dirt, oils, or anything else. It also is a part of making the cloth thicker. There used to be a job specifically for these parts in the process and the people who took on these jobs would be known as a "fuller". In the image below, you can get a glimpse of wat a fulling mill looks like which is surprisingly similar to a water mill.
Just like many of the other jobs on this list, being a fuller has pretty much become obsolete due to the automatic processes that we employ today to make textiles.
While this might sound like a cleverly disguised innuendo, it is anything but. Being a knocker-upper meant being awake when people needed you and doing what your job title implies. Instead of waking someone up, you would "knock them up" with a long stick. Again, this may sound naughty, but you're actually just banging on the window of someone who needs to be woken u at a specific point in the morning.
Now that we have alarm clocks, we no longer need random strangers coming to our houses to bang on the windows scaring us half to death. Not that alarms are any better.
We have street lamps now that turn on automatically, but you might not have thought that there used to be a job for that, especially if you're used to calling them "streetlights". The term "streetlamp" implied that they were like lamps, needing to be filled with gas and lit with fire. Indeed, back in the day, the first street lamps were actually oil-burning lamps.
Certain people would go out at night and light up all of the lamps to provide light to those walking around. Pretty useful, but we'd say that it's a lot more efficient now.
These people were those that would entertain others at work, although, more specifically, they were the entertainers for the people working at cigar factories. Their job was fairly simple: they would read out loud whatever they were told, whether that was the daily news or a book, it didn't really matter. They were just supposed to keep the workers entertained enough to be able to keep doing their job.
If you are fortunate to have a job that allows you to listen to music as you work it's pretty much the same deal. The only difference is that there is a live person reading things to you like it's story-time.
This one is also a fairly obvious job description in the title. These were people who would go out and collect leeches from the water that they lived in. Back when bloodletting was popular this was a very important job. Although they didn't make much by doing it, it still put food on the table. It wasn't very exciting and it was also probably pretty painful, considering the possibility of getting one stuck to you.
Now that we know that bloodletting isn't exactly healthy there is no need for leech collectors anymore. And this is one of a few jobs on this list not replaced by robots or automation.
Log drivers were the men you called to help the logs get to where they needed to go, namely the sawmill. After being cut down they would typically use a local stream in order to float them to their destination. Using poles to help steer them in the right direction and prevent them from getting stuck, these men would move dozens of logs every single day.
Now that we have trucks this has become highly unnecessary. After being chopped down more logs than these men used to be able to move can now be safely moved to where they need to go.
Mudlarks were people who would search through the mud to find valuable items to bring home and sell. They were highly prevalent in the past when there was a lot more widespread poverty in the big cities. There are many things that can be washed away by streams and sometimes they would be able to find something very valuable. Even if it wasn't that valuable, one man's trash is another man's treasure.
There are still mudlarks today, but it isn't as easy to make any sort of living off of it. And if you think about it, prospecting is probably a type of mudlarking in and of itself.
While it's true that women were necessary, the term "necessary woman" specifically referred to a woman whose job was to collect and clean out the chamberpot. If you don't know what that it, it was what people used for the toilet as an alternative to the outhouse before modern plumbing became available. While it was a pretty gross job it was obvious that it was "necessary".
Thankfully, we don't have to worry about that kind of thing anymore. Now that we have sewers and modern plumbing, we don't need to bother getting our hands literally dirty. That is unless you clog easily.
Again, this isn't something that we need to do nowadays because we have machines to do the job for us. But of course, that wasn't always the case, and back in the day, there were people who would go to the quarries and cut stones by hand. It was a hard, labor-intensive job, but stones and minerals are precious materials that are used in all sorts of construction and are pretty necessary for life.
While there are probably people who still do this kind of work, most of it is machine-aided. There might even be some people who do it for fun, but we're not sure who would opt to do it manually.
No, this isn't some sort of black magic-related job we're talking about. This was a pretty illegal job similar to graverobbing except that instead of stealing from the dead, they would actually be stealing the dead themselves. The main purpose was to sell the body to people who wanted it for research like doing autopsies when they weren't legally allowed to.
Now, things like this are highly regulated. It would be nearly impossible to pull off the task of stealing someone's body to sell to a medical practitioner and would be highly punishable by law, so it's not worth it.
A signalman is someone who would receive signals from a train operator and change the tracks accordingly to the train driver's needs. They used whatever manner was available to them at the time whether it be a signal light on the train or a telephone connected to the line at which they would receive a call and respond to the request. Either way, there were people who changed the track directions from outside the train.
Now we have automated tracks that change based on computer signals. Once again, machines put people out of their job. To be fair, though, we're not sure who would want to sit out alone in the sun changing the tracks for all the trains coming through.
No, not the machine, but that's precisely where it got its name from. Before calculators and even before computers there were mathematicians who dedicated their time to computing all manner of calculations. Mathematics has been around for thousands of years and there has always been a need for people who could understand complex equations especially as they get harder.
Even now we need human computers but they are almost always aided by their machine counterparts. The only tie we can think of someone not using a calculator is a school teacher teaching kids written form math.
You may not have ever thought that this would be a job, but there are plenty of clocks that needed to be manually wound by someone who knew what they were doing. After all, clocks and watches have a lot of mechanical parts that shouldn't be tampered with if you don't know your stuff. That's why they would have someone do it for them whenever it stopped ticking.
Of course, there are still people whose job it is to wind clocks, such as the ones you'd find at the top of towers or large buildings like Big Ben.
A haberdasher is someone who would collect and sell the little parts related to tasks like sewing and knitting. Need a button? Go to the haberdashery. How about a pin or a thimble? The haberdasher has what you need. What about thread? We think you get the point. The word "haberdasher" itself literally means "seller of small things", but the word has fallen out of use.
Haberdashers don't exactly exist anymore because of the larger arts and crafts stores you can find these items in. Though if you do run a smaller shop you might be able to consider yourself one!
You might be able to understand what this is just by the job title, but for those of you who don't know, a town crier is someone who announces or "cries out" the local news, passed laws, or any other event that is worth "crying" about. Although we typically don't have these anymore, there are a few places in the world that hire people to do this for events, historical or otherwise, or even just tradition.
It's also very noticeable if you've ever been to a renaissance fair. They wouldn't be complete without one. When was the last time you saw anything medieval without a crier?
Phrenology is the study of how the shape and bumps of the human skull affect everything about you. Whether it was how smart you are, how healthy, or even how perceptive and mindful you are were things that phrenologists sought to learn about you. Of course, this science was debunked (you really think having some bumps on your head makes you better?) and was dubbed a pseudoscience.
There are still people, namely psychologists, who study phrenology, although they don't do it to practice it, but rather teach about it and learn from it. If you want, you could probably find someone to read your skull similar to a palm reading.
The job of a powder monkey (sometimes referred to as a powder boy) was to load the cannons with the ammunition and the means to fire it (the black powder). There's no real reason given as to why they were called monkeys. Perhaps it was because they were monkeying around, but that doesn't seem right. It does roll off the tongue pretty well, though, so that's a good enough reason for us.
While we don't really use cannons anymore, there might be some powder boys on your local pirate ship. Just don't expect them to be too friendly.
Similar to a blacksmith, these people would forge objects from copper. That's actually where the word comes from. The color of the copper can often rub off onto the hands, but it's most definitely a reference to the reddish hue of the metal itself. All sorts of things were made from copper. All-in-all these people weren't much different from blacksmiths other than the material they used.
Nowadays the people who deem themselves a coppersmith or redsmith are just doing it as a hobby. They may sell their products, too, but industrialism has put them all but out of business.
Do you remember a time where your milk was delivered to you by a person? And we're not talking about delivered groceries that have become increasingly common in the age of the pandemic. There were people whose job was to actually deliver milk to people like a subscription. This was because there wasn't any refrigeration to keep it fresh in the market so they brought it to you fresh.
So, you probably don't remember a time like this at all, but you have probably seen it in a movie or two. Just be happy we don't need them anymore because refrigerators are awesome.
While we tend to think elevators have always been as easy to use as the literal touch of a button, it wasn't always the case. There was a time where a lever had to be pushed and pulled and a door needed to be lowered or slid shut. There were people waiting in these contraptions ready to help you so you wouldn't get stuck or worse. They literally worked the elevator for you.
You won't find anyone doing that these days with modern elevators. Maybe if you go somewhere clancy and high-end they'll have someone press the buttons for you.
When carbonated water became really popular there was a job for those who would hand it out and make different treats made from it. These were the soda jerks and nearly half a million people were hired to be one in the 1940s. They would make everything from an ice cream float to milkshakes and egg creams. They were soon replaced by people who did basically the same job.
What that meant was they were replaced by servers. Why should there be a job specific to soda when the person serving drinks can literally do it themselves? Maybe to create more jobs and less understaffing...
If you weren't able to understand from the title, this was a job where someone or a couple of people would work together to grind and sharpen scissors. One man would keep the wheel turning where the other would sharpen the tool's blade. It wasn't just limited to scissors, either. Scissor grinders were also capable of sharpening knives, swords, you name it. Though maybe it was better left to the smithy.
You can still find these machines in some places and (as the above image show) there are some places that still require the aid of these sharpeners.
This job is also fairly obvious from the title. A job that was meant for women, they would stand around in bars, clubs, and at sporting events carrying cigarettes typically strung up from their necks. This job started around the 1920s. They were really popular as people would always be reaching for a cigarette and if they ran out then they could purchase some from the cigarette girls.
Of course, this job didn't last long as cigarettes became widely known to be bad for your health and started to become more regulated and illegal for minors.
This is similar to a mudlark but much, much dirtier. Toshers would go into the sewers and rummage through the waste looking for anything valuable like jewelry or coins. As disgusting as this was, it wasn't without merit and some could turn out around fifty dollars a day which was a pretty decent wage for that time. But by 1840 it became illegal to enter sewers and this job went out of style.
It was especially easy to dissuade people from continuing this line of work because the local authorities would begin giving out rewards to those who saw and ratted out anyone going into the sewers.
These boys were hired to work as coal miners and separated impurities in the coal. They could be as young as five years of age and could work as long as ten hours a day. The job was obviously dangerous and posed risks such as loss of limbs and life. Eventually, a member of the National Child Labor Committee released pictures of the boys prompting labor reform and child labor laws to be passed.
Nowadays you won't see any breaker boys out there and good riddance to that. It's already bad enough that the actual coal miners risked their lives, why should their children do the same?
This was not something you wanted to be at any point in your life, especially if you're a man. Castratos were men who were castrated before they reached puberty. This was done for the sole purpose of replacing women when they were banned from the theatre in the 16th century and training them as singers. Their inability to create the hormones that are natural to other men meant their voices would stay at a higher pitch.
This was never a legal practice but was nonetheless common. Thankfully it died out eventually as this inhumane practice should never be forced upon anyone.
These were people who made brooms for a living. They would make their brooms by collecting birch twigs and stringing them together to sell to people who needed them. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite a good living. They lived in rural areas and were typically poor as well as looked down upon and treated as poorly as other lower-class citizens.
You might find someone who still does this, but with commercialism and industrialism, there really isn't any need to do this anymore as long as you have access to any marketplace.
Alchemists were a type of scientist who strived to find ways to transform base metals like lead or copper into more valuable metals like silver or gold. They also looked for ways to extend life or cure diseases. Their methods were seemingly magical in nature and, most importantly, didn't work. That's because the laws of physics prevent it from working out.
After alchemy met its match against real science it quickly fell out of favor. With the inability to actually perform alchemy there was no chance an alchemist could make an honest living.
A link boy was a child who would help guide people to their homes at night by carrying a lantern with them and leading the way. This allowed people to get where they needed to go without needing to carry a lantern for themselves. The problem was that sometimes they would lead you into a dark alley where you would subsequently be robbed of all of your belongings.
We're not exactly sure when this job went out of business, but we're sure glad it did. Who would want to follow a creepy little kid carrying a lantern late at night anywhere these days? And whose child would be allowed to do this? Only a demon child, probably.
There was actually a period of time between the 1930s and 1970s where people would be hired to go out and hunt deer because of fears that the recent spike in the deer population could do damage. Eventually, though, the government ould stop funding this project because of the rise of commercial hunting. We can't say we're glad more hunting put it out of business, but at least it's not government-funded anymore
Though, to be fair, hunting is a part of nature. There are arguments to be made about how we humans hunt our prey, but at the core of it, all carnivores hunt other animals. Sorry, vegans.