Technological progress has a long-running tendency to make entire professions unnecessary. Your history teacher in high school probably tried hard to point out one of the most well known examples: the Luddites. These English textile artisans didn’t take well to contemporary industrial automation and famously went on a rampage to smash every piece of labor-saving machinery they could lay their hands on. But the Luddites were far from the only ones who lost their jobs. We’ve collected a list of weird and fascinating professions that went out more quietly.
1. Factory lector
Many of us manage the boredom of repetitive tasks and chores by listening to music, podcasts or even listening to good old radio. But early industrial workers lacked all the glorious gadgetry of our day. Instead, they sometimes pooled money to hire Lectors to read out loud. That’s a pretty clever way to get some entertainment.
2. Bowling alley pinsetter
3. Knocker upper
Who needs an alarm clock? Not you, because you have one in your phone. But people alive during the dawn of industrialization didn’t even have the option to buy a generic alarm, plastic alarm clock. Yet, they had to wake up and drag themselves to work on time. So, of course, they subscribed to the services and a knocker-upper. These guys were essentially human alarm clocks who walked around town and used sticks, clubs or pebbles to knock on clients’ windows and doors.
4. Ice cutter
5. Enemy aircraft listener
9. Log driver
10. Switchboard operator
“Body snatcher” isn’t necessarily the most flattering of job titles, but it was sometimes used for a class of 19th professionals who dug up corpses from graves. These resurrectionists delivered cadavers to universities for use in… science and stuff.
12. Powder monkey
The Western world was a conflict-torn place during the 16th to 19th centuries, and sailing ships were central to the mindless, bloody war machine of the day. These ships delivered death and suffering with cannons. And the cannons of the day had to be stuffed with gunpowder after every fired round. A “Powder Monkey” sounds like something you’d find in the Silicon Valley Job Title Generator, but back in the day they were small and nimble individuals who kept running powder from the ship’s hold during battles.