13 Popular Professions That Have Disappeared for Good
Everything has its end and people’s professions are no exception. Much manual work has been replaced by machines and mental work has been replaced by computers, while some professions simply disappear because they are no longer needed. For example, there is no need to play the piano in cinemas, street lanterns light up by themselves and we don’t need to ask a commutator to connect us with the person we want to talk to over the phone.
Bright Side checked relatively recent history and found out that we have lost quite a few popular professions within the previous 100 years.
This profession was popular in Great Britain since the time of the industrial revolution and existed in some areas of the country until 1970. Knocker uppers used to wake people up for work by knocking on their windows with a stick. Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “Who woke up those knocker uppers?” No one — these people slept during the daytime and stayed awake at night.
Tappers in cinemas
The profession of tappers was popular in the times of silent film that required musical accompaniment. Tappers improvised by choosing a music theme according to the events happening on the screen.
The name of the profession comes from the word “tap” because tappers had to literally hit keyboards in order to get some sound from the cheap pianos. This was all because cinemas wouldn’t buy musical instruments of good quality.
It may come as a surprise, but today we have better lives than royals from the past and here is one of the reasons: we have a centralized water supply system. Before its appearance, people had to carry water by themselves, send servants for it or use the services of water carriers. Of course, nowadays we also use drinking water delivery services but for all other needs, we have running water.
This profession disappeared in the 1990s when typewriting machines were replaced by computers and printers. However, 30 years ago, typewriters (as a rule, they were women) were present in every organization. They retyped dozens of sheets of handwritten text per day and couldn’t make a mistake, otherwise, they had to start the sheet all the way from the beginning.
Here is a funny fact — when street lamps first appeared on London streets in 1417 by the order of Mayor Henry Barton, many citizens were against this novelty. Nevertheless, street lights spread throughout Europe and they had to be lit and extinguished manually for several centuries, as well as be filled with fuel and cleaned on time.
There was a special group of people who were doing all this, and they were called lamplighters. This profession was in high demand till the middle of the 19th century. Later, oil lanterns were replaced by gas lanterns and they could be lit automatically.
Today the role of cabmen on city streets is performed by taxi-drivers on their “iron horses” otherwise known as cars. However, there is still an opportunity to ride in a harness because riding a horse has transformed from a vital necessity to a tourists activity.
Before inventing automatic telephone stations, telephone users were connected manually. It was mostly women who used to have this job. This profession was considered prestigious because only girls from good families having a pleasant voice, good health, good manners, and decent character were accepted for the job. Moreover, they had to be pretty tall in order to be able to reach the top of the commutator.
In order to understand how complicated this profession was, look at this manual international commutator — it definitely doesn’t look like a simple device. Moreover, a telephonist had only 8 seconds to accept the call and choose the right plug.
Readers in factories
Readers or lecturers were hired by factories with the money of the workers. Their duty was to read books or newspapers in order to entertain people during monotonous work.
After the invention of the radio, this profession disappeared, however, there is still a place on Earth where it still exists and is considered an achievement of non-material culture. We are talking about Cuba where lecturers in cigarette factories called lectores de tabaquería continue reading aloud to workers just like they did 150 years ago. Sometimes they simply have conversations on various topics or support the workers with a kind word or a piece of advice.
In the 19th — 20th century, there were buyers of rags and other trash who served as the primary link in the recycling system in Europe, the Russian Empire, and the USA. Rag-and-bone men used to buy old canvas and wool rags, paper, and ropes, which were recycled for making paper and cloth again, as well as bones that were used for producing glue and fertilizers. They also bought clean bottles and bottle caps.
The profession was quite wide-spread: there were about 50,000 rag-and-bone men in Paris in 1884. But as the industry developed and new technologies were introduced, much of the garbage was replaced by other components (for example, people started to get fertilizers not from bones but from phosphates). Manufacturers became more demanding to the quality of raw materials and the necessity for the work of rag-and-bone men slowly faded away.
Ice delivery people
The process of creating and preserving ice for using it in hot seasons existed in many countries around the world but in the 19th century, a whole new industry of ice trading also known as the frozen water trade appeared. Ice cut from the surface of water pools in winter was used in this trade.
In the photo above, you can see girls who mastered the profession of delivering ice to the homes of customers during World War I. Judging by the way they put this huge ice piece on the road, we can assume that they didn’t worry much about the hygiene of food products at the beginning of the 20th century.
A pinsetter or pin spotter is a person who used to manually set pins in bowling alleys and returned bowling balls to their initial place. This work wasn’t high paying and it was mostly an evening job, that’s why it was mostly teenagers or pin boys who were doing it. The profession was in demand until the invention of the pin spotter machine in 1936, after which the need for manual work disappeared.
Due to unknown reasons, women’s mathematical abilities were considered worse than men’s for a long time. However, the practice shows the opposite — the work of a human computer or a calculator was almost always made by women before the appearance of powerful computers.
Teams of women-calculators participated in the design of large engineering structures, the development of weapons during the Second World War, and the programming of the first electronic computing devices.
By the way, it’s thanks to such women that space flights even became possible. But, unfortunately, the importance of their role is not widely known, at least, it wasn’t until the 2016 release of the biographical movie, Hidden figures.
Leech collectors used to find and gather leeches for medical purposes. Very often, it was their legs that they used as “bait” for collecting these not-so-pleasant creatures. This fact affected the health of leech collectors negatively. Fortunately, nowadays there is no need to collect medical leeches in swamps — they are bred in special jars.
Which of these jobs would you like to try? Please tell us about it in the comments!
Preview photo credit 20th Century Fox / Everett Collection / East News