As civilizations have evolved over the years, so have the jobs that cater to our wants and needs. Innovations have made some lines of work obsolete while also creating new ones. Some now-vanished jobs involved what was once cutting-edge technology, like the telegraph and the linotype machine. Learning to operate these seemed like a sure career bet – but even the most modern inventions are eventually replaced with something better and more efficient. (These are the fastest growing and shrinking clean energy jobs.)
To compile a list of jobs that were once commonplace but now are virtually extinct, 24/7 Tempo consulted a wide range of sources, including the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Atlas Obscura, GoneJobs, History Daily, and Historic UK.
Some of the jobs on our list were the equivalent of today’s internships, starting out on the bottom rung of an industry and making tea or running errands for the higher-ups. Others, like phrenologist and leech collector, were based on pseudoscience that has since been debunked. However, the fact that these jobs were so commonplace at the time shows that people seriously believed in ideas that we now find ridiculous.
Past occupations tasked with providing water and light show how modern infrastructure has drastically changed the way people live. Other positions dealt with human waste and its odors, highlighting just how much we take modern sewage infrastructure for granted. The disappearance of such professions reminds us how much easier human ingenuity and modern technology have made our lives. (You might laugh at some of these obsolete gadgets we used to be obsessed with.)
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