Special Report

Forgotten Jobs: Formerly Common Careers That No Longer Exist

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Ice cutter
> In demand approximately until: 1920s

Ice cutters would head out to frozen rivers, lakes, and ponds, cut large chunks of surface ice, and haul them home for personal use or to sell. Before the invention of mechanical refrigerators, people kept food cold in ice boxes or ice houses. The rise of industrial plants for producing ice and then the introduction of home refrigerator-freezers in the late ’20s obviated the need to harvest natural ice.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

> In demand approximately until: Mid-1950s

Delivering ice – usually manufactured rather than cut in the wild- to residents and businesses in cities was a popular job, especially when the ice trade was booming. Ice was usually delivered in large blocks and customers would have to break up the ice with an ice pick. The invention of in-home freezers and ice makers made the need for ice delivery largely obsolete.

> In demand approximately until: 1950s

A knocker-upper was a human alarm clock, especially in Great Britain and Ireland. He wielded a long massive pole, used to bang on the windows of clients when it was time for them to wake up. Knocker-uppers were largely employed by mill and dock workers who often worked irregular shifts. They were replaced by the increased availability of cheap alarm clocks in the ’40s and ’50s, though a few persisted in their trade in industrial regions into the early 1970s.

Source: Courtesy of Amazon

Factory lector
> In demand approximately until: 1930s

Lectors were readers who worked in cigar factories to keep employees entertained and in good spirits through long days of performing the same repetitive tasks. The lector’s job was to read from local papers, works of literature, and other publications. The position began in factories in Cuba and spread to other places where cigar factories existed. Lectors became obsolete when machinery was introduced to factories, and they could no longer be heard over the noise.

Source: Jim Griffin / Public Domain / flickr

Leech collector
> In demand approximately until: Late 19th century

Leeches were first used in bloodletting, a procedure where medical “experts” would remove bad blood from a patient, in ancient times, but the practice persisted into the late 1800s in some places. The collector was tasked with gathering leeches, often using his own leg as bait in bogs and marshes. Collectors frequently suffered consequences from infections and excessive blood loss. The job went extinct when bloodletting was debunked.

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