In honour of “Pretend to be a Time Traveler” day, we’re going back in time to look at some of the coolest jobs that no longer exist.

Here are eight jobs you’re not likely to see a job posting for any time soon – unless, of course, you travel back in time…

Cool jobs that no longer exist: Town Crier
Town crier

Time period to travel to: The eighth century to the start of the 20th century

The gig: Ring a bell and make public announcements in the streets, with a “Hear ye” or “Oyez, oyez” thrown in now and then for good measure. Depending on the time period and location, announcements could be everything from local news announcements, to a reminder not to urinate in the river when it was being drawn for brewing beer. Some town criers still exist, though more for ceremonial purposes than actual information dissemination.

What killed it: Literacy

Cool jobs that no longer exist: Knockerupper

Time period to travel to: The 1800s

The gig: Calling all early birds: these workers, primarily in England and Ireland, would earn a (albeit meager) living by simply waking people up, especially in industrial towns where workers did shift work and needed to be woken up at irregular times. You would use simply a stick or baton to knock on their sleeping clients’ doors or windows until they successfully woke up (hence the name). Granted, this position routinely comes up on lists of worst jobs in history – but for an enterprising morning person, this could be a good opportunity.

What killed it: The alarm clock becoming less expensive (and more reliable)

(Image via La Boite Verte)

Cool jobs that no longer exist: Lector

Time period to travel to: The late 1800s

The gig: This might be our favourite: employees doing monotonous labour (especially cigar rollers in Cuba) would pool their money to hire a lector, who would sit on an elevated platform and read aloud to the workers while they did their work. You’d need some pretty amazing oratorical skills, and ideally some acting chops be able to do various voices, but if you won out in the audition, you’d be able to spend your days reading everything from the newspaper to literature like The Count of Monte Cristo.

What killed it: The radio

(Photo via Mashable)

Cool jobs that no longer exist: Elevator operator
Elevator operator

Time period to travel to: The late 1800s to the mid 1900s.

The gig: Just open and close the elevator doors, hand-operate the speed and direction, and take passengers to various floors. You were also expected to be the friendly face of the businesses you worked for – so much so that at Marshall Field’s Chicago department store, all the elevator operators were young women who had to complete “charm school.”

What killed it: Automatic elevators (though it took passengers a while to get used to stepping into an elevator without an attendant)

(Photo via Quite Continental)

Cool jobs that no longer exist: Switchboard Operator
Switchboard operator

Time period to travel to: The late 1800s to the 1960s

The gig: Connect a caller to the person they wanted to reach by inserting phone plugs into jacks or liaising with other offices for long distance calls. Operators were primarily women, because they were found to be more courteous to callers, and were cheaper to employ. Gossip lovers rejoice: before privacy issues started to arise in the 1920s, switchboard operators could listen in on pretty much any conversation they connected.

What killed it: Automatic exchanges and direct-dial extensions

Cool jobs that no longer exist: Computer

Time period to travel to: The late 1800s to the 1970s

The gig: Think less iMacs and more Hidden Figures. These human computers, mostly women, would calculate complex equations by hand. The pay wasn’t great, you had to endure less favourable conditions than your male colleagues, and you were more or less hidden from public view, but you played a part in some of the biggest scientific achievements of the 19th and 20th centuries.

What killed it: Computers, ironically.

(Image via NASA)

Cool jobs that no longer exist: Pinsetter
Bowling alley pinsetter

Time period to travel to: The early 1900s

The gig: Reset bowling pins, clear fallen pins, and return balls to players. The job was often low-paying part time night work, and usually done by young boys – but at least you got to spend your nights where the action was.

What killed it: The mechanical pinsetter (and, to a lesser degree, child labour laws)

(Image via Library of Congress)


Time period to travel to: The 1950s and 1960s

The gig: Deliver milk daily from a truck (or, earlier still, a horse-drawn wagon). Ingratiate yourself with your clientele, and you may enjoy the occasional tip, cigarette, or even shot of whiskey.

What killed it: Some say the rise of refrigeration in homes. Some say the discounted three-quart glass jug at supermarkets. Others say the prevalence of cars, which made it easier to get milk when you needed it.

(Image via The Telegraph)

See also:
QUIZ: What job would you have had in Canada in 1867?
What was it like working in Canada when the Cubs last won a World Series?


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