You Won't Believe How Your Ancestors Made Money

Caption: Breaker boys (Pennsylvania, 1884). Credit: George Bretz

Caption: Breaker boys (Pennsylvania, 1884). Credit: George Bretz

Remember thinking what you wanted to be when you grew up? Well, we are definitely not following our grandparents’ footsteps, as many of the jobs they had have become extinct!

Ice cutting? A personal knocker-upper? How our ancestors made money will surprise you! Here are 10 jobs that no longer exist:

  1. A scissors-grinder sharpened the blades of knives and scissors.
  2. Hemp dressers worked in the linen industry separating hemp with a hackle.
  3. Bobbin boys brought bobbins to women at the looms and collected ones that were full with spun cotton or wool thread.
  4. Book peddlers were traveling vendors who went door-to-door selling books.
  5. Breaker boys were coal mining workers who separated impurities from the coal by hand.
  6. Gandy dancers lay and maintained railroad tracks.
  7. Icemen collected surface ice from lakes and rivers during the winter and sold them as pre-refrigeration cooling blocks.
  8. Switchboard operators connected phone calls from house to house, and were used in some places until the 1960s.
  9. Knocker-uppers were human alarm clocks that used sticks or a truncheon to knock on doors or windows to wake up people in the morning.
  10. Lectors read books or newspapers to factory workers to entertain them as they worked.

Did your ancestor have a job that doesn’t exist anymore?

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