7 Jobs That Went the Way of the Dodo

Goodbye gandy dancers and knocker-up men

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 9, 2014 9:39 AM CDT

(Newser) – The modern age has a way of turning jobs obsolete in a hurry. At the San Francisco Chronicle, Katie Dowd picks out some of the more unusual casualties through history. A sampling:

  • Newspaper readers: The title is no joke. Decades ago, factories sometimes employed official readers to stand on a platform and read to workers.
  • Low-tech alarms: Long before the days of smartphones, people who had to be up in the morning paid "knocker-up" men and women to tap on their windows, using long poles if necessary. (The source link has a photo of one such expert in action in London.)
  • Bowling-pin setters: Yes, actual humans had to reset pins between shots before automation took over.
  • Switchboard operators: Back in the day, cities and towns employed long rows of these operators to manually connect every phone call.
  • Leech collectors: This was actually a booming business in the mid-19th century, when doctors needed the slimy creatures for their state-of-the-art bloodletting.
  • Ice cutters: Because refrigeration wasn't always as easy as it is today.
  • Gandy dancers: These awesomely named workers laid railroad tracks during the heyday of the industry's expansion, generally singing all the while.
Click for the full list of 14.

Making a phone call took a little longer way back when.   (Shutterstock)
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