17 Bizarre Jobs Our Ancestors Did That No Longer Exist

WikimediaResurrectionists would dig up corpses to sell to medical schools.

We could all be dinosaurs. The Economist predicts that robots are going to replace telemarketers, accountants, and retail workers, and Bill Gates says software bots will take even more jobs.

This isn’t the first time that whole swaths of the labour market have gone extinct: The Industrial Revolution did away with gigs that your great-great-grandparents might have had that sound preposterous to us today.

Based on the Bureau of Labour Statistic’s occupational classification list from 1850, an awesome video from Mental Floss, and some research of our own, we found several bizarre-sounding occupations that are now totally extinct.

This is an update of an article that previously ran. Additional reporting by Vivian Giang.

Pin Setter

Before mechanical pin setters came out in 1936, boys were hired to set the pins -- you called them Pin Setters.


Before it was dismissed as a racist, awful pseudoscience, lots of people went to Phrenologists, who could 'read' your intelligence by the shape of your head.

Ice Cutter

Before you could get ice from your fridge, you had to cut it from a lake. You'd hire an Ice Cutter to do so.


Back in the day when the farmer's market was just the market, folks called Badgers would buy produce from the farmer, bring it to market, and sell it to the customer. Linguists think the phrase 'badger someone' came from their relentless salesmanship.

Leech Collector

Back when medicine was in its 'let's just bleed the patient' phase, people called Leech Collectors would cull leeches from the ground with animal legs and then sell them to doctors, who would then stick them on people to 'treat' them.


In a similarly unsavory case of early medicine, Resurrectionists would dig corpses out of graveyards and sell them to medical schools.


If you were a young boy on a warship back in the seafaring days, your quick hands would be called upon to stuff gunpowder back into cannons. Your title: Powdermonkey.


Alchemists needed somebody to keep their workshop fires going. Those professional stokers had a respiratory name: Lungs.


Computer used to be somebody's title. Before electronics took over, these workers -- usually women -- would convert figures and crunch other numbers by hand.


Factory workers needed a little entertainment, so a Lector read news and literature aloud to them.


Before everyone had refrigerators, milk quickly went bad. So you'd need it delivered regularly by your Milkman. With home refrigeration, this profession disappeared.

Chimney Sweep

Chimney Sweeps cleaned out the soot that built up over winters spent burning wood to keep warm.


Before we had selfies, we had daguerreotypes, the earliest kind of publicly available photograph. These images on polished silver were made by dedicated Daguerreotypists.

Hemp Dresser

Hemp used to be a major part of the linen industry. The people that separated the coarse parts of it were Hemp Dressers.

Rat Catcher

Rat Catchers snagged the disease-carrying rodents that once ran rampant in residential neighborhoods.


A Quarryman would extract stone from the earth that may be used for various construction purposes, like a kitchen counter.

Now, see people who will never have trouble finding a job:

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