Before the radio, factory workers often hired lectors to entertain them while they worked. The workers pooled their wages, held auditions, and had lectors read to them over their long shifts.
Before refrigerators, people bought huge blocks of ice to keep things cold. Ice cutters had the dangerous job of carving and extracting these blocks from frozen lakes and rivers.
Log drivers used to guide logs along rivers towards sawmills and pulpmills. This highly dangerous job became less common as railroads and trucking routes became more efficient.
Rat-catchers were once employed to control rat populations and prevent the spread of disease. They kept the public safe while bearing the risk of bites and infection themselves.
Most households used to rely on local milkmen to deliver milk right to their door. When home refrigerators became common, the milkman’s services were no longer needed.
Phrenologists were “experts” at determining one’s intelligence based on the shape of their skull. This practice proved to be incredibly unscientific and was officially disbanded in 1967.
Lamp lighters used long poles to light the town’s lamps in the evenings, and extinguish them in the mornings. Once electric lighting became the norm, lamp lighters were no longer needed.
Acoustic Aircraft Locator:
Before radar, soldiers used acoustic locators to listen for incoming enemy aircraft. By World War II, the advent of radar rendered the acoustic system obsolete.
The first alarm clocks were expensive and unreliable, so early-morning workers got hired help. A “knocker-up” was hired to wake up clients, often by banging a long stick against their windows.
The mechanical pinsetter seen at today’s bowling alleys wasn’t invented until 1936. Arranging bowling pins was often a first job for teenagers, since it was low-paying, part-time work.