I thought it’d be fun to look back at some of the occupations of the 1800’s and even earlier. Some sound very weird to us but I’m sure back then they weren’t any different from computer technician, an astronaut, a day trader, or a stock broker.
And while everything had a name, settlers on the frontier tended to call things normal terms everyone could understand. Like simply a stage coach driver instead of a whip. People started moving away from the stiff technical terms, opting for less flowery language. Most folks back in the early days didn’t have time to waste on words that bent the tongue. They were too busy trying to survive.
Some jobs carried simple names that you know right off what the person did. Like:
Tanner – one who tans and cures animal hides (still around today but not real common)
Spurrer – one who made spurs
Saddler – one who made, repaired, or sold saddles and other furnishings for horses
Sawyer – one who sawed trees or wood by hand at a lumber mill or lumbering operation
Teamster – one who drove a horse, mule or ox-drawn freight wagon; a modern day truck driver
Matchgirl – a girl who sold matches
A lot of these others you probably already know but maybe you’ll find a few surprises.
Lormer – a maker of horsegear
Boardwright – carpenter; one who made tables and chairs and the like
Bone Picker – someone who traveled around collecting rags and bones
Pettifogger – shyster lawyer
Peripatetic Artist – one who went from town to town painting portraits or panoramas on walls of homes and taverns
Cordwainer – one who made shoes – different from a cobbler who just repairs them
Farrier – a blacksmith who specializes in shoeing horses – called same today as back then
Cooper – someone who made or repaired wooden barrels, tubs or the like
Chandler – a candlemaker – had a steady business before gas and electric lights
Lamplighter – someone appointed to light streetlamps at dusk and extinguish them at dawn
Runner – someone who solicited business for a hotel, boardinghouse, steamship and the like
Whitesmith – tinsmith or worker of iron who finished or polished an item
Tinker – someone who made tinware
Wheelwright – one who made or repaired wheels for wagons, carriages or coaches
Snow Warden – someone appointed in one of the northern states to keep snow flattened and evenly distributed over roads for sleds and sleighs
Drummer – traveling salesman
In the old West, some of these jobs tended to overlap at times. For instance, a blacksmith often made spurs and/or tinware and the like in addition to forging horseshoes, plows, farm implements, tools, etc. He might also shoe horses and be the owner of the livery or stables.
All of this makes me wonder which of today’s occupations will vanish in the next 50 or 100 years. And what new occupations will take their place? It’ll be interesting to see. They’ll most likely have increased space travel; maybe take passengers back and forth to the moon, mars, or another of the planets. Wonder what those passengers will be called? Simply space travelers or something trendier?
What is the strangest profession (modern or otherwise) that you’ve heard?
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