Saturday, September 21, 2013


Before the Industrial Revolution, there were lots of jobs once considered stable, middle-class jobs commonplace for our great grandparents, in particular those living in rural areas.  The occupational classification list from 1850 (provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics) was the first year the government collected data on what Americans did for a living.

Today's Standard Occupational Classifications (part of the Census) identified 31,000 currently active occupations in America.

Below is a listing of 11 jobs no longer recognized by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  This certainly does not mean that no one does these jobs any longer, just that they aren't officially recognized as part of the currently active occupations in America.

1)      Chimney-sweeps:
This is someone, as the name implies, who inspects and cleans chimneys.  There is a lot of climbing, squatting, kneeling, and stretching involved with this occupation.  But with today's modern and more efficient means of heating a house, fireplaces are not the necessity they once were. But every now and then you come across someone advertising their services as a chimney-sweep, wearing the traditional costume including the top hat.

2)      Daguerreotypists:
Now this is an occupation that probably is extinct with the exception of a specialized exhibit of some short.  These people were the pioneers of photography using the camera obscura which was an optical device that projects an image of its surroundings on a screen.  Reaching back into the very depths of my memory, I think I recall seeing a camera obscura in San Francisco in the Golden Gate Park vicinity (at the ocean).  Anyone familiar with this?

3)      Drover:
A cowboy who drives cattle or sheep.  Although cowboys still work cattle ranches, the day when cattle drives moved herds across distances to railroad locations where they could be shipped to market are long gone.

4)      Hemp dressers:
Also known as hacklers, this was someone who worked in the linen industry and was responsible for separating the coarse parts of hemp.  A hackler was the tool they used.

5)      Lapidaries:
This applies to an artist who collects precious gemstones and minerals and makes them into jewelry and other decorative items, a job that is still very much alive today but apparently no longer a part of the Bureau of Labor Statistics list.  That could be due to being considered more of a hobbyist job than an occupation?

6)      Lathmaker:
On the list I saw, this was described as "Someone who works to set up, operate, or tend wood sawing."  That surprised me.  I didn't realize lathmaker was someone responsible for the actual sawing of the lumber.  I had always thought of it as the person who did woodwork such as the turning of table legs—making a finished product rather than dealing with the raw material.  But either way, it seems to me to be a still viable job although the sawing of the logs into lumber lengths is now highly mechanized.

7)      Match makers:
Someone whose job it is to match up 2 people for the purpose of marriage.  Today we have the internet!  :)

8)      Occultists:
One who studies magic, alchemy, extra-sensory perception, astrology, spiritualism, and divination.  Several of these were areas of high interest in the 1800s.

9)      Quarrymen:
This is a person who manages or works in a quarry, an open pit mine for rocks and minerals.  Obviously there are still many open pit mines in operations today but a lot of what used to be the manual labor is now handled by machines.

10)    Shoe peg maker:
This is a traditional form of shoe-making using a type of pegged construction.

11)    Salaeratus makers:
This is a person who makes baking soda.  I would imagine over 150 years ago that this would be a singular person making the product and selling it in rural areas, whereas today we have our large supermarkets in which to buy the same product as made by a large manufacturing concern.


Grace Elliot said...

My favourite has to be 'shoe peg maker' - however do we survive without them?
Grace x

Shawna Delacorte said...

Hi, Grace: I'll need to figure out exactly what a shoe peg maker does (or more accurately, what one did) before I can figure out how we survive without them. :)

Thanks for your comment.