20 Outdated Occupations That Have Bitten the Dust

Remember switchboard operators, rag-and-bone men and video store clerks? Robots may be stealing jobs left, right and center nowadays, but plenty of professions have vanished over the years as society has changed and technology has progressed.

Here are 20 occupations from way back when that no longer exist.

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26 Comments

  1. Jane L Polley says

    And aren’t we thankful that these occupations are no longer needed !!

  2. Benjamin H. Campbell says

    One of the biggest trades of all – Type setters, linotype operators, and many that composed a newspaper operation when hot type needed to be cast to form the copy. In addition, thousands upon thousands of little mom and pop job shops to produce letterheads, etc. There were literally millions employed in the newspaper printing industry and the job shops that are no longer needed. At it’s peak the Birmingham News where I worked as a type setter for many years needed at least 300 workers daily in the composing room. When lithography came to the industry, the paper could be produced with only about 15 workers.

    1. Debra Ann says

      I was a telephone Co. operator for a few years until they closed down and I was transferred to the business office. The picture is a little before my time, but, it reminds me of what the office looked like and the supervisors who were always behind us. Our headsets became a lot smaller. I used those big ones in the very beginning.

  3. Janet says

    Thank you for putting this piece together. I had heard of some of these occupations but having the pictures along with the information was quite charming and informative!

  4. Debbie says

    My father delivered telegrams for Western Union when he was a teenager. His father died in the flu epidemic of 1918-19 and he needed to help provide income for the family. In the 1960s, I worked a switchboard at my boarding school.

  5. Leslie says

    Enjoyed these photos and stories very much!
    I can remember when I was very young, living in a suburb of Chicago, and picking up the phone to the voice of an operator: “Number, please”.

  6. Linda says

    Re the knocker-uppers. I was born in 1951 in the north of England (county of Yorkshire). At the time of my birth my father had just begun a seven year apprenticeship with British Ropes and I can clearly remember the knocker-upper still coming around when I was six or seven or perhaps even older. Only he didn’t knock on the door but had a longer stick to reach up and tap on my parents’ bedroom window, the idea being not to disturb the whole household. However, we lived in a new, post-war council estate and the walls were quite thin. 🙂

  7. Shirley Mickey says

    I was a long distance telephone operator, for the Pacific Telephone Co! Operators were for out of town, and you dialed “O”, and for out of state, you had to ask for “long distance” and get transferred to me! My branch handled Hollywood, and the movie stars! Some of them were really fun, and some were NOT! We’ve come a long ways!

  8. wildduck says

    The rat catchers are making a comeback in some US cities. Pretty sad that they are coming back.

    1. Velocity says

      Thanks for the democrat liberal mayors & councilman there cities they represent are trashed due to their liberal ways!

      1. Rebecca Dewhirst says

        Ratcatchers may be coming back thanks to the liberal left in liberal cities and states that let Filth litter run their streets

      2. Pamami says

        Maybe you should learn how to compose a complete sentence to get your idea to be understood. You have done a great job of showing how ignorant you are. And by the way, your dumb comment has nothing to do with the subject being discussed.

        1. Tim H says

          Pamami – Maybe you should learn proper grammar before criticizing others as your sentence structure is poor.

      3. Dorothy Tellez says

        Wow any opportunity to spread your hate. You must be a real sad sack..

  9. Steven J Hopkins says

    My grandfather on my mother’s side was an iceman in southeastern Ohio back in the day.

  10. Leftist says

    I was a switchboard operator until late as 1989 even. Both old style/mechanical patch chord and the newer computer extension one’s.
    They should also include Teletypes in this category. Teletype operator is basically extinct now. Radio teletype, teletypes, I did it in the military. But, he private sector used them as much too. Teletype Operator.

  11. Dave says

    I remember, and knew, some TV repairmen, who bought homes , raised families, and put their children through college, doing that skilled trade. Now, if the TV goes bad, it’s cheaper to just throw it away, and get a new one!

  12. Karen Magallon says

    I was a 411, Directory Assistant Operator at Illinois Bell for 3 years in the early 1970’s. We sat with phone books in the front and side of us. The book in front had the frequently asked for numbers for restaurants ,stores,and shows. At that time ,in the Chicago suburbs, calls from certain towns were routed to different stations. So, we got the same people calling all the time. In 1975-76 they called the old operators up to work the books while they re taught operators to work with computers. My husband had to constantly wake me up because I would keep saying “ Directory Assistance” over and over in my sleep.

    1. Elliott Bettman says

      to paraphrase Public Enemy:
      “hang up hang up and go home-411 is a joke on your phone.

  13. Laura says

    Our TVs could usually be fixed with one tube replacement that cost around 10 dollars. Stations turned off at midnight with the Star Spangled Banner. This was the 50’s. If you were lucky you got 3 networks-no color.

  14. russell santangelo says

    And the night soil collectors in India use it to fertilize their fields. A lot of these food products are sold in dollar stores in the U.S.

  15. Raheem says

    Really, very nostalgic photos

  16. Glenn Cox says

    I was an apprenticed Meat Cutter at The Kroger 1958 . The journey was to last for two and a half years. I had experience working with different Hotel & Restaurant Cutting methods. Retail Store Meat Cutting procedure is quite different. I finished my Apprenticeship one year early, because of my past experience.
    The new so called store Meat-cutter of today in the most supermarkets are just meat clerks. The meat is processed and cut & wrapped at a centralized plant and shipped to the chain stores. Most of their tasks are just handling. I could train a Monkey to do what they do in about a week. As far as I am concerned Meat-cutters in my opinion are a lost profession. I was lucky to open a old fashion meat market and be successful.

  17. Judi Mores says

    I’m now 75 years old, but when I was a little girl we would follow the iceman around and he’d offer us some ice chips to suck on during the hot summer back in Ohio. I do remember needing an operator to call long distance, look up a number for us, and two-party lines. Bread man, milk man, and the ice cream truck. I also remember a man that went around collecting scrap metal, with a horse pulling his wagon. I remember when we got our first TV; when I got my first Toni perm, unlike my grandmother who had curlers with electric cords attached to her head. So many changes in my lifetime. It makes me nostalgic to look back on my childhood and how times have changed.

  18. Susan says

    Night soil collector sounds pretty horrible! But another occupation that I was in for many years and it is now obsolete was photo lab. I came into it back in the 1 hour lab days when that was cutting-edge….now no one needs them anymore. No one uses film, and even the digital printers we used are obsolete.

  19. Curt Allen says

    This continued into the early ’70s in some areas of the country. A 5U4GB tube used to cost me @5.00 bucks back then.

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