A List of Bygone Era Careers and Occupations

A proud boy covered in soot in his chimney sweep outfit

A List of Bygone Era Careers and Occupations

Technology has been changing the face of the working world since the Industrial Revolution. Technology creates new employment opportunities while making other occupations obsolete. Think back on your own lifetime. How many switchboard operators do you know? How about gas station attendants who pump gas?

The only constant for the past two centuries has been change.

This is a short list of occupations that were once quite common and now either no longer exist or are very rare:

Men’s Occupations

  • Watchman: The precursor to the security guard.
  • Carter: A person who drives a cart. Similar jobs include coachman, drayman, hackman and teamster.
  • Streetcar conductor
  • Railroad jobs including hostler and lineman
  • Livery workers: Liveries were places horses were lodged and fed in exchange for compensation.
  • Porter: The precursor of the doorman and hotel valet.
  • Stationer: Someone who sells stationary.
  • Blacksmith
  • Chimney sweep
  • Whitewasher: Someone employed to whitewash objects.
  • Cooper: Someone who makes barrels.
  • Currier: Someone who dresses leather after it has been tanned.
  • Mason: A constructor worker who builds using stone or brick.
  • Miller: Someone who works at a flour or grist mill.
  • Plasterer: Someone who works with plaster.
  • Puddler: Someone who makes wrought iron.
  • Tailor
  • Tinner: Someone who works with tin.
  • Wheelwright: Someone who manufactures and repairs wheels for wagons.
  • Cesspool and sewerman
  • Rat catchers
  • Street sweepers

Women’s Occupations

  • A governess reading to her charges
    A governess reading to her charges

    Copyist: Someone who makes copies of documents.

  • Bleacher: Someone who bleaches fabric.
  • Dressmaker
  • Dyer: Someone who dies cloth.
  • Milliner: Someone who makes and decorates women’s hats.
  • Seamstress
  • Tallowmaker: Someone who makes soap or candles from tallow.
  • Warper: Someone who forms yarn for looms into warps.
  • Washerwoman
  • Governess


Updated:  20 October 2020
Melina Druga
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Most kids have an active imagination. My imagination has stayed strong into adulthood, and I’ve funneled that creativity into a successful writing career. I write history, both fiction and nonfiction, because although your school history classes may have been boring, the past is not. My goal is to bring the past to life in all its myriad of colors.
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