People's Jobs in the 1800s

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When the Industrial Revolution went into full swing during the 19th century, many jobs from the 1800s fell away. While some exist in very different forms – computers in that time meant people who computed numbers by hand – many are no longer in existence. Some of the common jobs in the 1800s include positions your ancestors had and you might have yourself if technology hadn’t made life easier.

Sweeping People's Chimneys

The grueling task of a chimney sweep involved scurrying the length of a fireplace chimney with a special broom. Often a sweep would start on the ground floor and have to shimmy all the way up through to the top of the house or commercial building, which typically meant at least two floors or more. Once on the roof, the sweep would have to find a way down again, either back through the chimney or down a ladder. Since technology in heating has rendered fireplaces to decorative pieces with efficient fuel systems, this job from the 1800s has fallen by the wayside.

Woodcutting by Lath Machine

Unlike many jobs during the 1800s, this one still exists albeit in an updated form. A lathmaker in the 1800s operated the machinery that cut wood. They maintained the machines, keeping them in good working condition and fixed them if things went wrong. This profession was the precursor to the modern-day machinist.

Knocking People Up for Work

Before alarm clocks, people still needed to get up for work on time. Enter the knocker-upper! Also called a knocker-up, this job from the 1800s is exactly what it sounds like – they were paid by people to be their living alarm clock. They went around banging on doors with their hands or batons and sometimes using a pea-shooter carefully aimed at high windows to rouse people.

Delivering Babies

Like lathmakers, this job from the 1800s still exists in an updated form. Midwives were typically women – hence the name – who specialized in delivering babies. They also knew tips and tricks for inducing labor as well as keeping babies alive during a time of very high infant-mortality rates.

Capturing Family Portraits

So-called "daguerreotypists" were the forefathers and mothers of modern photography. They used what was called a camera obscura to project images onto a screen and capture them on a polished copper plate. Of the list of jobs in the 1800s, it was arguably the most prestigious as only the very wealthy could afford to have a daguerreotype made.

Reading Books on the Factory Floor

A lector is now associated with someone who reads aloud in an official religious capacity. In the 1800s, this job was actually more in the entertainment field. As there were no podcasts or radio to listen to back then, a lector was hired to read aloud to factory workers. They usually read classic literature or whatever newspaper was approved by the company.

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About the Author

Nicky is a business writer with nearly two decades of hands-on and publishing experience. She's been published in several business publications, including The Employment Times and Business Idea Factory. She also studied business in college.