Extinct Odd Jobs – Top 10


(Extinct Odd Jobs) Did you know who set the bowling pins to correct position couple of decades ago? Yes, there were persons appointing for this particular job! But with time, automated pinsetters replaced them. Similarly, many jobs saw disappearance as technology spread its roots.

Let’s take a look at some of the extinct odd jobs:-


ice cutter

At number 1 in the list of extinct odd jobs, we have Ice cutter. Before modern refrigeration techniques became widespread, people purchased ice from ICE CUTTERS or from an ice deliveryman who came around. The Ice Cutters were responsible for sawing up ice from frozen lakes or rivers and floating it through a pre-cut channel to a spot where it could be removed and delivered ahead to customers or factories. Ice cutters went through quite a risk of often getting drowned into the icy water. Rare today, this trade existed in the 19th and early 20th centuries.


human alarm clock

Yes, you got it right! In the period when there were no digital alarm clocks, extinct odd jobs include people who were employed as alarm clocks to rouse sleepers on time for their jobs. They used to stick, clubs or pebbles to knock on clients’ windows and doors and would not dare to leave until the job was completed.


pre-radar listener

Before radar, men were appointed for detecting the sound of engines from approaching aircraft. They made use of various peculiar devices including sound mirrors which were concrete discs bouncing sounds onto a central point where they were picked by microphone or “war tubas” to funnel the sound into a pair of headphones. In the 1930s, military ears came as the only defense against the invading air crafts.



Until the introduction of electric lamps, the Lamplighters performed a crucial job of keeping the crime at bay across the UK. Every town and city suburb was illuminated by a lamplighter who would light the lamp at dusk and snuff out the flame at dawn. But by the early 20th century, all gas lamps replaced electric street lighting.


night soil collectors

Night Soil Collectors are a task with the collection of excreta from cesspits, privies, chamber pots and sometimes, to be used as fertilizers. They are term as “Midnight Mechanics” in Manchester for carrying out the task specifically at night so that humans would spare from confronting their own feces. The term “night soil” was euphemistically given to human waste.



In Europe Rats were majorly responsible for damaging the food supplies, spreading diseases and the black plague. So, in order to control the pest, special rat-catchers were appointing to catch rats. They used hands, often with specially-bred vermin terriers or laid traps to capture rats. They suffered high risks of rat-bites and infections but that did not deter the rat-catchers from performing their job. The rodents were even sold to the posh ladies who kept them in cages as a statement of fashion.


leech collector

Leeches were in growing demand in 19th century Europe for use in bloodletting and other medicinal uses. Leech collectors performed the task of rolling up their trousers and using their naked legs as bait for these bloodsuckers. The career was seasonal as the leaches would not be active in the colder months. Many collectors suffered illness as a result of repeated bites and blood loss or infections from leeches.



In early 3rd century BC, medicine involved dissections of dead humans and as the course evolved in the 1700s and 1800s the demand for bodies soared. Resurrectionists were one of the extinct jobs that existed during that time. Resurrectinists were hired as “body snatchers” to remove corpses from the graves and deliver them to universities for scientific experiments. The job vanished when the 1838 Anatomy Act allowed people to leave their body for scientific experiments.



In funerals, wealthier families often felt compelled of hiring mourners or professional criers who would have this sad-looking mute face. This was at the time when funerals regard as a status symbol. But paying to pretend to cry soon ran out of fashion by the 1900s.


bowling alley pinsetter

Originally, a person employed as pinsetters for resetting the bowling pins to their correct position, clear fallen pins and return bowling balls to the players. It only attracted young teenage boys due to less-pay and timing that frequently took place evenings. Human pinsetters have long been replacing automated pinsetters for setting up bowling pins.


log driver

In Europe and North America, when there were no machines or bulldozers or trucks to carry heavy logs, log Drivers were one of the extinct odd jobs for moving the logs from the logging sites(forest) to processing areas(sawmills or pulp mills) downstream using the current of the river.


switchboard operators

The list of extinct odd jobs is incomplete without Switchboard operator. Before the modern technology came into effect, the long-distance calls connect by the Switch Board Operators who form an integral part of a telephone network’s operation. They also manage other things relate to the networking operation that is now digitally.

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