Disgruntled with your desk job? Just be glad you aren't emptying chamber pots or catching rats with your bare hands, like people used to while working these obscure jobs from history.
Grooms Of The Stool And Necessary Womenstatic.artuk.org
Before the modern toilet came around, dealing with human waste was a dirty, but highly necessary job. For those willing to take up the task, the pay was usually great—especially if you were working for the King. The Groom of the Stool helped the King go to the bathroom, and even got a place in court as well as hand-me-downs from the King himself. A Necessary Woman, on the other hand, was in charge of emptying the chamber pots, but was paid a handsome sum of £60 plus free room and board.
Rat CatcherPhotos.com/PHOTOS.com>>/Getty Images
In the Victorian era, a rat catcher was exactly what it sounds like—someone who controlled the insane rat population in London. Rat catchers often caught rodents with their bare hands, but also made use of rat poison, traps, and rat-catching dog breeds like terriers.
Roman Orgy Plannertcavanagh411.files.wordpress.com
People in Ancient Rome took their orgies very seriously, and the orgy planner was personally responsible for organizing orgies for the rich and powerful. The orgy planner was required to organize every little detail of the orgy—including the food, guest list, location, and any little details that would make the event stand out from the rest. The most famous orgy planner was Gaius Petronius, who wrote a satirical book about his orgy experiences.
A resurrectionist, or body snatcher, was kind of like a freelance worker, who dug up corpses and sold them to medical schools. Eventually, this practice became a huge problem when two money-hungry serial killers William Burke and William Hare started murdering people just so they could make some money by selling the bodies.
Before robots were computers, people were in charge of performing all of the tasks computers now do for modern society. At one point, computer was an actual job title at NASA. A computer, who was usually a woman, was in charge of crunching numbers and had to have a special gift for making error free mental calculations. Considering how many women were employed as computers, it's ironic that there isn't a higher influx of women in technological and computer science careers.
Getting one's hair done was perhaps the only thing more important than planning an orgy in Ancient Rome. It was so important, in fact, that those who could afford it enslaved hairdressers—called orantrices—to make sure they always had the latest styles. Ornatrices worked with everything from early curling irons to hair nets to craft some of the amazing hair styles we now see on Roman statues, coins, and artwork.
Before one could space out at work while listening to Podcasts, factory workers performing monotonous tasks got to sit and listen to a lector while working. The lector sat high above the factory workers and read the daily news as well as literature to entertain workers throughout the day. In one cigar factory in Tampa, Florida, the lector read everything from "Les Miserables" to "Don Quixote."
While many people are still barbers today, you'd be hard pressed to find a barber-surgeon who performed the kind of services available in the late 1500s. At that time, the barber trimmed hair, removed lice, groomed facial hair, pulled teeth, and let blood. Additionally, the barber shop pole is a representation of blood and bandages—which stems from the medical roots of the profession.
Cat Meat DelivererMental Floss
In the Victorian era, some cats got world-class treatment and had their daily meat delivered by a courier. A cat meat deliverer took scraps of meat from slaughterhouses, put them on skewers, and delivered them door-to-door just like a milkman. At one point, 300,000 English cats were getting their meat hand-delivered.
The King's Tasterablethoughts.files.wordpress.com
Being a food and drink taster sounds awesome. Who wouldn't want to work alongside royalty and eating the world's best food all day? However, tyrannical rulers who were frightened that someone might try to poison them were the ones who employed many tasters. As a result, the taster was essentially the canary in the coal mine, who made sure the food the royal family ate wasn't laced with poison.
Perhaps one of the coolest jobs in history was being an alchemist. Alchemists tried crazy experiments to turn lead into gold, and wrote hundreds of cryptic texts that date back to Ancient Egypt. The profession is laced with mystery and secrecy, and there are legends of famous alchemists like Nostradamus achieving immortality from their alchemy practices.
If alchemy was the coolest job in history, being a knock knobbler was the lamest. A knock knobbler had one task—to shoo stray dogs out of churches during the Elizabethan era. Occasionally, the knock knobbler was also in charge of removing unruly children from worship services.
Litter CarrierWikimedia Commons
If there's one job that screams, "I'm a slave," it's litter carrier. Litter carriers were the ones who lifted up ornate carriages that held the rich and famous of Ancient China, India, and Europe. Litter carriers usually worked in teams of two or four to transport people to and from their glamorous destinations. The position eventually dissolved when horse-drawn carriages came around.
Before mechanical pinsetters were installed in bowling alleys, people manually reset the pins. Many bowling alleys hired teenage boys to do the job. They were paid a low wage, worked odd hours, and performed manual labor, but it wasn't too different from a newspaper route in that way. After mechanical pinsetters came around in the 1930s, the position evolved into a one-man job called a "pin monkey." The pin monkey was in charge of monitoring the pinsetter to make sure it was working properly.
At first glance, being a fuller doesn't sound so bad. The fuller was in charge of cleaning dirty laundry in Ancient Rome—but the real kicker was that they spent most of their time standing in nine inches of alkaline chemicals, urine, and water while they applied harsh chemicals to clothing and cloth. Additionally, most fullers were slaves, so they didn't receive compensation for their work.