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Old 09-29-2016, 08:03 AM
Tootingkhamen Tootingkhamen is offline
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Defunct professions

I was looking up the history of my local pub here - it gives census details of people who lived / lodged there over the years.

Amongst these was one Henry Dacey who gives his occupation as "Rag Smasher".

A Google search turns up no information on what the occupation of Rag Smasher might involve - I wonder if anyone here might have some idea?
  #2  
Old 09-29-2016, 08:07 AM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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WAG: someone who prepares rags for paper-making.
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Old 09-29-2016, 08:42 AM
Whiskey Dickens Whiskey Dickens is offline
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Given that the only references online are for your pub or to a reference to a rag time piano player, I would believe either the handwriting was misinterpreted, or this gentleman made up a profession name in hopes of describing his obscure job.

Maybe he was a launderer and was being cute about his profession name?
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Old 09-29-2016, 09:11 AM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is online now
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Was this a bit of a seedy pub?

Poking around on google books, I found some old underworld slang dictionaries that list "smash" as a verb meaning to pass counterfeit coins. A smasher was therefore someone who passed fake coins, and was later extended to someone who passed either fake coins or bills. One of several examples given in one book is "pitch a snide or smash a rag". Another book goes into more detail on snide pitching, which is passing counterfeit coins. So apparently he could have been called a snide pitcher as well.

Passing bad bank notes was also called smashing queer screens.

Most of the examples are late 1800s.
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Old 09-29-2016, 09:42 AM
RivkahChaya RivkahChaya is online now
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Originally Posted by engineer_comp_geek View Post
Was this a bit of a seedy pub?

Poking around on google books, I found some old underworld slang dictionaries that list "smash" as a verb meaning to pass counterfeit coins. A smasher was therefore someone who passed fake coins, and was later extended to someone who passed either fake coins or bills. One of several examples given in one book is "pitch a snide or smash a rag". Another book goes into more detail on snide pitching, which is passing counterfeit coins. So apparently he could have been called a snide pitcher as well.

Passing bad bank notes was also called smashing queer screens.

Most of the examples are late 1800s.
Another data point to this is that in the US anyway, the type of paper money is printed on is called "rag paper." It's hard to imagine that a bill counterfeiter would call himself a "rag smasher," though, because it sounds like that might have been a little too transparent to people at the time. Maybe he did something like preparing checks or promissory notes for banks, and he was making a joke about it.
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Old 09-29-2016, 12:19 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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It's hard to imagine that a bill counterfeiter would call himself a "rag smasher," though, because it sounds like that might have been a little too transparent to people at the time. Maybe he did something like preparing checks or promissory notes for banks, and he was making a joke about it.
Yeah, "rag smasher" in the sense of "counterfeiter" seems to have been strictly criminal argot:
Quote:
Pitching snides is passing fake coins while smashing rags is to do the same with fake notes.
Note that "bag smasher" or "baggage smasher" is 19th-century slang for a luggage handler or porter, still in use (generally in an uncomplimentary sense) for airline baggage handlers. Could the transcriber of the OP's 1881 entry have misread a handwritten capital "B" as an "R"?
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Old 10-03-2016, 09:23 AM
Tootingkhamen Tootingkhamen is offline
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Originally Posted by Hari Seldon View Post
WAG: someone who prepares rags for paper-making.
I think this must be it. This pub is close to the River Wandle which used to have something like 90 mills of various types along its length, including paper mills.

If you search for "Rag Beating" then the term comes up as part of the paper-making process; I guess the pub lodger preferred the sound of "smash"
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Old 09-29-2016, 08:50 AM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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If you want a defunct profession, there Mother repairer.

Once of my favorites from the Dictionary of Occupational Title, but I doubt it exists today.

The job entails making repairs and preparing to the die used to stamp out vinyl records. If it broke or went bad, you'd fix it. Vinyl still exists, but it's such a niche market that I doubt there is any need for a dedicated person to do it.
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Old 09-29-2016, 09:38 AM
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I'd go with paper making. High quality rag paper makers still use stamp mills, kind of an automated mortar and pestle to smash rags to release the fibers.

Early models were powered by water wheels. There was a lot of trouble when the Hollander beater was invented, a machine that used knife-like blades to cut the fiber rather than smash it ... people were afraid of being put out of work by automation and resorted to industrial sabotage, raiding the new factories and smashing the new machines ... happened around 1680.
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Old 09-29-2016, 09:47 AM
Ignotus Ignotus is offline
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I searched Wiktionary for various meanings of rag and found this:

Quote:
Noun
rag ‎(plural rags)
A coarse kind of rock, somewhat cellular in texture; ragstone.

Verb
rag ‎(third-person singular simple present rags, present participle ragging, simple past and past participle ragged)
To break (ore) into lumps for sorting.
To cut or dress roughly, as a grindstone.
Seems likely to me the guy worked down mine.

Last edited by Ignotus; 09-29-2016 at 09:50 AM.
  #11  
Old 09-29-2016, 09:42 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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There are still a few of these around, for niche/artisanal markets or at historic sites, but as professions they're largely obsolete:

blacksmith
groom (cared for horses)
cooper (barrelmaker)
teamster (in the original sense - one who drove teams of horses)
muleskinner (ditto, but for mules)
  #12  
Old 09-29-2016, 10:21 AM
silenus silenus is offline
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Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir View Post
There are still a few of these around, for niche/artisanal markets or at historic sites, but as professions they're largely obsolete:

blacksmith
groom (cared for horses)
cooper (barrelmaker)
teamster (in the original sense - one who drove teams of horses)
muleskinner (ditto, but for mules)
Coopers are hardly obsolete. With the world-wide boom in whisk(e)y production, the occupation is in greater demand today than it has been in a century.
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Old 09-29-2016, 10:27 AM
RivkahChaya RivkahChaya is online now
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Coopers are hardly obsolete. With the world-wide boom in whisk(e)y production, the occupation is in greater demand today than it has been in a century.
OK, but witchfinders and plague doctors are definitely on the decline.
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Old 09-29-2016, 10:41 AM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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You may find this index helpful:

http://www.census1891.com/occupations-s.php

It lists a "rag cutter" (cuts up rags for papermaking), but no "rag smasher".

My favorite (defunct) job title: "Slubber Doffer". Someone who removes bobbins from spindles in a mill.

Many "defunct" jobs still exist as artisanal curiosities (hell, there are folks out there making medieval swords for sale), but I'm guessing that this sort of industrial-type occupation is indeed "defunct".
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Old 09-29-2016, 12:00 PM
Turble Turble is offline
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I'm sticking with a guy who worked in a paper mill operating a stamp mill.

They did (and still do) smash the rags into pulp to make high grade paper. The Hollander machines cut the fibers rather than smashing, making shorter fibers which makes lower grade paper but makes it a lot faster.

A good book on the subject which I happened to read a couple weeks ago:
Paper: Paging Through History
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Old 09-30-2016, 12:33 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Originally Posted by Malthus View Post
You may find this index helpful:

http://www.census1891.com/occupations-s.php

It lists a "rag cutter" (cuts up rags for papermaking), but no "rag smasher".

My favorite (defunct) job title: "Slubber Doffer". Someone who removes bobbins from spindles in a mill.

Many "defunct" jobs still exist as artisanal curiosities (hell, there are folks out there making medieval swords for sale), but I'm guessing that this sort of industrial-type occupation is indeed "defunct".
Great cite.

Similar lists, although without governmental authority, exist for Renaissance and Medieval periods. I'll scrounge around.
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Old 09-29-2016, 02:07 PM
Jackmannii Jackmannii is offline
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OK, but witchfinders and plague doctors are definitely on the decline.
On a related note, it's getting hard to find openings for superintendents of tuberculosis sanitariums and leper colonies.
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Old 10-03-2016, 09:39 AM
MacLir MacLir is offline
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On a related note, it's getting hard to find openings for superintendents of tuberculosis sanitariums and leper colonies.
I can name two or three hospitals in my home town that began as sanitaria and have been in continuous operation since.
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Old 09-29-2016, 10:37 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Coopers are hardly obsolete. With the world-wide boom in whisk(e)y production, the occupation is in greater demand today than it has been in a century.
Didn't know that! Presumed it was mostly automated these days. Thanks - ignorance fought.

Here's a great old-fashioned job title: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gandy_dancer
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Old 09-29-2016, 12:39 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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Coopers are hardly obsolete.
Neither are grooms, nor ever will be as long as riding stables, private stables, and racecourses exist. Here are some current job listings for grooms, blacksmiths, and other horse-related occupations.

I believe mule-ride guides at the Grand Canyon are still called "muleskinners", but as a job category it's pretty vestigial.
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Old 09-29-2016, 03:02 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Neither are grooms, nor ever will be as long as riding stables, private stables, and racecourses exist. Here are some current job listings for grooms, blacksmiths, and other horse-related occupations.....
Compared to their numbers before the Model T, there are very few.
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Old 09-29-2016, 04:45 PM
Mister Rik Mister Rik is offline
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OK, but witchfinders and plague doctors are definitely on the decline.
Witchfinders made something of a comeback in the 1980s, resulting in much trouble for heavy metal bands and daycare providers.
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Old 09-29-2016, 06:43 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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Compared to their numbers before the Model T, there are very few.
Not all that "very", AFAICT. In the US alone nowadays there are estimated to be over 9 million domesticated horses, which is nearly half as big as the US equine population at the start of the 20th century, and a sizable subset of domesticated horses still require hired grooms to take care of them.

"Less common" != "obsolete"; the occupation "groom" is not at all superseded or redundant in the way that, say, coachmen and coal-engine stokers and manuscript scribes have become. Grooms are more like piano tuners: less numerous than they used to be but still quite crucial to the wellbeing of a diminished but significant population.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackmannii
On a related note, it's getting hard to find openings for superintendents of tuberculosis sanitariums and leper colonies.
Unfortunately, new strains of multidrug-resistant TB may mean that the former occupation will be making at least a partial comeback:
Quote:
[...] the growing pool of treatment failures needs to be addressed with a coordinated strategy that involves supported home care interlinked with urgent building of long-term community stay and palliative care facilities.
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Old 09-30-2016, 01:03 PM
bump bump is offline
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Coopers are hardly obsolete. With the world-wide boom in whisk(e)y production, the occupation is in greater demand today than it has been in a century.
Lots of barrels are also made for the winemaking industry as well. Granted, barrels were much more in demand say... 100-150 years ago, but being a cooper is still a going profession, unlike some of the others that date from those days.
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Old 09-30-2016, 01:23 PM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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I think to be truly "defunct" a profession must meet some criteria. It is actually surprisingly difficult to think up a profession no-one still does, somewhere.

1. It has to be something no longer useful, because the good or service is either no longer used, or done cheaper and better some other way.

2. That isn't enough, because there are whole categories of goods which are no longer used, but are collector's items or have some specialist interest. No one "needs" a medieval broadsword, but forging them is nonetheless an existing occupation.

3. Also, even if the good or service can be performed some cheaper way, there are whole categories of activities people do anyway, because it is fun, or because handmade has qualities superior to machine-made (so, lots of potters still exist, both as hobbyists and because there is still a market for hand-made pottery, even though machines can stamp out pots very cheaply).

4. Also, there cannot be a lot of interest in knowing how it was done. There are still people who specialize in such archaic skills as flint-knapping, just to learn more about ancient flint-knappers.

5. Thus, a good candidate for truly "defunct" professions are industrial occupations, in which laborious, dirty and/or dangerous activities have long been replaced with improvements to machinery - assuming the occupations don't still exist somewhere like North Korea.
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Old 09-30-2016, 01:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Malthus View Post
I think to be truly "defunct" a profession must meet some criteria. It is actually surprisingly difficult to think up a profession no-one still does, somewhere.

1. It has to be something no longer useful, because the good or service is either no longer used, or done cheaper and better some other way.

2. That isn't enough, because there are whole categories of goods which are no longer used, but are collector's items or have some specialist interest. No one "needs" a medieval broadsword, but forging them is nonetheless an existing occupation.

3. Also, even if the good or service can be performed some cheaper way, there are whole categories of activities people do anyway, because it is fun, or because handmade has qualities superior to machine-made (so, lots of potters still exist, both as hobbyists and because there is still a market for hand-made pottery, even though machines can stamp out pots very cheaply).

4. Also, there cannot be a lot of interest in knowing how it was done. There are still people who specialize in such archaic skills as flint-knapping, just to learn more about ancient flint-knappers.

5. Thus, a good candidate for truly "defunct" professions are industrial occupations, in which laborious, dirty and/or dangerous activities have long been replaced with improvements to machinery - assuming the occupations don't still exist somewhere like North Korea.
Will you take my "steel puddlers"?
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Old 10-04-2016, 10:02 AM
XT XT is offline
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Originally Posted by Malthus View Post
I think to be truly "defunct" a profession must meet some criteria. It is actually surprisingly difficult to think up a profession no-one still does, somewhere.

1. It has to be something no longer useful, because the good or service is either no longer used, or done cheaper and better some other way.

2. That isn't enough, because there are whole categories of goods which are no longer used, but are collector's items or have some specialist interest. No one "needs" a medieval broadsword, but forging them is nonetheless an existing occupation.

3. Also, even if the good or service can be performed some cheaper way, there are whole categories of activities people do anyway, because it is fun, or because handmade has qualities superior to machine-made (so, lots of potters still exist, both as hobbyists and because there is still a market for hand-made pottery, even though machines can stamp out pots very cheaply).

4. Also, there cannot be a lot of interest in knowing how it was done. There are still people who specialize in such archaic skills as flint-knapping, just to learn more about ancient flint-knappers.

5. Thus, a good candidate for truly "defunct" professions are industrial occupations, in which laborious, dirty and/or dangerous activities have long been replaced with improvements to machinery - assuming the occupations don't still exist somewhere like North Korea.
Well, if you are going to include North Korea, then my WAG is all bets are off...they are frozen in time and so secretive that they could have any old, defunct (everywhere else) equipment or manual labor practices still going on.

I think anywhere BUT North Korea that switchboard operators are out pretty much defunct, though. There is no use having someone sit and manually connect physical network connections via a plug when electronic switching equipment can do it better and orders of magnitude faster. Doing a Google search, the only people listed as 'switchboard operators' these days are usually people acting as receptionists in one way or another...either for email or for voice calls coming into a central reception desk. But that's not what an actual switchboard operator used to be, so I think this is a good candidate even using your criteria.

Sadly, I think buggy whip makers are still a thing, if only a niche thing. You can still get buggy whips and riding crops after all.

Last edited by XT; 10-04-2016 at 10:03 AM.
  #28  
Old 10-03-2016, 09:53 AM
MacLir MacLir is offline
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Lots of barrels are also made for the winemaking industry as well. Granted, barrels were much more in demand say... 100-150 years ago, but being a cooper is still a going profession, unlike some of the others that date from those days.
True. Barrels used to be the default shipping container for bulk goods - as evidenced by the name of that chain restaurant with the folksy, general store ambience.

There were even sub-categories of cooper - dry coopers, who made barrels that would contain nails and stuff, and the more exacting wet coopers, who made barrels that would contain liquid. Probably not many dry coopers around these days - corrugated cardboard is SO much cheaper.
  #29  
Old 10-05-2016, 05:49 AM
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True. Barrels used to be the default shipping container for bulk goods - as evidenced by the name of that chain restaurant with the folksy, general store ambience.
They still are, kind of. It's only that now the containers of the same shape are made of plastic and called drums.
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Old 09-29-2016, 10:41 AM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir View Post
There are still a few of these around, for niche/artisanal markets or at historic sites, but as professions they're largely obsolete:

blacksmith
groom (cared for horses)
cooper (barrelmaker)
teamster (in the original sense - one who drove teams of horses)
muleskinner (ditto, but for mules)
My great-great-grandfather at one time had his profession listed as a "kalsominer," someone who put up kalsomine (calcimine), a kind of whitewash. To my surprise, this seems to still be an official category at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but there can't be too many people specializing in it.
  #31  
Old 09-30-2016, 11:26 AM
XT XT is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir View Post
There are still a few of these around, for niche/artisanal markets or at historic sites, but as professions they're largely obsolete:

blacksmith
groom (cared for horses)
cooper (barrelmaker)
teamster (in the original sense - one who drove teams of horses)
muleskinner (ditto, but for mules)
My favorite is switchboard operator. As someone mentioned above, there are still coopers who make barrels the old way, mainly for whisky making. I saw it on (IIRC) Discovery or History Channel when they were talking about making whisky and showed some guys actually making the barrels and how they char them.
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Old 09-30-2016, 10:29 PM
tomndebb tomndebb is offline
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Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir View Post
There are still a few of these around, for niche/artisanal markets or at historic sites, but as professions they're largely obsolete:

blacksmith
I am not sure how few you think would make something "niche/artisanal," but farriers are a solid trade with thousands of practitioners. (25,000 in the U.S. according to this site.) In contrast, there were just over 4700 heart surgeons (with declining numbers) in 2005 according to this trade journal report.

Wrought iron workers are probably quite a bit fewer, only 4,000 according to Wikipedia, but the word blacksmith evokes the image of a farrier more than that of a decorative iron worker.
Are farriers as common as they were in 1900? Certainly not. However, as long as people continue to employ horses for racing--thoroughbred & harness, hunters, jumpers, dressage, western, the various specialty gaited breeds, farming, (lots of Amish in PA, OH, KY, IN, MN and other locations), ranching, and simple pleasure ownership, there will be a need for farriers.

I suspect that with over 130 racetracks, (and a lot of wealthy horse owners), grooms may be more prevalent than one would first guess, as well.
  #33  
Old 10-10-2016, 12:53 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir View Post
There are still a few of these around, for niche/artisanal markets or at historic sites, but as professions they're largely obsolete:

blacksmith
groom (cared for horses)
cooper (barrelmaker)
teamster (in the original sense - one who drove teams of horses)
muleskinner (ditto, but for mules)
The word here is obsolescent, not obsolete. There are over 9 million horses still in the USA. There are between 5,000 and 10,000 blacksmiths in the U.S..
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Old 09-29-2016, 09:47 AM
Cardigan Cardigan is offline
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Do you suppose railroads still hire 'bulls' or 'bull-men' anymore? They were the brutal guards railroad companies hired to seek out and rough up hobos who tried to hop freight trains in the early 20th century.
  #35  
Old 09-29-2016, 02:28 PM
August West August West is offline
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Do you suppose railroads still hire 'bulls' or 'bull-men' anymore? They were the brutal guards railroad companies hired to seek out and rough up hobos who tried to hop freight trains in the early 20th century.
I can confirm that the railroads still have security officers. My friend and I were stopped by one a few years back while rabbit hunting along some railroad tracks.

He introduced himself as being from the "Canadian National Railroad Police", which prompted my hunting partner to bark "Yeah, well this is America, pal!", not comprehending that the officer was affiliated with Canadian National.

Luckily, despite my friends belligerence, he took it easy on us.
  #36  
Old 09-29-2016, 02:57 PM
Urbanredneck Urbanredneck is offline
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OTOH I read where some jobs were making a comeback like butchers, blacksmiths, and persons who can handmake certain items.
  #37  
Old 10-01-2016, 11:21 AM
Kobal2 Kobal2 is offline
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Do you suppose railroads still hire 'bulls' or 'bull-men' anymore? They were the brutal guards railroad companies hired to seek out and rough up hobos who tried to hop freight trains in the early 20th century.
A related career which probably disappeared, at least officially, is the strike breaker ; the guys who'd not only get called upon to bash heads in when a strike is in effect, but also bust the teeth of "uppity" workers and suspected "reds" or unionists the rest of the time.

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Originally Posted by RivkahChaya
Plague doctors. I'm pretty sure there are no more plague doctors.
I'm pretty sure there are still some plague specialists at the CDC just in case
  #38  
Old 10-10-2016, 12:57 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Do you suppose railroads still hire 'bulls' or 'bull-men' anymore? They were the brutal guards railroad companies hired to seek out and rough up hobos who tried to hop freight trains in the early 20th century.
Plenty of Railroad police aka bulls still around. They still kick people off the freight trains. But their primary duties were not "brutal guards ...hired to seek out and rough up hobos", they also performed many security duties, Today many are certified law enforcement officers.

wiki: "Some of the crimes railroad police investigate include trespassing on the right-of-way of a railroad, assaults against passengers, terrorism threats targeting the railroad, arson, tagging of graffiti on railroad rolling stock or buildings, signal vandalism, pickpocketing, ticket fraud, robbery and theft of personal belongings, baggage or freight. Other incidents railroad police investigate include derailments, train/vehicle collisions, vehicle accidents on the right of way, and hazardous materials releases.
  #39  
Old 09-29-2016, 04:44 PM
yabob yabob is offline
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Steel puddler.
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Old 09-29-2016, 04:57 PM
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Don't forget the old favourite, the "sagger maker's bottom knocker".
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Old 09-30-2016, 04:14 AM
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Don't forget the old favourite, the "sagger maker's bottom knocker".
In the same industry (pottery) there were a lot of specialist jobs, like a glost putter up*. I worked in the area for a while, and I remember my father on a visit being much taken with adverts in the local paper for (this was in the days before sex discrimination laws) "female handlers".
*http://www.thepotteries.org/jobs/

Last edited by PatrickLondon; 09-30-2016 at 04:14 AM.
  #42  
Old 09-30-2016, 10:56 AM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is online now
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For me the defunct profession is "Flight Engineer". When I started in the industry in the late '80s there were probably 10,000 flight engineers working in the US. Now it's closer to a couple hundred. I bet it'll be zero in another 5-ish years.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 09-30-2016 at 10:58 AM.
  #43  
Old 09-30-2016, 11:15 AM
MrAtoz MrAtoz is offline
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Remember the episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy and Ethel go to work in the chocolate factory? Of course you do, everybody does!

Well, one of the jobs that the guy from the employment agency offers them before he sends them to the chocolate factory is "comptometer operator." A comptometer was a mechanical calculator, sort of an early adding machine. Between computers and electronic calculators, I'm betting there aren't any comptometer operators around anymore.

Another job he offers them is "PBX operator." I don't know, are there still PBX systems anywhere?
  #44  
Old 09-30-2016, 11:32 AM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrAtoz View Post
Another job he offers them is "PBX operator." I don't know, are there still PBX systems anywhere?
Apparently there are, because a quick google search finds a bunch of jobs being offered on monster and other job sites. Also, the average pay for a PBX operator in 2016 is apparently about $11 an hour.
  #45  
Old 09-30-2016, 11:37 AM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is online now
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Originally Posted by MrAtoz View Post
...
Another job he offers them is "PBX operator." I don't know, are there still PBX systems anywhere?
What do you suppose is the function of every receptionist at every hotel and large corporate office in the land? That person has a fancy phone and distributes incoming calls on a shared main number to the appropriate extensions. Functionally speaking that's a PBX even if it doesn't have those pre-1960s plugs and wires.

Even systems with auto-attendants ("press 1 for accounting, 2 for reservations, 3 for the dining room, ...") still have a person backstopping the whole thing (" ..., or press 0 or stay on the line to speak to an operator.").

That person is, by definition, a PBX operator.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 09-30-2016 at 11:41 AM.
  #46  
Old 09-30-2016, 11:51 AM
yabob yabob is offline
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Originally Posted by LSLGuy View Post
What do you suppose is the function of every receptionist at every hotel and large corporate office in the land? That person has a fancy phone and distributes incoming calls on a shared main number to the appropriate extensions. Functionally speaking that's a PBX even if it doesn't have those pre-1960s plugs and wires.
When I worked for Bell Labs in Denver in the early 80s, it was usually called the "PBX Lab", although I believe the official designation was "Business Communications". The computer based system we were developing at that time was usually referred to as the "Dimension 85 PBX" ("Antelope" was the internal code name for the project). BTW, we referred to the operators on such systems as "attendants".
  #47  
Old 09-30-2016, 12:25 PM
MrAtoz MrAtoz is offline
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Originally Posted by LSLGuy View Post
What do you suppose is the function of every receptionist at every hotel and large corporate office in the land? That person has a fancy phone and distributes incoming calls on a shared main number to the appropriate extensions. Functionally speaking that's a PBX even if it doesn't have those pre-1960s plugs and wires.

Even systems with auto-attendants ("press 1 for accounting, 2 for reservations, 3 for the dining room, ...") still have a person backstopping the whole thing (" ..., or press 0 or stay on the line to speak to an operator.").

That person is, by definition, a PBX operator.
I see. Thanks for the explanation.

I knew receptionists and administrative assistants have snazzy phones with multiple lines to receive and dispatch calls, of course (the administrative assistant in our department has one on her desk!). I didn't know whether they still use the term "PBX" for that kind of thing.
  #48  
Old 09-30-2016, 12:30 PM
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There was an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s where a character was looking through want ads in the newspaper and noticing a lot of ads for "keypunch operators". She said she didn't even know what a keypunch operator was. (I was studying computer science in college at the time and was intimately familiar with keypunch machines.) That is a profession that is undoubtedly defunct now, although "data entry" is similar.

--Mark
  #49  
Old 09-30-2016, 12:11 PM
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I once had a job as an IBM Proof Machine Operator, as did hundreds of workers in large downtown banks. I doubt if that exists anymore.

A Proof Machine was how all checks were sorted at all banks before the printed coding was implemented. An operator read the check, entered the amount on a keyboard with the right hand, then fed the check into a slot with the left hand after punching one of 32 buttons that controlled the sorting mechanism. The check was whisked into one of the 32 pockets in a drum mechanism and 32 printing adding machines in the rear kept tabs on the dollar contents of each, plus one for the running grand total.

This machine was the only one at the time that could handle any piece of paper of the rough size and shape of a check, and didn't require the standard IBM punch cards.

In the bank where I worked, I developed a routine (which involved programming the machine's plugboard) to handle loan payments. What took an assistant auditor most of the day I was able to do in about an hour. The auditor was overjoyed, but my boss didn't like it much -- she was afraid I'd screw up the machine, as no one had ever reprogrammed it before and she didn't know what those wires and plugs did.

Last edited by Musicat; 09-30-2016 at 12:16 PM.
  #50  
Old 09-30-2016, 01:14 PM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
I once had a job as an IBM Proof Machine Operator, as did hundreds of workers in large downtown banks. I doubt if that exists anymore.
...
In the bank where I worked, I developed a routine (which involved programming the machine's plugboard) to handle loan payments. What took an assistant auditor most of the day I was able to do in about an hour. The auditor was overjoyed, but my boss didn't like it much -- she was afraid I'd screw up the machine, as no one had ever reprogrammed it before and she didn't know what those wires and plugs did.
My Mom was something close to a proof machine operator for the original BofA in the early 1950s.

My first "IT" job included maintaining the plug boards and operating the last few IBM offline tab machine dinosaurs my employer still had. Tried my hand at creating a few plugboard programs from scratch; it wasn't easy. A couple years later the last real tab machine had gone the scrapyard.

We still had lots of programs, JCL, and even a few datasets on cards so we kept a non-programmable 12-pocket card sorter to reindex the database after the occasional but inevitable dropped deck.

About 5 years later TSO, IPSF, IMS, CICS, et al, had eliminated the last physical punched card and the sorter followed its old stablemates into the scrapyard. All 3000 pounds of it. Those things were built like a 1951 John Deere.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 09-30-2016 at 01:16 PM.
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