20 Obsolete Jobs: Professions That No Longer Exist

Dive into the past and discover 20 common professions that have disappeared with the evolution of society and technology. Explore this engaging historical perspective of our ever-changing job landscape creating these obsolete jobs.

In today’s rapidly changing world, the relentless march of time coupled with the ever-evolving technology has not only reshaped but revolutionized the job market. It made these jobs obsolete. As we embark on this intriguing journey down memory lane, let us delve even deeper into the annals of history and unravel the mysteries surrounding twenty once-common professions that, sadly, no longer grace the modern employment landscape. Join us on this captivating exploration and discover how the tides of time have swept away these fascinating vocations, leaving behind echoes of a bygone era.

1. Ice Cutter

Ice Cutter

“Cutting and towing block ice” (circa 1847 watercolour painting by James D. Duncan, Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN No 3838192)

Before refrigeration, ice cutters harvested ice from frozen lakes and ponds in winter. Stored in insulated ice houses, it preserved well for warmer months. Precision and knowledge of freezing process were crucial. Modern refrigeration has greatly reduced the need for ice cutters, making this once-thriving occupation an obsolete Job.

2. Lamplighter

Lamp Lighter

In the past, lamplighters diligently lit, extinguished, and meticulously maintained the illuminating glow of street lamps. This crucial occupation was the backbone of urban lighting before the era of electricity, ensuring safe passage and enhancing the ambiance of city streets. Nowadays, with the advent of automated lighting systems, the torch of responsibility has been passed on to modern technology, as it illuminates our paths with unmatched precision and efficiency.

3. Switchboard Operator

Switchboard Operator

This is one of the great obsolete jobs. Before the advent of digital telecommunications, switchboard operators played a crucial role in manually connecting calls by deftly inserting phone plugs into the appropriate jacks, ensuring seamless communication. However, as telephone systems became increasingly automated and advanced, this once indispensable profession gradually faded into obscurity, leaving behind a legacy of human-operated connectivity rendered obsolete by technological progress.

4. Milkman


Before the advent of widespread refrigeration, diligent milkmen would dutifully deliver fresh milk to homes on a daily basis, ensuring that households had a constant supply of this essential source of nutrition. However, as the popularity of supermarkets grew and advancements in refrigeration technology made it easier for people to store perishable goods in their own homes, the need for milkmen gradually diminished, and their once integral role in the community started to fade away.

5. Knocker-up


Before alarm clocks became common, a peculiar profession arose: knocker-ups. These dedicated individuals gently tapped on bedroom windows with long poles or shot dried peas from blow guns to wake sleeping people. Their efforts ensured no one missed the start of their day. But as technology advanced, digital alarm clocks and smartphones replaced this service.

6. Rag-and-Bone Man

Rag-and-Bone Man

The rag-and-bone man was once a common sight, traveling from street to street collecting unwanted household items. They collected rags for paper manufacturing, bones for making glue, and metal scraps for recycling. With the advent of modern waste disposal and recycling services, this profession has largely become extinct.

7. Elevator Operator

Elevator Operator

In the past, elevator operators were responsible for manually controlling elevators and ensuring they stopped at the appropriate floors. Their role required attention to detail and precision. However, with the advancements in technology, modern elevators have become fully automated, rendering the need for elevator operators obsolete. This shift in automation has not only improved efficiency but also eliminated the need for human intervention in the elevator operation process.

8. Lector


In the early 20th century, factories would hire lectors to create a better work environment. These dedicated individuals read newspapers, novels, and more aloud to laborers, fostering companionship and intellectual stimulation. However, the rise of audio devices like radios and MP3 players led to the gradual decline of this profession. It marked the end of an era defined by the power of spoken words and human connection in the industrial workplace.

9. Bowling Alley Pinsetter

Bowling Alley Pinsetter

In bowling, before the introduction of innovative machines, pinsetters painstakingly reset bowling pins by hand and dutifully returned the balls to the players. However, with the evolution of technology, the task of pin-setting has become automated, as advanced machines now efficiently handle these responsibilities, revolutionizing the game of bowling as we know it today. Technology made the pinsetter one of the great obsolete jobs.

10. Radium Girl

Radium Girl

In the early 20th century, during War, women were employed in the unique occupation of painting watch and clock dials with radium-based paint. This revolutionary paint, known for its glow-in-the-dark effect, was highly sought after for its practicality in wartime. Little did these women know, however, that this seemingly harmless task would ultimately expose them to deadly levels of radiation, leading to detrimental health consequences and the eventual demise of this profession.

11. Log Driver

Log Driver

In the past, log drivers played a crucial role in guiding logs down rivers, ensuring a steady supply of timber from logging sites to mills. However, with the advancement of modern transportation and infrastructure, this once essential job has become obsolete. Today, efficient methods have replaced the need for log drivers, marking a significant shift in the logging industry.

12. Coal Deliveryman

Coal Deliveryman

Before the widespread use of electricity and natural gas, coal deliverymen played a crucial role in ensuring that households stayed warm by supplying coal for heating purposes. However, with the rise in popularity of cleaner energy sources, such as solar and wind power, the demand for coal drastically decreased, leading to the eventual disappearance of this once-important profession. This is one of the great obsolete jobs.

13. Typewriter Repairman

Typewriter Repairman

With the rise of personal computers and word processing software, typewriters became relics of the past. The specialized profession of typewriter repairman slowly faded, leaving behind a nostalgic yearning for the clickety-clack of keys and the smell of ink. The familiar sights and sounds of a typewriter now evoke distant memories, reminding us of a bygone era when typing was the soundtrack of the office.

Buy an Old Typewriter

14. Video Store Clerk

During the heyday of high school, video store clerks were a common sight on every corner, bustling with customers eager to peruse the vast movie selection. Alas, with the advent of streaming services like Netflix, this once ubiquitous profession has faded into the realm of nostalgic memories. As online platforms continue to dominate the entertainment landscape, the days of engaging clerks, exchanging recommendations, and uncovering hidden cinematic treasures feel like a distant dream. This is one of the great obsolete jobs.

15. Film Projectionist

Film Projectionist

Before digital cinema, skilled projectionists operated movie projectors, handling film reels for seamless projection. But with digital projectors, delivering high-quality visuals and sound, the need for this specialized skill has diminished. Automated presentations now define the cinema landscape, rendering the traditional role of the projectionist outdated.

16. Telegraph Operator

Telegraph Operator

Before the invention of telephones, telegraph operators played a vital role in facilitating long-distance communication. With the help of telegraph systems, messages could be transmitted over vast distances via Morse code, connecting people across regions and even continents. However, as technology continued to advance and new forms of communication emerged, such as the telephone, the need for telegraph operators gradually diminished, rendering their once indispensable job obsolete.

17. Fuller


In ancient times, fullers, skilled craftsmen specializing in textile treatments, diligently cleaned and thickened woolen cloth by meticulously beating and meticulously washing it in water. Their expert techniques ensured that the fibers were properly cleansed and prepared for further processing. Fast forward to the present day, where the baton has been passed to modern machines that effortlessly handle these intricate procedures with utmost precision and efficiency.

18. Resurrectionist


In the 19th century, the resurrectionists acquired corpses for medical dissection by secretly taking fresh bodies from graves. With the implementation of laws allowing legal cadaver procurement for medical study, the practice ended. This regulation shift profoundly impacted and effectively put an end to the clandestine activities of resurrectionists. This is a scary obsolete job.

19. Town Crier

Town Crier

Before mass communication, town criers – with their commanding presence and booming voices – were the news messengers. Today, media platforms deliver updates through television, radio, newspapers, and the internet. These platforms connect people worldwide, bridging the gap between news and its audience. This is one of the great an obsolete jobs.

20. Chimney Sweep

Chimney Sweep

While chimney sweeps still exist today, they are less common than in the 19th and early 20th centuries. However, they played a prominent role in urban areas, especially colder climates with less advanced heating technology. Moreover, chimney sweeps were crucial for heating system function and preventing chimney fires. Nevertheless, as heating technology advanced, the demand for their services decreased. Consequently, this resulted in their reduced prevalence in modern times.

In addition, these 20 captivating professions offer a glimpse into the transformative power of societal and technological progress. They demonstrate how the job landscape evolves over time. Although these occupations may no longer be prevalent, they were once essential aspects of everyday life, leaving a lasting impact on our collective history.

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