These Historic Jobs Sound Made Up, But They’re Real! Can You Guess What They Did?

What was a “Knocker-up” responsible for?

Carving wooden sculptures

Waking people up for work

Fixing roofs

Making shoes

A “Knocker-up” was employed to ensure that people woke up in time for their jobs before the advent of reliable alarm clocks. They would knock on clients’ doors or windows with sticks or pebbles.

What did a “Fuller” do in medieval times?

Cleaned wool

Delivered messages

Built furniture

Wrote books

Fullers were crucial in the wool-making process, where they cleaned and thickened woolen cloth by trampling it in water.

A “Lamplighter” was tasked with what job?

Lighting street lamps

Painting landscapes

Installing windows

Repairing shoes

Lamplighters were responsible for lighting, extinguishing, and maintaining street lamps, particularly those that were gas-powered.

What was the role of a “Resurrectionist”?

Church pastor

Body snatcher for medical study

Court jester

Graveyard caretaker

Resurrectionists, or body snatchers, illegally exhumed corpses to sell to medical schools for anatomical study in the 18th and 19th centuries.

What did a “Mudlark” do in the 18th and 19th centuries?

Made pottery

Scavenged for items in river mud

Composed music

Wrote poetry

Mudlarks were people, often children, who scavenged for items of value in the muddy shores of rivers, particularly the Thames in London.

The profession “Gandy Dancer” was associated with?

Dance instructor

Railroad worker

Theatre actor

Hotel manager

Gandy Dancers were manual laborers who worked on railroads, aligning and maintaining the tracks.

A “Sin-Eater” had the unusual job of?

Testing food for poison

Absorbing the sins of the deceased

Counting village populations

Cleaning public baths

Sin-Eaters were believed to take on the sins of a deceased person by eating food over the corpse, thus ensuring the deceased’s soul could enter heaven unburdened.

What task did a “Leech Collector” perform?

Gathered herbs

Collected leeches for medical use

Wrote legal documents

Painted portraits

Leech collectors gathered leeches which were used for bloodletting, a common medical treatment in previous centuries.

A “Powder Monkey” worked primarily in which setting?


Blacksmith shop

Naval ship

Gunpowder mill

Powder Monkeys were young boys employed on warships to carry gunpowder from the ship’s magazine to the artillery pieces.

The job of a “Petardier” involved what dangerous task?

Mixing explosive compounds

Carrying messages through battlefields

Breaching fortifications with explosives

Training war horses

Petardiers were soldiers responsible for placing and detonating petards, small explosives used to breach gates or walls during sieges.

What was the job of an “Ice Cutter”?

Harvested ice from lakes and rivers

Sold frozen desserts

Crafted jewelry

Designed winter coats

Ice Cutters were skilled workers who harvested blocks of ice from lakes and rivers in the winter, which were then stored in ice houses and used for refrigeration.

Guided people with a light at night

Built bridges

Delivered mail

Sang in public areas

Link Boys carried torches to light the way for pedestrians and carriages in the streets of cities before the advent of street lighting.

What role did a “Pinscher” play in old professions?

Welded metal pins

Extracted teeth

Counted money

Separated precious metals

Pinschers were workers who separated and classified precious metals in the process of refining them.

What was the task of a “Hurdy-Gurdy Man”?

Played a stringed musical instrument

Designed clothing

Wrote travel guides

Sold herbal remedies

The Hurdy-Gurdy Man played a hurdy-gurdy, a stringed musical instrument operated by a hand crank, often performing in streets or at fairs.

What did a “Night Soil Man” collect?

Waste material for fertilizer

Dream stories

Nocturnal animals

Street garbage

Night Soil Men collected human excrement from privies and cesspools, which was then used as fertilizer in agriculture.

What was the role of a “Whitesmith”?

Worked with white or light metals

Painted houses white

Made white bread

Cleaned white linen

Whitesmiths specialized in crafting items from tin, pewter, and other light metals, often polishing them to a bright finish.

What did a “Tosher” scavenge for in 19th century London?

Lost coins and metal in sewers

Food leftovers

Used clothing

Broken pottery

Toshers scavenged for lost coins, metal, and other valuables in the sewers of London, a risky but sometimes profitable job.

What task did a “Catchpole” perform?

Caught birds with a long pole

Collected debts or taxes

Trapped fish

Harvested apples

Catchpoles were officers who caught debtors or those who evaded taxes; the name comes from the tool they carried, which could catch a person by the neck.

What was a “Vestryman” responsible for?

Designing vests

Church or parish administration

Singing in the choir

Teaching at Sunday school

Vestrymen were members of the church or parish council responsible for local administrative duties in the community and church governance.

What was the profession of a “Sawyer”?

Cut timber into boards

Sewed clothes

Wrote legal documents

Managed forest operations

Sawyers operated sawmills or used hand saws to cut timber into boards, an essential job in areas with active timber industries.

Stuck in the Apprenticeship?

You might need to brush up on your old trades!

Journeyman Historian

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Master of Old Trades

Impressive! You’ve mastered the forgotten crafts of yesteryears!

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