Could You Really Work These Vintage Jobs?

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Ever dream of traveling to the past? Be careful what you wish for! You might have ended up as a powder monkey... or worse yet, a rag and bones man. Can you believe what people used to do to make ends meet? Neither could we until we took this quiz!

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1. Not sure if your food is poisoned? Be safe and hire a:

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  1. Food tester
  2. Baker
  3. Opera singer
  4. Bard
From Ancient Egypt to Medieval Europe, the rich and powerful employed people to taste test their food. Better safe than sorry, right? It must have been a sweet gig... until you ended up dead.
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2. Desperate times mean desperate measures. What's Nathaniel doing?

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  1. Ear-strengthening exercises
  2. Listening for enemy aircrafts
Before radar was invented in 1935, soldiers used "war tubas" to detect the sound of enemy warplanes. They weren't entirely accurate. But, hey.... something is better than nothing, right?
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3. Shhh! To get booze during Prohibition, you went to a:

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  1. Circus
  2. A Time Machine
  3. Politician
  4. Hush shopkeeper
No time machine necessary. Connections were everything. Hush shopkeepers quietly sold alcohol to only the most trusted clients.
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4. A dispatch rider delivered:

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  1. Chocolates and flowers
  2. Military intelligence reports
  3. Clothes
  4. Supper rations
Dispatch riders were trained motorcyclists who delivered often confidential messages from one military unit to the next. How would they destroy secret messages if captured? If burning wasn't an option, they'd swallow them.
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5. Who did rat catchers sell their catch to?

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  1. The Tooth Fairy
  2. Rat breeders, for rat fights
In Victorian England, rat-catching served a double purpose. First, it helped eliminate the risk of diseases spreading (remember the Black Plague?). Second, rats were bred and pitted against each other like gladiators, but in rodent form.
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6. Careful with that knife! In the Middle Ages, you could pay your barber to cut your hair AND:

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  1. Give you your weekly supply of eggs
  2. Give you a magic sleigh ride
  3. Represent you at court
  4. Perform operations
In the Middle Ages, a barber with a knife to your throat might have done more than just shave it. They were also equipped to perform operations and amputations, especially on the battlefield. Maybe don't think about that next time you make an appointment at your local barbershop.
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7. Mad for a Marlboro? Where did cigarette girls work?

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  1. Jazz clubs
  2. Barbershops
  3. Toy stores
  4. Grocery stores
From the 1920s - 1950s, there was no need to take a trip to the nearest corner store or kiosk when you needed a cigarette. At clubs, restaurants, bars, airports, casinos, theaters, and sporting events, cigarette girls had you covered.
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8. "Toshers" broke into sewers to find:

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  1. Coins and scraps of metal
  2. Runaway brides
Dumpster diving wasn't a thing in the 1800s, but breaking into the city's sewage system was. Historians estimate that toshers could earn the same amount as any other working-class job by selling off scraps, coins, and pieces of bone.
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9. Need a light? Why is Tommy out past his bedtime?

Tomsickova Tatyana / Shutterstock.com
  1. Helping people get around after dark
  2. Going on a date
  3. Looking for his teddy bear
  4. He's trying to be a cool cat
Someone needed to light the streets before street lights. Who better than little boys? Link boys would carry torches and lead patrons from tavern to tavern, or tavern to home. They may not have been AS YOUNG as depicted in the picture, but they weren't teenagers either. Why? Older link boys had the reputation of delivering their patrons into the hands of robbers.
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10. Jerry ate all the ice cream he could manage as a:

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  1. Businessman
  2. Soda jerk
  3. Clown
  4. Impersonator
Between the 1940s - 1960s, being a "soda jerk" was a popular profession. Dressed as doctors in white coats, thousands and thousands of these glorified bartenders dished out artisanal ice cream and bubbly beverages to eager teenagers on dates.
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11. What did loggers and pigs have in common?

Obli / wikimedia.org
  1. Loggers were called "river pigs"
  2. Loggers kept pigs as pets
Unfortunately, actual pigs were never actually employed as loggers. In the 1920s, the easiest way to move logs was by floating them downstream. Needless to say, without human assistance, this often resulted in "traffic jams". Loggers who broke up the jams were called "river pigs".
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12. Are you sure he's dead? Resurrectionists could home-deliver:

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  1. Stolen jewels
  2. Bodies
  3. Black roses
  4. Chocolates
During the 1700s, modern medicine needed bodies to continue exploring the inner workings of the human body. Instead of going on mass murder sprees, universities and doctors' offices hired resurrectionists to dig up freshly buried corpses and deliver them to their labs.
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13. What's Eve doing?

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  1. Gossiping
  2. Sending secret codes to the CIA
  3. Making hard mathematical calculations
  4. Helping people make phone calls
Once upon a time, you couldn't make a telephone call without a switchboard operator! Before proper privacy regulations were put in place, operators like Eve could listen into the calls they connected. Imagine all the juicy gossip...
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14. Mountebanks sold:

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  1. Trips to the moon
  2. Fake medicines
Mountebank was once synonymous with a person who tricked people into buying fake medicine. Today, you can call any conman a "mountebank" if you want to get fancy.
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15. What did leech collectors use to attract leeches?

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  1. Twizzlers
  2. Fire
  3. Violin music
  4. Bare legs
Back when bloodletting was a respected medical practice, collectors spent their days in rivers and creeks looking for leeches. They attracted these blood-sucking worms using either animal legs or their own bare legs.
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16. It's getting hot in here! At the alchemist's workshop, "lungs":

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  1. Took payments
  2. Were in charge of social media outreach
  3. Fanned fires
  4. Twiddled their thumbs
Between the 1300s and the 1500s, alchemists employed "lungs" to fan the flames of the often toxic fires in their workshops. Little surprise that the job had an abnormally high mortality rate.
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17. Due to their small size, how old were chimney sweeps in general?

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  1. 21 - 28
  2. 5 - 10
Chimney sweeps had to be small enough to fit down chimneys. While most were between 5 - 10 years old, some were as young as 3! Raw elbows and knees were a part of the job description. How were these ouchies treated? Saltwater.
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18. Without William, knights couldn't have gone into battle:

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  1. Armorer
  2. Nutritionist
  3. Make-up artist
  4. Fire tender
Being a medieval armorer was a very well-paid position. Making a full suit of arms could cost anywhere between today's equivalent of 60,000 to 90,000 US dollars!
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19. Fred is a(n):

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  1. Ice skater
  2. Ice cutter
  3. Babysitter
  4. Hockey player
Before freezers, if you wanted a cold drink on a summer day you needed to buy ice. Ice cutters not only cut ice off of frozen lakes but often delivered it to your doorway. It wasn't a profession for the faint of heart. Frostbite was practically part of the job description.
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20. Knock, knock! Who kicked Spot out of church?

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  1. A knock-nobbler
  2. Chesire, the church's tiger
Want to be a bouncer but not sure about the night hours? In the 1800s, being a knock-nobbler might have been your calling. Knock-nobblers kept order in churches. More often than not, that involved kicking out obnoxious children and stray dogs.
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21. Ready, aim, fire! What kind of powder did "powder monkeys" work with?

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  1. Flour
  2. Gunpowder
  3. Face powder
  4. Fingerprint powder
Being a powder monkey unfortunately didn't give little boys the opportunity to monkey around. These young army employees carried gunpowder from where it was stored to the ship's guns in the heat of battle.
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22. Did your beer disappoint you? Consider hiring a(n):

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  1. Irishman
  2. Lawyer
  3. Ale-conner
  4. Tax collector
Being an ale-conner in the 1300s must have been a sweet job. You had to be court-appointed to get it. What were your duties? Going from alehouse to alehouse, or manor to manor, tasting beers and certifying them as good enough to drink.
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23. How did a debt collector solicit money in the Victorian age?

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  1. Asking politely
  2. Threatening to send debtors to prison
Debt collectors had it easy in Victorian England. If a debtor couldn't pay, he was tossed in a debtor's prison until he did.
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24. Stay makers worked in what industry?

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  1. Education
  2. Fashion
  3. Sports
  4. Technology
Between the 1500s and the 1800s, you weren't "womanly" if you didn't wear a corset. Who would you go to for a perfect hourglass shape? A stay maker, of course!
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25. That stench! Gong farmers were farming:

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  1. Human excrement
  2. Vegetables
  3. Musical instruments
  4. Potatoes
In a world without plumbing, you hired a gong farmer. These brave workers spent their days digging up human feces from outhouses and delivering it to farms for fertilization purposes.
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26. Making cigars was a:

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  1. Man's job
  2. Woman's job
Men might have smoked more cigars than women, but women were better at making them! Why? Smaller, more dexterous hands are better for rolling.
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27. In medieval times, a haberdasher's main clientele was:

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  1. People who needed to repair clothes
  2. Bored people
  3. Hungry people
  4. People who wanted to learn vocabulary
In the 1300s, haberdashers sold needles, buttons, and threads. By the time they got to the United States, however, being a haberdasher was largely associated with making hats.
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28. Having trouble with your ABCs? Ask:

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  1. An abecedarian
  2. Albert Einstein
  3. Your older brother
  4. A midwife
During the 17th century, you could find a job dedicated ONLY to teaching the ABCs. Fittingly, you would have been called an "abecedarian".
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29. Davey is the ship's shantyman. Hope the tobacco isn't hurting his main asset:

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  1. His vocal cords
  2. His soul-piercing eyes
Ho ho ho and a bottle of rum. Shantymen were employed by ships to help maintain work pace and morale by way of song! The songs that shantymen sang were chosen to reflect the rhythm needed to perform any given task on the ship.
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30. A person who sold eggs at the market was a(n):

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  1. Seller
  2. Eggcentric
  3. Eggler
  4. Milkman
Now you can buy your eggs at the supermarket... or even online. Once upon a time, you went to the market and found an eggler.
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31. As a gandy dancer, was dancing necessary?

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  1. No
  2. Yes
No. In fact, you might have been hard-pressed to dance at the end of the day. Back in the 1800s, gandy dancers worked long hours in all weather, laying railroad tracks manually.
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32. Where did breaker boys work?

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  1. Airports
  2. Soda shops
  3. Coal mines
  4. Football fields
You only had to be 5 years old to be a breaker boy in a coal mine. They didn't do any actual mining, but that didn't mean the job wasn't dangerous. Tasked with separating impurities from coal, these young miners often lost fingers to factory machinery.
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33. Belly builders worked:

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  1. On pianos
  2. At fitness studios
Building a piano was once a complex job. Belly builders worked exclusively on the instrument's insides: assembling its wood soundboard, bridges, and cast metal plate.
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34. What did lamplighters need to light street lamps?

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  1. Flame throwers
  2. Gas
Lamplighters enjoyed their heyday somewhere between link boys and electric light bulbs. Their only job? To light and extinguish street lamps that burned gas.
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35. A "cattle drover" is also called a:

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  1. Truck driver
  2. Cowlover
  3. Cowboy
  4. Philosopher
Cattle drovers, or cowboys, used to spend months -- even years at a time -- on the trail. You've seen old westerns? These men often spent more time on a horse than on their feet, slept without tents in the open, and guided cows thousands of miles to get them to market.
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36. A typist was a:

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  1. Woman's job
  2. Man's job
As it turns out, sex does sell everything. Some historians believe that typewriters were only successfully marketed because of advertisements depicting attractive women using them.
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37. What might you hear from a town crier?

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  1. Lost and found announcements
  2. Job performance reviews
  3. Funeral services
  4. Municipal news
With neither internet nor newspapers, municipalities in Medieval England needed another way to communicate with their town's people. Enter the town crier, who would stand in the town square and keep people up to date on important news and changes in municipal laws.
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38. A "nob thatcher":

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  1. Procrastinated
  2. Made wigs
Wondering why wig makers were once called nob thatchers? In the late 1800s, "nob thatch" was a noun that meant "human hair". How's your nob thatch looking today?
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39. A rag and bone man is at your doorstep. He's looking for:

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  1. Apple pie
  2. Unwanted household items
  3. Your first-born baby
  4. Music
Anything you didn't want, a rag and bone man might. He went house to house, often by horse, collecting things you had no use for anymore and selling them to people who did.
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40. Who colored in this photograph?

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  1. Michelangelo
  2. A colorist
Today, black and white photographs are artistic. But back in the age of black and white photography, people wanted color. How did they achieve it? Colorists painted black and white photographs to give them more "realistic" vibes.
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41. Lisa is a(n):

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  1. Typist
  2. Elevator operator
  3. Maid
  4. Actress
Elevator operators didn't ONLY press elevator buttons for patrons, they also controlled the speed of the elevator and announced different businesses by floor.
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42. Carl is probably:

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  1. Off his rocker
  2. A dancer
  3. Playing heavy metal rock music
  4. A bard
In medieval times, the bards who entertained the rich with song and poetry were highly respected. So much so that they neither had to pay taxes nor join the military.
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43. Why were clock winders necessary?

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  1. Rats got into clock gears
  2. Electric blackouts were common
  3. Clocks were mechanical
  4. The king wanted them to exist
Before wristwatches, cities had clock towers to keep everything running on time. These mechanical clocks needed clock winders who tightened the clock mainspring with a key. As the mainspring unwound, the energy released turned the clock's gears, causing its hands to move.
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44. How much could an encyclopedia salesperson make?

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  1. They were free if you won the spelling bee
  2. Over 1,000 dollars
Before the internet, encyclopedia salesmen had the tough job of convincing parents to invest in an entire set of encyclopedias. What would an entire set cost you? A little over 1,000 dollars, or as much as a high-end laptop!
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45. Children who scavenged in mud to find things to sell were called:

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  1. Dirty Harrys
  2. Child prodigies
  3. Mudlarks
  4. Mischief makers
During the 1700s and 1800s, barefoot mudlarks scavenged in rivers for coal, wood, nails, scrap iron, and anything else of value that could be resold. Some of the hazards of the job? Broken glass, human excrement, and animal corpses.
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46. What stories did the earliest puppeteers tell?

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  1. Bible stories
  2. Sex ed
  3. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  4. Gossip
In medieval times, puppeteers were once employed almost exclusively by the church to help teach Bible stories! It must certainly have been more entertaining than listening to a sermon in Latin.
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47. Ponderators didn't think a lot. Instead, they...

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  1. Were jailors
  2. Weighed goods
Ponderators regulated trade in Colonial America by weighing goods brought by traveling merchants.
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48. To make extra money, these poor Victorians might have:

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  1. Gone treasure hunting
  2. Invented a time machine
  3. Become social media influencers
  4. Sold animal excrement
Why was dog poop a commodity? Animal excrement was a key part of the leather-making business.
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49. If your life's goal was to bring tea to construction workers, you became a:

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  1. Billy boy
  2. Batman
  3. Ballerina
  4. Bartender
Billy boys were essentially a construction yard's secretary. They helped out with small tasks and made and brought tea to senior workers during breaks.
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50. What was an old-school lumberjack's prized tool?

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  1. Dynamite
  2. A chainsaw
  3. A knife
  4. An ax
Before chainsaws, lumberjacks used axes to chop down trees.
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