Printers Row Publishing Group:


Help Wanted, Milkmen Need Not Apply

February 6, 2018

If you’re looking for a job…you might want to avoid these fields. They pretty much don’t exist anymore.


Why did the milkman go away? Because of more affordable, and subsequently commonplace, refrigeration. Now that most homes have a fridge, they can buy a gallon or two of milk and keep it fresh or a week or too. Before those days (up until the mid-20th century), a local dairy’s army of milkmen would regularly deliver small bottles of milk to homes, enough to last just a couple of days.


The late 19th century workplace was a lot different than it was today. The United States manufactured a lot more stuff back then than it does today, which required scores of workers to sit in huge rooms and perform remedial and repetitive tasks (for low pay). That can get pretty boring, but since there was no radio to listen to by which to pass the time, factories would hire a lector to stand near workers and read books out loud to them.


This person was like a human rooster…with a long stick. Their job: Go through large apartment,  tenement buildings, and employee housing in the Industrial Age and wake up the workers each morning. They’d do it by rapping on their windows with a long pole or stick. (Once alarm clocks hit the mainstream, knocker-uppers were knocked right out of a job.)


Today’s workplace also has a lot more computers than it used to. Before those computers took off, there was an office worker also called a computer. Not quite accounting, it required someone with good math skills to do lots of basic arithmetic, with or without the use of an adding machine.


“Nom” means “name,” and that’s a hint as to what this position in Ancient Rome entailed. Often a slave, a nomenclator would work for a prominent person, and as they went about their business, they would remind their boss the names of the associates and acquaintances they’d come across.

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