Surf Our Site

Home ... Misfits . Rafferty .. . S1019 .. . Star Crossed....
. .
Ginger & Shadow. ..Writer's Block.. ..Cool Links . ..More Cool Links .
Oddities ..Link To Us... Guest Comics .. ..Books for Sale . Online Store..
In The Zone . .Emotional Chaos . ..Number 9. . .September 11


Emotional Chaos
Weekly Column by Brian Codagnone

May 4, 2006


Our column on "Curious Tales of Old New England" prompted this letter:

"Dear Sir:

I am 88 years of age. Your column brought to mind some professions and occupations that no longer exist, or at least not to the extent that they once flourished. Of course there are some that need no explanation, such as screever, resurrectionist, answer-jobber, cragsman, grimgribber, music-duffer, nicknackitarian, jibber-jabber, phrenologist, sand-knocker, snood fitter, etc. We all know about them. I'm talking the everyday work of common folk. For example, when I was a girl, father made his living as a blimp greaser, but the Hindenburg disaster put an end to that. Therefore, I think it would be advantageous to your readers to do a column on such long lost occupations."

Thelia Baxter Knolton

PS How about those Red Sox?"


Since we couldn't think of anything else to write about, we did some research and found out about some other jobs that have gone the way of the Milkman, Scissor Grinder, Diaper Service Man, Rug Braider, Hobo Skinner, Calling Card Refurbisher, Barn Owl Sexer, Door to Door Gutter Snipe and Hat Blocker:

Knob Polisher:
In the tradition of the Scissor Grinder, the Knob Polisher would go from town to town with his colorfully painted wagon calling out "Bring out your knobs! Door knobs, drawer knobs, four knobs, more knobs! Bring out your knobs!" Housewives (or their maids, if they were among the well to do) would bring out their knobs to be polished, refurbished or even replaced. Some would go into people's houses and polish their knobs, but that was a more specialized field.

Lint Collector (as opposed to the Dust Gatherer, who really didn't do much of anything):
The Lint Collector would go door to door asking for lint. On a good laundry day he could collect up to two pounds of it. What he did with it was anyone's guess.

Servant Flogger:
The most famous of these was Ossip Bulow of Hartford, Connecticut. A German immigrant who made his fortune providing powdered bratwurst to the Union Army during the Civil War, Bulow never charged for his services. He saw servant flogging as "A way of giving back to the country that gave me so much".

Pincushion Stuffer:
In the days when every woman learned to sew at a young age, the pincushion industry boomed. It was a way for young immigrant women to start a home business of their own, or even work their way into the more lucrative sweatshop trade.

Medicine Bottle Label Gluer:
This was popular for orphans who couldn't get a coveted street urchin position. There were several popular patent medicines at the time such as Carter's Little Liver Pills; McCoy's Miraculous Nerve Tonic; Dr. Frobisher's Night Terror Suppressant; Scanlon's Scurvy Scourge, Nurse Missy's Colic Cure and Moose Laxative; Mother Kindness's Mercury Drops, Carstairs Brothers Laudanum Pops, etc. In the days before the assembly line, label gluing was painstaking, demanding work. Plus, as label glue was highly toxic, the turnover rate was high.

Yegg Timer:
While technically not a job, during the Depression safe crackers (or "yeggs", as they were known) had specialized gang members who looked out for the police while they did their work and let them know if they were taking too long or arousing suspicion. They usually received a cut of the take, so a good Yegg Timer could earn as much as the Governor of a medium sized state (after taxes).

Ham Loft Supervisor:
In the time before refrigeration most people canned, dried, pickled or otherwise preserved food for the long winter. Hams were especially popular, although not many people had room to store them. Every town of any size had a ham loft, and looking after the hams was the duty of a highly specialized individual. After serving a long apprenticeship as a ham curer, an especially industrious or clever individual could demonstrate the skills necessary for this exacting task. Often, it was passed from generation to generation. (Editor's note: Some historians believe that this is why Jewish immigrants faced discrimination when they arrived in America. Some, eager to assimilate, turned their back on keeping kosher and "Took Up The Ham").

Dog Shooter:
In the days before Humane Societies, putting down an old family pet or rabid animal fell to whoever was closest to the shotgun. For people without firearms, however, it was necessary to call the Dog Shooter, Cat Drowner, Rabbit Stomper or Goat Intimidator.

Pinecone Man:
Usually a colorful eccentric, the Pinecone Man would roam the woods looking for pinecones. Pinecones were once a thriving industry, especially in New Hampshire (see also "Pine Needle Sweeper"), but once synthetic pinecones were introduced in the 1940s, the Pinecone Man all but disappeared.




Return to today's column


Brian's column is available for your publication.
Call us at

Or e-mail Brian directly

©2003 Brian Codagnone
All rights reserved. Redistribution in whole or in part prohibited.

2 Courthouse Lane, Chelmsford, MA, USA 01824


Surf Our Site

Home ... Misfits . Rafferty .. . S1019 .. . Star Crossed....
. .
Ginger & Shadow. ..Writer's Block.. ..Cool Links . ..More Cool Links .
Oddities ..Link To Us... Guest Comics . Online Store..
In The Zone. ..Number 9. . .September 11