Occupations

Body Snatchers in the 1700 and 1800s

Today when someone refers to a body snatcher, it conjures up an unsavory, notorious character. Body snatchers were known to deliver corpses to students, surgeons, and teachers for dissections, and, indeed, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they developed an offensive, repugnant, and unpopular reputation. Body snatchers were rejected by every section of society from…

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Lady’s Maid and Her Duties in the Georgian and Regency Era

The job of a lady’s maid was, according to one author, “far from laborious, and [was], in most instances, little more than an agreeable exercise of useful qualities.”[1] Besides serving as a confident and secret keeper, a lady’s maid was also responsible to attend to all of the personal needs of her lady and acted…

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The Footman and His Duties

One of the most important domestic workers in the household was the footman. According to one source, he was “so multifarious and incessant, that in most families, if he be industrious, attentive, and disposed to make himself useful, he will find full employment in the affairs of the house.” Though a footman might find full…

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Oil Lamps and the Lamp Trimmer

Oil lamps were an alternative to the candle, and, in 1780, the Argand lamp replaced all oil lamps that had been used since ancient times. The Argand lamp, created by François Pierre Aimé Argand, a Swiss physicist and chemist, had an output of 6 to 10 candela — a base unit to describe the luminous intensity…

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Beadles of the 1700 and 1800s

Beadle, sometimes spelled “bedel,” is a term derived from the Latin word bedellus or the Saxon word bydel. A beadle in the Anglican Church was described in England as a parish constable, whereas in Scotland it described someone who assisted the minister during divine services. One description of an English beadle claimed that he was…

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Second-Hand Umbrella Sellers and Menders

It took some time for the umbrella, nicknamed brolly, gingham, or gamp, to become popular, but after it did, second-hand umbrella sellers and menders were in high demand. When ill-winds blew in, what other London street sellers lost in foul weather, the umbrella menders gained. The menders had two goals in mind: Repair or replace…

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Stone Eaters

tone-eaters earned a living by “swallowing pebbles, and champing to pieces and swallowing bits of stone.” Stone eaters were particularly plentiful during the Georgian Era, although the existed into the Regency and Victorian eras. They could also be found exhibiting themselves in all countries and cities. Spectators were often encouraged to bring their own stones…

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Toads and Toad Doctors

Toads were thought to have medicinal qualities from early times, and in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the witches made “their ‘hell-broth’ ‘thick and slab;’ … [and] employed both toads and frogs in pharmacy and medicine.”  However, before Macbeth, Roman physician, Pedanius Dioscorides, prescribed cooked frogs “in salt and oil as an antidote for the poison of…

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Watercress Sellers

Watercress sellers, sometimes called cress sellers, were in the same class as a costermonger. However, costermongers thought selling watercress was beneath them, so, most watercress sellers were female and either young, old, or suffering with some infirmity. Henry Mayhew, in his multi-volume London Labour and the London Poor, maintained the first sounds of the day…

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Occupations for Children in the Victorian Era

Unlike these lucky children released from school, many children worked during the Victorian Era because the Industrial Revolution was in full swing and business owners needed help. All sorts of jobs were available for children, but no protective, humane, or occupational societies looked out for their health or welfare. This meant children were sometimes inadequately…

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