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Disappearing Jobs - Most Recent

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Cures for an ailing industry: Homeopathy

The job: Homeopathy is a system of medicine, founded by German doctor Samuel Hahnemann, at the turn of the 19th century and reached the height of its popularity in the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century. It was based on the idea of treating "like with like." Homeopathists (or homeopaths) treated patients by administering small doses of substances that would in large doses cause symptoms similar to the disease or ailment. For example, small doses of caffeine might be used to treat insomnia or restlessness.

Killed by: Increased standards in U.S. medical education. In 1908, a government study found the quality of American medical schools lacking. And a subsequent report called for stricter admission and graduation requirments. Medical schools across the country, many of them homeopathic, closed as a result. Today, homeopathy remains popular in other parts of the world, including the U.K. and France, and a small number of homeopaths continue to practice in the U.S.


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Feb 4, 2013

Judging a job by its cover: The bookbinder

The job: Bookbinders worked, by hand, to assemble multiple pages to form paper books. The process could involve stitching or gluing loose pages together, and then binding that to heavy carton for a hardcover book. The cover might also be covered in leather, and then imprinted with gold foil for the titles.

Killed by: Modern bookbinding machines. The industry moved to mass produce books on a large scale. Furthermore, with the introduction of e-readers and tablet computers, e-books are becoming more commonly used. Bookbinding by hand is rare today unless done by an artisan or independent self-publisher. In an interview from 2011, a bookbinder spoke to the website BoingBoing about the difficulties of modern bookbinding in the digital age.


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Feb 4, 2013

Hitting the brakes: The railway brake operator

The job: Historically, railway brake operators were responsible for slowing a train by applying handbrakes to individual train cars. At a conductor's signal, brakes were manually applied or released using large brake wheels located at the end of each car. Brakemen also operated railway switches, enabling a train to change tracks and alter course.

Killed by: Automatic air brakes. In 1869, George Westinghouse invented the first direct-air brake sytem, which allowed the central train engineer to control a train's entire braking system. When Congress passed the Railroad Safety Appliance Act in 1893, automatic braking and coupling systems became mandatory on all U.S. trains. Brakemen, at least in their original form, became obsolete. Today, the brakeman position lives on in name and limited number, but manual braking is no longer part of the job description.


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Feb 4, 2013

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About this collection

The Great Recession changed the way a lot of us thought about our jobs. But the job market in the United States was changing long before that. In this series, Marketplace explores disappearing jobs and the people who do them.