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Features by Margaret Aery

Five baby bloopers and cute pet videos used to sell

From singing pets in Subaru ads to a Ragú campaign featuring 'Charlie Bit Me!,' here's a look at how advertisers are using home videos to sell just about anything.
Posted In: YouTube, home videos, advertising

What do you think of Jack Lew's new signature? (Poll)

One day, the signature of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will appear on every U.S. dollar. But first, he needs a signature that fits the bill.
Posted In: jack lew, signature

Five taxes you didn't know you were paying, in GIFs

President Barack Obama is proposing to increase federal tax and fees on airlines tickets. But before prices take off, here's a look at some other tax-heavy items you already pay more for.
Posted In: airline prices, Taxes, sales tax

The cheapest gifts you can buy Mom without breaking her heart

Looking for the perfect gift to give to Mom this Mother's Day? How about a finding a deal that shows your affection and your practically -- something every mom can appreciate.
Posted In: mother's day, gifts, shopping

Six things one listener did to ditch $20,000 in debt

Ten years ago, Marketplace Money listener Greg McKenna was over $20K in debt. Today, he's debt free and has a nest egg worth over $100,000. Here's how he did it.
Posted In: retirement savings, recession, debt

The canary in the coal industry: Home coal delivery

The job: Starting in the second half of the 19th century, coal helped fuel U.S. factory growth as well as many homes with coal furnances. Coal mines were abundant in Midwest states such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio, and railroads made transportation of coal to population hubs easy. Those in the coal delivery business would haul coal from railroad stations to local markets, factories and individual homes.

Killed by: Natural gas and other alternative fuels. In 1940, 54 percent of U.S. households used coal to heat their homes. But according to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau, that number dropped rapidly as fuel oil and natural gas became more widely available. By 1970, just 2.9 percent of the population relied on coal for home heating. Naturally, the number of people delivering coal dwindled as well.

The wrong kind of coding job: Telegraph operator

The job: Samuel J. Morse was awarded a U.S. patent for the first telegraph in 1840. By transmitting electrical signals over wire, the telegraph allowed for instantaneous long-distance communication. And by using a universal code that Morse developed, telegraph operators -- or telegraphers -- were able to send and decode complex messages through a series of dots and dashes representing each letter of the English alphabet.

Killed by: The invention and adoption of the telephone. Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876 and made the first telephone call later that same year. By 1940, the telephone had become ubiquitous in American homes. The telegraph steadily declined as the telephone gained in popularity, and the telegrapher profession went with it. On January 27, 2006, the telegraph era officially ended in the U.S., when Western Union disconnected its telegraph messaging service and sent its last message.

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.

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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