Apr 16, 2014
A look at how one pattern maker in Chicago thinks about her profession.
Oct 31, 2013
In our Disappearing Jobs series, we take a trip through a letterpress company.
May 2, 2013
From leech gatherer to factory worker, breaking down some of history's worst jobs.
Apr 8, 2013
In this latest installment of our series on disappearing jobs: the miracle of electronic toll collection comes at a human cost.
Mar 3, 2013
The shoe making industry has changed, but for one young craftsman, the old ways are still best.
Feb 4, 2013
As movies go digital, a film projectionist talks about how it feels to be one of the last of his kind.
The canary in the coal industry: Home coal deliveryThe 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 operatorThe 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: HomeopathyThe 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.
Judging a job by its cover: The bookbinderThe 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.
Feb 4, 2013