8 Strange Historic Jobs

  • May 25, 2010
  • 159,877
  • Misc
  • Image Sources


Funeral Clown

In ancient Rome, a very serious job was that of funeral clowns. Their job was to dress up as the dead person, wearing a clay mask and dance around making bad jokes. The idea behind this was that the angry spirits of the underworld would be pleased if the living made fun of the dead, turning the funeral into a joyous event. As an interesting bonus, some clowns were so respected that they got hired to mock the emperors at their funerals.

Quite often these clowns also acted in plays, or provided entertainment at weddings and other events.

funeral clown

And nightmare fuel for most of us.



The toshers were scavengers in the sewers under London during the Victorian era. Whole families lived close to the sewers, and could be seen removing manhole covers in the morning in order to get underground to their workplace. While we’re not sure what they could find that made it worthwhile to dig through raw sewage, an unexpected bonus of the job was that those toshers that survived were usually immune to various disease that killed many people in the ghettos, such as typhus.

Unfortunately the bad smell and the fact that all your neighbors considered you a thief didn’t make the job very appealing.


Halftime at John Goodman’s house.



This peculiar job was popular in England and Ireland during the early days of the industrial revolution when people needed to be up in the morning but no one had an alarm clock. The knocker-up, also sometimes known as a “knocker-upper”, would walk around with a long stick and knock on people’s windows. For just a few pence the knocker-up would sit outside your window making a ruckus until you got up and were ready for work.

We’re curious to know, if you hit him with a rock, would he come back in 9 minutes?

knocker up

Ignore the ghostly photographer, there’s polework afoot!



This job was very common in ancient times when wool, one of the most common materials used, had to be cleansed to eliminate oil and other impurities. In order to accomplish this, before the invention of modern chemical methods and automated machinery, cloth makers used urine. As you can probably imagine, any job where you have to regularly deal with urine is not a perfect career. However, the ammonium salts from pee assisted in cleansing and whitening the cloth so it was a necessary evil.

The job itself meant that workers had to spend long hours ankle deep in tubs of pee, mashing the cloth with their feet. Since no one wanted to be involved in this kind of work, slaves were often forced to do these jobs. Disease and bad smell were not optional, but luckily for everyone by medieval times urine was not used anymore and by the industrial era the cloth makers used machinery to do the washing.


Nothing out of the ordinary in the world where humans are slaves to owls.

Written by Jack Mendoza – Copyrighted © www.weirdworm.com Image Sources
Image sources:

  • - Whipping Boys: http://sherlocks.okaloosaschools.wikispaces.net/file/view/WhippingBoy.jpg/35359951/WhippingBoy.jpg
  • - Dog Whipper: http://z.about.com/d/goeurope/1/0/I/U/st-bavo-dogwhipper.jpg
  • - Gymnasiarch: http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/Olympia/AthletesStrigils.jpg
  • - Urinatores: http://free.imd.it/Colapesce/Cola-Pelle/Immagini/Cleopatraurinatore.jpg
  • - Funeral Clown: http://www.blueherald.com/uploads/Buck2/clown_funeral.jpg
  • - Tosher: http://www.saigon-gpdaily.com.vn/dataimages/original/images121006_Sewage.jpg
  • - Knocker-up: http://sparth.commonagency.net/pic/600/421.jpg
  • - Fuller: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/53/Pompeii_-_Fullonica_of_Veranius_Hypsaeus_1_-_MAN.jpg