I thought it’d be fun to look back at some of the occupations of the 1800’s and even earlier. Some sound very weird to us but I’m sure back then they weren’t any different from computer technician, an astronaut, a day trader, or a stock broker.
And while everything had a name, settlers on the frontier tended to call things normal terms everyone could understand. Like simply a stage coach driver instead of a whip. People started moving away from the stiff technical terms, opting for less flowery language. Most folks back in the early days didn’t have time to waste on words that bent the tongue. They were too busy trying to survive.
Some jobs carried simple names that might tell you right off what the person did.
*Tanner – one who tans and cures animal hides (still around today but not real common)
*Spurrer – one who made spurs
*Gunsmith – one who made guns
*Saddler – one who made, repaired, or sold saddles and other furnishings for horses
*Sawyer – one who sawed trees or wood by hand at a lumber mill or lumbering operation
*Teamster – one who drove a horse, mule or ox-drawn freight wagon; a modern day truck driver
*Matchgirl – a girl who sold matches
*Whip – one who drove stagecoaches
A lot of these others you probably already know but maybe you’ll find a few surprises.
*Lormer – a maker of horsegear
*Boardwright – carpenter; one who made tables and chairs and the like
*Bone Picker – someone who traveled around collecting rags and bones
*Pettifogger – shyster lawyer
*Peripatetic Artist – one who went from town to town painting portraits or panoramas on walls of homes and taverns
*Cordwainer – one who made shoes – different from a cobbler who just repairs them
*Farrier – a blacksmith who specializes in shoeing horses – called same today as back then
*Cooper – someone who made or repaired wooden barrels, tubs or the like
*Chandler – a candlemaker – had a steady business before gas and electric lights
*Lamplighter – someone appointed to light streetlamps at dusk and extinguish them at dawn
*Runner – someone who solicited business for a hotel, boardinghouse, steamship and the like
*Whitesmith – tinsmith or worker of iron who finished or polished an item
*Tinker – someone who made tinware
*Wheelwright – one who made or repaired wheels for wagons, carriages or coaches
*Snow Warden – someone appointed in one of the northern states to keep snow flattened and evenly distributed over roads for sleds and sleighs
*Drummer – traveling salesman
In the old West, some of these jobs tended to overlap at times. For instance, a blacksmith often made spurs and/or tinware and the like in addition to forging horseshoes, plows, farm implements, tools, etc. He might also shoe horses and be the owner of the livery or stables.