The street scene worldwide has changed considerably in recent decades. This is mainly due to the enormous progress of modern technologies and – as a result – the changing labor market. For example, many past professions have disappeared. Here are some examples of the worst jobs in history.
Until the end of the nineteenth century, it was not unusual to use leeches for all kinds of forms to heal people. It was believed at the time that the creatures purified the blood by consuming the bad blood. Leech collectors had to collect worm-like creatures from densely forested leech areas.
A so-called ‘Gong Farmer’ was someone who, a few centuries ago, removed human excrements from private homes and cisterns. These Gong farmers only worked at night, and the waste they collected had to be dumped in a cesspool outside the city. Of course, this profession gradually disappeared with the sewer system coming along.
A tanner had a dirty, smelly job, at which the skin of freshly slaughtered animals was processed and turned into leather. First, the animal skin had to lie in a bath with water, urine, and limescale for a few weeks. After this, the tanner scraped all hair, fat and meat scraps off the skin. The skins were then soaked in a bath with water and dog poo, which took the limescale off the skin and softened the leather. Because of the smell, tanneries in the Middle Ages were mostly living on the outskirts of the city and the people would very much look down on this profession.
From the 14th century onward, the plague killed hundreds of thousands of people throughout Europe, causing the bodies to pile up. In many cities, the air was, therefore, terrible. The disease was also called the Black Death. The gravediggers during this time gathered the bodies to then burry them, not knowing that it would eventually be their own death as they would also be infected by the decomposing bodies…
They really existed: vomit collectors. These were ‘servants’ who, in the Roman Empire, stood around the dining tables of the rich. There, they waited for the next drunken nobleman to feel like throwing up. The vomit collector would then rush to the person’s place and begin to clean up the vomit. It turned out to be an important profession at the time, as Romans often vomited to have more room in their stomachs for other food.
The name says it all: a wool cleaner cleans wool. When sheep were sheared and their wool had to be prepared for processing, it had to be cleaned first. This often included using human urine. For this, the urine was collected from farms, communities, and households first, after which the wool cleaner would stomp around on the wool and the urine with bare feet.
In the nineteenth century, homeless people were sometimes ‘hired’ to act as a giver of sin. They were designated to eat sins: when someone died, a sort of ritual was organized in which food was scattered over the dead body. The sin-giver then had to eat the food covering the body. However, these poor souls would have done anything for a bite to eat, even if that meant that the chances of a place in heaven had been lost…