It's JOBS WEEK on SparkLife! Get ready to learn about the coolest, craziest, and ickiest jobs from past and present. —Sparkitors
Forget about the constant deadly steamboat accidents, and the lack of antibiotics, and the range wars and abhorrent health standards and the virtual absence of labor unions or rights for women or most people without crisp blonde mustaches. At least a man could find a job in the 1890s!
While hipster culture has revived some of the turn-of-the-century professions and pastimes that made this nation great (i.e. micro-brewing, DIY pickling, velocipede repair), far too many essential American occupations have vanished like so much mustache grease. In honor of these fading slices of national ephemera, we proudly present the following 7 Old-Timey Professions we'd like to see on Craigslist tomorrow:
Ye'd be a right carpetbagger to think that 19th president Rutherford B. Hayes got such voluminous plumage on his own. Someone fluffed Burnside's sideburns. Someone coiffed Lt. Bryce "Beard" McBeardyBeard's face fur (and made a respectable living doing so). That man was a government-certified Beard/Mustache Groomer (colloquially, "Whisker Biscuit") and was the single most important member of every serving general's wartime entourage. That few modern barbers employ a full-time 'Stache Man is, especially in this age of rejuvenated beard enthusiasm, the most tragic fallout of the American Civil War.
In what most historians dub "Cowboy Times," a man and his horse were inseparable. Except, of course, when a man and his horse had a falling out, typically spurred by some romantic entanglement with the local school/synagogue marm or a Halloween costume gone awry. In the unfortunately not-so-uncommon event of hostile horseplay, an impartial Equine Arbiter would be employed by the state/senior stableboy to settle the matter. Who can forget the harrowing case of post rider Anton Bixby vs. his trusted horse, Skunky? Horse Court stenographer P. Peter Bumthistle recounts the cross-examination in his classic report:
Dr. Filliam Chunt, Esq.: You mean to tell me, sir, that you have absolutely no recollection how Mr. Bixby's corpus came to be thrown to the ground, trampled beyond form and impressed with the unique insignia of your front right and left horseshoes?
Skunky the Horse: Nay.
A disgruntled man used to need a permit and a pint of moonshine in him to rouse rabble. Now all he needs is a WiFi connection. We can do better, America. #TakeBackTheRabble!
Wooden Limb Ornamentalist
Ever wonder how legendary outlaw Fargo "Buttercup" Groinstabber got his nickname? It sure wasn't from the smell of his saddle bag! (That joke always kills at history conventions!!) When Fargo's gout-infected leg had to be amputated in 1857, he thought his career as a train robber and manslaughterist was as good as over. But thanks to one finely-crafted wooden leg—and the endorphin-flushing field of yellow succulents painted thereupon by noted prosthetic decorator J. Hercules Blunderbuss—Fargo mustered the confidence and the courage to terrorize the badlands for an astounding 30 years before he was inevitably caught and hung for crimes against humanity. Point is: your greatest setback in life can turn into your greatest leap forward, if you give it the right coat of paint. ;]
Ah, the rails! Peein' out windows, singin' shanties, playing' Angry Birds (literally, throwing balled-up sparrows at passing swine farms)…truly, the life of a train-hopping hobo is a bygone thing of whimsy. If only we could get back to that romantic, unhygienic ideal. Admittedly, some young wanderers still take to the rails today—provided they can finalize their "Trainin' It!" Spotify mix before ye olde Amtrak pulls out for Portland.
We all know the timeless words of "Marky" Mark Twain: "Without a bindle in hand, any hobo is but a halfbo." But did you know that less than half of those halfbos actually collected and sharpened the sticks to make their own bindles? Much of the Bindle Boom of 1887, in fact, can be attributed to the small community of artisans who comprised Boston's thriving Bindle District, a.k.a. Bindletown USA, a.k.a. The Street Where Dreams Begin To End. Today, however, the American Bindle Industry is naught but an outcast relic of yore, threatened with total extinction by eBooks and mp3s holding sway where hobos past were forced to assemble fabric pouches sturdy enough to carry their own mismatched encyclopedia sets and toy sousaphones. If you want to help save an original American industry from certain obsolescence, do your part next school season: instead of buying your backpack from a heartless corporate chain, bindle local, like the wholebo you long to be.
President of Texas
Give it a few more decades, maybe.