How Your Job Has Evolved Since The 1900's

July 4, 2017


On the Job


Kristen Brown

Ever been tempted to visit a psychic to find out who you were and what you did in a past life? Well, here's the next best thing! Find out how your job has evolved and what your job would entail if you lived over 100 years ago.  

The evolution of dentists and dental assistants


Dentist, assistant, and patient


If you were working in the teeth industry back in the day, your 1900's self would have been promoting cleaning teeth with a pig hair-bristled, cattle bone handled, brush slathered in a soap-based paste from a jar. Research into fluoride in water and toothpaste hadn’t been done in the 1900's so you would have been dealing with a lot of not-so-brights instead of pearly whites. And although drills were introduced to avoid the dreaded extraction, you’d be putting your patients to sleep with chloroform or a nice injection of liquid cocaine into their gums.  

Electricians of the twentieth century

Electricians working on high voltage electrical lines

You would have been more commonly known as a lineman or a lineworker and due to electrification being a relatively new concept, your job would have been known as one of the most hazardous of the time. Working at heights alongside high voltage with just a harness was the worry at the time, but more risks were involved. Electrical Linemen of this era came in contact with asbestos almost everyday as it was used for insulation and building materials as it was strong, lightweight and resistant to heat and fire.

How scaffolding has evolved

Man working on the edge of building top

As the industrial revolution was in full swing around this time, urban expansion was calling for man to build up into the sky. For around $4 a day, you and your fellow "Cowboys of the Sky" would be risking your life everyday by going to work. With no harnesses or helmets, you would be expected balance atop skyscrapers and scale scaffolding, all the while praying for no surprise gusts of wind. Bet you're happy with how your job has evolved.

Child care workers of the 1900s

Nannies carrying babies

As a 1900's child care worker, you wouldn't have worked in a facility or centre, rather you would have lived in house with the family whose children you were taking care of. Only wealthy families in the 1900's could afford live-in servants or maids when they wanted a night out, so the upside is you would have lived in a nice house - with the downside being that you'd have to double as a servant. And what did lower income families do when they wanted a night out? Handed the kids over to an Aunt or Grandparent (who usually lived in the same house anyway.)

Construction workers back in the day

Workers on Panama Canal construction site

If you were chosen to work on the Panama Canal in the 1900's, you'd be a part of history today. Firstly because it was one of the greatest engineering feats ever completed and secondly because the project was one of the deadliest of all time, resulting in over 30,000 deaths caused by either disease or injury from the working conditions. Bet OHS site visits don't seem like such a drag now!

Teaching in the 1900's

Teacher in classroom filled with kids

Although today, you only get paid for 5 hours a day (even though you work well into most nights) and you have to work over the weekend, you'll be pleased to learn how your job has evolved, especially if you are a female teacher. During your term of contract you wouldn't have been allowed to marry or keep the company of men, hang out in ice cream shops, wear colourful clothing or smoke cigarettes. And in the classroom? Well you would have had your hands full with up to 60 children of all different grade levels in your class.

Actors of the Golden Age

Marlene Dietrich iconic image

Being an actor in the 1900's was similar to today in that there was a certain 'look' that Hollywood liked. Unlike today though the sacrifices actors made to attain the Hollywood look could cost them their lives. Having eyelash extensions meant literally having a needle thread tiny hairs into your eyelid. And as well as using radioactive skincare, as an aspiring star in the 1900's you might have had your back teeth removed to accentuate your cheekbones, like Marlene Dietrich. Or if you wanted a complete fresh set of perfect pearlers, you might have opted to have all of your teeth removed and replaced with dentures. Sounds bad? It gets worse.

If you could stand the awful extraction, you then risked an infection, lifelong halitosis and even death. 

Do you know more about how your job has evolved over the years? Let us know in the comments!

Kristen Brown

Kristen is a Social Media and Content Marketing Specialist. She has experience writing on road and work safety and legal rights topics. Currently she leads the content for Smith's Lawyers as editor and content creator for the blog.