From the Unlikely to the Unheard Of: Unveiling Remarkable Careers Through History

By Jack Ripley | April 23, 2024

Armed With Traps and Sometimes a Small Rifle, Rat Catchers Ventured Underground to Protect Homes From the Pesky Vermin

Step into the past with this captivating selection of historical images, each one a portal to a long-forgotten profession. The following depictions don't simply document a list of archaic careers. The images, rather, form an impressive mosaic of human endeavor, resilience, and creativity. The following laborers from the past, with their unconventional roles, were once integral to the fabric of daily life.

Presented in a series of fascinating images, these occupations introduce a truly unique segment of history's forgotten workforce. Continue reading to learn more about the legacy of these unusual historical occupations.


test article image

This ratcatcher hearkens back to a time when the echoing scuttle of rodent paws was all too common in urban life. This sepia-toned photo shows a rat catcher emerging from a sewer with a shotgun and his most recent prey at the ready. An often-solitary warrior against disease and destruction, rat catchers lurked the dim alleyways and cellars, the battlegrounds of their trade. His keen and discerning eyes would scan for signs of his elusive quarry, while vigilance was his greatest ally.

Each successful catch marked a victory, a service rendered to the community, safeguarding public health long before modern pest control methods. The rat catcher's labor signaled an undeniable chapter of historical significance in the ever-evolving story of urban life.

Ice Cutters Harvested Large Blocks of Ice From Frozen Lakes, Providing Essential Cooling Before Electric Refrigerators

test article image
Getty Images

In the era before modern refrigeration transformed food storage, ice cutters were crucial, especially during the long winter months when preserving perishables was a concern. This photograph reveals the often-treacherous work involved in ice harvesting, where men clad in heavy coats and gloves braved dangerously cold temperatures to carve out chunks of ice from frozen lakes and ponds. Using hand saws and ice picks, they etched precise lines into the thick, glassy surface, breaking it into sizable blocks. The ice cubes were then hauled away, often with the help of horse-drawn sleds, to be stored in ice houses, insulated with sawdust to prevent melting. The ice harvested by these indomitable workers chilled the food and drinks of countless households and businesses throughout the year until it was rendered obsolete by the advent of the electric refrigerator.