Jobs and Businesses of Yesteryear
Thanks to modern technology, these positions and businesses have slowly been phased out our daily lives. Get ready for a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Job Fair Line (Unemployment Rate Jobless Claims)

With the speed of innovation today, products can be come antiques quicker than ever. Jobs, products and even entire industries that were thriving as recently as the 1950s are now part of the history books. We take a peek at some of the stores, services and jobs that have faded out over the course of the 20th Century.



No. 1: Typewriter Engineer

Computers and tablets have long-replaced typewriters, which now act merely as nostalgic decorations in homes and restaurants. With that said, typewriter engineers, who would build and fix these old machines, no longer have a job.

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No. 2: Lamplighters

Blame Thomas Edison for this one. The first street to use electric lighting was in Wabash, Indiana in 1880 and popularity gained through the 1930s and 1940s. 

shoe repair, shoes, repair shop

No. 3: Button and Shoe Makers

In the past, cobblers would hand-make shoes with leather, wood, rubber and plastic. Buttons were also made by hand. But thanks to the introduction of industrial mass production in the early 19th Century, these crafters can give their hands a rest.


ice, ice delivery

No. 4: Milkman/Ice Delivery Man

Refrigeration issues used to make daily milk delivery a necessity, with milkmen delivering bottles of milk to homes on a horse and buggy. But during World War II, conservation efforts forced milkmen to start delivering milk every other day, and as refrigerators improved, home delivery became less crucial over time.

However, home milk delivery is coming back into style as the demand for local and organic produce has increased.


telephone operator, switchboard operator, operator

No. 5: Telephone/Switchboard Operator

Many of these positions have been taken over by automated systems, however, there are still several hundreds of thousands of switchboard operator positions across the country. The position is continuing to die out, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipating job growth in the industry shrinking by more than 18,000 positions in the next five years.


printing press, newspaper circulation, newspapers

No. 6: Printing Press (newspaper printers)

Johannes Gutenberg invented the first printing press in 1450, and the technology continued to develop over the next several centuries. During the industrial revolution, the printing machines were steam-powered, and in the 1930s and 1940s machines were able to make thousands of impressions per hour.

Digital printing came about in the 1990s, eliminating the physical job of operating the press itself.


bowling, bowling alley, bowling balls, entertainment

No. 7: Bowling Alley Pin Setter

Pin setters used to physically set up bowling pins as well as remove fallen pins and bring balls back to bowlers. The AMF firm created the mechanical pinsetter in 1936, which did away with this former profession.


woolworths, retail, shopping, supermarket, woolworth's

No. 8 : Five-and-Dime Stores

Five-and-dime stores were the original discount stores, with all products sold for either (you guessed it!) five or 10 cents. In the U.S., the most well-known chain was Woolworth’s, which actually abandoned the five-and-dime standard by the 1930s due to rising costs. Cheap candy was a hallmark at Woolworth’s, but the stores sold everything from diapers to makeup to grocery store staples.

Woolworth announced it would close its remaining 400 stores in 1997, after failing to compete with successful chains like Wal-Mart and Target.

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soda shop, soda fountain, old-fashioned soda fountains

No. 9: Soda Shops and Drugstore Soda Fountains

Soda shops and drugstore soda fountains were a staple in towns across the U.S. during the first half of the 20th Century. At the shops, you could sit at a counter and order milkshakes, vanilla and chocolate malts, ice cream sodas and egg creams.

These days, drugstore soda fountains have mostly fallen by the wayside, but there are a few left that also function as museums, like the McGill Drugstore Museum in Nevada.

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dictaphone, telephone, office phone

No. 10: Dictaphone and Dictation Machines

The iPhone’s Siri would never have been possible without the invention of the Dictaphone, which is a sound recording device that was used to record speech to be played back or typed up for print. This technology – often used in office settings – was also common in typing pools.

In 2006, a company called Nuance bought what remained of the original Dictaphone company; it’s now used for medical transcriptions.

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drive-in, drive-in movie theater

No. 11:  Drive-in Movie Theaters

Immortalized in the movie Grease, drive-in movie theaters hit their peak in 1958 when there were 4,063 drive-in theaters in the U.S. In 2013, there were only 357 sites in the country, with many states having no drive-in theaters at all. In case you’re curious, Pennsylvania has the most drive-in theaters, with 30 theaters.

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record store, music store

No. 12: Record Stores

Also in Pennsylvania? The oldest record store, George’s Song Shop, which claims to have opened in 1932. Music technology brought on the downfall of the traditional record shop – as well as the music store in general -- with chains like Tower Records going bankrupt in the early 21st Century. That said, there’s still quite a demand for records today, with more than 900,000 listings for records on EBay.


Jobs and Businesses of Yesteryear

Thanks to modern technology, these positions and businesses have slowly been phased out our daily lives. Get ready for a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

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