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    19 Frankly Gruesome Historical Jobs That I'm Happy No Longer Exist

    I'll never hear the phrase "nit-picking" the same way again.

    1. Want to change the way you think about fabric conditioner forever? Look no further than the work of wool fullers, who used to soften their cloth using bodily waste.

    2. Arming squires were in charge of keeping a knight's armour up to scratch, even while he was using it.

    3. Spoiler alert: being a pure finder was nowhere near as clean as it sounds.

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    BBC / Via

    You might have noticed from the previous two jobs that body waste was very useful throughout history, and it turns out dog poop was no exception – it was used as a drying agent by tanneries to make bookbinding leather! The rules of supply and demand meant that collecting dog poop became a full-time job for people called pure finders, who roamed their area on the hunt for dog droppings. The job was certainly dirty, but it was a very profitable (and even enviable) enterprise at the beginning, before competition became too fierce!

    4. Well, it turns out that leech collectors did exactly what you'd expect them to do for a living.

    5. Nit-picking is mostly used to refer to someone who's overly picky these days, but back in Stuart England it was a real profession!

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    BBC / Via

    Wigs were hugely popular at the time, and lice often made their home in their curls, living off of the dead skin that was trapped in the fibres. Nitpickers used lavender oil and lice combs to banish the creepy-crawlies, which are both still used today (though there seems to be little evidence to suggest that lavender oil actually works).

    6. Ever looked down the back of your sofa for some misplaced coins? Well, the work of a tosher was basically a far grosser version of that (if you replace 'sofa' with 'sewer' and sub 'coins' for 'rags and scrap metal', that is).

    7. The work of a plague bearer was pretty much exactly as grim as it sounds.

    8. If you were a social-climber in the royal court of England, you probably aspired to attain the coveted position of the groom of the stool one day (even though the job itself was literally crap).

    9. Want to reach heaven after death without having to worry about those pesky lil' sins holding your soul back? Well, folks in the 18th century had a solution – your loved ones could hire the local sin eater to absorb all your wrongdoings.

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    National Geographic / Via

    These workers took on the misdeeds of the deceased by eating some bread that had been placed on the dead person's chest. Sure, it sounds a little wild to us now, but back then the process was seriously heavy stuff – the writer John Bagford described a sin eater as "pawn(ing) his own soul" for a "groat" (fourpence). Professional sin eaters were especially common in Wales, often soaking up the mortal wrongdoings of hundreds of people.

    10. Your 3pm slump has nothing on the drowsiness that lime burners faced after spending hours extracting carbon monoxide from rocks.

    11. Rag and bone men would collect pretty much anything that people didn't want to keep (and I mean anything).

    12. If the prospect of going on a treadmill sounds torturous to you, imagine having to stay on it for hours at a time to grind corn or mill water that you'll never even use. That was the reality for Victorian treadmillers!

    13. Resurrectionists, or body snatchers, worked as the grimmest home delivery service you can imagine.

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    Cambridge University / Via

    Many medical minds in the 18th and 19th centuries saw human dissection not just as a medical must, but also as a vital part of the justice system (the Company of Surgeons in London became legally obliged to conduct public dissections of murderers in 1752). However there were only so many killers to go around and with a seemingly never-ending need for cadavers, some people became body snatchers (or resurrectionists). While the job was lucrative, it was also 1) dangerous and 2) frickin' disgusting – bodies weren't embalmed at the time, so they'd rot incredibly quickly.

    14. Herring girls were groups of women who travelled along the coast of Britain, following the migration of herring to help trawlermen preserve and prepare their catch.

    15. Forget about finding a needle in a haystack – oakum pickers used to have to unravel entire ropes in search of specific fibres.

    16. Petardiers certainly kicked off their careers with a bang – the position involved placing heavy, fragile bombs as close to your enemy defences as possible.

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    If you haven't heard of a petardier yet, it's probably because the position only existed during late Medieval and early Renaissance times (and also because most petardiers didn't live to talk about their position). The job involved teams of around seven men placing 'petards', a rudimentary kind of bomb, as close to their enemy's defence lines as possible during sieges (think fortress walls, tunnels, and more). Oh, and if they weren't already worried about enemy fire, the 100-pound petard itself was liable to explode at pretty much any given time – hence the phrase 'hoisted by his own petard'.

    17. The process of turning deceased pharaohs and other nobility from corpses to mummies was considered sacred, but it definitely wasn't for the faint hearted!

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    Getty Museum / Via

    Ancient Egyptian embalmers would remove the brain from the nose of the mummy-to-be using an iron hook, and would also remove all the abdominal organs except for the heart, which was believed to be essential in the afterlife. It was a prestigious position, but I for one am not sure that I'd have the guts (I'm so sorry) for the job!

    18. Feel like you deal with a lot of crap at work? Try telling that to a gong farmer.

    19. Victorian London was awash with rats, so it makes sense that catching them became a full-time profession for some.

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    Weird History / Via

    These folks didn't use traps or cages to earn their money – catching the ravenous rodents by hand was likely faster and easier, so because rat catchers were paid per beast, the added ickiness was probably well worth it. Some, like the famous rat catcher Jack Black (not that Jack Black) also bred unique-looking rats for wealthy clients who wanted them as pets, and others encouraged gamblers to bet on rat fights. That said, the money was heard-earned – Jack Black himself talked about the many times he almost died from infected bites.

    Hat tip to Henry Mayhew's incredible 1851 book, London Labour and the London Poor, for many of these facts. The book is in the public domain – you can view it by clicking here!