Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

10 Extinct Job Titles


6
Crossing Sweeper
In this illustration, a crossing sweeper attempts to get a larger tip with a sad story; most sweepers were poor boys and men. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
In this illustration, a crossing sweeper attempts to get a larger tip with a sad story; most sweepers were poor boys and men. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

During the Victorian era, wealthy women and men did not want to get a speck of filth on their fancy duds. And they certainly didn't want to trail their skirts or trouser legs through manure and other unsavory items commonly found on city streets and pathways. Entrepreneurial poor folks thus took up the trade of crossing sweeper.

Crossing sweepers were typically young kids, or elderly or disabled adults. Armed with brooms, they'd stake out their own crossing and, whenever wealthy people approached, sweep clean the path before them. The recipients of this service would bestow on them a small tip [source: Asmus].

While many rich people welcomed the presence of crossing sweepers, others found them pesky, especially if they were at every crossing. Sometimes fights ensued if a sweeper tried to encroach upon another's territory. This job, most prevalent in Britain, began to disappear in the late 19th century, most likely due to improved sanitation and the eventual replacement of horses in the street with automobiles [source: Asmus].

Today's version of the crossing sweeper could be the windshield washers — those people who jump into the street when you're stopped at a red light and begin cleaning your windshield in exchange for a little cash.