Occupational alphabets

Occupational alphabets

John Ptak explores occupations that have not survived through an exploration of the alphabet:

Its interesting to see what jobs have survived over the years, and what jobs haven’t — particularly those jobs that would have been so widespread and popular that they would be instantly recognized by a child — so much part of the common culture that the initial letter of the job’s name could be used to help children learn the alphabet.

This version of commonplace employment found in a child’s alphabetical primer around 1850 lists the following professions:

[A]le brewer, auctioneer, armourer, artist, bookseller, butcher, baker, cooper, carpenter, cutler, dyer, dairyman, engraver, engineer, fishmonger, fiddle®, florist, grocer, glazier, hatter, hawker, horse dealer, ironmonger, jeweller, knife-maker, knitter, letter-founder, lace-maker, locksmith, milliner, miner, merchant, nurse, newsman, oilman, optician, omnibus, pastry-cook, physician, rope-maker, rider, shoemaker, shipwright, scavenger, slater, surgeon, sawyer, saddler, tailor, turner, tanner, tinker, upholsterer, vintner, wharfinger, wax-chandler, yeoman, youth, zoologist.

See also:
Revisions to Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever, 1963 vs 1991 editions

Some of these professions are just gone (47 of the 59 are still around, he notes). Another book introduces children to occupational rhyming couplets, as in the “Amusing Alphabet for Children.” Elsewhere, he uncovers and terms the “Dada Alphabet,” monuments to quiet bits:

[N]on-sequiturs taken out of context and which — once placed on a their own stage and on their own easel in the strong Borges tradition of the reader making the book.

These come from a self-teaching book for German vocabulary in 1879 and stand as unexpected, strong, and a favorite.

[Image: Kantner’s Illustrated Book of Objects and Self-Educator in German and English, 1879 via]