From Weather.com: Before the invention of modern refrigeration, milkmen delivered fresh milk to homes in bottles, cartons, and sometimes plastic bags each day. They would also pick up the empty bottles left outside for collections, along with the household's next milk order. Milkmen hand-carried their orders, pushed or pulled a cart, or later, drove a delivery vehicle. They battled floods, snow, heat, and like in the case of the milkman in image eight, war-devastated streets.
By the 1960s, social, economic, and industrial changes caused milk delivery to decline as the shift was made to the self-service supermarket: "New processes and government regulation made commercial milk from far away dairies safe to drink, and science and mass advertising persuaded homemakers of milk’s nutritional value."
In 2005, a Department of Agriculture survey listed less than half a percent of consumers had their milk delivered. Over the last few years, however, an emphasis has been placed on buying fresh, local products, NPR notes. As a result, milk deliveries are making a modest comeback.
Long before the advent of computers, typists were needed to quickly and accurately produce documents and correspondence on typewriters. Frequently, typists worked in typing pools, which "were like production lines, where large groups of women were employed solely to tap out documents."
Typists in the typing pool environments did nothing but type; they did not do any other tasks that were associated with secretaries of the time. Then, as typewriters declined, and technology improved to the point that anyone could easily and cheaply type their own documents, so did the number of typing pools and the number of women employed in them.
The first commercial telephone exchange opened in Boston in 1878. At first, teenage boys were hired to be operators, but "after they played too many pranks on their customers, the company started hiring women, and the industry was almost completely female for nearly a century."
In order to connect callers, switchboard operators used a "cord board" to plug the incoming line and metal peg into the corresponding hole on the board to connect with the correct phone line. Since there were a limited number of circuits for long-distance locations, an operator would need to take down a caller's number and ring them back when a circuit became available.
In 1980, cord boards were replaced by electronics. Then about a year later, billing was able to be handled automatically.
Today, the majority of phone operations are handled by a computer, though some companies prefer to have live operators for their customers. Sherry Crutchfield of Frontier Communications explains: “I’ve participated on teams where we did analysis on what customers want...And what’s most important to customers is they want a live person. They don’t like the automated services.”
Before electric refrigerators became common in the 1940s, iceboxes were used to keep food cold. They needed to be stocked regularly with ice in order to maintain the freshness and safety of food. Homemakers would indicate how much ice they needed by hanging signs in their windows for the iceman.
The first commercially available ice was cut from frozen lakes and rivers. In the warmer months, it was stored in sawdust or salt to insulate it against the heat. Then huge blocks were delivered by truck, and icemen used massive hooks to move them. But the arrival of modern refrigeration techniques meant this was an industry doomed to die.
Icemen would haul 25- to 100-pound blocks of ice into homes several times each week to stock the iceboxes. This meant that after the iceman braved the elements outside, he would need to enter the home and potentially climb up or down stairs in order to reach the icebox and break up the ice block so that it would fit inside the icebox.
Nowadays most homes have freezers, and some also have built-in icemakers. While the traditional role of iceman has all but vanished, ice is still delivered to restaurants, schools and catering companies today.
Although an elevator operator can occasionally be spotted at a fancy hotel, department store, or tourist attraction, the profession is all but extinct. When elevators were manual, however, operators were needed to "'drive' the lift, choosing which floors to stop at, in which order, and attempting to land the elevator cab at exactly the right spot to be level with the floor," according to NPR. Today, elevators are controlled by the riders with the push of a button, automatically traveling to each floor, picking up and dropping off passengers, removing the need for operators.
The first commercial passenger elevator was installed in New York in 1857. Nearly 40 years later in 1894, the push-button elevator replaced the manual lever system, but operators were still needed in department stores, apartments, hotels and offices. According to NPR, "the earliest systems were designed to give riders exclusive use of the lift until completion of their trip, meaning an elevator couldn't stop in the middle of the trip to pick up a passenger going in the same direction." Therefore, operators were essential in high-traffic buildings in order to direct the elevator in the most efficient path