Tuesday, January 26, 2010

19th century alarm clock

A longer update will follow tomorrow, I promise.  For now, I indulge you with an interesting tidbit I came across in the introduction of The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten, by Jeffrey Kacirk.  In it he points out how historians and teachers can bypass the smaller details of everyday life in past times:
Take, for instance, the long-defunct activity called upknocking, the employment of the knocker up, who went house to house in the early morning hours of the nineteenth century to awaken his working class clients before the advent of affordable alarm clocks. Until encountering this entry, I had never thought about how people of this time managed to awaken with any predictability.
image source: Mental Floss

And, as the actual entry of the word says later on in the book:
upknocking, knocking up One of the curious ways of earning a livelihood in the manufacturing towns.  The "knocker up" wakes the different hands of a mill who cannot wake themselves, so that they can get to their work in time, and not be fined for being too late.  The general pay of the knocker up is twopence a head, per week.  I remember once a witness, being asked what he was, answering, "A knocker up," deeming it, evidently, as much a trade as a tailor or a baker. [Leigh]
 I had wondered for a long time how 19th century people woke up in the mornings too. Now I know how the working class did it.  According to folk singer Joe Stead, the profession became obsolete only 40 years ago:

1 comment:

  1. Yes, but who woke up the Knocker Up Man?

    Imagine if he failed to wake in time - several streets may fail to get to work on time.