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Before alarm clocks, Brits paid people to wake them up by tapping on their window

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#1 Mario Milano

Mario Milano

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Posted 04 September 2016 - 02:01 PM





Snooze button not included.


by Alex Q. Arbuckle


 c. 1900

A knocker-up rouses a client in Lancashire.

Image: Past Pix/SSPL/Getty Images


Though designs for alarm clocks date back to the ancient Greeks, they were still not particularly widespread well after the Industrial Revolution. In Britain and Ireland, a large number of enterprising early birds made a living waking people for work.


A knocker-up would be paid a few pence a week to make the rounds and rouse workers, banging on their doors with a short stick or rapping on upper windows with a long pole. The knocker-up would not move on until he received confirmation that his drowsy client was up and moving.


The profession died out in the 1920s as alarm clocks became cheaper and more reliable, but a few specialized knockers-up — such as Doris Weigand, employed by a railway depot to summon workers for short-notice shifts — survived for a few decades more.



 c. 1910

Image: Past Pix/SSPL/Getty Images



 c. 1915

Image: Past Pix/SSPL/Getty Images



Charles Nelson of East London worked as a knocker-up for 25 years. He woke up early morning workers such as doctors, market traders and drivers.

Image: J. Gaiger/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images




Doris Weigand, Britain's first railway knocker-up, makes a call. She is employed to inform workers when they are needed for a shift on short notice.



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