Jobs and Businesses That Started Off Much Differently

Have you ever wondered how some occupations and businesses came to be? Many of them started out so differently than we now know them to be. Who would’ve imagined that the first airlines had no planes and that priests and medicine men were the world’s first barbers? Humans are an innovative bunch and the origin stories of these five jobs and businesses are proof of that.

1. Priests and Medicine Men Were the First Barbers

The side job of cutting hair can be traced back to priests and medicine men from over 6,000 years ago. During this time, people believed that spirits could enter the body through the head. So they would let their hair grow long enough to let the benevolent spirits in, then cut it all off in an elaborate religious ceremony to lock in the good spirits and keep the bad ones out. This practice died out during the ancient Egyptian empire, when people started shaving their heads to stay clean due to frequent sweating.

2. Commercial Airlines Used Airboats That Flew Above the Water

How can you have an airline but no airplanes? By using an airboat in its place, that’s how. The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line, founded in 1913, was the world’s first commercial airline to offer scheduled flights. The airline offered flights only between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida in a two-seat airboat called the Lark of Duluth. A single trip cost just $5 and lasted only 23 minutes. Steamships covered that same 18-mile trip in 4-12 hours and cars in 20 hours. Despite its initial success, the airboat failed to stay in business and had to shut down only one year later.

3. Funeral Homes Operated the First Ambulance Services

At one point in time, funeral homes and ambulance services used to be one and the same. During the US Civil War, funeral homes used to help evacuate wounded soldiers to hospitals in their hearses with only a stretcher, blanket and a bottle of whiskey as anesthesia on board. They hardly ever charged clients because the real money came from clients’ deaths; the funeral home that provided the ambulance service had a higher chance of being selected for the burial arrangement. Funeral homes stopped providing ambulance services after Congress passed the Highway Safety Act in 1966.

4. The First Gas Station Was a Pharmacy

In August 1888, Bertha Benz, the wife of car inventor Karl Benz, embarked on a road trip with her two sons from Mannheim to visit her mother in Pforzheim, Germany. Some time into her trip, Bertha ran out of gas and stopped at a nearby pharmacy in Wiesloch to refuel on Ligroin, a petroleum solvent that doubled as both a cleaning agent and gas. Shortly after, other pharmacies started stocking up on Ligroin, then later on gasoline for car owners. As for Betha, her trip was a success and her husband’s car proved to be a reliable automobile.

5. The First Newspapers Were Books

Newspapers weren’t always loose sheets of papers that covered a wide range of stories. Instead, they were originally known as newsbooks and were made of several news pamphlets bound together to create a small book. They were published like regular books with title pages and featured only a single event like disasters, wars or celebrations. The Relation aller Furnemmen und gedenckwurdigen Historien by Johann Carolus was the first newsbook to report a wide variety of breaking events.


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