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Posts Tagged ‘rat-catcher

“It’s just a job”*…


Liverpool Port Sanitary Authority rat-catchers dressed in protective clothing with traps and equipment, Liverpool, England. Photograph, 1900/1920. via Wellcome Library

Peculiar Jobs– Catching Rats

Rat-catchers, pest control operatives or pest technicians. People with this occupation caught rats for a living, mainly as a form of pest control. Keeping the rat population under control prevented the spread of disease to man, most notoriously the Black Plague, and also prevented damage to food supplies.

Some reports show that rat-catchers would raise the rat population rather that catching them. Why? To increase their eventual payment from the town or city they were employed by. These rat-catchers were active in Liverpool – they caught the rats, then dipped them in buckets of petrol to kill the fleas and hoped to control the plague this way…

Liverpool Port Sanitary Authority rat-catchers dipping rats in buckets of petrol to kill fleas for plague control. Liverpool, England. Photograph, 1900/1920. via Wellcome Library

More “Peculiar Jobs” at Europeana.

* “It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”  – Muhammad Ali


As we whistle while we work, we might recall that it was on this date in 1843 that Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Black Cat” first appeared (in The Saturday Evening Post, then known as United States Saturday Post). One of Poe’s two great studies of the psychology of guilt (with “The Tell-Tale Heart”) , its full text is available here.

One of Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations for “The Black Cat”



Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 19, 2014 at 1:01 am

Her Majesty’s Rat-Catcher…


Biblical Egypt had its plague of locusts, modern New York City is terrorized by bedbugs, and Victorian London had a serious rat problem. Rats scurried around the city chewing up food, clogging up drains, passing around diseases, and frightening ladies. The task of reining in the rodents fell to village farmers (desperate to save the gnawed legs of their livestock) and rat vigilantes who killed for commission or provided rats for popular dog and rat matches.

And then there was the rat’s most notorious enemy: Jack Black, Rat-Catcher to Her Majesty The Queen…

Read the extraordinary story of this scourge of rodentkind at Lapham’s Quarterly.


As we shriek “eek!”, we might spare a thought for Kitasato Shibasaburo; he died on this date in 1931.  A physician and bacteriologist, Shibasaburo discovered (essentially simultaneously with Alexandre Yersin) the bacterium Pasteurella pestis (now called Yersinia pestis), the infectious agent of bubonic plague.  Shibasaburo was also the first to grow a pure culture of the tetanus bacillus.




Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 13, 2013 at 1:01 am

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