Early Birds Once Relied on Knocker-Uppers to Wake Them Up

PicturaHistoria / PicturaHistoria

What would we ever do without alarm clocks? One possibility would be to take a cue from Industrial Revolution-era Britain and Ireland and hire a knocker-upper.

Back then, alarm clocks were pricey and erratic, meaning workers needed something (or someone) else to wake them up. Their solution was to hire a person to knock on their windows during the morning hours to ensure they made it to their jobs on time. They’d either make arrangements beforehand, or they’d post the time they wished to be woken up on a door or window. In turn, the hired hand—called a knocker-upper—would show up and rap on the customer's windowpane until they were roused from slumber.

Knocker-uppers earned a few pence per week, and were mainly freelancers trying to gain some extra cash. However, some larger factories and mills apparently valued punctuality so much that they hired full-time knocker-uppers for their workforce.

How did knocker-uppers reach second-story windows without hauling a ladder around town? The resourceful early birds used long sticks of lightweight wood, which they attached to wire or a knob.

In the 1920s, alarm clocks became both reliable and affordable, and the knocker-uppers dwindled into obscurity. However, if you’re tired of your own alarm clock’s shrill sound, you could always glean inspiration from their role and hire an early-bird relative or roommate to take their place.

[h/t: Modern Notion]