Ever felt a monkey could do your job? In the 1800s in South Africa, a chacma baboon was hired as a signalman for the railways. Count your lucky stars that companies didn’t jump into hiring non-human workers. Jack the baboon signalman never made a mistake for nearly a decade spent on the job. Top that, humans!
An unlikely workmate
After signalman James Edwin Wide lost his legs in an unfortunate train accident, he needed some assistance. Although James managed to amble about on his peg legs, work could still present some challenges. After spying a trained chacma monkey driving an oxcart in a market, James got a brilliant idea.
James purchased the baboon to help ease his burdens while at the job, and even taxi him about to and from work. Despite the eerie foreshadowing of future job disruption for cabbies, James figured out Jack could do a lot more tasks.
One clever hard-working monkey
Jack the baboon quickly proved his worth on the railroad. Jack learned how to deliver keys to the drivers on arrival, and how and when to control the levers for the tracks. Thanks to the chacma baboon’s wit and opposable thumbs, James could take it easier at work and let Jack take the reigns.
Unfortunately, James and Jack were both under the threat of losing their jobs, after an affluent customer complained about an animal working as a signalman. However, Jack managed to show the rail company how indispensable he was as a worker, passing a rail test with flying colors.
The company started giving Jack a wage of 20 cents a day and sweetened the deal with beer and snacks on weekends. Quiet as it was kept, Jack needed a daily dose of the sauce every night before bed, or else he would be out of sorts.
Loyal until the end
Jack the baboon signalman managed to best all of his human counterparts by never making a mistake. No one could ever pin a train crash on this baboon. Jack worked tirelessly for the railroads of South Africa for 9 years before succumbing to tuberculosis.