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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • FLY CANADIAN PACIFIC, c. 1950s

News Flash: 1920

News Flash: 1920

Washington, D.C., circa 1920. "Democratic National Committee." The convention hall in the old Liberty Market. Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.

 

Make a Joyful Noise

I am a lifelong techno-nerd; musician, and electronics engineer who has made a decades-long career in the audio end of the Film and Music realms - so:

My Inner Ear is trying to imagine what an an amazing sound all that Machinery must have made while everyone was busy hammering out their work.

Having owned my share of teletypes, flexowriters, and computer console typewriters - and (years ago) having been in a large electromechanical telephone central office - the sound must have been fascinating.

Well, fascinating to an old audio geek like Moi.

Underwood 5.1

And you just know you would be the one who had "just bought" the old version a day before the new one was announced!

Underwood No. 5

The typewriters here are Underwood No. 5's, whereas the ones in the 1911 ad below are Underwood No. 4's. I wonder if No. 4 owners camped outside typewriter stores when the Underwood 5 came out.

Puff of smoke

Do you suppose that's smoke from a powder flash at right? Or just some emulsion fungus?

[It's a magnesium-powder flash (note the shadows cast by the waste baskets). Hence the title of this post. Two flashes were used to make this picture. Note the box of Diamond matches on the desk lower right. - Dave]

Early copying machines

I think those would be cranking out form letters and each cluster of 3 or 4 would be operated by one person. Each typewriter would crank out most of a form letter and stop for the typist to insert names, addresses or other personalized info -- spinning around and around on their stool loading paper and typing a little bit on each one.

[You and tterrace have the right idea. The machines are what at the time were called "automatic typewriters," used for circular work. The ones shown here are Underwood Automatic Operators, a.k.a. the Underwood Automatic Operator Typewriter. They seem to have made their debut around 1911. The mechanism used compressed air or an electric motor to drive a punched paper stencil (the "master"), somewhat like a piano roll, connected to a standard Underwood typewriter. Below: ad from 1911. I would guess that this particular bank of machines played some part in the Democratic Party's fund-raising efforts for the 1920 presidential campaign. - Dave]

At First Glance

It looks like a typewriter repair shop that also sells used office furniture.

Robo-type

Churn out "personalized" form letters by the hundreds? Press releases or vote/funding appeals? Operator types in name and address manually and then lets it rip?

Teletypes?

Are they early teletype machines? Receiving results from around the country on election days? Maybe that's why they face in in groups of four - they were just receivers, no typing on them.

Power cords

Wow! Someone took the power cords off all those typwriters - now how will they connect to the interwebs?

Was this the reporters' rooms after it was over, or what?

Electric typewriters in 1920?

Okay you "vintage equipment" Shorpyites. Are those really electric typewriters? I note the levers and linkages going below the tabletops and what appear to be electric motors underneath. Also see the railing with the multiple electrical cords draped over it. Also note the extra length of the carriages, almost like the ones on the old billing machines. And finally, each grouping of four machines is clustered alluding to the fact that four people crowded together in that one small hole in the center to do their reporting.

[These Underwoods didn't have anything to do with reporting. Who can fill in the blanks? - Dave]

Dust covers

Interesting "typewriter cozies." Given he date of the photo, I'm assuming that they were made of oilcloth or something like it.

Bowling

This was on the old bowling alley area, I presume. It doesn't look as pristine or exciting as it had. In fact, it's starting to look a bit run down and unkempt. Too bad.

[Your chronology is backwards. This is five years before the bowling alleys. - Dave]

Wrong again, eh! Ah well, and so it goes.

Old Convention Hall

Some history on the old convention hall at Liberty Market can be found here.

[Also right here on Shorpy (scroll down to the comments). - Dave]

Pigeons Perhaps

The white spots on several desks, note the railing to the left, roosting pigeons perhaps? Obviously this room was a storage area.

Early electric typewriters?

There appear to be electric motors housed in the wooden typewriter cabinets. The machines look to be the standard Underwoods of the time and not motorized in any way. Any ideas?

 
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