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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • SYPHILIS ... SIX OUT OF TEN CURED, 1941

Order Online: 1941

Order Online: 1941

July 1941. "Operator taking telephone orders at the Crowley-Milner department store, Detroit." Continuing this series by Arthur Siegel. View full size.

 

Nice looking plywood

That's some nice looking plywood they got there.
Maybe that's why they didn't paint it.

MI Bell

Michigan Bell sure had a hand in helping to build these workstations. The jacks, dials, switches and headsets are all classic Western Electric (Bell System) and used well into the 1980s, and beyond.

The headset shown was very uncomfortable and awkward (opinion). The receiver (earpiece) and headband were used into the '80s to trace a signal through a central office, as a test device they were called a "pic" set.

Box with switches =

= the rest of the phone.

In addition to the dial (mounted into the desk) and headset (jacks on the front of the desk) there needs to be switches to answer the call (the "hook" switch) and probably switches to mute (put on hold) the headsets, at least the mics, individually. There is likely one to "page" the supervisor also.

20th Century Box

The woman on the left is writing an order on a sales ticket held in a metal container. The order forms, at that time, were in that holder and they were continuously fed as they were used. There were probably two other copies made at the same time by carbon paper between the tickets. We used almost the same system up until the mid-1990s when our business went to a computerized sales system.

Office supplies

I was born 20 years later, but I remember those invoice writing box things that created carbon duplicates or triplicates (and maybe automatically saved a copy in the box?).

But I wonder what the cube like box with several switches sitting on each desk is.

Dialing pencil

She is writing with an "operator's (or dialing/dialer) pencil. She has a ball shaped attachment on her pencil that is used to dial outgoing calls. Operator's pencils also came as very well made mechanical pencils with bearing-like spinning balls.

Also.. headphone jack,on the lower facing edge of the desk, has a second (and unused)jack. The second jack is used for monitoring the call by a supervisor or for training. If a "difficult" call is received the operator can signal a supervisor who may chose to monitor the call giving the operator support and/or direction via notes.

A Nice Touch

I love the shiny gooseneck lamp emanating from the back panel of each work station.

I'll pay you when it gets here

Love the little C.O.D. tags on the desk. Does ANY company these days offer a cash on delivery option anymore? Last time I saw C.O.D. was on a Ginzu knife commercial back the early 80s...or maybe it was K-Tel Records.

LIFE Magazine

Oh the hair

I'm at a loss as to what those curls and rolls and pins are all about. Unless it's to clear a path for the headset.

I'd Like to Place an Order

For that $965 DeSoto.
Does that price include delivery?
Uhm, on second thought, maybe 2013 is a little out of your delivery zone.
Can I come pick it up?

Oh the Horror

It is simply barbaric to force office workers to sit like that. Someone please invent the cubicle!

If they only knew

what the head of the art department was doing in his office.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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