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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 • CARNIVAL OF THE ARTS, 1937

Tabulatrices: 1935

Tabulatrices: 1935

Washington, D.C., circa 1935. "Office workers." A future diorama in the National Secretarial Museum. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

 

Re: "Missing feature"

There are two "ghost men" who fit your description of the stern men watching the women work in the upper right hand corner of the pic. Their coats and hats hanging on the hooks were my first clue.

Lotsa Pieces

Richard Hamming (who worked with Feynman) told a story about a computer (as the ladies were called back then) whose Marchant jammed and started to squeal and smoke. She threw it out the window. A second story window.

Marchant merchandising

In 1957 my Uncle Albert, a vice-president of the Foote, Cone & Belding advertising agency, put himself into an ad for their client.

Bon mot!

A picture may well be worth a thousand words, but occasionally, a single word will free the remaining nine hundred ninety-nine to find other employment.

Must be the accounting department.

I believe those are adding machines beside each desk. They're probably working on spreadsheets.

Marchant calculators!

As used a few years later in your finer atomic-bomb research laboratories to crunch numbers and invent reduced instruction set computing (RISC).

Richard Feynman, in "Los Alamos From Below":

"In this particular case, we worked out all the numerical steps that the [IBM] machines were supposed to do - multiply this, and then do this, and subtract that. Then we worked out the program, but we didn't have any machine to test it on. So we set up this room with girls in it. Each one had a Marchant. But she was the multiplier, and she was the adder, and this one cubed, and we had index cards, and all she did was cube this number and send it to the next one. We went through our cycle this way until we got all the bugs out. Well, it turned out that the speed at which we were able to do it was a hell of a lot faster than the other way, where every single person did all the steps. We got speed with this system that was the predicted speed for the IBM machine. The only difference is that the IBM machines didn't get tired and could work three shifts. But the girls got tired after a while."

 
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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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