SHORPY Historic Photo Archive & Fine-Art Prints
The Shorpy Archive
6000+ fine-art prints suitable for framing. Desk-size to sofa-size and larger, on archival paper or canvas.
Join and Share

Social Shorpy

Syndicate content
Syndicate content
Syndicate content
Daily e-mail updates:


Member Photos

Photos submitted by Shorpy members.

Colorized Photos

Colorized photos submitted by members.

About the Photos

Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2018 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Well-Connected: 1935

Well-Connected: 1935

Washington, D.C., 1935. "Woman at Western Electric telephone switchboard." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

That dress

I'm fascinated by the draping collar with covered buttons and neckline of that pretty dress. I don't think I've seen one like it before. I wish there was a better view of it.

Too complicated for me!

When I was a bellman at the old Cove Inn in Naples, Florida, in the late 1960s, they wanted me to run the PBX board during the evenings. Maybe the fellow who tried to explain how it worked was not good at explaining or just didn't understand it himself—I never saw him operate it—but he had me so confused that I panicked and refused the assignment.

I have never looked at a PBX board since without a sense of admiration for those who could operate it. It sure was beyond my ability.

Putting the "old" in my moniker

I'll confess I ran one of those nights for three years during college. Actually, not one, but three, with a well-oiled rolling chair to scoot between them. Only difference I see is that ours had been updated to include a microphone on the headset which the operator would plug into whichever board was active. Most nights averaged 700 calls, but busy nights ranged to 3,000. Usually from 3:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., I could put a second chair under my feet and get two hours of sleep so I could be fresh enough to fail my 7:00 a.m. tennis class.

Hello Girls

My grandmother was a "Hello Girl" in the 1910 - 1920 era in the Los Angeles area.

Western Electric 551 PBX

This is a typical old Western Electric switchboard used in hotels and businesses. If you want to play operator, there are a couple of these in the lobby of Hotel Congress in Tucson, remnants from the Pioneer Hotel down the road.

Hotel Congress still uses its slightly newer 555 switchboard located behind the front desk to talk to the antique phones in the rooms. I maintain the thing, as all the real Ma Bell telephone techs are long deceased.

Dialing adapter

On the end of the operators pencil is a sleeve with a ball to spin the dial with out shredding her manicure. My grandmother (1910-1976) had many of these as standalone pieces: no pencil. They were made of brass and some were silver and they were quite ornate. Geez, those must have been special because I can only find mechanical pencil examples online.

This is a person to person call

Remember those? If the individual to whom you wished to speak was not available, you did not have to pay anything for the call. This lady does sorta resemble Lily Tomlin, but Lily is not old enough to be her as she wasn't even born in '35. My sister was an operator for SNET (Southern New England Tel.) in the late 50's through the middle 60's (so give me a cookie). She loved it.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

Syndicate content RSS | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Photo Use | © 2018 Shorpy Inc.