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About the Photos

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 • THERE'S NO MEDICINE FOR REGRET, 1945

The W-Files: 1925

The W-Files: 1925

Washington, January 1925. "Bureau of Identification, Justice Department." Files of the National Bureau of Criminal Identification, forerunner of today's FBI. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

 

Love my Oak Desk

I have this desk, too. Not thrifty enough to get it surplus, I got it at an antique store in Michigan City, Indiana. Pull out the left desktop extender (if that's what it's called), and you find a cloth sticker, buried in layers of wax, saying, "TREASURY DEPARTMENT/SAVINGS DIVISION". No dainty executive desk, this one. This is a Bureaucrat's Desk. To heck with the basement - this is where you duck when the sirens go off.

Ubiquitous oak desks

The teacher desk in my classroom is one of those very same oak desks with a walnut veneer top. There are quite a few of them in our building which no doubt came out of the district warehouse when our school was opened ten years ago. God knows how old they are, but they're very well made and solid as a rock. After many years of use the drawers still slide smoothly and the locks work perfectly. I'll take an old wooden desk over a modern laminate any day.

Ministry of Information

This office looks like the Ministry of Information in the brilliant 1985 Terry Gilliam film "Brazil."

Brazil Poster

Somebody tell a joke. . .

I could easily see this as being the inspiration for a Harold Lloyd film. The way everything is so precise and staid almost demands something chaotic to break it up.

Today

All of the info contained in those banks of file drawers would fit in my PC's hard drive with room to spare.

Office Furniture

I'm sitting at a nearly identical desk and chair. (Mine came from a motorcycle shop that went out of business, not a government office.) This kind of furniture is darn near indestructible. Like tterrace said, a good investment.

Wacky Floor

What's with the wacky floor patterns? It looks like concrete to me. Why would anyone pour concrete in such strange geometric patterns?

[If there are spots that need to be fixed after the pour hardens, you saw or jackhammer them out and refill. I've seen this done in my parking garage at work with similar results. - Dave]

Blue serge suit here, spats there.

It's been a long time since I've seen one of these classic blue serge suits, as worn on the man on the extreme left. Everybody had to have one of these all-purpose outfits, the older they got, the shinier they got, as seen in the back seam of the jacket and the seat of the pants. When they looked like satin, it was time to replace them. As for the second man from the left, he is wearing spatterdashes, or "spats," which were worn to protect the trousers and socks from mud while walking and riding. Wonder what Giorgio Armani would do with these. Anyway, thanks for the glimpse into what must have been a very dull job and think how much easier it would be with today's computers, not to mention today's very casual attire.

Crown bulbs

Growing awareness of the benefits of indirect lighting is indicated by the fact that the bowls of the ceiling fixtures have been removed in favor of using half-silvered "crown bulbs." And there are those ubiquitous modular filing units again, and the equally-u. oak desk. A couple of the latter were still in use in the government office I worked in up until last year. A good investment of taxpayer dollars back then. The four-point chairs were all replaced as they had a tendency to tip over if you leaned down to pick something off the floor.

 
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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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