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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

Internal Revenue: 1926

Internal Revenue: 1926

Washington, D.C., circa 1926. "Internal Revenue." A seasonal reminder from Shorpy. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

 

I wonder also

What are those drop cords connected to -- some kind of punching or imprinting doodad?

Peaceful by contrast

The photo of everyone lined up at the IRS office looked a bit chaotic and disorganized. When you put all that paperwork in the right hands, it becomes nice and tidy.

If this were a normal enterprise, like a hardware store for instance, I'd much rather be out on the front lines working with the hordes of customers than keeping the paperwork neat. In the case of the IRS, though, I suspect every single one of those people out at the front counter is a dissatisfied customer. This would be one of those times when I'd opt for one of these quiet desk jobs.

Mystery powered box on desk

The drop cords on the left power something on the desk. It's that oblong box under the clerk's left hand. I wonder what it is.

Shipshape

I can't help but notice how clean and organized everything looks.

Clerical work

I was a file clerk in the early 1970's and a lot of this scene is reminiscent of that job. We had bundles of things to file, in my case, traffic tickets or driver's license applications, all roughly the same size. we had the cabinets to file into.
To stave off boredom sometimes we had impromptu filing competitions, who got done with a bundle first won.

Looks Preferable to Me!

I look at that old industrial mill-type building and actually wish I worked there rather than in these cubicles they've got us in here at my insurance company. The great minds here have us in a beautiful color scheme of beige on beige with beige accents. Anyone else hate cubes? When I first started in this industry we had an open floor plan with desks lined up like those but in a newer, cleaner office building. Each desk had a phone and an in/out bin. No computers at all. It was better and more comfortable back then, I think.

Symmetry

Undoubtably, the atmosphere wasn't the best for preventing boredom, but I find it artistically pleasing to the eye. It's a nice picture even if it wasn't a nice job. Though I personally think it could have been the latter, too.

Symptoms

Two desk are empty. Stacks of work waiting. Both employees are rumored to be recovering from boredomitis. This malady has plagued the department's workers for some time. No known cure.

Audit

As they select the poor souls who are about to get audited here's hoping I am not one of them.

This would seem to be

The Franz Kafka Annex. And yes, we do have your files. So glad you asked.

Ditto, ditto, ditto

Same desks, same windows, same mini file cabinet on the desk. Same full tray of work for each of them. Same add-on electric cords, hanging from the ceiling.
Almost the same hair. Almost the same smocks on every woman.
These jobs make the prospect of stringing beans in a canning factory with 40 barefoot children look liberating.

Drab

All the office pictures Dave has shown from this time period seem to be so drab and lifeless. The one thing I notice is that all the desks are angled to take advantage of the window light.

One Laptop PC Equivalent

I could imagine the clerical work being done by this group expressed in increments of "laptop power." This would be analogous to "horsepower" as a unit of physical work. One laptop should do everything you see here: the data collection, storage, calculation, and reporting. For better or worse, it would displace all these people and their filing cabinets. And it would save the floor from getting even more beat up from the foot traffic.

 
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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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