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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.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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In the Cards: 1920

In the Cards: 1920

Washington, D.C., circa 1920. "Tabulating Machine Co." Our third look at the firm's equipment in action. Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Women in the workplace

Interesting there are so many women... my grandmother once told me a woman's employment choice back then was only teacher, nurse, secretary, or housewife. Not true in the big city I guess!

[I think punch-card operator would fall under the heading of clerical work, one of the traditional "women's jobs." - Dave]

Thonet #14

Those are Thonet chairs no. 14 the "chairs of chairs" As seen in Viennese cafes.

Thanks for jogging the memory

I worked on maintaining punched card sorters in London in my school holidays in the late 60s. The machines were just slicker versions of the ones shown here. The quantity of punched cards was staggering. The Prudential Assurance Building had 5 million punched cards laid out on tables. They in the process of being copied on to magnetic tape. Five years later I was working on "state of the art" computers. In 1973 ours had a 5MB hard disk about the size of a dustbin. It's time I went in search of all the photos I took....

The tabulators

They are hard to identify based on Web photos, since most tabulators you see pictures of are different models. But it looks a bit like the one in this photo, albeit a view of the other side of the machine.

Notice that they added finger guards to the leather drive belt by 1934, presumably as a result of some missing fingers.

Price of electricity

From what I have been told, the average price of a kwh of electricity about that time was 65 cents, where now it averages 9 cents. Perhaps it was too expensive then.

Just Think

In 50 years people will be viewing pictures of us doing our daily tasks with pity....

Lights out

Have you ever noticed that in many of these circa-1920 office interior photos, the ceiling lights are rarely in use? Was electric light still enough of an innovation that its use was often an after thought, or was electricity in "them days" expensive enough that keeping the lights off was a cost-cutting measure for the bean counters? Inquiring minds want to know!

[I think a lot of the smaller ceiling fixtures were probably used only for nighttime illumination. - Dave]

What they do now

R.I.P., we hope

Full Employment

All of these people have been replaced by one modern computer. What do they do now?

SHORPY OLD 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.

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