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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

The Office: 1926

The Office: 1926

Washington, D.C., 1926. "Joseph McReynolds -- National Publishing Co." Back office at the McReynolds auto parts and sales business. View full size.

 

Tubular

Lamson tubes are still in use in Sydney today at Circular Quay. Money is sent between wharves using them!

I use one too!

I feel a kinship to these bored looking people, I type most of my school assignments on an Underwood No.5 Just like the ones they're using. Only I use mine because I like to.

Lots of light ... sometimes

Note that the frosted window at the back of the room also opens, although it's not open now, in September: without air conditioning, cross ventilation was important.

The need for large, large windows in an office was also a holdover from the days when there was no electric lighting. Right up to the days when, as here, there are no desk lamps -- only three glaring unshaded bulbs in the ceiling.

Is that Mr. McReynolds at back center, facing to the right? I rather like his striped socks.

Tire Ashtray

Years back, Goodyear distributed tire ashtrays as a marketing gimmick. Our family ended up with one in the mid-1950s. Made from real rubber with a glass ashtray that would pop out for cleaning. After awhile, the rubber began to smell of dead cigarettes. And speaking of things rubber, the gal in the right foreground is attempting to reduce blood circulation with a rubber band on her right wrist. Been years since I'd seen anyone store a rubber band that way.

Tube Guy

Worked for a large furniture and hardware wholesale company in the 50's. It was a summer job and for a two week period I was assigned to work in the central tube room. All of the tubes would come to me in a large open box area and my job was to send them on to their finale destination. The learning curve was a straight line. When it got busy, the tubes would sound like a giant corn popper.

Tire Ashtrays

I grew up in Akron, Ohio (Rubber Capital of the World) in 1950's and most, if not all, of the tire manufacturers made these advertising ashtrays. These ashtrays could be found in probably half the homes in the Akron area. When I would be forced to visit a household without other kids, at least there was something to play with. Our hosts could remove the glass ashtray and have a small tire that was virtually indestructible. It made these boring visits a little more bearable for a youngster like me.

Work Sucks

The pneumatic tube reminds me of my first job at a newspaper. They were used to shoot copy from the newsroom to the composing room.

It's the details that stand out

The venerable office pencil sharpener on top of the filing cabinet; the hats on the stand way back behind the safe; the ashtray on the desk second from the rear; the inkwells.

Items not seen in an office for many years, now consigned to history.

Burn rubber

That ashtray looks like a tire.

Celeb in the house!

Is that Robert Duvall pecking on that Remington back there?

Lamson Tube

The pneumatic tubes are making a come back. Kennestone Hospital here in Georgia uses them extensively. My Credit Union uses them with terminals for walk up customers. Not to mention drive up windows at banks. Useful technology doesn't go away.

A series of tubes

Even into the '60s when Mom would buy stuff at the local "Busy Corner" equivalent, her metal charge plate (which looked just like a GI dogtag) would be put into a tube with the bill and then returned with the final receipt.

Up to scratch

OK, not my best message title ever, but as one who worked with office furniture relics like this up until my retirement two years ago, I can say that the old-style varnishes used on those things scratched if you just glared at them hard enough.

New tubes

We just had a new emergency department open up at our local hospital complete with a brand new tube messaging service.

Hello?

Only one telephone in the whole office.

The Safe

The safe was probably meant for fire protection of documents and records rather than for security. There was no off-site backup and obviously no fire sprinkler system in that office.

iPod 1.0

The second young lady on the left has on her desk something that looks like a charging iPod. And under the desk: lovely legs.

Hey you!

Stop scratching those desks! Don't you know they're antiques?

No Minesweeper

But you could play solitaire on a real desktop.

Come On Up

On the right side of the picture, appearing above the young woman's head, looking like a hair dryer of sorts, we have the delivery end of a pneumatic tube transport system. It delivered sales slips and probably cash and messages from the sales floor to the office. A few still remain in service. I believe I saw one recently at the B&H Photo store on 34th street, here in Manhattan.

Nothing Pretentious Here

What a great photo. Check out the office equipment: One vacuum canister message delivery system; One candlestick telephone for the whole office, in addition to the Ma Bell mini switchboard hiding behind the woman at the left who also is the operator; Self correcting typwriters (you make a mistake, you correct it yourself -- in triplicate). The safe is big enough to hold everything in the office. An efficient office with nicely dressed colleagues.

Fast Money

I always chuckle when I see a safe on wheels.

It's not a band saw

That the thing on the right that looks a bit like a band saw is a pneumatic tube message system. When I first started working in New York many years ago, the non-functioning remnant of such a system was still in place in our decrepit office. The last time I remember seeing one was in an Ikea store. They had them at the checkout.

Lamson Tube

Notice the Lamson Tube message delivery system (look THAT one up!) on the center right of the photo. It seems to have a telephone speaker attached to it, possibly to alert the clerk to an incoming delivery.

3 Grads

I see 3 graduates of the Palmer Penmanship Method of handwriting.

Imagine ...

An office with n open window! What a treat that would be!!

No computers.

Does this mean they're actually working? Not as much fun to surf the typewriter.

 
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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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