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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.

© 2018 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Desk Set: 1923

Desk Set: 1923

August 1923. "National Highways Association." Our second look behind the scenes at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of this lobbying organization. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

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Today, even with word processors formatting 90 percent of the type in these mailings, at least three of these workers would be filing Carpal Tunnel claims, and two at least would have already had bilateral surgery. Back then, none of that.

My theory (yeah, I know, no one asked) is that the much more vigorous effort needed with these typewriters had a much less injurious effect, for whatever reason.

Mother Hooven's Home for Wayward Frumps

With all the gorgeous spit curls, finger waves, bobs, and drop waist dresses that came out in the 1920s, who picked these fashion-oblivious employees?

Baggy sweaters, dreary buns, and desks that faced bare walls -- you'd think these were novices about to enter a convent, not free-thinking women who dared to earn their own way through going to work.

Hooven Automatic Typewriter

Note the literature on the big desk with the logo of the Hooven Automatic Typewriter. A sort of early word processor for form letters.

Junk Mail Sweatshop

Spam in 1923. Spartan surroundings, noses to the grindstone -- probably the same today, in whatever part of the planet e-mail blight originates.

Wall plugs

The wall-mounted fan is probably using the only electrical outlet in the office. If the office is still in use after all these years, it has probably undergone three or four major electrical system upgrades.

Also, note the mechanical pencil sharpener mounted on the window sill. Twenty years ago, I could not find a single sturdy wood surface anywhere in my office to attach a sharpener using wood screws.

You can be sure that the single telephone was for "business use only". If one of the workers needed to make a call, they might be able to find a pay phone booth down in the lobby.

The First Lesson

in typing class in the importance of good posture. All of these women are doing fairly well, but the third from the right is excellent -- a model for all to emulate.


I don't remember them telling me about the delightfully decorated office space and the one light, hope we don't have to work nights.

Hooven Automatic Typewriter

I magnified and transposed the paper on the left side of the nearest table. It has what looks like a brochure for a "Hooven Automatic" something.

A search provided this site:

"The Hooven Automatic Typewriter, which was electric, was introduced in 1911. "The Hooven is an automatic, electrically driven mechanism which operates a standard Underwood typewriter mounted upon it....."


Wow! I see so many old typewriters at antique stores and flea markets that are dull and worn. I forget sometimes that when new, they were as shiny as a new car.

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.

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