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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.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Polishing Dept.: 1902

Polishing Dept.: 1902

Dayton, Ohio, circa 1902. "Polishing department, National Cash Register Co." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

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Days of Brass

Actually, the NCR factory was far ahead of its time for taking care of its employees. It was labourious work but the factory had showers for the employees as well as a private park for the families. Books have been written of the advances they had over other industries. I knew one man who worked at the factory around 1910 who told me they paid him each week from a horse drawn pay wagon. It was a five dollar gold piece and some change.


Jeez, what dreary, soul-deadening work. I find this picture highly depressing.

My comment

I have actually posted several comments on this forum that have never got past the moderator. Guess I will try one more time.

None of these people could stop their wheel. It all ran on one shaft.

In Dayton in the winter the windows would have been closed due to the cold weather.

I worked at a business that made feeder bowls (many won't know what that is). These things had to be polished. At the end of the day even in the summer when the doors and windows were open and bunches of fans blowing you left with black stuff running out your nose. Not uncommon for someone to tell you that you had black buggers that you werent even aware of.

Gald I didn't work there very long.

Belts and wheels

Amazing that those polishing wheels are connected to one drive shaft on each side of what looks like a very long building. Wondering if each worker has a way of disengaging his own wheel at any particular moment. Surely each wheel can be stopped at times when needed.

Exposure time? Lots of ghosts.

I am going to assume the photographer was able to ask the workers closest to the camera to stop moving for a 2 seconds. And everyone else moved about as per natural in their work flow. Or perhaps it is a double exposure due to the low light. A longer exposure for all of the equipment when no one is present and then a shorter exposure later with humans in place? Nice to see there was at least a basic ventilation system in place. Still I bet they coughed up a lot of brass dust at night.

Nice to see the ventilation system, but

those drive belts look a bit vicious. . .

One thing that is fascinating are the dancing light fixtures. The movement must be caused by the breeze coming in the open windows. For the time, it looks like a fairly comfortable workplace - except for standing all day.

Hold very still and Pose!

Clearly the line is not running. Despite the slow, ghosting shutter, you can see the hex nut on the wheel of the third worker, and following the belt up you see a frayed lacing splice not moving.

Stop the Line!

Looks to me like the line shaft is stopped. The shafting and sheaves would have been blurred had the line been running. Even the hex nut on the third station back can be seen clearly. Pre OSHA, but there is, at least, some ductwork to exhaust the dust. Also looks like all the parts for each register are collected in the wood boxes for later assembly. Henry Ford could have streamlined this operation!

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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