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The Steno Pool: 1903

The Steno Pool: 1903

"Stenographers' room, Leland & Faulconer Manufacturing Co., Detroit." It's always helpful to have a calendar in the room when dating a photo, and here we've hit the jackpot. In fact the main focus of this room seems to be calendars, with paperweights a strong second. These ladies ran a tight ship, with little doubt as to what year it was or whether that crucial report might go sailing out the window. 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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About that owl

I'm going to say that was a school art project by a child of one of the ladies. It hangs right above what appears to be a family photo attached to the mirror.


You may have control of the radiator, but I've blocked you in with my desk!

Pratt and Whitney

I was very surprised to see the name Pratt and Whitney on the wall, since I think of them as an aircraft engine manufacturer. Turns out they were a machine tool company, founded in 1860. Who knew!!!


I'm trying to figure out if the one typewriter has carbon paper, or perhaps a stencil to cut, in it. There are 3 pieces of paper in there, but they all look white.

Leland and Brown & Sharpe

Another tie-in business I just noticed. On the left desk, without a paper weight, is a booklet by Brown & Sharpe, "Commercial Milling," which also continues today as a major tool and machinery company. Henry Leland of this office had come from Browne & Sharpe.

Oklahoma is?

Check out the state of Oklahoma on the map on the left wall.
Not being astute in political geography, was there some kind of border dispute at one time?

[To the west is Oklahoma Territory, to the east, Indian Territory. They were consolidated into the State of Oklahoma upon its admission to the Union in 1907. - tterrace]

Thanks tterrace. I bow to your knowledge.


In a standard office with air conditioning there is not much use for a paperweight, but if your only air circulation system are the open windows or the ceiling fan, than paperweight become essential.

I didn't want to look at

I didn't want to look at this picture, expecting the usual antiseptic office of the Washington DC type, but I'm so glad I did look! Contrary to kvenido's comment, I think they have done a lot to make this place their own. Besides the paperweights, which suggest that the windows were often opened for fresh air, another delightful detail is the cut out of the owl on the window frame. I think his eyes probably moved when the tail was pulled. -- Saving colorful calendar pictures was common in an era when images weren't easily available.

These women do have the touch

They have decorated their humble office with free calendars, sent from clients most likely. They hang them for the art and pictures. Even the Pratt & Whitney map is an objet d'art versus the strain of steno notebook and typewriter.

Full Keyboards

The two Smith Premier typewriters were different from most typewriters of the time in that they had separate upper- and lower-case keyboards.

A woman's touch

Other than the poor dying thing in the flowerpot by the window, I see nothing that would show that women work in this office.

[If you look closely at the back of the room, you'll note two people who seem to be women. -Dave]

Obviously there are two women in the photo. I was referring to things in the office having the "woman's touch."

Poor plant

He doesn't look too happy in the back there but then this whole "steno pool" room (albeit with only two "swimmers") is a bit sterile except for a serious "wood" motif. That being said, these gals still got a poem written for them and here it is.


The variety in the foreground is interesting - something unheard of today.

Now and again

A person with one watch knows what time it is. The person with two watches is never quite sure. I guess that old adage can be modified to hold true with calendars, too.

Tough to date

While the LoC tags this as "1903 Nov," I think it's a bit more complicated. As seen magnified below, the art on the wall to the left, just above the January 1903 calendar page, graces the cover of "Our Catalogue of 1904 Calendar Designs." The row of artsy pages behind the seated woman contains mostly months from a 1903 calendar, but the last page (partly obscured by her head) is from November 1902. If this was a calendar company (or the calendar division of a conglomerate), the presence of samples from past, present, and future would tend to make accurate forensic dating difficult. I guess I'll go with the LoC's tag, even though it might be based primarily on the large Forest City Mills calendar.

[Leland & Faulconer was the future Cadillac Division of General Motors; these photos were taken in November 1903. - Dave]

Yes, but --

The calendar on the left is for January 1903 and the one on the right is for November 1903. Maybe we can compromise on July?


For those of you, like me, who had never heard of Leland & Faulconer Manufacturing, here is its history. If you drive a Cadillac or Lincoln, you can trace their orgins back to the owners of this company.


Somewhere between January and November.

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