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Cellulose Sales: 1950

Cellulose Sales: 1950

Nov. 21, 1950. "Cellulose Sales Co., 250 Park Avenue, New York. Accounting office." In addition to the usual staplers, ink stamps and accounting machines we have one big glass ash tray and another shaped like a ship's wheel, both amply supplied with butts. Whose filters would have been made mostly of cellulose! Large-format acetate negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.


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Re: Window shields

Note that the tops are tilted toward the interior of the room. I believe the primary purpose of these was to allow the windows to be opened when it was raining. They would also serve to direct the incoming airflow upwards to improve circulation and avoid blowing things around, but I don't think that was the main intent.

Desk Accessory Feature

Blast from the past - a pull out writing slide for use by a stenographer or visitor, at the top of the front of the desk on the left. You just don't see those anymore.


This must have been an older building, retrofitted with a central air system. Note the fairly good sized duct that cuts up the left hand window. A fresh air intake? They did a neat job of modifying the venetian blinds to fit it in.

Who says the good old days were better?

The Friden STW10 weighed 40 pounds and cost about $880 in 1960 (that's the earliest price I could find). A calculator with the same functions plus more now weighs a few ounces and is readily available for less than $10.

Divide By Zero

Guess the Marchants were more robust than the Fridens. I used a Marchant machine similar to the calculator pictured in a college numerical analysis class in 1965. We all tried the divide-by-zero (which caused the machine to subtract zero endlessly from the dividend). Some of the Marchants had a "Div Stop" key on the base at the lower right. If your machine didn't have such a key, you had to do a hard reboot---unplug it and plug it back in.


Paper clip holder, if I recall correctly. With a pen/pencil groove to the side.

Re: Calculations - A truly honorable job with that approximation to Pi! Sounds like something I would have been doing, as well. I've always loved 355/113; not quite as good as 21.99114855/7, but elegant in doing it with only three different digits in nice pairs.

re: What Izitt

The item appears to be a holder for a pencil or pen, a business card holder in front and the indents for paper clips and thumb tacks.

What's the Other Phone?

On the rear desk, there is another device that looks like a wooden box with a telephone handset. Is that some sort of dictation device?

[Looks like a Dictograph Intercom, a desktop inter-office phone switching unit. - tterrace]

Paging Mr. Hopper

(Edward, that is.)

Western Electric 302

Designed by the firm of Henry Dreyfuss, who also designed the streamlined shroud for the Hudson locomotives that pulled the New York Central's 20th Century Limited.

What Izzit

The item between the pen set and the pencils on the desk in the foreground, it has 2 indents in it. Does anyone know what that was used for?

Also, I spied something else I haven't seen before, the bottom of the windows have a shield which I'm sure was to keep papers from flying on windy days when the windows were open for some air.

The Phone

The phone on the left desk: it's a Western Electric Model 302. I have one on my desk. It was made in 1947.

Re: Calculators

Yes, very early STW10s, I think. The styling of the function keys looks like the C10s and D10s, but those didn't have the multiplication keyboard, and the layout of the function keys is close (but not identical) to the later STW10s. At the time of this picture, they couldn't have been much more than a year old as the STW10 was introduced in 1949.

Friden Calculator

The calculator was a Friden C10 or similar, an older design from the thirties. The divide key is split in half to get around a patent for a dividing calculator by Marchant, so the story goes.

Calculated Response

In the early 60s my father was head of an engineering division at a Very Big Company - and the folks in his office had several of those Friden calculators that were in daily use. When I was in grade school I was utterly fascinated with that amazing level of technology. I was sometimes allowed to do some simple math on one of them, but it made everyone nervous - mainly because of the "divide by zero" mistake that required a service call to remedy.

One fine day when I was 13, Father told me he had a present for me in the trunk of his car - and there was one of the machines! The one in the photo looks exactly like mine - and forty-mumble years later, I still have it safely tucked away in storage. I used it a bunch in high school and college, and made more than one friend quite envious, as most of us back then just had slide rules.

Mine came with the accompanying Friden books, which I also still have. The first 'serious' thing I did was sit down and, by an iterative process, figure out that 21.99114855 divided by 7 equals PI to 8 decimal places (3.14159265). We were taught that 22 divided by 7 is PI, but that wasn't precise enough for me.

What amazing fun for a young geek teen to sit and watch (and listen!) as the machine faithfully assembled the answer with the carriage shuttling back and forth and the little numbers whirling in thier windows...

Makes me sorta want to go get it and see if it still works.

Naw, maybe not. I have too many new toys to explore.


The stapler next to the calculating machine appears to be a No. 6 Hotchkiss made in Norwalk, Conn. I have one in front of me as I speak. It's been in the family for many years and only recently I put staples in it for the first time in several decades. One advantage it has is being locked in the open position so you can staple stuff to bulletin boards, walls, your buddy's forehead etc.


Looks like a Friden Model STW10, probably an early version of the series! Machines of that era were fascinating, hugely complex systems of levers, gears, latches and shafts. This series performed multiplication by entering one factor on the ten-column pad, and the other on the small ten-key pad. I remember playing with these (could have been the similar Marchants) when visiting my dad at work (civil engineer.) The truly evil thing to do was to set up a division operation - by zero - and walk away.

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