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Guess What: 1943

Guess What: 1943

      So many of you guessed correctly on this one that we're not going to wait till tomorrow for the answer -- the lady's job is: Telegram gummer. Original caption for the photo, taken by Esther Bubley: "June 1943. Miss Kathleen McCarthy, a Western Union teleprinter operator, gumming telegraph messages."

The year is 1943 and the place is Washington, D.C. What is this girl doing? (Hint: Hundreds if not thousands of people had the same job over the course of many years.) Check back on Sunday for the answer. View full size.


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Mucilage! Who knew!

Wow, I had always assumed mucilage was the same kind of glue that they used horses' hoofs for. Live and learn. Nice to know, actually. Not a desk in America that didn't used to have a bottle of it. Nasty, slimy stuff. If you're a kid trying to use it, you'd get your fingers COVERED in it. And poking a correct sized and shaped hole in the rubber top! If you did it wrong, it made the glue slide out all over the place. And they used to make marshmallows out of the same stuff!?

Rest in peace, mucilage.

She reminds me of

actress Cathy O'Donnell, best known for her role as "Wilma" in the film, "The Best Years of Our Lives".

Could be a depressing job

I wonder what percentage of the telegrams she pasted were family notifications about military casualties or MIAs.

Quite the Tecnnology

It appears that a metal applicator/guide clips to the bottle. You can see the paper tape threading through near the "bottom" of the bottle and up to one last roller or guide -- where the glue gets applied. I wouldn't be surprised if mucilage (remember LePage's?) was used as the adhesive. Mucilage is plant based, has no volatile ingredients, and cleans up with water.

Miss McCarthy is wearing seersucker, so it is likely late spring or summer in D.C.

Nice Nails

Beautiful manicure, particularly considering how much she uses her hands for this job.

Minnie's Girl

Is she perhaps the sister of Gummo Marx?

And the answer is --

Telegraph gummer, as many of you correctly guessed in the comments below. I've published them all at once, so no one was able to see anyone else's guesses. (Unless they peeked at our Facebook page.)

Looks like --

she's binding or repairing the binding on a book.

Censoring V-Mail

Letters from the WWII troops were censored by applying tape over certain information. Then, the results were photocopied and sent on to the recipients. As I remember, they were also reduced in size. We used to have a few of these from my wife's uncle.

She's gluing telegraph strips.

I always wondered just how they did this. Looks like mind-numbing work.

Western Union office?

The young lady looks as if she could be gluing lines of text onto the form used for a telegram.


Looks like she`s pasting up a telegram.

Stuck on this one

My guess is some kind of gluing machinery. Perhaps for bookbinding?

Washington worker

She's either repairing bookbinding, or censoring documents and letters for war time security.

She is --

Pasting the message strips on a blank telegraph form. The little doodad in her hand is applying the adhesive.


Pasting down telegram/teletype copy (Western Union)?


Cutting the continuous strip from a telegraph printer into lines and gluing them to a message form.


Is she by chance assembling a telegram?

Creating a paper telegram

She is gluing down the printed out words of a telegram onto the telegram form. She has a little gadget on her index finger to cut the paper tape at the end of each line. The cylinder has glue which she applies to the form as she lines up the paper tape.

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