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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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Mid-Century Internet: 1943

Mid-Century Internet: 1943

June 1943. Washington, D.C. "Muriel Pare, a switching clerk at the Western Union telegraph office." Old-school texting, shot by Esther Bubley. View full size.

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How automated switching changed things, 1948

This period news article explains in detail how telegraph messages were received and transmitted and how the automated system changed things for Ms. Pare, and thousands of clerks like her.

What she's doing

She is currently posing for a photo. Her duties would include mostly keeping the paper tape messages from piling up on the floor, and making sure that traffic was flowing smoothly. There were higher-level techs who'd deal with trouble.

Those are interesting plugs on the switchboard. They are like phone plugs on steroids, with a bunch of circuits per plug. I have a bunch of WU literature and equipment from the sixties, but nothing like those.

I'm surprised!

Took me a while to stop focusing on her face, then ogling the technology when I noticed that the "French manicure" isn't as new as I thought.

What was a switching clerk doing in 1943?

What's the best analogy for what's going on in the picture? A mail sorting office? A telephone exchange? An internet router?

Is she forwarding individual customer messages to their destination? Is she creating point-to-point circuits to handle the traffic?


Those are Morkrum-Kleinschmidt Model 2b Simplex printers. The "Mor" of "Morkrum" refers to Mr. Joy Morton of Morton Salt. The Model 2b was still in use when I started working for W.U. in 1961 and was being used quite a few years later. It printed to a gummed tape which could be cut and pasted to a telegram blank rather than print to a page.

Stock Number

If she were on a shelf in the corporate suppy room, she'd be listed as "Hot, Smokin', 1 each".

Clackety clack

I worked in teletype maintenance in the Air Force from 1966-70. Never worked on this particular machine, but we had some Kleinschmidts up in Thule, Greenland, in 1967 that said "Fungus treated, 1945" inside their cases. I mostly worked on Teletype Corp. M-28s.

Switch me, Muriel

Switch me!

The corks

The corks weren't there to prevent her from accessing specific circuits. They served to keep dust from contaminating the multiple switch contacts within each jack position. Note the patch still on the dais. Teletype is a 5 bit system (32 characters max), and dirty intermittent contacts could easily transform an important "text" into gibberish.

Pretty Good Bet

She didn't stay single for long.

I wonder

Did workman's comp recognize carpal tunnel syndrome back then?

On My Way


Beautiful hair, pretty dress

Those who I see texting these days aren't nearly as well turned out as the young woman in this photo. Granted, they don't have Esther Bubley's camera pointed at them.

What a Dish

She should be sitting in a drugstore in L.A. waiting to be
discovered instead of hidden away among the gadgets. Hubba Hubba.

SHORPY OLD 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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