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Ledkote: 1956

Ledkote: 1956

June 26, 1956. "Ledkote Products Co., Vernon Boulevard, Astoria, Long Island. Office accounting department. Corydon M. Johnson Co., client." Large-format acetate negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.


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Could that be a Swingline Stapler made in Long Island City?


There isn't a single piece of office furniture in this picture that I have not run across at Goodwill during my frequent trips there in the past 10 years.

Ah, ledger books

Old fashioned accounting: control/summary page(s) in front followed by the individual account pages. Takes me back to EI duPont's Operative Earnings department in 1962.


Nothing quite says "mid-50's middle management" like a short-sleeved white shirt and necktie.


Looks like a Friden electromechanical calculator on the desk below the map. They add, subtract, multiply, divide and some can even calculate square roots! All those rotating dials and gears inside make a racket when it gets going.

Somewhere in this view

There must be a squeeze tube of mucilage.

Aircraft Recognition 101

For David in Leicest and Shorpy fans, the partially seen aircraft by the wall on the middle desk is a Vought F7U Cutlass. If the M-3 General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot from Lost in Space would see that aircraft it would say "Danger Will Robinson." It was not good to Navy pilots.

A venerable stapler

In 1965 Rohm and Haas moved its headquarters from its Washington Square to a new building on Independence Mall a few blocks away. My Aunt Patsy was secretary to Dr. Haas. The company got all new equipment, so, among other things, Aunt Patsy gave me a stapler identical to the one pictured second from right. I still use it in my office.

Still own some of that stuff

The Scotch tape dispenser, the chrome stapler, the two-hole punch -- all familiar to anyone whose dad was an office worker back then. I even have one of those Spacesaver phones, though that was an estate-sale acquisition.

The Organization Men

The lives of mid-century workers were parodied, analyzed, commented on and memorialized in such books and plays as "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit", "No Down Payment", "Death of a Salesman" and "The Affluent Society" as ones of drab conformity, living in the bland post-war suburbs with 2.3 children. Their only options were working for the corporation for 30-40 years, then retiring with a gold watch and pension, in retrospect not a bad prospect compared to today.


The man sitting at the middle desk was probably among the first generation who were allowed to write left-handed in grade school. By the 1940's schools realized that forcing us to use the right hand to write just wasn't worth the effort. In spite of dire predictions, we lefties did just fine in life using the "wrong" hand!

The Ledkote Legacy

A former Ledkote site is apparently now a Superfund Site.

From the Suffolk County Planning Commission in January, 2013: "The predecessor tenant of the property was Ledkote Products Company which manufactured various lead products including lead downspouts, for eight years in the 1950s. Before Ledkote, the site hosted a free-range turkey farm. The turkey farm, Ledkote Products and Lawrence Aviation Industries shared the same ownership, according to the Town of Brookhaven.

"The Town has indicated that EPA soil testing has revealed elevated levels of heavy metal contamination in the soils of all outlying parcels. The exposure level is reported to be a moderate health risk to humans and animals.

"The estimated cost of the above remediation of the industrial parcels in 2006 dollars is reported by the Town to be $24.2 million."

Ledkote products

What they made -- beautiful stuff.

The little details

I noted that Script ink bottle on the desk in an instant. When I attended Catholic grade school in the latter half of the 1950's fountain pens were the rule and "no ball point pens" was the eleventh commandment. The good nuns started us off in 4th grade with the Sheaffer Cartridge Pen set which included the pen and five plastic ink cartridges which cost a dollar. You inserted the sealed cartridge into the body of the pen and then screwed in the writing end which had a barb which punctured the cartridge. They worked pretty good until you started refilling the cartridge by putting it into the ink bottle and squeezing the cartridge to suck up about a half a cartridge of ink. Tissue paper was stuffed behind the cartridge to force it against the barbed end. In 5th grade my parents bought me an Esterbrook fountain pen for the princely sum of $5.00. It reduced the permanent ink stains on my writing hand considerably. That Script bottle had a small "cup" molded into the inside of the bottle at the top. You would tilt the bottle to fill the cup(with the cap on tight) and then fill your pen from the cup. It prevented you from dunking the pen too deep into the bottle. If you made writing mistake you had four choices for correction. You could use an ink eraser. You had to wait for the ink to dry and then carefully erase to avoid rubbing a hole in the paper. There was also a liquid eraser which was nothing more than diluted bleach and a more costly "whiteout". With these liquid cures you had to wait for the cure to try or face a mess of the ink running if applied too early. The fourth correction was a rewrite. Now we have laptops with spell and grammar check and the emailing of assignments to the teacher. I certainly paid my dues with the tedium of pen and ink writing and later using manual typewriters.

H-19 Chickasaw

It's the Army's H-19, the predecessor to the H-34, but in Sikorsky numerology-speak, the S-55.

Aeroplane identification

Can anyone identify the aircraft at the opposite side of the desk where the helicopter sits?


The ink bottle is what we all had in our grade school desks.

The ballpoint didnt' take over until high school, and even then they were marginal.

Papermate didn't figure out how to get the click mechanism to reliably stay extended for many years.

Everybody had a collection of dead papermate pens.


That ledger must be holding the original versions of spreadsheets. EXCEL Version 0.25.478.251beta

Superfund follies

A few years before this picture was taken, Ledkote moved its production facilities to Port Jefferson Station, about 50 miles to the east on Long Island. In 1959 the company changed its name to Lawrence Aviation Industries and remained in business until the 1980's. Unfortunately, its site was left with severe environmental contamination, and is still undergoing cleanup under the federal Superfund program.

Ledkote also had a production facility in suburban Boston. The facility is still in operation, known as Bay State Galvanizing, though from the information available online it's not possible to tell whether there's continuity of ownership from the Ledkote days.

The office shown here was at 35-10 Vernon Boulevard, just north of the Roosevelt Island bridge. I don't know when it closed, though a reasonable guess would be at the time of the name change in 1959. The building no longer exists, with an electrical switching station now occupying its site.

So what's wrong with this picture?

No desktop computers, no voice mail, no email, rotary dials, Skrip ink for the fountain pens. Probably three guys do 1 job each instead of 1 guy doing 3 jobs. Comptometers and adding machines Likely in at 9:00 AM and out by 5:00 PM on the dot....oh take me back!!

Space Saver Phones

The "disembodied phone dials" are the tops of space-saver type phones. These were once fairly common in engineering offices, and like this picture, in accounting offices, as they didn't take up any valuable desktop space.

Disembodied Phone Dial

What you see is the dial of a "Spacesaver" telephone, peeking out of of the top of the desk. There is a box with a hookswitch and handset below the level of the desk.

The phone also needs a box with a network and ringer.

My uncle had one of these, carrying the number BOulevard 8-1888.

A photo is attached (Not my uncle's but another one.)

Floating phone dials

Western Electric made a telephone they called the Space Saver. The two partially visible in this photo appear to be that model.

Space Saver Telephone

The disembodied telephone dials are attached to a body with a handset that was on the front (or side) of a small box below the dial. These were typically wall-mounted but could be clamped onto something like an office desk. This photo shows the Western Electric model 211, and you can read more about it here.

Spacemaker Phone

The phone could have been the American Electric AE 183 Spacemaker Phone or a similar phone from another manufacturer of that time period.


Looks like a Convair 220 passenger airliner on the front desk and a Navy H-34 helicopter on the back desk.

I can barely make out what that memo says

"Clean your desks. Photographer visiting today."

Shades of my lost youth

That looks like an R. C. Allen Model 35 calculator, front and center ... and the bottle of Sheaffer's Skrip ink is the dead spit of the one my grandmother always kept on her desk at the office. Bet it goes with the Sheaffer desk pen in the bookkeeper's hand.

Ledkote must have

supplied a product for the military by the models on the desks, a Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw, a Vought F7U Cutlass, and a Convair 240 or 300 or 340 or 440 or 580 or 640F, I can't tell.

Nice bowtie.

The lad in the back must have just been sent over from Central Casting. The lamp over his desk caught my eye, I inherited an identical one from my dad.

Finally, what are the disembodied phone dials on the edge of the desks? I don't see any handsets to go with 'em.

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