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Handle With Care: 1942

Handle With Care: 1942

        UPDATE: This is, as far as the Shorpy Research Department can tell, from a series of photos taken by Andreas Feininger in June 1942 at the East Hartford, Conn., engine manufacturing plant of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft.

Circa 1942. We've lost the caption for this photo of a lady operating yet another War-Winning Widget in Factorytown, USA. What is she making? View full size.


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All Technical Specs Aside

Can we speculate that she's Susan Sarandon's mom or aunt?

Definitely a pantograph

I'm a manufacturing engineer that specializes in designing production lines that assemble surgical devices like staplers and minimally invasive-types of instruments. As of 2013, we were still using pantographs to engrave serial numbers on surgical stapling devices that were made of cast stainless alloys.

It's a very tedious process that requires a bit of skill. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why this technology is being supplanted by laser engraving, which is twice as accurate and half the time. To improve our cycle times, we sure as heck did!

The engraving machinery at our supplier where this particular device is machined were all Taylor-Hobson units that dated back to the WWII era.

Very attractive

and smartly turned out with her varnished nails and curly hair. I bet she spent a long time getting that just right.

What is she making?

She didn't make much with that engraver. But it looks as though someone in a machine shop turned out some precision, flanged threaded bushings from high quality steel. Parts such as this would be chilled and press-fit into the boss of an aluminum casting, such as heavy landing gear components of an aircraft and the like.

[This is from a series of photos made in June 1942 at the East Hartford, Conn., engine manufacturing plant of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, so you are probably on the right track. - Dave]

Pretty Girl.

And that machine is okay too.


This is a machine used to bend tubing into a particular shape. She will guide the pin through the groove in the steel plate. This holds the pattern of the bent pipe or tubing. There is no pipe in the machine. The picture is staged. The pipe is bent around the chrome spools you see.

[Or maybe not. As noted in the comments below, the lady is operating a Taylor-Hobson engraving machine, similar to this one. Click below for a close-up of the pattern she's copying. - Dave]

Look to the right

and down, the lamp is shining on those shiny discs, you can actually see the engraving.


It looks like she's engraving numbers. Also on the trash can is printed "Shorpy". That could be a clue.

A Major Award

"Fraa-geeee-Lay, must be Italian"


All our cams, gears, and other widgets always had the size, etc, engraved on them. Only way to make sure you are using the right one. I am sure they are all computer-engraved now, but in those Golden Days, the human was the computer.

What he said

It's a pantograph, I use one at work to engrave plastic labels. She's engraving some sort of knob- a control of some sort? If you enlarge the photo, the master is not lettering, but series of some sort of circular pattern with a symbol inside it. Someone, somewhere who is of that generation might recognize these. On the other hand, they look quite a lot like machine rollers for forming something.


The lower-RH data plate says Taylor-Hobson, a British precision-optical-lens firm founded in the 1880s, long a maker of cinematography lenses and such.

Making copies

This looks like a very heavy-duty pantograph, often used for incising lettering -- but it's hard to tell exactly what it's doing. On our left is the "master" of what she's copying, on the right and below the table top is what she's creating. I don't see a massive amount of metal shavings, which one might expect if she were using the pantograph to shape cams or gears, and there does seem to be some sort of lettering on the semi-finished item, FWIW.


This is a pantograph. As for the parts being written upon, I'm at a loss. Almost looks like a bevel gear blank but she is writing on the gear surface so that wouldn't make sense. A sort of adjusting knob perchance?


Look at her left hand, she is engraving following patterns with her right hand.

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