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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • UP N' ATOM: c. 1950s

A Series of Tubes: 1943

A Series of Tubes: 1943

June 1943. Washington, D.C. "Miss Helen Ringwald, employee at the Western Union telegraph office, works with the pneumatic tubes through which messages are sent to branches in other parts of the city for delivery." Medium format nitrate negative by Esther Bubley for the Office of War Information. View full size.

 

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Aid to commerce

Pneumatic tubes replaced the older "trolley" or cable system for routing sales slips and cash to a central cashier not on the sales floor.

In the days before every department store purchase was self-service, this liberated sales clerks from having to maintain a till, speeding up customer service a bit but, more importantly, minimizing pilferage.

As a kid shopping with Mom at Best or Saks, I was always fascinated by the "whoosh - clunk" as the capsule returned to the sales counter with the change and the sales slip stamped "PAID."

Were the tubes under the streets?

I've seen these in department stores, but never knew that Western Union had a system under the streets. I can't remember ever seeing tubes along telephone lines, that's why I figure they're buried. Were they run along with the electrical conduits? Are they still there?

This is really interesting.

Intertubes

The lady is an early webmaster.

Tube Room

Worked at a large furniture and hardware wholesale company one summer in the 50's when I was 16. The man that worked in the central tube room went on vacation for 2 weeks and I got to route all of the tubes that flew in to be routed to the designated department. The learning curve on this job was a straight line.

Seussaphone

Looks like the design work of Theodor Geisel if I am not mistaken.

Tube Trouble

When I worked as a pipefitter at Chrysler Canada in the 1960s we looked after the Lamson Tube system that ran throughout the plant to different departments. The thing I remember being the as being the main problem was small "dents" in the tubes from someone placing a ladder against the tube or something falling against the tube. It didn't take much of a dent "somewhere in the line" to hang that cartridge up. I spent quite a bit of time "walking the line" looking for dings.

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