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The Deep State: 1942

The Deep State: 1942

October 1942. Washington. D.C. "Clerical workers processing forms for production requirement plan -- Priorities Division, War Production Board." Medium format acetate negative by Howard Liberman for the Office of War Information. View full size.


Ah, Fate!

In the lower left front of this photo, that young lady in plaid skirt, sweater, and pearls is a dead ringer for my mom, who was hired for a similar job in Washington in early 1942. But her parents had a fit: "Washington D.C. is no place for a young woman on her own! Why, just think what could happen!" So she stayed home in the Midwest. If she'd gone, her life would have taken a different path, and I probably wouldn't be sitting here writing this.

Are any of these ladies still with us?

What stories they could tell!
If 18 was the minimum age to work there, those ladies in the picture would be
age 96 on up.

Must be a few.

Integrated workforce.

Pleased to see that, and that the "colored" ladies (to use 1940s terminology) aren't forced to the back of the room. Woodrow Wilson re-segregated the Federal workforce in the early teens, so not sure when it was desegregated or if this is special wartime action.

Also salute the headline.

"Hey Sweetie,

I know you gals are a little cramped back there, but is it okay if I park my hat here? Thanks."

Like a parking garage

I like how the columns are numbered, to help you find your desk.

The thousand-yard stare

What did I get myself into?

Hubba Hubba

A single GI discharged because of some minor physical ailment ( ie a missing trigger finger or big toe) after fighting through the horrors of the South Pacific would think he died and went to heaven after he found out he had gotten the job of assistant office manager here.

The two ladies bottom left would have caught his eye I'm sure plus there are quite a few other hubba hubbas as the vernacular of the day went spread around the office.

They also serve

Who are all those yardbirds standing around in the back? Get to work.

Sound, among other things

What did that room sound like?
Why only three men at a desk?
Who runs the sandwich. shoe, or coffee concession?
Where are the cups, ashtrays, and telephones?

We've come quite a long way.

First thing a modern office worker would notice?

No cubicles.


Looking at this photo about 80 years later and thinking about the changes.
-For obvious starters: electronic processing
-Energy savings (how many watts of power are going into that lighting?)
-Covid 19 distancing

And when is the last time you saw a wooden office chair?

The young lady at the very front

Just left of the Shorpy watermark is going to have to use a needle and thread on her dress tonight.

Take a bow

I absolutely love that headline.

May I help you with something, sir?

Nothing gets past this one.

Let there be light!

Interesting light fixtures, and plenty of them.

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