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Office Girls: 1925

Office Girls: 1925

Washington, D.C. "American Nature Association. Between 1910 and 1926." It's probably safe to say this is 1925. September 14, to be specific. A Monday (boo). View full size. National Photo Company Collection glass negative.


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Got a bang out of that lamp

The artillery-based lamp appears to have on top a version of this fuze of mine, a PTTF (Powder Train Time Fuze) from 1907. It's about three inches wide by the same high, and is a brass mechanical fuze using a clockwork mechanism to adjust the time. The time is set by turning the dial from safe to the desired length of time for "bang!" The top unscrews so the one in the photo very easily was adapted for lamp duty on top of that artillery shell. Tens and tens of millions of these were manufactured for World War One.

Artillery Art

My grandmother told me how during WW2 servicemen would make presents out of whatever was on hand, like shells and such, and trade them with guys who could make something different. She had drinking glasses made out of some sort of shell. I have the "ugly goblets" that my grandfather commissioned from another sailor (don't know what was traded). They are quite obviously handmade and hideously ugly, but sentimental b/c my grandfather gave them to her during the war.

Platen envy

Both typewriters are Underwood No. 5's, I'm pretty sure. I have a No. 5 that I use regularly. How I wish it was still as shiny as the one that girl is using!

Good point!

I was so thrilled to figure it out, it didn't occur to me that they might be gathering an earlier column. Someday, I might go see if there's one that fits the A.N.A. better.

From the Green Verdugo Hills

This was, according to various sources, a regular feature that John McGroarty wrote for the Los Angeles Times for many years. So there would have been more than one.

John Steven McGroarty

The newspaper article being gathered is this:
"Seen from the Green Verdugo Hills: A Page Conducted by John Steven McGroarty," published in the Los Angeles Times Magazine on Sunday, Aug. 30, 1925, about a week before this photo was probably taken. Would that have been enough time for the A.N.A. to send letters to its California members asking them to send in clippings of the article, and for the replies to return? I noticed there is already a copy on the wall, as if someone spotted it and put out a call for more copies.

Why this specific item might have been of such interest to the organization is a little puzzling to me. The page is composed of smaller entries, and certainly there is a theme of gratitude for the gift of Nature.

The first entry, "Things That the Saints Once Said," touches on the obligation to share what we have with those who need it. It includes a quote attributed to St. Ambrose: "The earth is the common possession of all and belongs to all and not to the rich," and another, attributed to John Chrysostom: "Are not the earth and the fullness thereof the Lord's?..."

The second entry, "Singing Jimmy and his Large Invitation," recounts a neighbor's trip to Detroit, where he tried to entice the Kiwanis Clubs to hold a convention in the Verdugo Hills:

So, what did Singing Jimmy Smith do but get up say, brothers, he said, I invite you to hold your next convention in the green Verdugo Hills. There's plenty of room in the chaparral and under the live oak trees. Our women folk will cook you plenty to eat. You can have goat's milk and cookies to your hearts' content. And all the neighbors will be right glad to see you...

The third entry, "The Tale That a Big City Tells," begins with dismay at the number of people fed and housed by a mission in Los Angeles, then turns to an indictment of urban life:

Here is the whole, beautiful, wide green earth, its vast vacant spaces of fertile lands, God's rains to water them, God's suns [sic] to warm them; the fruitful, plenteous earth with food for all and shelter for all.

And yet we howl for bigger cities and more of them. Oh, brethren, there is something very wrong with the world. The generations to come will have a heavy burden to bear. They will have a fearful price to pay.

McGroarty was a poet, author, and journalist; in 1923, he moved into a self-built home in Tujunga, Cal., in the Verdugo Mountains north of the city. In 1925 his main pursuits appear to have been his weekly page in the Times, and completing his doctorate in literature at the University of California. In 1933, he was named poet laureate of California. In 1935, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served two terms.

The light switch

In the mid 1970s I went to middle school in an old manor house that still had some of those pushbutton switches. For some reason they had transparent switchplates over the things. They didn't have enclosed points, and there was one in the science classroom which would simply explode with sparks every time you pressed it.

Proper desks and the task at hand

Those tables may not be proper desks, but they were definitely standard office furniture for the period. The 1932-vintage federal building I worked in still had several around; they're intended to be all-purpose office work surfaces rather than executive or even secretarial desks. They offered a minimal amount of storage - each had at least one drawer and wider models had one on each side; enough to handle materials for limited, simple or transitory tasks.

So what is this particular task? Obviously, a goodly quantity of individuals have sent envelopes to the A.N.A., and in return are apparently being sent clippings from a newspaper. Now, what prompted those incoming letters? Just to get a newspaper clipping? Or did the letters contain contributions, and the clippings are to accompany form thank-you letters because they report on some work the A.N.A. has done? The problem with this is that all those envelopes are incoming letters; the clippings wouldn't need to be at hand until the outgoing envelopes were ready to be stuffed, and we don't see any of those here. Another interesting thing is that the clippings are from a Los Angeles newspaper. Is it possible that people were sending clippings to the A.N.A. for some reason?


Dave is right, early light fixtures also tended to look a bit flimsy by our standards, I grew up in an old house that was electrified in the teens and several rooms were lighted by hanging lamps just like those in the picture. Ours had a sturdy porcelain socket screwed into the lath overhead with a matching plug for the cord that securely locked them into place, they were quite safe when new although the cord insulation was getting a bit questionable by the '70s.

It took some time for electric plugs to be standardized, before that happened electric cords with Edison threads, like the lamp, were in common use. My sister used to live in an old house that still had a few electric outlets equipped with a threaded "light bulb" socket.

The wiring for that push button switch is inside the wall, they had a reasonably good quality for the era wiring job done, the truly cheap conversion jobs had the wiring running up the outside of the walls on porcelain knobs or cleats.

Hair set up

Funny, but I can put 3 current office girls that I know at work that have just about the same hairstyle and hairdo (including the one with the headband).
Just not so much hairspray, but otherwise, they look modern to me.

OSHA wouldn't approve

This office was clearly remodeled from something else -- a private home perhaps. It's on at least the second floor, based on the stairwell in the background. The cord dangling from the ceiling fixture to power the hanging lamp shows a certain "muddle through" attitude. And the "screws into the socket" device on the wire at the extreme right, which may in fact connect to the bullet lamp, shows further improvisation. Add that nobody has a proper desk, and you can guess that the American Nature Association had a pretty modest budget.

[The 1910s and 1920s saw many office buildings wired for electricity after conversion from gas -- often just for ceiling fixtures, with no wall outlets. Tapping a ceiling fixture with a screw-in adapter was a common practice for things like desk lamps. - Dave]

Golden Eagle or Bald Eagle

Someone asks" "Golden Eagle or Bald Eagle as Emblem?" I wonder what brought that discussion on way back in 1925.

Much of US coinage at the time featured different types of eagles, not the bald eagle.

For example, take a look at the St. Gaudens designs that were in place from 1907-1933 -- those aren't bald eagles.

So I suspect it was discussion about whether the depiction of eagles on use emblems such as coinage should be standardized to be the bald eagle rather than just a generalized heraldic eagle (usually the golden eagle, which has been used in heraldry since ancient Rome).

Well done, Terrance

I was just admired all the stamp mail (including one or two stamped envelopes), nearly all of it machine canceled. So much different from the metered and printed indicia mail that is most of what's in my mailbox today.
For those who love this stuff as I do:

[That Terrance does crackerjack work. - Dave]

What are they doing?

Seems to be alot of the same headline articles piled up, I wonder what they were clipping them for?

[Mentions of the A.N.A. - Dave]

If wishes were newspapers.....

I'd have that entire collection in my lap right now, reading the one about the golden and bald eagle. And if ifs an' ands were pots and pans... there'd be no work for tinkers!


Get a load of those rolled stockings and bobbed hair on the gal on the left. She is probably thinking of the weekend, when she and her beau with slicked-down hair can dance the Charleston in a speakeasy.

Artillery art

Artillery art must have been "in" after WW1. I've got two pieces that came from my grandfather's estate. He was an ambulance driver in France and never had anything official to do with field artillery.

One piece, they took an empty cartridge case and cut most of it away down to the bottom two inches. They added some other pieces and made it into an ashtray.

The other piece is a more or less complete cartridge case and was supposedly used as an umbrella or cane stand for years. The interesting thing about that case is the several "Life of Case" stampings on the bottom (inspector and date) indicating each time it was remachined and reloaded.

An empty cartridge case is one thing, but if I saw someone had turned a shell into art the first thing I'd want to ask would be "that thing is inert, isn't it?"

ARTillery Utility

I guess that was the post Great War rage or something. There's a table lamp made out of some WWI artillery shell thing at my parents' house. I think it was a souvenir from my mom's uncle's tour of duty.

Trench art lamp

Not only do they have the flags of the Allies but there is also a desk lamp made from an old artillery projectile on the far right.


They did in fact use the QWERTY layout. QWERTY was developed specifically to keep typists from going too quickly and causing the keys to jam.

Underwood typewriter

I'm not a typewriter expert but this looks to be an Underwood, apparently very common for the time. Images here and below (click to enlarge).

Double Eagle

From the newspaper clipping just above the filing cabinet and to the right, looks like a full-page article debating the "Golden Eagle or Bald Eagle as Emblem?" I wonder what brought that discussion on way back in 1925.

Why in the world............

Wonder why there are ads on the wall for Canadian Club Whiskey and Stonewall Jackson Cigars

Between 1910 and 1926

Hmm, seems as though the person who wrote the caption to the photo was not very Sherlock Holmes-esque! Good thing there's Dave!

I would love to be able to read the finer print - any chance of a zoomed in close up??

Office postage

Those are 2¢ stamps, not 1¢ ; most letters bear Scott #554:

Although I see at least one with two Scott#552

Both originally issued January 1923.

Answering the Mail

Love all the details in this one: phones, lamps, staplers...

The American Nature Association was incorporated as a scientific educational organization in 1922. Located at 1212-1214 Sixteenth St NW, it employed about 60 people to publish Nature magazine. In 1959, the magazine merged with Natural History magazine published by the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Inkwells Etc.

I immediately noticed the square glass inkwells and the stick pen with removable points, just like we used when we first learned cursive penmanship. You had to dip your pen into the inkwell about every sentence or more. Ink most commonly came in blue, black, red and blue-black (my second job was at Waterman's in Connecticut). Those inkwells also had glass lids and notice the paperclips had specific roundish glass bowls. I used an old stapler like that also. I enjoy the details in these old pictures the most. What we used every day and never even thought about are now collectibles and antiques.

Passion for files

Just stick junk up on the walls with tape, don't worry about the mess it will make or the damage to the paint and plaster. In a way it's oddly gratifying to see that at least some things never change. All in all, a wonderland for a stationery/office gizmo/wooden file cabinet freak like me. The supply room I inherited in a 1932-vintage government office building still had some retired items of this kind on the shelves. Also file cabinets like that - which, you'll note, are modular. This one's in 5 pieces - leg unit, three tiers of drawers and top. Any or all of the drawer units could be replaced with different kinds of filing compartments, including standard file drawers and even glass-front bookshelves. They fit together with metal male & female fittings and could easily be mixed and matched at any time to meet each office's changing organizational needs. Every film noir police station is fitted out with these. Now I want to see this office's supply room!

Some Like it Hot

The girl on the extreme left must have been a role model for Jack Lemmon in "Some Like it Hot" as they look identical. The middle girl looks somewhat like an anorexic Joey Brown. I used to LOVE rubber stamps when I was a kid, they seemed so important when someone stamped their official message on my things and at the library I felt as though I had passed approval when the librarian would stamp every book and every file card so I could take their books home. You would have thought I was being allowed into a forbidden zone. That crown molding edging the ceiling (which we all took for granted) would cost a small fortune to add to any room today. And those postage stamps are most likely 1 cent. Still, I bet these three conscientious workers we VERY efficient at what they did and their stick phone did not have a droning message telling you what buttons to push but that you got to talk to a real person who would handle your problems quickly and accurately. Thanks for a photo of my childhood memories.

[Big-boned, isn't she. - Dave]

Tree Huggers

"Agnes, here's another letter from that lumberjack. He didn't like your reply."

Off and On

My grandparents had those kind of pushbutton light switches!

Great example of an office

Look at all of the decorations. I like the Allied Flags of the Great War. Did they use "qwerty" keyboard typewriters then?

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