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Office Xmas Party: 1925

Office Xmas Party: 1925

        It's the weekend before December 25, time for a hallowed holiday tradition here at Shorpy: The Office Christmas Party! Which has been going on for 96 years now. Will Clarence in Sales ever get up the nerve to ask out Hermione from Accounting? Is there gin in that oilcan? Ask the bear.

December 1925. "Washington, D.C. -- Western Electric Co. group." There are enough little dramas playing out here to keep the forensic partyologists busy until Ground Hog Day. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Grateful Holiday pome

These people, alas, are all now dust.
But we on Shorpy surely must
visit them once more.
Cheer to all on Shor

A white elephant party?

I hadn't thought of that and now I'm disappointed. For years I have been daydreaming about the oil can lady, the one with the unnervingly lascivious direct look.

Then I remember she'd be old enough to be my grandmother. Jeepers.

Time travel?

Either Johnny Depp was the original Doctor Who time travelling as a woman or his mother was working Working for Western Electric that Christmas

Re: Go-Go

VictrolaJazz asks if the mini traffic signal on the head of the man at the back, to the right of the tree, has been commented on before. Yes! Many times over the years, in fact. This would provide a fine opportunity to review the long and enjoyable string of comments where you will find the following: Going to a Go-Go (12/12/2020), Still GOGO after all these years (12/20/2019), Festive Dress (12/19/2015), Must have been a heck of a party (12/23/2014), No one seems to have noticed (12/14/2012), Office A-Go-Go (12/25/2010), Slow on the uptake (12/24/2010), Kimono-wearing parrot? (12/23/2010), I can’t find Don Draper (12/23/2010), Naughty Naughty (04/21/2009), Getting Oiled at the Office Xmas Party (12/15/2008), Dramatis Personae (12/15/2008), and, finally, A Story in every face (12/15/2008) which includes a Dave link to a Shorpy post with a real GO-GO traffic signal in it.

Elephant Swap

Based on this article, they would likely be familiar with Swap or White Elephant parties:

The notion of “swap parties” started picking up steam around 1901, when Kentucky’s Hartford Herald published an article describing a gift exchange with “four or five little bundles, wrapped so that no one else can suspect the contents.” Early descriptions of swap parties recommended that players bring the most absurd gifts possible, finishing the game by handing out prizes for “best bargain” and “worst bargain” (the recipient of the worst gift would be required to tell a story, sing a song, or otherwise entertain the group).

We need those names!

The spectacular Massafornian colorized image should have some labels for the people in it.

So, here we go.

(Gimp and Python/PIL scripts did the job)

Re Office Stories

Nice commentary! You really bring life to this party.

Thanks for the Memories

Thank you for publishing this picture again this year. It just doesn't seem right to not have these wonderful people wishing all of us a Merry Christmas. I wish all of the Shorpy readers and the Admins a Merry Christmas also.


Kudos, Massafornian! At first I thought, hm, some of those dresses are awfully bright, but then I realized of course that for the office party some people always wear a “special” outfit. I doubt that woman in the red satin dress would have worn it any other day but it’s so Christmasy how could she resist!


Kudos, Massafornian! At first I thought, hm, some of those dresses are awfully bright, but then I realized of course that for the office party some people always wear a “special” outfit. I doubt that woman in the red satin dress would have worn it any other day but it’s so Christmasy how could she resist!

A White Elephant In The Room

May explain the oil can, the Honey Bear, and all the other strange gifts.

I don't know how long the White Elephant Gift party has been around, but my wife and I just had one at our house.

That is one thing that I have been looking at all these years on Shorpy (the crazy gifts), and now realize the crazy gifts could be from the White Elephant in the room.

Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year to all my Shorpyite brothers and sisters.

(Thanks archfan. Good to know that it is still around after all these years)


Is that something hanging from the wall or sitting on the man's head as a prank? Has it ever been commented on before? Though not shown, there has to be a portable Victrola and stack of jazz records somewhere for when the party gets hot! This was the height of the Charleston era and there are plenty of flappers present!

Office Stories

@ DavidK - If you have Photoshop, try downloading the PSD and you’ll see their names in the layers palette. The oilcan lady I named ‘Janelle’ because she looks like my cousin who has that name. I believe ‘Janelle’ to be the well-regarded office trickster.

The aging lush in the top-right standing group of men is named ‘Redd’. Me thinks he’s barely evading his mortality this fine evening, and perhaps is about to fall off of whatever he’s perched upon, to be carried out to a waiting cab, muttering something about his childhood pet dog, Wilberforce. After his early departure his hip flask was found on the floor, where he fell. No one knows what happened to it, or its contents.

The leader of the pack is named ‘Boss’, for obvious reasons. My wife thinks that perhaps he has a familial connection to ‘Bertha’, the large lady in the red dress. Boss’s blotch is an expanding skin growth. By 1945, it will have grown over his face, poor fellow. Unfortunately, the portly Boss died of a heart attack in 1946 while un-crating his new supply of Consuegra cigars and munching on a donut.

I note in this photo that there is no evidence of food or drink, save the candy canes. So while we have conjectured on this post about the state of inebriation these people might be in, strong drink seems unlikely at this event, particularly in the age of prohibition these people find themselves in. (Redd is the exception, having brought his own supply of spirits.) The food might be in another part of the room, but the lack of it has me thinking that this event was a relatively brief gathering after work.

‘Lulu’, the office pixie, is only 19 years old. She is Boss’s niece. This makes her somewhat problematic for all concerned in the office, and something of a political figure. She’s not exactly incompetent at her job, but the office matriarch, ‘Ursula’ (sitting on the floor in the green dress) was grudgingly forced to hire her. Lulu got married to a Studebaker salesman in 1928, moved to Pasadena in 1930, and had 4 children. She died in 1988 in a car accident.

The thing about the brooding ‘Lila’ that no one knew was that she had a very wealthy aunt in New York City. In 1934 her aunt passed away, and Lila inherited nearly $3 million dollars in property and bonds. She moved to the Upper East Side in 1936, but never married. She lived to the age of 103, dying in 1998.

Here's a closeup of Lila:


Agreed, davidk ... most likely she's a downright dollbaby but there is a definite glint in her eye and you must admit she has a secret or two or ten. Maybe she's even got something on some of the other girls.


What a great comment, thank you. I’ve never colorized, and I use Photoshop for barely 10% of what it can do, but I truly appreciated your insight into the process. More amazing is that you’ve named them all. Gosh, I’d love to know who the others are, in addition to Mary, Bobbie, Lulu, and Lila. And how honest to share with us your faves, Mary and Bobbie, made legit by your wife asking. I agree about Lila: trouble. Also the lady with the marcel wave in the purple dress and blue coat with fur fringe behind the bear and oilcan and house: you might think of her in off moments but you could never make it work. (What’s her name?) Thanks for explaining about Remini because I wondered how their teeth and various other features were so brilliant and precise. And don’t worry about the rouging: it raised the temperature on the whole event (and not just on the ladies – it’s perfect for that guy third from the left in the upper right, the older fellow with the red tie, who’s had too much to drink or is about to have a stroke or both). One more thing: I’d never really noticed that unsightly blotch on the forehead of the boss with the cigar – you did it full, gross justice. Again, great job, and thanks, man!

Not nefarious

I’ve had my eye on that woman on the far left in front of the ION window for years, JennyPennifer. She has a touch of high color, and I really like that ringlet that has broken loose by her right eye. She seems mild yet ready for fun. Not naughty.

A bit more on the colorization

The colorization was done by hand, for about an hour most every morning, when I had the spare time while listening to podcasts. I started in early January and completed it around April. I am sure that most Shorpians know that colorization is tedious, mostly due to the need to mask objects and details as much as possible, to distinguish them from other objects. (The Christmas tree with its fir needles and tinsel was a bit of a job). Automated colorization just doesn’t compare in quality to doing it by hand.

Each person is a smart layer in Photoshop that in turn contains many layers of isolated bits to colorize. The fun part was choosing the colors of people’s attire. Hopefully what I chose is close enough to what this cast of characters might’ve actually worn in 1925, but I won’t claim any historical research was performed for color accuracy.

I could easily spend the same amount of time on this image again, by further masking textures and smaller objects, and separating their colors. If anyone wants the original layered PSD to do more magic, you can have it here:

You have exactly one year to post the next refinement!

You might notice in the high resolution version that the faces are oddly higher resolution than the surrounding parts of the image. This is a bit of AI deployed on the faces, called Remini. Google it to learn more, but in a nutshell, Remini analyzes a face that is low resolution or blurry and magically reconstructs it in high resolution by drawing from a huge library of face components. Remini reassembles face components onto a map based on the original image. The process is hit-or-miss as far as how it can interpret low-quality image data. It was fun to apply it to this image one face at a time and integrate the rendered AI faces back into the master image.

I feel that I know all these characters in the photo intimately, having spent a lot of time on each one of them. I’ve given them all first names to distinguish the Photoshop layer names. My wife asks me which lady I might’ve fancied back in the day, and I think it’s a tie between ‘Mary’ (the blonde in front of the ‘504’ door wearing purple) and ‘Bobbie’ (third-to-the-right of ‘Lulu’, (the pixie by the desk), with brown hair, a green coat and blue dress, looking directly into the camera). Those two have nice, approachable personalities. I’m intrigued by ‘Lila’ (the mysterious lady on the floor in front of the desk), but she’s perhaps too brooding for 1925 Me to take on; and ‘Lulu’ is far too racy and trendy for my sensibilities.

I was born in 1963, so I imagined a lot of these people from 1925 as being my many older relatives who were a huge part of my childhood in the 60’s and 70’s. My grandmother was born in 1890 and her gaggle of five sisters had birth years that ranged between 1885 and 1902. Though elderly, they were all alive and vibrant for most of my childhood, and greatly influenced me.

I’ve been patiently waiting for this time of year when Dave publishes this wonderful photo, to submit my contribution. I think this version turned out pretty nice.

@ Born Too Late - my geographical fate is the opposite of yours: I started out in the Alameda, California and moved to Massachusetts some 20 years ago. Massachusetts is really a great place to live—weather be damned!

@ DavidK - Yes, ‘Lila’ did indeed turn out to be beautified by the AI software, Remini. In retrospect I think I got carried away with rouging people’s cheeks, but without it, the skin tones just seemed too flat.



Time For A Rhyme...or Two

It's Christmas Party time again, so back to yesteryear,
To faces from so long ago, we now hold somewhat dear
They lived through their pandemic, and now we've had our own
For some, it was an ordeal; of much more time alone,
Yet, gazing at these faces here shows us things will improve,
And then to next year's gala even more will gladly move!
A Merry Christmas to you all, here at this special time
I thank you all so very much for bearing with my rhymes,
May next year's party be the one our current trial's behind us
But our friends from 1925 will be there to remind us ...

A very special thanks to Massafornian for the superb colorization!

Girl At The Far Left

No one tried to say a thing
When they took him out in jest
Except, of course, the little neighbor boy
Who carried him to rest

And he just walked along, alone
With his guilt so well concealed
And muttered underneath his breath
“Nothing is revealed”

Old Friends

I've seen this picture so many times over the years at Christmas time on Shorpy that the faces have become like familiar old friends. I'm of the opinion that Christmas will never be the same for me unless I get to see this photo at least once during the Christmas season.

Egad! New versions!

Shorpy Patreon members have been treated to a short, elegant--well, creepy--music video in Ken-Burns-goes-Edward Gorey style. And now a colorized photo with costumes straight out of Technicolor heaven. And in 2021 they all sneaked in to party on Saturday!

Up to good or no good

I am incredulous that I have never really noticed the girl at the far left of the photo, just in front of the door -- the last of the women. She is concealing something. Knowledge or intent, benevolent or nefarious ... no matter. Keep a weather eye on that one.


As we head into Covid Christmas #2, it again strikes me that these folks would have no idea what working from home would even mean. (Taking in sewing?) Here they are, in joyous proximity one to the other, while we are still asked to distance, mask up, etc. Their mingled exhalations, their casual touches, the humid density of their gathering – how I envy them. Well, we come here to dream and fantasize, don’t we? Happy holidays to my fellow dreamers and observers and to the hard-working trio who bring us the stuff that dreams are made of.

Everybody's back in the office

Nobody's working from home and the party is ON! Happy holidays!

Bravo, indeed

Well done on the colorization, Massafornian. It adds a level of vibrancy to an already-lively photo of an intriguing bunch of people. I’m also surprised at some of the effects, for example the oft-commented-upon woman in the lower left, sitting against the desk, craning her neck for a beady glare offstage – the rouge on her cheeks and the lipstick blunt the ultra-crazy impression and make her look, dare I say, somewhat fetching. Thank you for your addition to this seasonal favourite. And best of the season to my fellow Shorpsters and to the toilers in the digital mines who bring us this much-loved website.

As We Seek Normalcy, This Pic Provides it!

The last two pandemic driven years, makes most of us seek glimpses of normalcy. Having this Christmas tradition each year, having a peek into the office Christmas party, gives a moment of that peace. Knowing these, and their children, and their grandchildren...made it through the Great Depression, WWll, the Cold War, etc., etc., still, a moment frozen in time, gives a certain reassurance, that everything is going to be ok!

Merry Christmas, office party, as well as all the Shorpy members that crash the party each year!

Merry and Bright

With retirement, our lives have been simpler here so the Christmas decorations go up earlier and earlier. But it isn't *really* the season until the annual Shorpy office party. Happy Holidays to Dave and the regular contributors that make this place special.'s kind of odd that I get older but none of the partygoers ever seem to. Must be something in the eggnog.

Amazing colorization!

@ Massafornian -- thanks so much for that epic job. It adds so much to an already incredible image. (Judging by your username, I suspect we are compatriots -- I was born in Massachusetts and live in California.)

The Oilcan

Need an explanation for the purpose of the oil can at the party.

[It's not a party unless everyone is well-lubricated. - Dave]

Colorized version

I've been working off and on to colorize this wonderful image throughout the year. Here's the result. You can also find it here in high resolution:

Merry Christmas!

[Bravo! - Dave]

Now the season is complete!

I look forward to revisiting this every year. Thank you!

- Ken

I'd like to be the first this year

Surely, it's not too soon for this Yuletide Jewel ...


Why the rush?

[??? - Dave]

Newcomer To The Party

After viewing Shorpy for some years now, I finally decided to join this party; I'm in awe of the many observations, and for now, am unable to come up with any new angles on this fascinating photo. I do want to say that the comments of jd taylor and BethF most definitely struck a chord with me; I, too, envy those in the photo, survivors of even greater trouble, coming as it did following The Great War. Hope to see you all back at the party next year, and a few other places along the way. May you all find peace and hopefully some joy this Christmas.

The only Christmas party I'll go to.

Merry Christmas to Dave and the Shorpy Crew, as well as my fellow Shorpy followers. It appears that I've been around for 12.5 of the 14 years of, though it seems like yesterday and DoninVa no longer lives in Va. There's always something to be found in a Shorpy photo: the young woman framed in the glass of the door is the doppelganger for someone I once worked with. Cheers!

Dead ringer, etc.

At the very back and far left - the attractive woman 3 in - I have a friend who looks exactly like her but with a more modern hair style, but identical facial features. How eerie!
Something tells me that Oil Can Mary's wicked smile indicates that she is already planning what flapper attire she will wear at the local speakeasy that night. Her future toast might be: "My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends— It gives a lovely light!" Published in 1920. Edna St. Vincent Millay.
I often wonder what became of all these people. It is my hope that they all lived long, happy, prosperous lives but alas, as we know, life can be more complicated than that.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year you ghosts of Christmas past!

The X-mas Party Presents!

And here you may have a look on how Christmas looked 100 years ago in the U.K. (including a display of toys made by Meccano in the toy department of Whiteleys store in Bayswater).

Time to Move On

I vote that next year you post the 1926 photo. Some of the lingering issues must have been resolved by then.


They all lived through a plague of their own six years earlier, and they look fine now, so there’s hope.

Thanks, jdtaylor--I'm sure I'm not the only one who needed that perspective today.

Happy holidays to Dave and all the Shorpyites. This site has been a great distraction lately!

12 Years of Christmas

Merry Christmas Shorpy. Thanks for the memories.

[This is Shorpy's 14th Christmas! - Dave]

Christmas Past, Present, and Future all at once!

Every year I wonder about the dark-haired smiling young woman third from the front, beside the desk. With her modern-looking bob, she looks like a Time Traveler, so that's what I've named her. (Not far away are The Maniac, Da Boss, and The Very Secret Lovers.) This photo, along with its subjects, never gets old, and I hope the Holiday Spirit that originally inspired it never does either. Happiest of Holidays to everybody who produces and sees Shorpy, and a New Year of peace, love, courage, and good health to all.

A Vintage Crumple

After all these annual viewings I finally noticed what looks like a lone crumpled piece of paper at lower right. We'll never know what was on it. Maybe a dig at one of these people? Or love note? Ah, the mysteries!

That Time of Year Again

Through the miracle of photography and our friends at Shorpy, we are able to visit this party again.

Re: Elbow to elbow

I must concur. Having spent nine months wearing a mask, practically bathing in hand sanitizer every time I touch anything, and staying as far removed from people I don't live with as humanly possible, I'm jealous of these long-dead coworkers for being able to crowd together, enjoying one another's company in person, rather than over Zoom or FaceTime.

It's been a bad, bad year, there's no denying that, but Shorpy has been a bright spot in my day since January, much as I'm sure it's been for the rest of you. Happy Holidays to all the Shorpyites out there — may you find some contentment and peace in the face of all this tragedy and come out the other side hale and hearty.

Elbow to elbow

Every year I have a different response to this photograph, depending on general mood and the state of the world. This year, I truly envy those people. They get to stand together in a bunch, breathing one another’s air, touching each other casually, sharing food and drink, simply going in to work at an office. They all lived through a plague of their own six years earlier, and they look fine now, so there’s hope.

Happy holidays to all the people who create and enjoy this wonderful website that gives me joy and perspective on a daily basis.

Five groups

Part of the endless fun with this photo is deciding which part of it to center as the embiggened image on my screen. I fluctuate between the five main Ion Dept. groups: on the left, the ladies on the floor, the ladies standing, and the men standing above them, and on the right, the lower men and the upper men. (If I had to distinguish a special sub-group, it would be solo guy behind the tree and the fellow on the very far right who hovers between the upper and lower groups.) Once I have the group du jour embiggened, I focus on the individual characters. As we who have been doing this for years well know, that’s when the fun begins.

Might I take this opportunity to offer the best of the season to Dave and Ken and tterrace and all my fellow Shorpsters. In this extraordinary year of greater screen time than ever before, I find that my Shorpy screen time is even more intense and valuable, if such a thing is actually possible. Bless Shorpy, and bless you all.

Another year

We all get another year older and they stay the same.

Nice $-value today

That horse that guy in front of Christmas tree is holding. All with bit of wear and patina collected in 95 years.

Buddha Bear!

Puts in his once a year appearance.

Merry Christmas to Dave & Ken & tterrace and all the naughty boys & girls at Shorpy!

Well, Merry Christmas Termite

You can probably still find one somewhere. It's an automatic wetter and cutter for wide, brown packing tape. You just mash down on the handle and it shoots out a measured length of wet sticky tape and cuts it when you release. There is a messy water reservoir up front. I used one in a shipping department in 1974.

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