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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • FOLEY & BURK SHOWS: c. 1940s

Office Xmas Party: 1925

Office Xmas Party: 1925

        It's the second Friday in December, which means it's time for a hallowed holiday tradition here at Shorpy: The Office Christmas Party! Which has been going on for 93 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 glass negative. View full size.

 

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Today’s Top 5

That's my desk!

I have a desk that's identical to the one on the left. I had guessed it was 1940's vintage. It's nice to see it's even older than I thought.

1920's

I'm kind of young so maybe I'm missing something, but did pretty women not have to hold jobs in the 1920's? This office is worse than the one I work in, I didn't think that was possible.

Keep them in their place.

I, too, wonder why all the women are sitting on the floor in their silk satin dresses with fur collars. Surely there were some men who would have been glad to give up their places for them (and to sit amongst the women!)

Spellbinding

I cannot stop looking at this picture. So much to see. The Al Capone looking guy is mesmerizing. The guy at top, second from right gives me the creeps.

I spy...

Second woman in the third row...Frida Kahlo, at her day job.

Twins or Sisters?

Study the features of the young woman directly in front of the door - then look at the one just to the right of (and looking directly at) "blondie with the pearls". Eyes, hair, smile, shape of face, body build: if they are not twins then they must at least be sisters. It is uncanny!

Christmas Backstory

Yes, the young lady at the lower left leaning against the desk has the most interesting backstory in the room. Thanks to the passage of time we'll never know what was behind her haunted expression beyond that the woman giving her the evil eye must have had something to do with it.

Dave continues to put these evocative photos up knowing our emotions will never be satisfied!!

Meanwhile, notice the vintage Chia Pet resting on the scales in the "shipping department" (the desk along the left side). The girl in the fake police hat is looking longingly at it. Chia bunny? Chia elf?

The guy in front of the Christmas tree holding the toy, "I got a PONY!"

Re: Western Electric

You know you're a Shorpy addict when you "get" Anonymous Tipster's reference to the photographer's use of flash (or WAS there a window somewhere?!). Nice shot, A.T.!

My Girl

Say what you want about the woman on the floor or the blonde with the pearl necklace, but my heart belongs to the woman standing fourth from the left, middle row. She reminds me of Bernadette Peters.

The henchman second from the right at the top has a menacing Snidely Whiplash quality about him. You just know he slipped a mickey into someone's drink.

Debauchery 2.0

Four years after behaving scandalously at the Krazy Kat, our bohemian friends find themselves slogging away at desk jobs in the boring adult world. Just WAIT until the Christmas party, though!

Leer Kings

"That Guy" looks like he could be the son of the older leering man directly to the right of him. I shall call them Denis Leery Jr. and Denis Leery Sr. The two men with them are obviously Christopher Walken as The Continental, and a young Franz Mesmer.

Undercover

Isn't anyone going to ask why the woman in the middle is wearing a hat with a Police badge? Is this a costume xmas party? Could she possibly be a real cop??

The Power Bloc, continued

The balding gent just over Boss Stogie's left shoulder-- the real power in the office, he certainly looks confident that his recent appointment to regional director will lead to greater things. Boss Stogie's son, Junior (with the candy cane), was on the fast track to becoming a junior partner until he was befriended by Harold from the mailroom (his hand on Junior's shoulder), which displeased Boss to no end.

The Black Widow

Quick somebody, get the story on the raven-haired woman sitting in front of the desk.

She looks like she ate her young; perhaps she has a few "missing" husbands buried in her dirt-floor basement.

I get the very distinct impression that if you crossed her, you ended up joining the silent majority long before your time.

This is so great!

A bevy of attractive females here but I'm partial to the blond girl standing at the far left of the photo.

Wowzer!

Also, standing next to Boss Stogie on his left: ladies and gentlemen ... Mr. Joaquin Phoenix.

Gifted

Judging by the peculiar items in the shot I'm thinking they exchanged white elephant gifts at the party. I got a big stuffed fish at our last party. I would have preferred the oil can.

That Office Girl

I find her the most intriguing face in the picture. She looks almost out of place in this setting... her face is striking. Her expression says that she's part of a back story going on around the office that no one knows about.

Wow. I'm falling in love with a woman who's long long dead. How sad is that?

Getting Oiled at the Office Xmas Party

The oil can on the foreground floor is absolutely precious. There can be no rational explanation for it. Then again, one tends to get oiled at the office party.

The hot babe is standing, far left, if not the girl sitting left, in pearls by the purse on the desk corner.

The fat guy with the cigar has his conjoined twin growing out of his forehead.

Girls on one side, boys on the other? Weird.

How dare these people all die off before telling us why that guy is holding the little horsey?

"Hey, Griselda. Spin my copter. If it says 'STOP - STOP', you are not mine. If it says 'Go - GO', oh you kid!"

The Power Bloc ...

Have you happened to notice how Big Boss Man - the guy holding that little stubby cigar - is surrounded by thugly-type guys? This is the power bloc for this office. The guys up on the top left are all from a different Department and are wary of Big Boss Man's thugs. There is a little bit of cross-pollenation, however. The first guy standing on the table at the right is shooting a bemused glance in the direction of his bud in that other Department. He's the shorter, unjacketed guy with the full frontal grin and the eyebrows in serious need of plucking. To them, this is all a goof. They hang out together and keep each other informed as to who says what about whom, which of the girls are doable and what the scuttlebutt is coming down from the top. There's more here but I don't want to get censored.

H.P. Lovecraft?

Could it be? Standing in front of the "Go Go" guy, half hidden? Maybe Franz Kafka, instead? This would be the guy who takes an extra-long time in the lav in order to scratch unseemly things onto the stall partitions. Every office has one of these guys and in this office, its either him or else its the nearly invisible guy standing across from him on the other side of the tree. Also, the girl on the far left, standing in front of the door, is unforgivably cute. I'll bet she's told a lot of these guys "NO" and that's why she's way over there.

The oil can

Of course the bear and the cabin weren't mentioned -- everyone knows the best part of the party is getting well-oiled!

Thank you. I'll be here all week. And don't forget to tip your server.

IN and OUT

I noticed the IN basket on the desk to the far right, but where's the OUT basket? I sometimes wonder why I have an OUT basket on my desk at work - it's always less full than the IN one.

The woman sitting on the floor to the far left bears a striking resemblance to the Italian actress Ana Magnani (The Rose Tattoo).

Now I Know

My father worked for Western Electric. The money wasn't very good, so I never figured out why he stayed there. Guess this answers the question.

Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen...

...hair! I think that's my favorite part of this picture. There's such a great group of hairstyles among the women. A few of those girls were pretty darn good with the curling iron, or whatever they used. I wonder if they're more glammed up than usual for the big party. For some reason, the hairstyles are more striking to me than in other pictures. Anyway, fascinating as always.

P.S. I think the guy that bdgbill thinks looks like the antichrist is actually kind of a hottie. I'm going to go on the assumption that he didn't look that intense all the time. If he did...well, I could see bdgbill's point then.

Dramatis Personae

Mona, the woman on floor, far left (one of the few without the Marcel wave), is probably a Suffragist or at least politically active. Maybe she's trying to organize these party animals into a union and all they want to do is balance traffic signals on their heads and be wildly social.

Office Tension

This must have been just after Phyllis spilled the beans about Dwight and Angela. Poor Andy!

That guy

Of the four guys standing in the upper right, the guy who is on the left side, closest to the tree -- which girl is he leering at?

Western Electric

If you flip the picture around, you can sort of read the door sign. I can make out:

504

[Western Elec]tric Com[pany].
[INCORP]ORATED
[?]ION DEPARTMENT

I wonder what the missing part is. Administration?

Don't mess with these guys!

The boss from Hades has what looks like a goose egg on his forehead and the coatless guy on his right has a black eye and cuts on the nose and eyebrow: maybe the partying started the night before. Looks like a smoking hot curling iron was de rigueur for any well-coifed lady.

Western Electric

Western Electric was the manufacturing and distribution arm of American Telephone and Telegraph. I suppose that this office in Washington was one of their distribution points. At any rate one interesting thing about the photo is the decided separation of men and women as though they might have come from different sections of the business. I also note that the ladies are sitting on a pretty rough floor, which is something I would have thought they would have avoided in those clothes. As to the glasses, I suspect that the photographer cautioned them that the flash might reflect from the lenses, assuming that I can assert that there was flash. Who knows, maybe there's a window somewhere.

Re: Fat Chance

Wait -- so the oil can is worth noting, but not the bear statuette or the small house?

Where's the copier?

Ahhh, the days before every office had a copier, and every office had some joker trying to get the temp to sit on it!

Western Electric (Shock Therapy)

Great pic. And I'm sure there are as many stories as people in this one. But let's admit that the lady sitting on the floor on the left has to have the most interesting one. There is a haunted, post-experimental-therapy look to her that immediately reminded me of the psych-ward scenes in "Changeling."

Thought Bubbles

It would take me all day to write out thought bubbles for what I imagine is going through all those heads, but the lady at dead center seems to be thinking, "What was IN that punch? Did they repeal Prohibition and nobody told me?"

The "dark lady" downstage right is thinking, "I hope they snap that picture before I freeze to death down here on the bare floorboards. You would think the electric company would have better heaters in its own offices, but old man Pennyfarthing won't even spring for a rug to keep the draft out."

A Knockout

The woman with the pearl necklace sitting at the very corner of the desk is a knockout! She looks like a present-day actress whose name escapes me. The guy standing up and glaring into the lens at the extreme top right of the photo may very well be the Antichrist. His stare gives me chills. The guy behind him looks like an "evil character" straight out of Central Casting. This is a great photo.

Fat Chance

The corpulent boss, stogie in hand, actually thinks that removing his glasses improves his appearance. He also seems to be playing footsie with the marcel-waved cutie who inexplicably has an oil can in front of her.

What a mod hairdo!

The brunette peeking from behind the desk (right above the black purse) has such a 1960's hairstyle!

Wired

Could it be that they tapped the power for the Christmas tree lights from the ceiling fixture?

A Story in every face

This photo can inspire everyone to write a novel because there is indeed a colorful character with his own personal bio in every set of eyes. The bald guy with the candle on his head particularly stands out as one who has a complex persona but so does everybody else in the picture. Some appear depressed, some look beat up, some seem desperate. Make up your own scenarios. Personally, I used to look forward to the office parties when the most unexpected facets of co-workers' personalities would be revealed, giving us the rest of the year to talk about that until the next one. Stuffy old lady accountants and spinsters turned out to shock us the most when relaxed by a "touch of the grape". Lots of fun, too bad they have mostly been eliminated. Thank you for this blast from the past.

[That's a "GO-GO" traffic signal on Mr. Complex Persona's noggin. - Dave]

Dark Lady

Well.....the woman at bottom left certainly catches the eye. Something of a femme fatale, I think. Not generally popular with the more strait-laced ladies, like the woman two to her right who's giving her a very frosty look. The younger woman though, above and slightly to the left, is more sympathetic.

Since it's not uncommon here on Shorpy for unflattering comments to be directed at the olden-days womenfolk, let me be the first to say what a grim bunch the men are. I'll make an exception for the guy under the tree.

Just a little creepy....

Some of the looks on their faces, wouldn't you love to know what they were thinking!

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