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Supply Side: 1918

Supply Side: 1918

Washington circa 1918. "Supply Personnel." The clerical army behind the U.S. Army. Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.


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The Office: The Prequel

The more you stare at it, the more it starts to look like the 1924 version of "The Office."

Omar Sharif Impersonator = Michael Scott. The dude is dressed like he expects to be sworn in today.

Pam Beasley and Jim = Naturally, the couple parked on the left. The sergeant even seems to be on the brink of a Jim Smirk.

The dude up front is plainly the Dwight of this crowd. Has managed to wrangle a desk all to himself. Shamelessly copying his boss's facial hair and aggressively tight necktie.

And as noted elsewhere, this bunch has not one but two Angelas lurking behind the file cabinets.

Starter Hats

I see two Aretha Franklin beginner training hats hanging on the coat rack.

Grinnell Sprinkler

Grinnell developed the basics of our modern fire sprinkler systems in the 1880s. His name lives on as Simplex Grinnell, one of the big boys in the sprinkler business.


No one has made mention of the fact that all the fans have been removed on the window side of the room. Perhaps that is why the 'filing cabinet twosome' look so grumpy?


I was noticing the mismate assortment of hard wooden chairs. Not a padded swiveler among them. I'll bet more than one of those ladies was wishing bustles would come back in style.

The other thing that grabs my eye is the Omar Sharif impersonator standing in front of the filing cabinets. He's trying to fix me with him Mesmer stare.

Child Labor?

The black gentleman on the right hand side of the picture probably works there I'm guessing -- got to have a gov't gig to afford such a nice suit -- BUT what about the kid? Look between the fan and the pencil sharpener and you will see the kid. What would his job have been?

[Office boy. - Dave]

Converted Warehouse

Wherever this large office was, it was housed in a "temporary" building. None of the building materials seen in the photo would be used in this way in a permanent structure. The unplastered walls and ceilings are sheathed in Upson Board panels (pressed sugar cane fiber) with lath joint covers, and the wood posts down the central corridor are ragged with a sealer coat instead of being varnished. The ceiling lamps are connected to exposed runs of unshielded wiring, the next evolution from early knob-and-tube wiring systems, and the fire sprinkler pipes are fully exposed, something that would normally have only been seen in a basement or a warehouse. It all looks like a war materiel supply warehouse that was converted to clerical space when the flow of men and materiel reversed at the end of the Great War.

[A Washington Post article mentions this work taking place at "the historic old arsenal at Washington Barracks." Also described as the adjutant general's offices at Sixth and B streets. -- Dave

Fire Sprinklers

Is that a sprinkler system in the piping on the ceiling? I didn't realize sprinkler systems dated back to 1924.

[Below, an ad from 1919. - Dave]


Then, as now, there will always be file cabinets of all designs and dimensions shoved next to each other, creating an irregular platform. My OCD meter starts going off and I just want to match up all the like filing cabinets. Of course, I have no desire to try to refile everything. . .

Now, back in the day, was it a plum seat to sit next to the radiator (the elderly woman behind the sergeant) or does it get too hot too quickly? I've never had to work for 8+ hours next to one.

Fire Sprinklers?

I had no idea that sprinkler systems were used this long ago. And they seem to be very closely spaced. Today I think the rule of thumb is one every 12 feet.

What's this world coming too?

Notice the two older ladies by the file cabinat on the left side with the mean looks? I bet they are looking at the table shared by a man and a women. Probably talking about how they can't believe those two are cohabitating the same desk, in front of everyone! How shamful! Did you notice the early track lighting?

"The Office"

Such drama & intrigue in one photo! From the overly content impeccably dressed gentlemen on the far right to the woman on the far left who does not want to be photographed, just in front of the Sergeant (?) who can't believe he was assigned supply duty. Quite possibly you have also discovered the starting point for Global Warming in the two women directly behind the Sergeant... Chilly !

Fresh air

I like the wind diverters on the windows, so that you could enjoy the fresh air without blowing all the papers off your desk!

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