Today, when most of us head into the office, our quiet digital tools are ready and waiting, maintained by technology professionals and other unseen hands. But office work used to be much more of a do-it-yourself, hands-on affair. A sophisticated turn-of-the-century office, for example, might have boasted candlestick telephones, fountain pens with ink bottles, and a very rudimentary calculating machine, all ready and more than willing to malfunction at exactly the wrong time.

When copies of an important document needed to be produced, you didn't just knock out a PowerPoint and click send. Materials would have to be carefully gathered for the printer, who would laboriously set your peerless prose in type and then print your document by hand. Days might pass before your plan to re-organize the Midwest sales division would see the light of day.

One could send important communications by telegraph, either using Morse code or by sitting down at a printing telegraph machine. Early typewriters appeared in 1874, when E. Remington & Sons offered their customers a Sholes & Glidden “Type Writer” for $125. But the machines didn't really catch on broadly until the popular Underwood models of the 20th century.

Distributing what had been typed was not as automatic as the appearance of the FedEx truck at 4pm. Letters would have to be weighed before proper postage could be affixed, and then someone would have to trudge off to the nearest post office to make sure missives were mailed in time.

Much later in the 20th century, higher-tech office equipment came along, like slide rules, mechanical pencils, carbon paper, electronic calculators, and ultimately personal computers. Was this progress? We're not really sure!


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Early Office Museum

Early Office Museum

This site showcases pre-1920 office antiques, including paperweights, writing ink, paper fasteners, seal pressers, … [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Patent 1900 Lambert Typewriter With Case All Original Beauty And Rare!Superb Fullers Spiral Slide Rule Serial Number 1287. 1900 BoxedC.1890 Antique Odell's Typewriter - Cast Iron - ExcellentVintage Australian Candlestick Telephone C.1920 - Ericsson1950s Vtg Bright Red Royal Quiet Deluxe Manual Typewriter W/ Case & KeyKeuffel & Esser Thacher Engineering Calculator, Thatcher, Cylindrical Slide RuleVtg 1950's Olympia Sm3 Sm 3 Maroon Portable Typewriter & Original Wood Case NiceAntique Candlestick Telephone Western Electric Company 12 Inches Tall Lot 2Vintage Brass Candlestick Telephone Works Rotary Dial Type Antique Style OrigAntique Solid Elm Octagon Schoolhouse Office Calendar Regulator A Wall Clock Western Electric Candlestick Telephone -no Reserve!!!!!!!!!!!!Antique Ca.1893 American No.2 Index Typewriter Schreibmaschine Machine A EcrireAeg Mignon 4 Index Typewriter Germany 1924 Working Schreibmaschine TypecylinderAntique 1909 Printype Oliver No. 5 Typewriter Visible Writer Batwing StyleWorking Royal Vintage Portable Typewriter BrownOtis King Model L, Cylinderical Slide RuleVtg 1938 Underwood Noiseless 77 Portable Typewriter W/case,key,manual,excellent!Antique Candlestick Telephone Western Electric Company 12 Inches Tall Brass Lot1Royal Quiet Deluxe Typewriter With Case Light Baby Powder Blue Vintage 1950sPocket Pencil Slide Rule Sliderule, (s532)Four Wheels Move The Body Metal Sign,bike Shop,office,man Cave Garage Harley Very Rare!! Antique Candlestick Telephone 'storer' Vintage 1910's Must See!!Ost Receiver For Antique Candlestick Telephone Vintage Black Candlestick TelephoneCustoms Office Letter Worker Pass 1893 Chicago World's Fair Columbian ExpositionVintage Keuffel & Esser K&e Log Log Duplex Vector Slide Rule 1956 4083-3 RareVtg Olympia Sm3 Typewriter Green Blue Original Paper L��k German Steampunk Nr ϿVintage Corona Folding Portable Typewriter With Box And Paperwork, 1917.Pickett Slide Rule Model N600 Es Aluminum 6" W/ Leather Case Synchro Scale LogAntique Candlestick Telephone Converted Into A Lamp Kellogg Phone 1950s Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable Manual Typewriter Working & CaseVintage Royal Manual Typewriter1936 Underwood Elliott Fisher Co Universal Portable Typewriter F-model With CaseWestern Electric Railroad Scissor Candlestick TelephoneAtlas Circular Slide Rule W/case & Instruction BookletB W Kilburn Littleton Nh Stereoview Railroad Office Fabyan House White Mts NhAntique Remington Noiseless Portable? Typewriter In Orig Case Clean! C1930sAntique Rare 1915 Oliver 9 Typewriter Original Box For Shipping Wood Sign UniqueAntique American Telephone Co. Candlestick Telephone Turn Of Century3.5 In Dia Fowler Twelve-ten Circular Slide RuleVintage Remington Portable Standard Typewriter1960s Facit Tp1 Typewriter With Cursive Typeface. Has Case & Touch Typeing KitVintage Remington Portable Typewriter With Case, Ca 1920's.48 Vintage Royal Typewriter Keys Crafts Jewelry Flat Backs Glass Tops RoundVintage Corona Standard Portable Typewriter W/ Case, 1938,gloss Black, BeautifulAntique Vtg. "corona No.3" Folding Typewriter W/ Carry Case Pat. 1904 - 1910Steampunk Sci Fi Industrial Machine All Metal Handmade Table Office Light Lamp ~ Rare - Copyright 1933 Fertility Slide Rule ~Fresno County Sheriff's Office Area Iii Police Challenge Coin Vintage Smith-corona Sterling TypewriterHewlett Packard Hp-67 Calculator Handbook Standard Me Pac 1 Blank Magnetic CardsScientific Instrument Co Circular Slide Rule W/all AcccutrementsVintage Royal Typewriter~ Nice Smaller Size~ Works! Glass KeysVintage Brother Portable Typewriter Blue W/ Metal Cover Case & Papers 53 L C Smith Typewriter Keys Nice Photo Glass Negative Medical Student Doctor Office Interior View Examining SkullJacksonville Fl Police Reserve Cloth Obsolete Patch Office Ofthe Sheriff DefunctVintage Pickett Engineering Speed Slide Rule 12" With Leather CaseVintage 1960's Adler Tippa S Typewriter Cursive Script. Made In Holland.Vtg Olympia Werke Ag Wilhemshaven Portable Manual Typewriter W,case W.germany