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    

1923 Antique Underwood No. 5 Standard Typewriter, All Original & Perfect!Vintage 1917 Underwood Standard No. 5 TypewriterVintage 1980s East German 'mechanical Workshop For The Blind' Typewriter- Ik S36Super Dixie Gas Metal Vintage Porcelain Look Metal Sign Very Hard To Find Rare!Vintage 1920s German Rheinmetall Portable Typewriter W Case - No Reserve  Vintage Lc Smith & Corona Silent Model Typewriter Maroon & Carry Case So NiceVintage Remington Rand 5 Streamline Typewriter With CaseAntique Hammond #12 Typewriter W/ Wooden CaseKeuffel & Esser Thacher (thatcher) Cylindrical Slide Rule Model 4012Vintage Typewriter - Royal Quiet De Luxe With Carrying CaseBeautiful Western Electric Dial Candlestick Telephone, Restored & Working PhoneAntique Victorian Hand Painted Doctor Office Old Dr. Akers Folk Art Medical SignVintage Smith Corona Standard Portable Typewriter Floating Shift Original CaseCortina Curta Type 1 Model 10280 Calculator In Metal Case Instructions Outer BoxRare Antique Western Bronze Bison Buffalo Office Desk Figural Notary Stamp NrHimym Barney Neil Patrick Harris Screen Used Office Motivational Posters SetVintage Rare L.c.smith & Corona Silent Burgandy Portable TypewriterDisney Disneyland One And Only Mickey Mouse Executive Office Framed Art PropSmith Corona Super G Portable Typewriter Design By Ghia W/case Teal Vtg 60s Underwood Olivetti Studio 44 Typewriter Portable Manual Robins Egg BlueBrewer's Folding Slide Rule Barrel Measure, C. 1850sHimym Barney Neil Patrick Harris Screen Used Office Motivational Posters Set151al Party Line Dial Western Electric Candlestick Telephone Old PhoneVintage 1920's Underwood Standard Portable Typewriter 3 Bank Keyboard With CaseAntique Underwood Typewriter All Keys WorkingVintage Otis Kings Model K Patent Pocket Calculator C/w Box & InstructionsDial Candlestick Telephone & Bell Box51al Party Line Dial Western Electric Candlestick Telephone Old PhoneAnnie Lee - Oval Office Figurine - The Head, The Heart, The HomePickett All Metal Slide Rule 4-es Vectorlog Vintage 1961 K&e Kueffel & Esser 10" Decilon Slide Rule #68 1100 With CaseVintage Star-lite Student TypewriterTurquoise Blue Royal Futura Typewriter With CasePickett N-16-es Electronic Slide Rule Antique Western Electric Brass Dial Candlestick Telephone Lamp PhoneHawthorne Village Thomas Kinkade Doctor's Office Christmas Village With BoxAntique Western Electric Co Bakelite & Brass Candlestick Telephone 1915Vintage 1961 Keuffel & Esser 68 1100 K&e Slide Rule & Leather Case Deci-lonVintage 1957 Smith Corona Silent Super Typewriter With Cae & InstructionsVintage Royal Typewriter Quiet Deluxe Blue Turquoise 1956Vintage Porcelain On Steel ''office'' Sign Antique Old Business Door DecorOrig Unef / Undof Jerusalem Liaison OfficeVintage Smith Corona Super Sterling Typewriter With Original Case, Nice!Hallmark Keepsake Christmas Ornaments With Sound Harry Potter, The OfficeVintage Brown Royal Quiet Deluxe Typewriter With Original Case~ Unusual Vintage Circular Slide Rule Exposure Calculator Computer ~ Atf Mexico Country Attache Coin Office Police Challenge Collectible Coin!!Vintage Royal Deluxe Portable Typewriter With Case, 1936 Sn#a709370An Early Boxwood Size 2 Farmar's Wine & Spirit Merchant Slide RuleClatskanie Oregon Orig 1900's Rppc Main St View Astoria Cafe- Chief Office RareVintage Brother Activator 800t Typewriter With Case & Instruction ManualLot Of 5 Vintage Slide Rule Kane Mk-6b Hoffritz Watrous Compass Germany ComputerAtf Srt Coin Office Police Challenge Collectible Coin!!1950's Olympia Deluxe Sm3 Portable Manual Typewriter W/case, Key, InstructionsVintage Olympia Deluxe Portable Manual Typewriter In Case W/manual-ex! Nr!Verdigris Cast Iron Roaring Lion Bookends Majestic Ferocious Animal Office Den Cursive Typewriter Olympia Sm2 Script Font1930s Vintage Royal Typewriter - Portable, Green DuotoneLot 19 Precious Moments Sugar Town Doctors Office Chapel Sam's House & FigurinesVtg. 1940's/50's (?) Olympia Deluxe Manual Typewriter (sm-3?) W/case-works-vg.!