Office Christmas Party 1925

My favorite website for vintage photography is Shorpy.com.ย  Their annual Christmas tradition is to post this photograph. As they so aptly caption it:

Washington, D.C., 1925. “Western Electric Co. group.” There are enough little dramas playing out here to keep the forensic partyologists busy until Ground Hog Day.

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If you want me to be happy this Christmas season, you WILL click here for a full-sized version of this festive time capsule. Everybody instantly springs to life. Oh, so many things to study.

Let’s see, it’s 1925, so we’re smack-dab in the middle of the Roaring Twenties. World War I has ended, but surely some of these men are veterans. In just four more years, Wall Street crashes and the Great Depression begins.

And the hair! The shoes! The faces! Not to mention a teddy bear….Tell me what you see!

Fa la la,

Barbara

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About Silver in the Barn

Life in a 1915 farmhouse in Central Virginia. Blogging about whatever happens to catch my fancy - sometimes nonsense, occasionally not.
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109 Responses to Office Christmas Party 1925

  1. Kentucky Angel says:

    Goodness Barbara, I see someone holding a, possibly a horse? A small wooden horse. That must have been some party! And those men in the back had to be standing on a desk to put them so high. Beautiful.

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  2. I’ll just sum up: the shoes and hair are just not me; so glad I live now!

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  3. ksbeth says:

    i love this so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. joannesisco says:

    The most interesting thing I noticed was that some people in the photo seemed to be distracted by something over to their right. Whatever it is, the men seem mildly amused by it, but the women – not so much.

    … also the old ceiling light with the long cord to turn it off and on. I actually remember those in some old homes before the renovation craze started in earnest in the 70s.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ritaroberts says:

    Ah Yes! I can see my mother now with that wavy crinkle hair style. In fact, the whole clothes style as well. They used to have a whale of a time at those Xmas party’s My Mom was a real good looker so you can imagine the times she had. She always said if you didn’t wear a hat you were not properly dressed. I have a lovely photo of her with her very best hat on..

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  6. Almost Iowa says:

    What strikes me most about these old photos is that no matter what their age, everyone looks and acts like an adult. It was our generation, the boomers, who obsessed society with youth. A big part of that was marketing, youth sells soft-drinks and blue-jeans but there was something else going on there too. I am convinced our parents who came of age during hardships of the depression and WWII, tried to live their lost youth through us.

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    • I have the same reaction to vintage photographs, Greg, when I learn the age of the subjects. So young! That’s part of what I find so touching about this particular photo. All of these people are headed into desperately tough times and I can’t help but wonder how they all fared. Most of these people would have been born roughly around 1900, right? Much older than most of our grandparents yet here they are, brimming with youth and possibilities.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh my, I could be here all day! Lets see… I particularly like the Christmas oil can. It looks as if the health and safety officer might have been a little oiled for I cannot imagine that he/she would have allowed the tree lights to be wired to the overhead fixture. Perhaps the wiring issue explains the frizzy do’s on some of the gals.

    Thanks for the lead to Shorpy!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. lbeth1950 says:

    Bet there were some good stories not told afterwards!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. dorannrule says:

    Wow! I do love this post and the challenge of “seeing things.” My first reaction was the lack of joy in the faces there. Only about four people were genuinely smiling and the rest looked ready to go home and take a nap. I especially like the lady in the Police Department hat (even if she’s not smiling either). I wonder if there was a photo taken before this one when there was some holiday gaiety (if there was some). Even the ladies holding the candy canes look pretty sad. There is one lady far left who has a wry smile like she knows something secret. How interesting this is Barbara! I could go back and back and still see something else. Thanks for sharing. ~Dor

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    • I think we may be seeing vestiges of proper “photo” behavior here. These people were from an era where casual photography wasn’t an everyday occurrence, and they may have felt the need to pose a bit more stiffly than we would. Yet there are traces of gaiety everywhere….Police Department hat as evidence!! I imagine them all bursting into laughter immediately after the photographer snapped the picture. So pleased you enjoyed, Dor!

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  10. nrhatch says:

    That does not look like a fun and festive party ~ so many serious faces. :/

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  11. Dianna says:

    I, too, immediately noticed the oil can when I enlarged the photo. And I agree with a previous comment that I could just look at that photo all day. Thanks for sharing!

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  12. Diane Ahlberg says:

    Looks like a very serious “party”
    All the little gifts around are confusing- but my favorite is the Christmas tree. Remember when all our trees looked like that- now if they are real they are all trimmed to perfection! Or as one of the few that still gets a live tree ( and we must not forget the tinsel that was put on a strand at a time)
    I’ve saud fir 2 years I want an “ugly ” tree and have not found one)
    Most for safety and ease have gone to the fake tree that are so good they are hard to tell if they are real or not
    -that’s a picture of a party one could miss but love the hair and outfits
    Thanks for sharing!

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    • Our first Christmas tree looked almost as good as this one. We dug it out of the woods because who could possibly afford the $20 for a tree? I love the dresses and jewelry and did you notice the fabulous glittery shoe buckles on one of the seated ladies? Betsy, of the vintage jewelry creations, would have a field day with some of these items.

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  13. cat9984 says:

    Do you think the man standing in the middle of the first row of men is in charge? He looks like he might be important. (or thinks he is) This reminds me that my parents came from a mixed-tree background. My one grandfather thought that the only true Christmas tree was a balsam and the other was all Scotch pine. I don’t think you can get either around here anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Mary says:

    They must have opened up presents because there is crumpled paper on the floor and one man is still holding a wrapped present. One man is brave enough to sit on the floor with the women while another man scowls across the room at the rest of the office! People posed differently back then for pictures. They were serious for pictures but not necessarily in real life. Present day…we pose for pictures in more dramatic fashion to look like we are having an even better time than we probably actually are! Cheers to all!!

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    • Oh, what an excellent observation! Yes, the forced frivolity and gaiety!!! I know exactly what you mean. I noticed the wrapping paper too. And there had to be a love affair or two in this group. I insist upon it!!

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  15. Love this photo challenge! Of course, I’m at the end of the line and all my observations have been noticed and commented on! But, there are a few….hand on the shoulder and the lady’s demur look. On the table 2 packs of something…cigarettes? Loved the scrawny tree. And there was no flowing hair anywhere. The hair parts were off center. What’s with the PD police hat? The haunting look of the lady sitting on the floor next to the desk! Thanks, Barbara, this was fun!

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    • Excellent observations! I have no idea about the PD hat. Maybe it was a gag gift. And maybe those are cigarette boxes, I hadn’t noticed them before. Today I noticed something new: two of the men in the front row have removed their eyeglasses for the photo. That’s rather endearing to me. Oh yes, the hair. All very Clara Bow, aren’t they?

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  16. John says:

    I see an oil can and much more, what a great photo!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. la_lasciata says:

    Enough for some clever writer to make a book out of, Barbara … someone who can write fiction, of course.

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  18. I see tinsel!! Tinsel! That brings back fond memories. I also see too much holiday cheer in that photo, Barbara. I’d just be a ‘downer’ at their party. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  19. Jodi says:

    How fun to look at! Can’t wait to check out the site when I have more time to linger! LOVE the tree. Love imagining life then and office protocol and love seeing the styles. I will linger later!

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  20. Joanne Butler says:

    HI Barb,
    Great pic! These vintage photos are so fun to look at! First thing I noticed was that wonderful scale sitting on the desk. Next, one man holding a rocking horse, and a small oil can on the floor next to a toy house. Lover thefashion! Peter Pan collars especially. Those were certainly the days! If only we could dress like that now and wave our hair……..
    COL,
    Joanne

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    • Of course you would notice the scale which I have completely overlooked while studying the jewelry. Did you notice that there is an object on the scale that looks like the world’s first troll doll? Seriously! And yes to the gorgeous dresses, shoes, and hair! Observe….not an ugly Christmas Sweater in sight!!! COL. XXX

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  21. Not a terribly jolly lot. Where is the ‘ho-ho-ho atmosphere, let alone the red nosed reindeer? That bulky man at the front must be the manager or director.

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    • We’ve decided he is definitely the boss. And I have decided that they are all having a blast but got serious when somebody told them “All right, calm down, y’all, we’ve got to take a photograph now!” That’s my story, Gerard! The reindeer is just out of the frame….that’s what the woman in the lower left is looking at!!!!

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  22. markbialczak says:

    The women’s hair, Barbara! So many of them have the same, rowed style. I see by reading the comments above that it’s called the Marcel Wave. I wonder if this was a Christmas party ‘do or if the women word their hair this way every day. I also wonder if they could fix it this way themselves, or needed to “have it done” by a hairdresser. I notice that there are a few older men in the photo, but no older women. I wonder if the women quit when they had children, or got tired and left the company because they were not promoted. I think the Christmas tree in the back is quite scraggly. I also think there might be another robust variety, Scotch pine maybe, as Cat brings up in her comment, just barely creeping into the photo on the right side. It makes me wonder if they had arguements over which should be center tree, to be settled by big boss, who I think is the full-bodied, don’t-miss-a-meal suited fellow toward the right with a cigarette in his right hand and a towel or something in his left. Do you think the photographer said, all skinny short men climb up on chairs in the back, or that was natural order of selection? As you say, Barbara, the stories of office dymanics this photo only hints at. Mesmerizing. Thanks for letting us take a swing at commentary!

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    • OK, fellow music buff. Do you remember a certain Annie Lennox song? “Keep Young and Beautiful” mentions Marcel wave at 1:11.

      They did the Marcel with a special curling iron and/or pins. I think it lasted quite some time; people didn’t shampoo as frequently as we do now. And they definitely all did their hair for the party, of that I’m sure, but it was common to have one for everyday.

      Mark, you really saw a lot in this photo. I love it!! Yes, why no women of a certain age? Back then you couldn’t stay employed if you were pregnant, as a matter of fact many employers didn’t want married women. We definitely think the guy with the sort of Tony Soprano demeanor is the head honcho. And, yes, all skinny short guys climb up on the desks please. Now I have to go look for this second Christmas tree!! Thanks, Mark!

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  23. reocochran says:

    There are a few people who may have had a little bit much to drink just smiling away. I love the fatter candy canes from their time period, there is a bear and odds and ends, a person may have sheet music, but no one is singing. I liked the kind of messed up hair and distracted appearance of the woman by the desk. There was a pointy paper holder and a miniature house, possibly one from off a desk and another off of a train set or decorated scenery. I think the message of enough drama to keep everyone talking until Groundhog’s Day is so funny, Barb. Great photograph and fantastic question that got us all talking… smiles!

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    • Hi Robin, now all I need is to imagine the whole thing in color! It’s been great fun hearing what everybody’s thoughts and observations have been on this one photograph. Whatever would they think if they knew almost 100 years later, we would be dissecting their every pose? And will this happen 100 years from now to our bazillion photographs? I

      Liked by 1 person

      • reocochran says:

        I cannot imagine our own photos being dissected but what fun it would be to be a ‘fly on the wall’ at this Christmas party, Barb… did you mean to say something else? Your comment ended with a final sentence starting with “I…” ?
        This reminds me of almost all my conversations with people, just wondering since I start somewhere (like you have called me a bee buzzing and covering multiple flowers and topics…) Hugs, Robin

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  24. Jeanie T says:

    What fun! I saw ” pilgrim-type” ladies shoes, a Charlie Brown-type tree, lovely women with finger waves galore, an oil can??, a bald man with some kind of pump on his head, a woman with a fireman-type hat….did not see a teddy bear. I feel sure pot I’d there somewhere! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Those pilgrim-type glittery buckles are worth a fortune now, Jeanie, to the vintage jewelry crafters. I wrote about my friend Betsy who makes jewelry last summer and she made a necklace from buckles just like that. So cool. Yes, an oil can and I saw the guy with what looks like a pump on his head too. The teddy bear is on the floor. It looks almost like a little Steiff. Glad you enjoyed. And Merry Christmas.

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  25. Eliza Waters says:

    It is definitely an interesting photo worth poring over. Despite the bobs and Marcel waves, only one woman is wearing make-up (to quote my mom, ‘only tarts wore it!’). And the tree, so simple and barely adorned. How things have changed! I love the rhinestone buckle shoes. And what’s with the oil can?

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  26. Sheryl says:

    I couldn’t get over how the women and men were in separate groupings in the photo. As a previous commenter wrote–I’m glad I live now.

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  27. What’s with Baldy and the Go Go sign on his head? Bet he got his pink slip the next day. Or possibly he got it that morning and he’s lost all sense of dignity. Is that a 1920s version of a troll doll on the scales? Boss Man obviously disliked his present because he’s re-wrapped it. I think the man sitting on the desk next to him should be really, really nervous about his work colleague behind him. And someone just threw their ripped paper on the floor under the desk. I hate that.

    Sigh. Hours of endless fun available and I have to go and cook dinner.

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  28. This is fun! It is like the Highlights books when I was a kid where you find the hidden pictures! I saw Western Electric Co and my Dad just popped in my mind. He worked for Union Electric Co. The oil can cracks me up, I use to collect them!

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  29. Janis Grizzard says:

    To whom or what is the girl in the lower left front giving the “stink eye?” LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Right away I noticed the horse the man is holding. And next I noticed the tree because…it looks a lot like the one I purchased this year for $12. An old-fashioned tree and it’s perfect.

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  31. What a classic! The men are dressed so well. And I almost missed that teddy bear. Great find. Cheers

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    • You are absolutely right! The sartorial splendor of the men has been completely overlooked as we go on and on over the hair and clothing of the women. They were quite something, these fellas! Thank you for popping over and visiting!

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  32. Behind the Story says:

    No eye make-up. All the effort put into the hairdos. I like the hair of the pretty woman in the back left. Some nice shoes. We usually see photos of movie stars in their 1920s dress-up clothes. But these are ordinary people. Some of the faces would fit in any decade; others belong specifically in 1920. A fun exercise.

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    • I know what you mean about certain faces seeming to fit their decade. Because I am guilty of overthinking just about everything, Nicki, I have actually contemplated things like would Greta Garbo be considered beautiful today if she were presented in a completely contemporary mode? Yes, make-up was still a bit too avant garde for the average woman to wear to the office, i’m sure.

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  33. Reblogged this on buenisimowithdb and commented:
    Hi Barbara the photo is sooo cool! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  34. Hi Barbara! I looove the photo! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  35. Barbara, that is hilarious! As a pro photographer, I always LOVE these old shots! I think the ladies with the permed hair are great, considering what they had to go through back then to get a perm. The woman up front with the leprechaun shoes is especially “stylish” with that hair. ๐Ÿ™‚ I wonder what the “go go” sigh is in the back, and what those men are holding in napkins? Fruitcake, perhaps? The woman with the police hat is hysterical! Thanks for sharing! โค

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  36. WOW ! Those men in the back on the right must be 14 feet tall. Thanks visit my blog.

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  37. Hi Barbara, Finally getting to read my favorite blogs and I’m so glad I saw this! The photo is priceless! It seems like that clothes change but people and personalities are constant through the times.

    Marry Christmas!

    Caroline

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    • Caroline, Hello and thank you for popping over into the WordPress arena. So pleased you enjoyed this photo; it is a favorite of mine. Many warm wishes for the happiest of holidays to you and yours! Merry Christmas.

      Barbara

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  38. I’d love to know what’s going on with the 3 women, near the desk, who are staring off to the left … and the man, in the top row, who also has interests elsewhere. Wonderful photo. It captures a time I’d loved to have visited BUT not been a permanent part of. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    • I so agree. The twenties would be fun to visit through the “Time Tunnel” but I’d want to come home very soon. Somebody smart said they would never want to live in any time period before the invention of novacaine and I feel the same about equal rights. We have it so good now!

      Liked by 1 person

  39. KerryCan says:

    I just got around to looking at the photo and I’m so glad I did–it is endlessly fascinating in a “can’t look away from the train wreck” sort of way! I feel like we’re seeing people in much more their natural state than we do in photos today–we’ve all learned how to pose and mask our feelings so much more completely in photos by now!

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