VIEW-21089 | Office, Montreal, QC, 1924

Office, Montreal, QC, 1924
Wm. Notman & Son
1924, 20th century
Silver salts on film - Gelatin silver process
19 x 24 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , commercial (1771) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

The dramatic expansion in the scope and scale of Canadian industry in the Laurier Boom years required coordination never before seen in the Canadian economy. Paperwork, planning and analysis became crucial aspects of managing an enterprise. The modern office, staffed with managers and clerks who coordinated and recorded the productive activity of the enterprise, was born in the years after 1900. Company offices oversaw the purchase of material, the production process, the marketing of the product and the personnel of the company. They determined production schedules, pay rates and profits. They equipped themselves with new machines - adding machines, addressographs, typewriters - to facilitate this work. The growth of clerical work was dramatic. In 1901-1911 Canada's population grew by 34.2%, but the clerical profession grew by 80.9% to 103,543.

  • What

    Company offices were on the cutting edge of new technology. The typewriter, invented in the nineteenth century, was perfected early in the twentieth. Ten-finger typing was now practiced on typewriters that had space bars, QWERTY keyboards and continuous ribbons. Typing was considered a female skill; typing pools were created in offices to provide a centralized service.

  • Where

    The clerical revolution in Canada drew heavily on American experience and office technology. "Efficiency experts" and business consultants advised companies on how to organize their offices.

  • When

    In 1910 Bell Telephone in Montreal created a departmental structure for its head office - accounting, manpower, purchasing, etc. By 1921 41.8% of Canadian clerks were women. The business office was considered ideally suited to women's skills - neatness, order and repetition were seen as female strengths. The office was also a sheltered environment in which "girls" could join the workaday world.

  • Who

    Office workers became a national class. Once trained and classified as a typist or ledger keeper, a clerical worker could move about the country and be quickly fitted into the routines of any office.