History of the Office

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As long as governments or other organizations have existed the office has existed in some form as a place to do the associated administrative or clerical duties.

The 19th Century Office

In the late 19th century, commercial offices for conducting business first appeared in the United States. The railroad, the telegraph and then the telephone were invented allowing for instant remote communication. Wherever manufacturing existed, for example in a mill or factory, the administrative office could now be placed at a distance. Other inventions that promoted the office included: electric lighting, the typewriter, and calculating machines.

Office Furniture

Perhaps the greatest symbol of the office is the office chair and desk. During the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, new office equipment and furniture were popular exhibits. The exposition featured fancy rolltop desks and novel new filing systems. Desk design eventually evolved after the invention of the typewriter as the rolltop design was not a good one for the placement of the typewriter.

The 20th Century Office

By 1900, nearly 100,000 people in the United States were working as secretaries, stenographers, and typists in an office. The average worker was employed for sixty hours per six-day work week. Specialized training was now available for people who wished to study office skills.

Office Ergonomics

The birth of the white collar worker and the office meant that for many hours a day office workers would be sitting and conducting tasks. Ergonomics is the optimizing of the experience between human beings, and the designed objects and environments they interact with and has played a large role in the design of objects used in the modern office.


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