March 29, 2017

50 years ago today: 40 children go to a New York publishing company to "Find Out What Their Daddies Do at the Office."

According to the headline in the NYT at the time. (The first sentence of the article includes mothers parenthetically.) It was the idea of the president of Hayden Publishing Company, James S. Mulholland, who said: "I got the idea for the tour from a sociological report I read a few years ago. It theorized that middle-class delinquency, particularly among boys, stems from their not knowing what their fathers do and so not having a model to pattern themselves after."

One of the pictures shows Mulholland with his own son, who "pronounced himself bored by everything but [the] big I.B.M. accounting machine":

We're told the accounting machine was an IBM 401, which I see dates back to 1933 and was "an early entry in a long series of IBM alphabetic tabulators and accounting machines... The 401 added at a speed of 150 cards per minute and listed alphanumerical data at 80 cards per minute." I'm looking for a picture of this thing the boy was prescient enough to love, but here's what a 402 looked like:


Chuck said...


Now that bored boy sitting at his father's desk is a multi-multi-multi millionaire in information technology:

Somewhere along the line, he got more interested in computers.

Michael K said...

I took my kids with me on rounds on weekends. They stayed at the nurses' station when I went in patients' rooms but I wanted them to see what I did.

Hunter said...

Who is your daddy, and what does he do?

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Earnest Prole said...

Who can forget the indelible scene in The Bonfire of the Vanities (the book, not the movie) where the bond-trading protagonist attempts to answer his six-year-old daughter’s question: “Daddy . . . what do you do?"

“I deal in bonds, sweetheart. I buy them, I sell them, I --"

"What are bonds? What is deal?"

"Well, honey, bonds are -- a bond is -- well, let me see, what's the best way to explain it to you . . . a bond is a way of loaning people money. Let's say you want to build a road, and it's not a little road but a big highway, like the highway we took up to Maine last summer. Or you want to build a big hospital. Well, that requires a lot of money, more money than you could ever get by just going to a bank. So what you do is, you issue what are called bonds."

"You build roads and hospitals, Daddy?”

"No, I don't actually build them, sweetheart. I handle the bonds, and the bonds are what makes it possible--"

"Which ones? You said roads and hospitals."

"Well, not any one specifically."

And then the protagonist’s shrew of a wife swoops in for the kill:

“Just imagine that a bond is a slice of cake, and you didn't bake the cake, but every time you hand somebody a slice of the cake, a tiny little bit comes off, like a little crumb, and you can keep that . . . If you pass around enough slices of cake, then pretty soon you have enough crumbs to make a gigantic cake."

buwaya said...

My dad used to bring me busted or obsolete components and tools - pressure guages, adding machines, carburetors, fuel pumps, once a whole punch-card machine.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

50 or so)years ago my parents had us come to where they both worked. We were allowed to help sometimes hand setting the large headline type. Printing

It is really a good idea for your children to come to where you work and see what it is that you are doing. If you don't they have no idea what it is that make the life you/they have and how things are done. I think it is a good idea for spouses to do the same to get an appreciation of how each other is working and what they actually do.

AllenS said...

My dad didn't have an office job, so when I went with him to work, it was for me to work.

AllenS said...

DBQ, is that your parents?

Xmas said...


The kid certainly married well...Mulholland-Kempton Marriage Announcement

I wonder what else he did with his life.

exiledonmainstreet said...

Michael K., my BILs father was a physician. He had 12 kids. When he went on house calls in the summer, he'd take a different kid with him each time. His sons and daughters didn't go in the houses - they stayed in the car and read comic books or maybe actual books or listened to the radio while he was with his patients. Afterward, he'd take them to a diner for lunch. My BIL says he cherishes those memories. That was just about the only one-on-one time they got with him.

He also liked going to the hospital and sitting in the sunroom to watch Packer games with his patients. They thought it was because he was exceptionally interested in his patients but it was probably to get the hell out of the house.

exiledonmainstreet said...

My dad took me to the factory where he worked. I understood then why he had trouble hearing, because it was the loudest place I had ever been. It was also hot.

He told me that it was a good job. He had been raised on a farm and he said that after that, nothing else ever seemed like work.

Xmas said...

And he hit it big with computers in the mid 90s.

It looks like he did fairly well, though who knows when he bailed from the company before it tanked.

Michael K said...

" His sons and daughters didn't go in the houses - they stayed in the car "

With a few of my patients that I saw at home, in those days there was a "Home Care" program run by the County hospital, I would take the kids inside with me. One of them, a man who was paraplegic, was cared for by his sisters and the women would make sweet potato pie for the kids.

My father had a small business and I first hit my thumb with a hammer in his shop at age 5.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

DBQ, is that your parents?

@ Allen. Yes. And briefly in the background you can see me and my brother coming through the print shop along with the neighborhood dog who like to lick my mother on her elbow when she was working. My mother was one of very very few women at that time who could run a Linotype or worked in the printing industry.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

"Was not bored with" <> "loved."

Although given the informative links Chuck and Xmas posted maybe loved is accurate this time.

David said...

Fabulous video (film!) DBQ. The Linotype was an amazing machine. I had ancestors who were typesetters in Detroit, before the Linotype.

David said...

It turned out well for little Jimmy:

Dust Bunny Queen said...

My dad took me to the factory where he worked. I understood then why he had trouble hearing, because it was the loudest place I had ever been

@ exiled

In the 60's my parents worked at the San Jose Mercury News. They took us to work to see what it was like in a "BIG" printing shop. The press room was incredibly loud with the giant presses and massive rolls of paper. The printers or guys who worked in the press room, many of them were literally deaf. It was a great job for them because their deafness was an asset! My father learned sign language to communicate with them and many of the hearing printers also communicated with signs because that was the ONLY way to do it while the presses were running.

Of course, that whole industry has been gutted and changed by computers and doesn't require skilled typesetters or printing skills. Doesn't exist anymore except for small boutique print shops.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Printing press at work

This is why it is so cool to take you kids to work. Who could imagine such a thing if you didn't see it first hand.

AllenS said...

Dangerous work in the press room.

Michael K said...

DBQ, have you ever seen "Absence of Malice?"

Pretty good movie and has a good press scene.

Drago said...

It was adorable looking at photos of young Pinch being taught by Punch how to sell off large chunks of the New York Times to Mexican billionaires.

rhhardin said...

We used to use something that looked like that to list punched cards.

It eventually got replaced by a GE-115, an actual computer with a card reader and a printer.

Very quickly the 115 had been hacked to print prime numbers all night.

Earnest Prole said...

that whole industry has been gutted and changed by computers and doesn't require skilled typesetters or printing skills

I had a girlfriend whose father was burned by molten lead while working as a typesetter at the local paper. Fortunately the burn area was small but it took forever to heal.

jaed said...

It's an index of social change in the last century and a half or so. A few generations ago, such a thing would have been unnecessary because almost all of a family's economic activity was family-based: farming, or a business run out of the home or next door to it. Children often worked in the family business, or at least were frequently exposed to it. They weren't supporting the family—and shouldn't—but they at least had chores that related to the family business. They could take pride in making a contribution, and their parents could supervise their introduction to work.

There's a pathological side to the social norm that you make a living by going somewhere far away every day and doing work for a corporate concern that has nothing to do with family life. It drove 50s housewives a little nuts, and then drove them into the workplace in search of a meaningful way to involve themselves in the family's economic life. (You might say housekeeping is that, but it's not enough, particularly when your husband is away all day and is the only one interacting with the outside world and bringing in money.)

The isolation of the family from the economic sphere also affects children, who are completely separated from economic life and make no economic contribution to the family. It's interesting that in this era, people started trying to fill the need for connection with "Take Your Child to Work Day" and similar, but it's no more enough than housework was enough for wives back then.

Fred Drinkwater said...

I,too,was bored one day when dad took me to work. When I set off the aircraft crash alarm, though,things suddenly got a lot less boring. Navy crash crews make a lot of noise.
That was not at all the last time he took me to work.I suppose they wrote it off as an unplanned drill.

Tari said...

@jaed is right, it is weird that you have to take your child to work - to a completely different place - for them to see what you do. For centuries that wasn't true.

My husband and I have done a decent job of letting the kids see us work. That doesn't mean they want to be lawyers when they're grown (quite the opposite) but they have a good idea of how we spend our days. A few months ago I took the 14 year old to the office for a bit, and he was allowed to sit in on an important meeting. The head of the meeting announced him on the phone as one of the participants, as if "Chris" just usually showed up in the conference room. He glowed pink with happiness. The meeting was not a happy one, and in the car home he remarked to me how impressed he was with the professionalism of everyone there. People were not cheerful, he could see that - but they didn't yell, didn't blame each other, and kept their sense of humor throughout. He still doesn't want to be a lawyer, but he wouldn't mind working with people like my co-workers.

My dad took me to work once, to pick up his paycheck on the way home from an orthodontist appointment. The prison was pretty cool, although having a bunch of maximum security inmates stare at you when you're an 11 year old girl is pretty intimidating. I've always liked to think that they weren't thinking awful thoughts when they saw me, but instead were just missing their own children.

Craig Howard said...

My Dad was a dairy farmer so I got to see more of his work than I wanted (I hated farming.) He eventually became a lobbyist in Albany for an upstate dairymen's co-operative and when I was twelve he took me on one of his trips.

I dressed up in my sixth grade graduation suit and we flew Mohawk Airlines from Jamestown to Albany (with a stop in Bradford, PA.) I had lobster dinner (my first) at the Ten Eyck Hotel and the next day got to walk around the Governor's Mansion.

Nelson wasn't home, though.

Tinderbox said...

But can it play Crysis 3?