Carbons to Computers

Historical Timeline 1930-1939

Decade overview

While the Great Depression is felt at every level in the workforce, the period is one of great innovation and development of new materials and technology.

In 1930 several plastics are introduced: I. G. Farben in Germany develops polystyrene; B. F. Goodrich Company invents polyvinyl chloride. These innovations begin to alter the shapes and colors of office tools such as adding machines and telephones.

In 1930, American college students coin the term "rat race" to describe the world of work.

In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt introduces the New Deal.

In 1933, Frances Perkins becomes the first woman in the U.S. cabinet when Roosevelt names her Secretary of Labor.

In 1934, the Social Security Act is passed in an effort to provide for the rapidly expanding number of retired workers.

In 1935, the first class of women systems service workers graduate from IBM.

Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People is published in 1936.

The first reverberations of the death knell for carbon paper are heard in 1937 in the laboratory of Chester Carlson, inventor of the xerography process of duplication.

In 1938 the Fair Labor Standards Act is enacted, banning oppressive child labor, setting the minimum hourly wage at 25 cents, and the maximum workweek at 44 hours.

In 1939, the first regular commercial flights across the Atlantic Ocean are instituted by Pan American Airlines.

World War II begins in 1939.

Corporate milestones

3M Engineer Richard G. Drew invents first transparent tape, marketed as Scotch Cellulose Tape
"Terry's Anglepoise" lamp built by spring manufacturers Herbert Terry & Sons following design of automobile engineer George Carwardine (model for later "Luxo" lamps)
International Business Machines (later IBM) introduces version of electric typewriter
Formaliner, a device to control the alignment and vertical spacing of marginally punched continuous forms, developed by Moore Corporation
Xerography, an electrostatic copying process, invented by American law student Chester Carlson (commercially available in 1950)
First binary circuit developed by Georges Stibitz
First fluorescent lamps introduced by General Electric Company and the Westinghouse Electric Corporation
Zephyr American Corporation founded (became Rolodex)
Hans G. Knoll Furniture Company founded (became Knoll)
First commercially successful ball-point pen, the birome, designed by Hungarian Laszlo Biro


1900-1909 || 1910-1919 || 1920-1929 || 1930-1939 || 1940-1949
1950-1959 || 1960-1969 || 1970-1979 || 1980-1989 || 1990-


This material was generously provided by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

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