This Is Happening

We’re having a launch party for Alphabet City’s AIR (MIT Press 2010) on Monday, December 6, from 5 to 7pm @ The New School.


It’s Pneumatic

My essay on pneumatic tubes — which was conceived during my Summer 2003 library book research tour and finally came to fruition in 2009 — appears in Air, the new issue of MIT Press’s Alphabet City series, out now!

I made that table, by the way.

It’s a lovely little book, with contributions from Robert Kirkbride, Melissa Grey and Cynthia Lin, Bhawani Venkataraman, Steven Connor, Mei Chin, Javier Arbona, and others. It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.


Letterheads, From the Late Victorian New York Communication Internetwork

From the Records of the Post Office Department, National Archives and Records Administration


Finds at the National Archives

From the Post Office Department records, National Archives and Records Administration:

Morse Signature
Samuel Morse had excellent penmanship.
International Pneumatic Tube Company Promotional Literature
Most pneumatic tube system maps were removed from the files for “security reasons.

At NARA II in College Park:

The “no bags” rule meant I had to cart this crap around all day.

Archival Souvenirs

From the Western Union collection at the Archives Center at the National Museum of American History:

For Mom & Dad:

Indexed Map of Western Union Telegraph Lines, Pennsylvania. Click for larger image; Bellefonte’s right there in the center!

For Dave:

Indexed Map of Telegraph Lines, Illinois

For Sue:

Switchboard at Marquette, MI, 1919

Other Finds:

Rear of Switchboard, San Antonio, TX, 1918

“Every time an incision is made in the pavement, those noisy surgeons expose ganglia that are tangled beyond belief.” -E.B. White, “Here is New York,” 1949.

Con Ed Cables & Air Pipes at 4th Ave and 19th St. (just 4 blocks from where I now live)
Above-ground Telegraph Wires, Near the Old Western Union Headquarters @ Broadway, near Fulton

“Outside, alone on a delivery run, the uniformed messenger served as both visual advertising and as the direct customer contact for the telegraph company. Boys were to appear neat, speedy, polite, and responsible, with ‘Clean Hands and Face,’ ‘Uniform Pressed and Spotless,’ and ‘Cap Squarely on Head’…” -Gregory J. Downey, Telegraph Messenger Boys: Labor, Technology, and Geography, 1850-1950 (New York: Routledge, 2002), p. 68.

Cincinnati Telegraph Operators Say, The New No. 6 Remington Typewriter is “The Machine” for Western Union!