You might not know this, but we have a floor at the library above the floors open to the public. This floor houses our HVAC equipment and, like many other attic spaces, it also tends to accumulate some random stuff. Most of it isn’t particularly interesting (extra bookends, cleaning supplies, hardware storage bins) but, during a recent cleanup, a few fascinating items have been unearthed. One that caught my eye is the sturdy desktop “Paymaster”machine pictured below.
Initially I didn’t know why we had this mysterious device, but based on the beautiful Art Deco font on “DOLLARS” and “CENTS,” I assumed it was pretty old. After a bit of research on the manufacturer and model number, I learned that it is a check writer machine and was made in Chicago sometime in the 1960s. These machines were very common in banks and offices all over the United States from early to the middle of the last century. They were mostly used in payroll departments to imprint and emboss the monetary amount on a check to protect against fraud or alteration.
Our model weighs in at around 13 pounds and has the solid metal feel of, say, an old Royal typewriter. Considering its age our Paymaster it is in remarkably good condition and appears to be in working order. It was probably used to cut checks for the library when the old building at 65 Witherspoon Street opened in 1966. Finding out exactly when it was retired will require a bit more research.
Since this office machine is part of the library’s history and also a wonderful example of mid-century industrial design it will go back into storage. But before I send it back I had to take a few more pictures to share. Enjoy.
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