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Early Office Museum
Photographs of the Interior of the
First National Bank
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
William H. Rau

This Early Office Museum exhibit presents original photographs detailing the inside of the First National Bank at 315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Thanksgiving Day 1910. The images are by William Herman Rau (1855-1920), a leading Philadelphia photographer around the turn of the century. Further information on William H. Rau is provided at the bottom of this web page. 

The bank occupied a two-story building on the north side of Chestnut Street that was constructed  in 1865-67. The photograph to the right, from Moses King, King's Views of Philadelphia, 1900, shows the front of the building. For additional vintage photographs of the building's exterior, click here. For further historical information about the building, visit the web site of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, which was in the process of gutting the interior of the building in 2006.  The offices shown in the photographs below therefore no longer exist.

In 1910, there were eleven rooms in the bank: a large, two-story main office with an area for customers, tellers' windows, and a large area for clerical work; four interconnected smaller offices on the ground floor behind the main office, each with two to six desks; two hallways that were used as offices; a conference room; an executive dining room; a staff dining room; and a kitchen. The conference room and adjoining executive dining room were probably on the second floor, above the four smaller offices. The staff dining room and the kitchen may have been in the basement, because no windows are visible.

The photographs below show the building in 2006.  Notice that at some time in the past the front door was replaced by a window and the front steps were removed.  Otherwise, the facade is unchanged.


Click Image to Enlarge Description of Photographs of the First National Bank, Philadelphia, 1910
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_1.jpg (53530 bytes) Main office, view facing north away from the main door to Chestnut Street. In the foreground and along the east wall (right) is the area accessible to customers. The customer area is separated from the rest of the room where bank employees worked by a partition with windows identified as Paying Teller, Receiving Teller, and Foreign Collections. The main office is two stories high.
Room 1. Image rau_01
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_4.jpg (49330 bytes) Main office, view facing south. The main doors to Chestnut street are at the center rear of the photograph. The main office contains several Wales and Burroughs adding machines. The main office is the only room with adding machines.
Room 1. Image rau_04
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_2.jpg (51423 bytes) Main office, a second view facing south.
Room 1. Image rau_02
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_3.jpg (36748 bytes) Main office, view facing south along east wall (left). This image shows part of the area used by bank customers. A teller's window is identified as Foreign Collections. In the rear left corner of the photograph is a water cooler.
Room 1. Image rau_03
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_5.jpg (46548 bytes) Main office, view facing north along west wall (left).  At the left rear of the room are two archways that lead to the office in the following photograph (Room 2).
Room 1. Image rau_05
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_8.jpg (39187 bytes) Office located to the north of the main office, view facing south with main office visible through the two archways at the rear of the photograph. This room has a spiral staircase leading to the second floor, three roll-top desks, nine 4-drawer vertical file cabinets, two large pigeon hole filing units, and other filing units. In addition to the electric ceiling light, there are gas lighting fixtures on the east and west walls. 
Room 2. Image rau_08
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_6.jpg (54247 bytes) Office in preceding photograph, view facing north. There are wall maps of Pennsylvania and the United States. A wall calendar shows the date to be Wednesday, November 23, 1910. At the extreme left of the photograph, mounted on the side of a pigeon hole filing unit, is a Planetary Pencil Pointer. The Planetary Pencil Pointer was patented in 1896 and manufactured by A. B. Dick Co. until at least 1915. This is the earliest photograph with a mechanical pencil sharpener that has been found by Early Office Museum staff. 
Room 2. Image rau_06
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_7.jpg (72529 bytes) Office with six desks, one of which has a front-strike typewriter, view facing south-east. What appear at first glance to be two windows on the south wall are in fact doors leading to the north side of the preceding room (Room 2). One of these doors is blocked by a desk. The door on the left leads to another office (Room 5).
Room 3. Image rau_07
 1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_9.jpg (45338 bytes) Office in preceding photograph, view facing north-west. Windows are along the west wall. There is a working fireplace, next to which is a basket with coal. There is a couch. Wires hang down to provide electricity to desk lamps and to an electric fan on the mantle next to a candlestick telephone. Room 3. Image rau_09
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_10.jpg (44864 bytes)  Office with two desks and a long wooden unit behind which several clerks worked at a high counter. There is a large oriental carpet, a smaller oriental carpet in front of a fireplace, a couch, two electric fans, a kerosene lamp, a small safe of the type used to store ledgers, and four candlestick phones. A wall calendar shows the month to be November 1910.
Room 4. Image rau_10
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_11.jpg (42564 bytes) Office in the preceding photograph, viewed from the opposite direction. The first door on the left wall leads to the next room (Room 5).
Room 4. Image rau_11
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_12.jpg (45868 bytes)  Office with two desks, a fireplace, and a wall safe. Through the door at the left rear of this photograph, one can see the office in the preceding two photographs (Room 4). In the present office, there is an electric fan, and there are two candlestick telephones. A wall calendar from the Pennsylvania Salt Manufacturing Company shows the month to be November 1910.
Room 5. Image rau_12
Image not yet available online Office in the preceding photograph, viewed from the opposite direction.
Room 5. Image rau_13
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_14.jpg (42131 bytes) Hallway that was used as an office. There are three oriental carpets, two desks, and four candlestick phones. A daily calendar shows the numeral "23." 
Room 6. Image rau_14
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_18.jpg (38304 bytes) The front half of a long hallway that was used as office space.
Room 7. Image rau_18
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_19.jpg (43588 bytes) The rear half of the long hallway shown in the preceding photograph. There is a heating grate in the floor, a cast iron radiator, a water cooler, an electric fan, and a cast iron date stamp on a desk.
Room 7. Image rau_19
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_15.jpg (53392 bytes) Conference room with a fireplace as well as two cast iron radiators. The skylight indicates the room is on the second floor. Through the large pair of open sliding double doors at the rear one can see the executive dining room (Room 9).
Room 8. Image rau_15
Image not yet available online Conference room, view from opposite direction as preceding.
Room 8. Image rau_16
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_17.jpg (36375 bytes) Executive dining room with seating for six. The sliding doors to the conference room (Room 8) are closed.
Room 9. Image rau_17
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_20.jpg (38050 bytes) Staff dining room. The staff dining room contained three tables, each of which seated 10 people. The door at the rear of the room leads to the kitchen (Room 11).
Room 10. Image rau_20
1910_Phila_Bank_by_Wm_H_Rau_21.jpg (40553 bytes) Kitchen. The staff dining room (Room 10) is visible through the door at the rear.
Room 11. Image rau_21

William Herman Rau (1855-1920) was a prominent Philadelphia photographer during the late 19th century and early 20th century. He was the official photographer for the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Lehigh Valley Railroad during the 1890s, for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis in 1904, and for the Lewis and Clark Exposition at Portland in 1905. His work includes landscapes, railroads, ships, urban panoramas, buildings and women. His stereographs, lantern slides, and larger format photographs are in many museum collections and photographic archives, including the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Maryland State Archives, the University of Pennsylvania Archives, the Getty Museum, and George Eastman House (more).

Photographs by William H. Rau at the Library of Congress are included in the Panoramic Photographs, Robert Dennis, and Detroit Publishing Company collections and can be located by searching at Several images at the Smithsonian can be viewed by clicking on the following links for landscapes (1, 2, 3), ships, and the moon.  The Smithsonian images were published in American Photographs: The First Century, National Museum of American Art, 1996. Rau's work is also included in American Photography 1890 1965, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1997.

Traveling the Pennsylvania Railroad: The Photographs of William H. Rau was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2002. When Rau was taking his famous railroad photographs in the 1890s, a newspaper account stated: "The Eastman Kodak Company has just completed the largest view camera in the world.... This camera was made for W. H. Rau of Philadelphia, the famous landscape photographer of the Pennsylvania railroad company, and is capable of taking a plate thirty-six inches long." (Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester, NY, Dec. 15, 1893)

The George Eastman House photographic collection includes lantern slides showing the private offices of the Adjutant General and Treasurer at the Pennsylvania State Capitol at Harrisburg taken in 1906 by William H. Rau. These images are similar to ones of the smaller offices at the First National Bank exhibited above.

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