Built like a skyscraper!

Illustration of a man jumping onto the open drawer of a filing cabinet.

Built like a skyscraper!

That was the promise of the Shaw-Walker Company, which advertised its line of “Built Like a Skyscraper” office equipment in this selection from a 1927 catalog that, presumably, predated the need for “don’t try this at home” legal disclaimers.  

The Shaw-Walker Company was founded in Muskegon, Michigan in 1903. The company manufactured traditional office equipment as well as a new addition to the modern office, the filing cabinet.

The vertical metal filing was the product of various simultaneous inventors in the United States during the 1890s. The device was adopted by offices who valued its ability to store larger amounts of papers in a more accessible presentation than was possible using older filing systems.

Shaw-Walker’s “built like a skyscraper” sloganeering tied this new business tool to another relatively new feat of modern engineering that also sought to maximize the use of limited space through vertical organization. The skyscraper seen as a sketch in this image is New York City’s Woolworth Building, which was, at the time, the tallest skyscraper in the world.

This pamphlet is item ID 08061588 in Hagley Library’s collection of trade catalogs. To view it in full in our Digital Archive, just click here. To keep reading about filing cabinets, and to learn more about the crisis of masculinity and modernity literally illustrated in this pamphlet, consider Craig Robertson’s The Filing Cabinet: A Vertical History of Information (2021).