In June 1960, the HIAS Office of the Comptroller issued a handbook for the many secretaries working at HIAS. In the days before copy machines, and computers on every desk, there were many secretaries – working for professional staff, other departmental staff, and in a secretarial pool – all typing letters, telegrams and cables, transcribing recorded correspondence from a Dictaphone, updating lists, adding to and sending case records, and, according to the Introduction, facing “special problems”, which were to be discussed with the Office Manager.
The copy above, found in a box of unrelated documents that had been pulled from their respective series and not refiled, belonged to Lorraine Stein (note her name handwritten on the cover). According to the dates we’ve compiled for HIAS staff in the second half of the 20th century, Lorraine Stein was the Executive Secretary to Executive Vice-President James Rice as early as 1964, and 30 years later was the Executive Coordinator – responsible for the efficient running of the Executive Office.
It is likely that secretaries were continually being hired and trained as others moved on from HIAS. The handbook was created primarily for these new employees, making training easier and quicker. The Introduction explains,
The primary purpose of this Handbook is to achieve uniformity throughout the Agency and to summarize for you what is considered good office practice in United HIAS Service.
And it goes on to say,
… this Handbook was prepared with the NEW employee in mind.
The handbook is 57 pages long, including an Introduction, Table of Contents and Index. Even so, the Introduction explains,
This Handbook does not pretend to cover all areas of a secretary’s duties. There are a number of other reference books which you may wish to consult, some of which are listed in the Bibliography section …
58 years later, the handbook serves another purpose; it provides a detailed description of the departments within the building, a snapshot of HIAS in 1960. And it explains things like the difference between a telegram and a cable (in “Take a Wire” on page 39):
Under “File This Copy” beginning on page 41, there is information about how and why the documents that are becoming part of the HIAS archives were indexed and filed as they were.
For several decades beyond the 1960s, we have found the indexing on many of the documents most helpful in tracking subject headings and terminology HIAS used as it evolved. The secretarial presence lasted through the early 1980s, when, as happened in offices everywhere as more systems were automated, the large support staff that had kept the files in perfect order became smaller and the filing system broke down. Our challenge in processing the more recent parts of the collection – late 1980s through the 2000s – is to try to recreate how the files were arranged and housed in filing cabinets, and to maintain that order within the archives.
A copy of the handbook can be found in Box 0048 – in the Executive series, the files of Harry M. Friedman, whose department issued the handbook. Friedman was the Comptroller, Financial Vice-President and Assistant Secretary (to the Board of Directors) from before 1960 until his retirement in 1981.