The Tabulator and Tabacus

extract from the Tabulator 1937
From The Tabulator, 1937

The Tabulator magazine was first published by BTM in 1937. It was described as a “monthly bulletin” for customers and contained examples of how tabulators were being used, news of product developments and details of exhibitions, such as the Business Efficiency Exhibitions, where the machines could be seen demonstrated. In the early days it had a lighthearted tone and featured cartoons and spoof articles. Different departments were featured to advertise the breadth and depth of BTM’s international offering. The whole magazine is peppered with unconscious sexism – women are anonymously showing off the machines, or diligently keying in data, whilst the named men are directing, managing and showing VIPs around the factory.

The BTM in-house magazine, Tabacus, gives a fascinating insight into the lot of working women in the 1940s. Its special Ladies page gave invaluable advice on how to keep your stockings dry in the rain, amongst other gems, mostly recipes and knitting or sewing patterns. Rationing is evident in the choice of recipes and in the ideas for ‘make do and mend’ alterations to give a fresh look to old clothes. Curiously, the Ladies Page frequently has a pin-up style cartoon of a scantily clad young woman on the verso page. There are often daft recipes and plenty of in jokes.

The tone of Tabacus is largely mature and sophisticated, however, considering that the audience were largely low-skilled factory workers. The implications of post-war austerity for the company and its staff are explained in depth and the company accounts are presented in narrative form, making it simpler for non-accountants to appreciate. The editors quote the Manchester Guardian, in 1955, to explain their ethos: “A clear understanding of who works for whom and precisely what duties each owes to each is the foundation of good labour relations”.

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