Category Archives: WWII Era

Pedal to the Mettle: WWII B.S.A. Airborne Paratroopers Bicycle, ca. 1940s

Friends and associates alike have often heard Dorset Finds prattle on about the WWII-era BSA Paratrooper bike, a rare and somewhat mythical piece of militaria that folded, attached to a parachute-equipped commando and jettisoned from carrier planes over occupied European territory. The search for a clean, original example over the past few years has met with several dead ends, but finally, it’s proven fruitful.

Possessing equal parts design ingenuity,  a great story (a lost tale of badass-ery to rival any since) and machismo — servicemen used parabikes to chariot their female acquaintances du jour — this collectible is worthy of significant praise.

B.S.A. (Birmingham Small Arms and Metal Co.) was founded in 1861 as a munitions manufacturer and supplier. Most of the company’s revenue was derived from government contracts, for supplying rifles throughout the Boer War, WWI and WWII. Though orders from the governments of Turkey, Russia, the Netherlands and Portugal followed, B.S.A. diversified into bicycles in 188o — and later, motorcycles — in order to remain competitive.

British and Allied forces adopted the Airborne Paratrooper bike during WWII. Photographic evidence demonstrates their use in large-scale landings, including the D-Day invasion at Normandy in 1944 and the Battle of Arnhem later that year. It was highly advantageous for soldiers to land already carrying their transportation, as they conserved energy by not having to walk the great distances from town to town. Rifles could be stored in the bike frame, with the rider’s supplies stowed on his back. Each bike was fitted with a tool bag and tire pump for repairs on the go.

This example features its original B.S.A. leather saddle, unrestored military green paint, pedal bars, lamp bracket, grips and “war grade” Michelin tires. The frame hinges at two points in the middle where the bike can be collapsed. Large wing nuts make for easy locking and unlocking of the frame. Original decals, including the B.S.A. logo of three crossed rifles, are clear and sharp.

Special thanks to The B.S.A. & Military Bicycle Museum and the Old Bike blog.

Rite of Way: Pair of Sit-Rite Chairs, ca. 1940s

The scarcity and masterful design of the Sit-Rite chair, manufactured by the Edward L. Koenig Co. of Chicago, have been long respected by Dorset Finds. This pair, found in exceptional original condition, may let the images speak for themselves.

Never Fully Dressed Without a File: Modular Industrial File Cabinets, ca. 1910s

The mortality rate among vintage office furniture is high to say the least. It’s a steady stream of out with the old, in with the new. In most cases, the need for physical files has been superseded altogether by their digital descendents. Streamlining the way we utilize office storage has meant that only in rare circumstances have filing units survived the test of time (and punishment). Our interiors are made all the better for their presence.

John and Wilson Berger started the Berger Manufacturing Co. in Canton, Ohio in 1886, producing lengths of metal conductor pipe in their basement workshop. The United Furnace Company merged with Berger in 1921 and Berloy was born. It quickly developed a strong presence in the market with its lines of shelving, storage, lockers and steel furniture.

The set of eight modular file units pictured possesses its original, dark military- green finish. A patent date of 1918  is embossed, making this a very early production run. Each 26-inch-deep section locks to the one below via a steel rail system and further secures its connection with the closure of a latch located below a rear carry handle. A brass metal card frame adorns the face of each file.

* While a hard drive may be a damn sight smaller and lighter to transport, you’d be hard-pressed to find one as good-looking as this set.

Even the Dazor Brighter: Early Dazor Drafting Light, ca. 1930s

The transition of the drafting stool, from a staple of the office environment to a prominent home decor fixture, has been swift. Its functionality and versatility is unquestionable.

Likewise, the drafting lamp, which historically held its place mounted to drafting and illustration tables, has repositioned itself as a useful tool in the domestic arena.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous of the drafting light manufacturers is Dazor of St. Louis, founded in 1938 by Harry Dazey and Washington University professor Albert Perbal.

During World War II, the company became widely known when the U.S. government selected Dazor’s products to replace much of the costly overhead lighting that had previously illuminated its offices. Not only did Dazor pieces fulfill the much-needed directional light application — thanks to its patented Floating Lamp system — they were also considered the more energy-efficient option in the market. (What? There was a time when the U.S. government was genuinely interested in energy efficiency?)

At the 1938 World’s Fair in New York, General Electric highlighted the uses of the Dazor lamp in its display.

B.K. Elliott (Pittsburgh), the drafting and surveying equipment retailer, touted the patented Dazor Floating Lamp in its 1948 sales catalog as working “like the human arm.” It says: “A strong spring force, acting through a shifting fulcrum and parallelogram on both sections of the double-arm, equalizes the varying forces exerted by the arm, thereby balancing the arm in any position.”

Pictured is the earliest, patent-pending version, which provides fascinating insight into the lamp’s inner mechanism. Later, this section was completely encased to avoid dust intake. It reveals heavy-duty bolts and a large, sprung steel coil, which is the muscle that powers the arm’s reach.

Rite Here, Rite Now: Sit-Rite Adjustable Drafting Stool, ca. 1940s

Much fuss has been made on this blog extolling the virtues of the industrial stool. Their hardened steel frames fared well in unforgiving factory conditions. Not so common, however, were their wooden counterparts.

The über-rare Sit-Rite stool was manufactured in solid birch wood by the Edward L. Koenig Co. in Chicago during the steel-rationed WWII era. It’s credited as being the first American-made ergonomic stool. The seat height is shifted by loosening two, 10-inch bolts that run through the base’s platform, while the backrest can be shifted several inches forward, backward, up and down.

This example retains its original finish with the added beauty of many layers of muck, which have, over time, darkened the wood and given it a patina to die for. You can almost smell the worker who once sat on her…

Crank it: Phillips Excelsis Mens Bicycle, ca. 1940s

If living in New York presented no restrictions when it came to space and if money were no object, I’d collect classic cars. I’d spend my days driving them, cleaning them and perhaps even thinning out the stable in order to make room for another mid-year Corvette. The fact is there are space restrictions and you can pretty much surmise the rest.

Until this little issue is rectified, classic bikes are an appealing option. They’re great transportation and their design and fabrication really speak to a specific time that’s long gone.

Phillips Cycles originated in Smethwick, England in the early 20th Century and was absorbed by Raleigh, its long-time competitor, in the 1980s.

This 1940s Excelsis model is breathtaking in no small part because of the almost flawless paint which remains bright and sharp. There are several original decals located all over this bike and every component, from the pedals, to the crank, to the leather sprung saddle is original and branded with the Phillips name. With a new saddle, this fine British bulldog of a bicycle would be ready to tear up the bitumen once again.

The Bog of War: WWII Military Jeep Pump, ca. 1940s

With U.S. military jeeps playing a significant role in transporting troops across all manner of unforgiving landscapes during the second World War, it’s no surprise that each jeep was fitted out like a mobile Swiss Army Knife. Reliability wasn’t just a preference, it was a necessity, which is why each jeep had its own pump concealed behind a seat.

This example was manufactured in 1942 by Circle N and retains its original brass air chuck nozzle. The army green paint on both the wood handle and steel shaft is bright and the pump works just fine.

I may not have a jeep tire to pump up but this will do just as nicely on the superbly distressed Hawthorne I recently picked up.

Office Space: Globe-Wernicke Desk, ca. 1940s

At Dorset Finds we spend a good deal of time talking about, searching for and contemplating the best office chair solutions. Comfort, durability, design and value all come into play because let’s face it, you spend more time sitting in this chair than anywhere else so there are a lot of boxes that need to be checked before choosing the right item.

Just as significant – though often overlooked – is the selection of the right desk. This Globe-Mernicke desk has a great industrial look while also being sleeker that some of the other tank-style steel desks of the same era.

Globe-Wernicke originated in Minneapolis in 1899 when the Globe Company, who already had production plants in Europe, purchased the Wernicke Company in an effort to expand into the US market. The company was most notably an office furniture manufacturer but like many companies had its factories converted to produce military equipment during WWII.

The deep, seaweed green, heavy-gauge steel shows some age marks and the black vinyl top has scratches, imprints of the odd paper clip and and a few stains. The subtle, slimline drawer is sans hardware. Merely a small logo plate. Its width and depth prove a worthy match for all those pesky desk items that need stowing. Yes, this desk has been used, but it’s tough as nails and more sturdy an office desk, has never there been made…

Salute the General: Goodform Chair, ca. 1930s

At Dorset Finds, we’re on a permanent search for comfortable office seating solutions to park your caboose. Herman Miller may not be in your budget but there are plenty of other mid-century options that offer great design and comfort without the price tag. The General Fireproofing Company of Youngstown, OH, manufactured timeless classics that are available today at any budget.

Founded in 1902, The General Fireproofing Company manufactured office chairs and desks and became the largest producer of commercial office furniture in the world. The Goodform line of seating was introduced in 1930 and featured a jet-stream aluminum design; a style that works in a contemporary setting as much today as it did then.

One of the great things about aluminum furniture from this era is that it can be buffed out to show its original sheen. This example has black perforated upholstery in very good condition and the seat and back adjustments are working well.

This item is currently for sale at Modern Anthology, Brooklyn.

Hearts and Minds: Classroom Biology Chart, ca. 1940s

Thoughts of 10th grade biology class came flooding back to me upon spotting this WWII era chart which illustrates in raised relief, the circulatory and respiratory systems, the brain and the heart.

Made in Italy, this piece possesses fresh, bright colors applied to molded plastic. The frame is metal (pitted and showing rust spots) and includes two small hooks for easy hanging.

After giving myself a quick quiz, it’s apparent I no longer have the ability I once did to recall the various terminology associated with each diagram so please don’t tell my 10th grade teacher!