Ill.) American School (Lansing.

Cyclopedia of commerce, accountancy, business administration ... [microform] online

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been considered standard. TTie purpose of this discussion will be
better served by a study of the more modem systems.

Flat Files. One of the filing systems still found in some oflSces
is the fiat, or box file. This file is made in the form of a box, with a
hinged cover, as shown in Fig. 9. This box is of the right size to
hold letters without folding, and is equipped with an ^4 to Z index.
Letters and other papers are filed between the index sheets in the order
of their receipt. Sometimes an attempt is made to keep all of the
correspondence of one person together but, since the letters are simply
laid in the file, with no means of separating those of the several cor-
respondents filed in one subdivision, it is very difficult to maintain
this arrangement.

Cabinets are also made with box drawers of wood, the number

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of drawers in a cabinet ranging from two to sixty. This permits
of the use of a more finely subdivided index, and better classification
of the contents. Each box in the cabinet is equipped with a spring
compressor which holds the contents in place. To file or remove
papers it fa necessary to release thfa compressor. The index is
removable, and when the drawer fa full, the index and contents are
placed in one of the box files referred to, which then becomes a trans-
fer case. A new index fa placed in the file, which fa then ready for
current correspondence.

Thfa style of cabinet was for long the best to be had, but when
used for filing an extensive correspondence, its defects became
apparent. Among the dfaadvantages of its use, one of the chief fa
the uneven filling up of the separate divisions. Where the alphabet
fa divided among several drawers, one may fill up in two months, while
another fa but half full at the end of a year. Thfa means that the
transferring must be done whenever a single drawer fa filled, instead
of transferring the contents of the entire file at one time, adding to
the difficulty of locating correspondence at a given date.

Other dfaadvantages are that correspondence fa mixed together,
making it difficult to locate all of the correspondence of one person;
to remove a letter, the drawer must be taken from the file, and a
search made through all of the letters in a given subdivfaion of the
alphabet. . Frequent transfers are necessary, resulting in an accumu-
lation of transfer files which occupy valuable space in the office.

Vertical Filing. The vertical system of filing takes its name
from the fact that papers are filed vertically, on edge, instead of
being laid flat in a drawer. Vertical filing fa the result of a gradual
evolution of filing methods.

Those who recognized the defects of the old systems, set about
to correct them. In the search for a remedy, all systems in use —
for whatever purpose — ^were carefully investigated, among others
the so-called railroad system. For years, railroads had been keeping
all correspondence relating to one subject together, attaching the
letters to a strong backing sheet. The sheet, with the letters attached,
was folded twice, making a package about SY X Q^ in size, which
package was known as a file. These files were numbered, and kept
in numerical sequence in pigeon holes, or in boxes similar to the
present-day document files. When the document boxes were used.

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which was the case in the larger offices, the packages or files
were placed on end — filed vertically. This undoubtedly was the
forerunner of the present-day vertical file.

The plan of keeping together all correspondence about a given
subject naturally appealed to the investigator as being practicable for
use in a commercial house. Not a few houses adopted the system
in its entirety, which included an alphabetically indexed book in
which a brief synopsis of the correspondence was written. The
book was also used for a cross-index to the names of individual cor-
respondents. It was really a system of recording the principal

contents of letters, with
references to the files
where all of the corre-
spondence could be

While the idea of keep-
ing all of the correspond-
ence on one subject, or
with one indivdiual, to-
gether, was excellent,
this system was not well
adapted to commercial
use. Writing the con-
tents of letters in a book
Fig. 10. The Principle of Vertical Filing ^^ entirely impractical,

Browne- Morse Co. ,

and too much time was
required to open the files and refer to the contents. But, said some-
one, why not adopt the numerical idea, and substitute a numer-
ical for the alphabetical index in the box file; instead of index
sheets printed with the letters, why not have them numbered from
1 up? Then a number could be assigned to each correspondent and
all of his letters could be filed under the index sheet bearing the
corresponding umber. An index book could be used for the names
and references to the numbers.

Next came the card-index man with a proposition to use his
cards for an index to the files. Not long ago the writer inspected
a filing system consisting of a number of box files indexed numerically,
arranged on a shelf. A card index supplied the cross-references.


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In this particular case the system was designed by a card-index manu-
facturer to create a market for card files.

But the use of card indexes furnished the final solution of the
filing problem. If small cards could be filed on edge, why not
letters? With a larger drawer, with index guides to fit, the card index
idea could be adapted to the filing of correspondence. Indeed, a
flat file drawer, standing on edge, as shown in Fig. 10, illustrates the
principle of vertical filing.

To preserve the idea of keeping all correspondence of one in-
dividual or firm together, folders are used. A folder, as shown in
Fig. 11, consists of a piece
of heavy manila paper
folded, with one edge high-
er than the other, forming
a pocket 9^ X 11^ i"
size. The higher or pro-
jecting edge of the folder
is used for writing the name
of the correspondent or
other reference; or the
folder may be made with a
projecting tab for the

One of these folders is
used for each correspond-

* C.,^^^«^ f^«^^ ^1 Pig. 11. Folder for Vertical FUing

ent. Suppose, for example, ** Brown^MarBe Co.

that correspondence de-
velops with Scott & Blake. The name of the concern is written
on the projection of a folder, and all letters from, with copies of all
letters written to, Scott & Blake are placed in this folder in the order
of their date — the last letter in front. The folder provides a complete
history of the correspondence with the concern.

The folders are filed on edge between guides or index cards
having projections on which the indexes are written or printed.
The indexes are fastened in a vertical file drawer, yet are removable.
On the bottom of the guide. Fig. 12, is a square-cut projection,
punched with a round hole. This projection drops into an opening
in the bottom of the drawer, and engages a countersunk rod which


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is passed through the hole. The rod holds the guide firmly in place,
but since the rod is removable, the guide can be taken out when it

is desired to
do so. The
folders are
not fastened
in any way,
and any folder
can be re-
moved with-
out disturbing
the others, as
shown in
Fig. 13.

Methods of


_ There are

Fig. 12. Guides for Vertical Filing. Browne- Morte Co. , ...

four pnnapal
methods of indexing the vertical file; namely, the numerical, al-
phabetical, geographical, and subject. These four methods, with
their resulting
provide for the
proper index-
ing of any class
of papers.

Indexing. Nu-
merical indexing
was the method
first used with
the vertical file,
and still is ex-
tensively used. ^- 13- Vertical File Drawer Showing Folders and Guides
- ,. , , , Browne- Morse Co.

With the numen-

cal system of indexing, the folders are numbered consecutively in
the upper right-hand comer. The folders are filed in numerical se-
quence bet\^'een guides, numbered usually by lO's, as shown in Fig. 14,

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Each correspondent is known by a number, and all of his cor-
respondence—both original letters and copies of replies — is filed in
a folder bearing his number. To locate his folder, a cross-index is
necessary, as it is not possible to remember the numbers of all cor-
respondents. The index is provided by a card on which is written
the name, the folder number or file number, and any other memoranda
that may be desired. The card is filed in a card drawer behind the
proper alphabetical index guide, where it can be found very quickly.

Suppose, for example,
that correspondence
develops with B. J.
Anderson. We will file
his letter or a copy of
our reply in the next un-
used numbered folder —
which happens to be
No. 54s — and thb will
l)e Mr. Anderson's num-
ber as long as we have
any dealings with him.
Before placing the folder
in the proper place in
the file — following folder
No. S44t back of guide
540 — ^we will write Mr. Anderson's name near the upper edge, and at
the same time we will fill out an index card as shown in Fig. 15. This
card will be filed in its proper place in the card index drawer, and
whenever we wish to refer to this correspondence we will turn to the
card, which shows that it will be found in folder No. 5Jf5.

When a letter refers to more than one person or subject, it is
filed under the most important. For example, when correspondence
develops with a firm, it should always be filed under the firm name,
even though the letters are signed by individuals. We will suppose
that one of our correspondents is the Norton Machine Co., and that
folder No. 610 is assigned. Later, a letter signed by T. J. Watson,
Secretary, is received. Since the letter refers to the business of the
Norton Machine Co., it will be filed in their folder, and we will fill
out a cross-index card for T. J. Watson, Secretary, referring to the

KIg. 14. Numerical Indexing
Browne- Morac Co.

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company's folder, as shown in Fig. 16. This will be filed with the
other cards in the alphabetical card index, and will enable us to
locate the correspondence of T. J. Watson, even if we do not
remember the name of the company.



Fig. 15. Index Card for Numerical Filing

Alphabetical Indexing. The alphabetical is the simplest method
of indexing. The guide or index cards are printed with the letters







Fig. 16. Indexing Finn Correspondence for Numerical Filing

of the alphabet, providing an alphabetical index between which the
folders are filed. Sets of alphabetical guides with any number of
sulxlivisions up to 4000 are to be had.


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With the alphal)etical system a folder is assigned to each regular
correspondent, as with the numerical system, but instead of a
number, only the name is written on the folder, or on the tab pro-
jection. The folder is filed back of the proper alphabetical guide,
as in Fig. 17, and is used exclusively for that one correspondent.

It is the experience
of every business house
that a small corre-
spondence is received
from a large number of
persons. Perhaps but
one or two letters will
be received, the person
never developing into
a regular correspond-
ent. This correspond-
ence is treated as
miscellaneous. For
miscellaneous corre-
spondence a separate
folder, on which the
index letters are
written or printed, is used for each alphabetical subdivision. This
may be placed either behind or in front of the name folders, as in
Fig. 18.

The miscellaneous folder should not be allowed to become
too full. When a sufficient number of letters are accumulated with
a firm or individual, or whenever the nature of the correspondence
indicates that it is likely to become permanent, it should be trans-
ferred to a separate folder.

Geographical Indexing, WTien for any reason it is desirable
to have correspondence arranged according to territory, the geo-
graphical system of indexing is used to excellent advantage. The
plan Ls exactly like alphabetical indexing, with the exception that the
files are divided according to territory. First, the files are divided
by states by means of state guides — indexes printed with the names
of the states. A very large concern may require guides for all states,
while a smaller business will use only three or four such divisions.

Mg. 17. File with 50 Alphabetical Sulxlivisions
Browne- Morse Co.


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Or a concern doing business in a half-dozen states may find it advis-
able to arrange the correspondence from but two of them territorially,
indexing the balance alphabetically. The correspondence from
a single state may require two or more drawers; or one drawer
may accommodate that from several states.

To subdivide the
states, guide cards
printed with the
names of the towns
are used. These are
arranged alphabetic-
ally between the state
guides. Correspond-
ence folders are filed
back of the town
guides in alphabetical
sequence. If there is
a large number of

Fig. 18. Tab PoId«^.^ Mis^Uaneou^ Folders in front correspondents in One

town, the folders are
subdivided with a set of alphabetical guides. The geographical
method of indexing is shown in Fig. 19.

When the
in a state is scat-
tered, with but
few correspond-
ents in each
town, a set of
guides can be
substituted for
the town guides.
In New York

state, for m- ^ig^ i^. Geographical- Alphabetical Filing with Guides ft»
stance, the letter S^*^ ^^ Towns. Library Bureau

A would represent Albion, Attica, and other towns the names
of which begin with that letter. If there is a large town — as Albany —

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in which there are a number of correspondents, a town guide should
be inserted in its proper place in the alphabetical index. Then, if
the correspondence from Albany is sufficient, it can be subdivided
with alphabetical guides, but these should be of a different color
than those representing the towns. The geographical index can
be expanded to any limit by inserting additional town and alpha-
betical guides, wherever and ' whenever needed.

Subject Index.
The subject index
is used whenever
the subject of the
correspondence is
more important
than the name of
the writer. Subject
indexing may be
used in connection
with the regular

WTien it is de-
sired to file by sub-
jects indexed nu-
merically, a num-
bered folder is
headed with the
name of the sub-
ject, and all corre-
spondence pertain-
ing to the subject is

Fig. 20. Subject Indexing and Cross- Reference filed in that folder.

Notice Memoranda on Index Canls \^ index rard is

Library Bureau

then filled in with
the name of the subject and the number of the folder, and filed
alphabetically. Additional cross-index cards are headed with the
names of correspondents, and refer to the subject and folder number.
Several subject index cards are shown in Fig. 20.

Subject filing can be adapted to the alphabetical index by insert-
ing folders or guides headed with the names of subjects, as shown


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in Fig. 21. These folders are used for correspondence pertaining to
a given subject, and cross-index cards are made for the names of

Selecting the Index. The selection of the index for correspond-
ence files is important, and must be governed by the nature of the
business, and the correspondence to be filed. Subject indexing is
the least used of any of the methods described. Railroads, and a
few large corporations determine as far as possible a number of

. subject headings under

which all correspond-
ence shall be filed,
individuals being
known only in the
miscellaneous corre-
spondence; but these
are exceptions, and this
method of filing is not
adapted to the needs of
the average business

Geographical index-
I ^ w ing is quite largely

Fig. 21. Subject and Alphabetical Folder used by jobbers, and is a

Browne-Morse Co. .• i i .i i

very practicable method
for a concern whose correspondence is confined within a definite
territory. It is also used to advantage in connection with other
methods of indexing. For example, a concern in Chicago, with a
large number of customers in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, might
use a geographical index for those states, while filing all other
correspondence alphabetically.

This leaves alphabetical and numerical indexing from which
to make a selection. A thorough investigation, which has included
consultations with many leading filing experts, and examinations of
the systems used by more than a hundred representative houses,
from the small retail store to the largest corporations, leads to the
conclusion that, except in special cases, the alphabetical index Ls
l)est. It is best because simplest; and to do a thing in the most
simple way is one of the cardinal principles of business system.


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Alphabetical indexing adapts itself to every possible require-
ment. Suppose, for example, that the correspondence of the Norton
Machine Company is filed alphabetically, and that you want to refer
to the correspondence of T. J. Watson, who is secretary of the com-
pany. A cross-index card is headed with the name of the company.
This would be exactly like the cross-index shown in Fig. 16, except
that the number would be omitted.

There may be times when you will wish to keep together all
correspondence pertaining to a given subject — as a contract in which
you are interested. A folder can be made for this contract, headed
with the subject name, and filed in its proper place in the alphabetical
index. Cross-reference cards can be made, headed with the names
of individuals, and referring to the subject. Perhaps, when the con-
tract is completed, there will be no further reason for keeping the
correspondence together, and it can then be distributed according to
the regular alphabetical arrangement.

Should you wish to adapt the geographical idea to any part of
the correspondence, the alphabetical index lends itself to the change
without disturbing the general arrangement of the files. It can be
expanded to any size; any class of correspondence can be segregated;
and with properly subdivided indexes, papers can be quickly located.

Probably the two most important advantages of the alphabetical
over the numerical system of indexing are its economy of operation
and safety. As to the first named advantage, there is a saving at the
start in the outfit required. Only the letter file and alphabetical index
are needed — there is no investment in a card-index outfit, unless it
be a very small one for cross-references. But the greatest saving is
in the time required for its operation.

Without considering the operations involved in filing letters,
compare the two methods when a letter is wanted from the files.
Suppose that the file clerk has received a requisition for the cor-
respondence of the Norton Machine Company. With the numer-
ical index, the following steps are taken :

(1) Open card index drawer;

(2) Refer to cards filed back of the N guide, and find index
card showing that folder No, 6 10 holds the correspondence;

(3) Close card index drawer;

(4) Open vertical file drawer;

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(5) Refer to folders back of the 600 index, find No, 6 10, remove

(6) Qose vertical file drawer.

When the alphabetical index is used, only the following steps
are necessary:

(1) Open vertical file drawer;

(2) Refer direct to folder of Norton Machine Company, back
of the N guide, and remove correspondence;

(3) Close file drawer.

Fig. 22. Alphabetical vs. Numerical Filing

This is merely an application of the principle that a straight
line is the shortest distance between two points, as illustrated in Fig. 22.

Alphabetical indexing is the safer for the reason that there is less
liability of filing a letter in the wrong place. With the numerical
system, the filing of letters in the wrong folder is not uncommon,
and when this is done the letters are practically lost

The usual routine in numerical filing is first to place the folder
numbers on the letters, and then file according to these numbers


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without reference to the name. Naturally, the file clerk commits to
memory the numbers of a large part of the active correspondents,
and places them on the letters without referring to the card index.
Memory is ever fickle, and if the wrong number is placed on the
letter, it is probable that it will be filed accordingly.

In the use of figures, the most common of all errors is trans-
position, and this is a constant source of danger in filing. Suppose,
for example, that in placing the number on a letter from the Norton
Machine Company, a transposition is made and the number reads
160 instead of 610. The letter is filed in folder No.160, just four
hundred and fifty folder out of the way. The letter is practically
lost, for there b no way to locate it except to look through all of
the folders until it is found.

With the alphabetical index there is some danger of filing a
letter in the wrong place, but it is materially lessened by the fact
that the name must be kept in mind. If the letter is incorrectly filed,
it probably will be placed in a folder close to the right one. Almost
without exception, it will be found within two or three folders of its
proper place; there is scarcely a possibility that a letter from Norton
will be filed in White's folder.


Salesmen's Correspondence. The correspondence from sales-
men and branch houses b, as a rule, more bulky than that from even
the largest customers. A sub-divison should be provided that will
make it possible to locate quickly a letter of any date, without looking
through a great mass of correspondence. The most simple way to
accomplish this is to divide the correspondence of each salesman or
branch by months. A folder should be used each month.

Sufficient space should be provided in the general files to hold
salesmen's correspondence for an entire year. If sub-divided by
months, old correspondence can be located much more quickly than
if scattered through several transfer files.

One way to reduce the bulk of this correspondence in the sales-
men's folders is to require each salesman to use a separate sheet for
each subject about which he writes. Nine out of every ten letters
from a salesman refer specifically to transactions with certain cus-
tomers, and are chiefly important in connection with the correspond-


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ence of those customers. Such letters should be filed in the customers'
folders, where they will be found when it is wished to investigate
transactions with a customer.

The correspondence of some very large customers is also quite
bulky. This, also, can be sub-divided by the use of a new folder
each month. A similar plan is used to advantage in connection with
subject filing, a separate folder, filed back of the subject guide, being
used for each correspondent.

Correspondence of Temporary Value. Every large enterprise
receives a considerable amount of correspondence which has no per-
manent value. Inquiries for catalogs in response to advertising are
of no value unless further correspondence is developed. It is advis-
able to set aside sufficient space in the files, and file such correspond-
ence alphabetically, in miscellaneous folders. Later, when further
correspondence develops, separate folders can be made and trans-
ferred to the regular files. After a reasonable time — ^when the follow-

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Online LibraryIll.) American School (LansingCyclopedia of commerce, accountancy, business administration ... [microform] → online text (page 21 of 27)