In use for over a century, file cabinets are ubiquitous in office environments. So much so that thinking about their invention leads one to believe, "Didn't they always exist?"
The answer is, "No, they did not."
What did people do before file cabinets? Hard to imagine, isn't it?
Mr. Seibel's Addition to Office Culture
The first file cabinet was invented in 1898 by Edwin G. Seibels while he was employed in his father's insurance firm. He changed office space the way we know it for good - with nary a report. Improving on the pigeon-hole system of organization, which was the standard of the day, Seibels literally turned it on its side with the file cabinet.
A pigeon-hole system is a collection of shallow shelves grouped together vertically. The shelves are like slots and there are anywhere from 20 to 60 slots in a typical pigeon-hole desk. Documents were usually folded and put in envelopes and stored in the slots. Seibels thought that the space could be used more effectively if the folding was eliminated. Documents could be stored flat in a folder, and folders could be kept in drawers stacked above one another. Thus, the vertical file cabinet was born!
Moving Laterally Is Useful
The invention of the vertical file cabinet, of course, led to the invention of the lateral file cabinet. Lateral files keep documents stored side to side rather than front to back. They offer more variation in office design and give more shelf space. Lateral files can hold decorations like plants or pictures, as well as provide a place for phones, fax machines, or printers. This type of file cabinet is the standard in legal and government offices.
File Folder Terminology
Now that we know how the file cabinet was invented, what about the folders inside the files themselves?
File folders are usually available in both letter and legal sizes. Most vertical file cabinets are made to hold letter size files, and lateral file cabinets are made for legal files. There is no completely universal term to refer to files. Some refer to them by Manila folders, in reference to them being made from Manila hemp. But many folders are made from paper. The term "file folder," or simply "folder" are used when referred to as empty. When full and labeled, they are normally called just "files."
Tabs Help File Location and Organization
Whatever material these file folders are made of, they have tab of some kind for labeling and organization. Tabs can vary for your needs. Files are sold in 1/3 cut, 1/5 cut, 2/5 cut, and ½ cut tab styles. The fraction refers to how much of the width of the folder each tab covers. The most common tab style is 1/3 with 1/5 being next. Placement of tabs aid with separation and organization as the files stack together. Tabs make fingering through a drawer and locating a file quite easy.
Now you know where the file cabinet came from, how file folders are referred to, and what those little tabs are for. The world of filing and file cabinets is always fascinating here at FilingCabinets.com.