U.S. Patent No. 76,287, issued to E. W. Woodruff and George C. Green, March 31, 1868 (in Record Group 241, Records of the Patent Office, National Archives). Found in “The Era of the Woodruff File” by Victor Gondos Jr. in American Archivist 19, no. 4 (October 1956) on p. 307.n.a storage box designed to slide into and be removed from an opening in a cabinet in which folded documents are held upright through the use of an adjustable braceMinogue 1945, 17What those who introduced the Woodruff files evidently did not foresee was the inevitable physical damage to the paper that would be incurred by the periodic unfolding and refolding of the records as they were used.Gondos 1956, 305Archivists generally are familiar with the appearance and operation of the Woodruff file holder. It is a triangular shaped document box with the hypotenuse-side open to receive the triple-folded documents, with or without jackets; at the rear of the open side is a movable board attached to an iron clamp which has a lug inserted in a metal channel in the center of the baseboard, much as an electrical connection is made to the third rail of a streetcar track. Its operation is the acme of simplicity; there are no springs or coils or complicated parts to get out of order or to increase the cost. The rear clamping board exerts quite an even pressure on the vertically filed documents, accommodating itself to the documents because it is free of the baseboard.Pinkett 1958, 186There was no uniform or standard equipment for filing papers. While Woodruff file boxes and “plain shelving” were used in some divisions, open pigeonhole cases were more common.Reingold 1964, 253Not boxed is a 1-volume catalog, undated, of Rhees autograph collection. And on the top shelf, above all the boxes of treasures, is a yard of Woodruff files containing more receipts for Smithsonian publications, ca. 1870-75, but mercifully not bearing RH numbers.Gracy 1973b, 35The humidification and flattening project arose from our need to prepare Federal court records for microfilming. Each page of each case, now brittle, dirty, often torn or crumbling, and folded into the ubiquitous Woodruff file, must be humidified, flattened, cleaned and marked for repair work.Reynolds 1991, 467Stored in vertical, wooden, Woodruff file boxes, each item was folded several times, with its descriptive summary written on the back. Older documents often were tied together, stored in bundles. The Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress emerged into this world with its creation in 1897 soon after the new library building opened across the street from the Capitol grounds.Cox 2000, 168–169As the quantity of records rapidly increased, a variety of other storage methods became prominent, such as registry systems, specially constructed pigeonholes for filing by a subject classification system, and in 1868 the Woodruff File, a wooden box for standard paper sheets twice or thrice folded.ADAH 2012In estimating the volume of loose records still folded up inside their Woodruff files (the wooden or metal file drawers in which old case files are often stored), one full file drawer = 1/3 cubic foot.EOM 2016Woodruff’s File-Holder was patented in 1868 and advertised in 1876. Woodruff’s Improved File-Holder was patented in 1884-89 and advertised in 1887-99. The original and improved file-holders were similar in appearance. In addition to these file-holders for folded papers, by 1903 the Woodruff Mfg. Co., Washington, DC, was also selling vertical file-holders for folders containing unfolded letters. In 1903, Woodruff claimed that 90% of the file holders used by the US government in Washington DC were Woodruff File Holders. Files holders of this style were advertised at least as late as 1928.Trace 2020, 103By the 1910s, the findings of the federal government’s Taft Commission on Economy and Efficiency confirmed that large businesses were mainly adopting these innovative filing systems and procedures. Carbon copies and flat vertical filing were indeed replacing press copy books and older-style Woodruff files (file boxes containing folded documents).
Although Edmund Whiting Woodruff and George C. Green were both issued the original patent for their “Woodruff & Green Paper-File” on March 31, 1868, Green’s name never appears in the common names for these files, which are also known as Woodruff file holders, Woodruff’s file holders, or bayonet files. Exactly two weeks after the issuing of Woodruff and Green’s patent, two other men E. J. Smith and B. H. Cheever, were issued Patent No. 76,834 for a very similar but less technically sophisticated “Bill & Paper File.” Other manufacturers have also made versions of these filing systems, but the name Woodruff remains attached to all of these.Originally, Woodruff files were made primarily of wood, but in later years they were made entirely of steel. These files were used most commonly for the storage of case files, sometimes wrapped in red tape or paper sleeves. These file boxes usually came in one size, about 4 inches wide, 10 inches high, and 12 inches deep (approximately 10 X 25.5 X 30.5 cm), but these could be made to order in different sizes. These filing systems were sold from the 1860s until at least 1928. They remain in use in the United States, particularly for the continuing storage of court case files, and often because the conservation work required to humidify and slowly flatten the records is daunting.