Amanda

By Amanda

LifeBuzz Staff

Check Out These RARE Historical Photos Of The FBI’s Fingerprint Warehouse.

Today, almost everything the FBI does is digital. However, decades ago, the bureau looked a lot different -- after all, there had to be a facility to store all of that information, evidence, and most importantly, fingerprints.

The collection and storage of fingerprints took a massive leap, quite quickly. For example, in 1920, the FBI was only employing about 25 people to classify and organize print cards (about 800,000 of them), but by 1943, they had 20,000 employees sorting through 70 million. In fact, the bureau got overwhelmed with all of the archives, so they moved it into an 8,000 square foot facility in Washington, D.C.

Ladies and gentlemen: The Fingerprint Factory.

The war was a major factor in the increase in fingerprinting done in the United States at the time.

The war was a major factor in the increase in fingerprinting done in the United States at the time.

George Skadding / Life Magazine / Getty Images

After all, the FBI was no longer just investigating domestic crimes, but also gathering intel on foreign spies, draft dodgers, and immigrants.

After all, the FBI was no longer just investigating domestic crimes, but also gathering intel on foreign spies, draft dodgers, and immigrants.

George Skadding / Life Magazine / Getty Images

They even had an entire set of files on "Notorious Dead Criminals."

They even had an entire set of files on "Notorious Dead Criminals."

George Skadding / Life Magazine / Getty Images

And The Fingerprint Factory was the only place large enough to hold all of that information.

And The Fingerprint Factory was the only place large enough to hold all of that information.

George Skadding / Life Magazine / Getty Images

It seemed like everyone had a fingerprint card: Members of the military, foreign agents, war material manufacturers, and even all the government laborers that helped the war effort.

It seemed like everyone had a fingerprint card: Members of the military, foreign agents, war material manufacturers, and even all the government laborers that helped the war effort.

George Skadding / Life Magazine / Getty Images

The bottom line: If you had any ties to the federal government at this time, you were getting a background check and a fingerprint.

The bottom line: If you had any ties to the federal government at this time, you were getting a background check and a fingerprint.

George Skadding / Life Magazine / Getty Images

The agents working at the Fingerprint Factory also looked into 20,000 reports of attempted sabotage at this time -- they found 2,282 people who were actually guilty.

The agents working at the Fingerprint Factory also looked into 20,000 reports of attempted sabotage at this time -- they found 2,282 people who were actually guilty.

George Skadding / Life Magazine / Getty Images

They also needed to keep tabs on domestic crime, as it has a tendency to surge during vulnerable war times.

They also needed to keep tabs on domestic crime, as it has a tendency to surge during vulnerable war times.

George Skadding / Life Magazine / Getty Images

But without digital reading, how did they track the fingerprints?

But without digital reading, how did they track the fingerprints?

George Skadding / Life Magazine / Getty Images

Well, thousands of women at the Fingerprint Factory were trained to use the Henry System of fingerprint ID, which manually categorized fingerprints by their characteristics.

Well, thousands of women at the Fingerprint Factory were trained to use the Henry System of fingerprint ID, which manually categorized fingerprints by their characteristics.

George Skadding / Life Magazine / Getty Images

The process was incredibly time consuming, as they had to assign numerical values to thousands of ridge patterns, loops, and arches in the prints.

The process was incredibly time consuming, as they had to assign numerical values to thousands of ridge patterns, loops, and arches in the prints.

George Skadding / Life Magazine / Getty Images

A promotion from fingerprint identification meant that some female employees would get the chance to work in a different department: Communicating military secrets and vital intel to the government.

A promotion from fingerprint identification meant that some female employees would get the chance to work in a different department: Communicating military secrets and vital intel to the government.

George Skadding / Life Magazine / Getty Images

The women often worked 10 hour days, six days a week.

The women often worked 10 hour days, six days a week.

George Skadding / Life Magazine / Getty Images

As fascinating as all of it is, one thing is for sure: The amount of information and labor that went into this process is absolutely mind-blowing.

As fascinating as all of it is, one thing is for sure: The amount of information and labor that went into this process is absolutely mind-blowing.

George Skadding / Life Magazine / Getty Images

Before the FBI went digital, it looked a little more like a giant stock warehouse for Amazon.com. In the 1920s, the bureau was only employing 25 workers to classify around 800,000 print cards, but by 1943, there were more than 20,000 employees sorting through 70 million fingerprints. At the height of wartime, the archives were so overwhelmed that the FBI eventually moved into an 8,000 square foot facility in the National Guard Armory in Washington D.C. They called it the Fingerprint Factory.

Source: Messy Nessy Chic

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