Vertical files

The vertical file, the basic technology of the modern day filing cabinet, was cutting-edge information technology of 1898. The world’s first vertical file was part of the exhibition at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.

Together with the typewriter, carbon paper, and other associated technologies, it replaced spindles, pigeonholes, and pressbooks. In all these previous systems, papers were organized chronologically.

See: Files are and have always been relational objects

Q: What is the history of organizational systems?


Robertson, Craig. “The Filing Cabinet.” Places Journal, May 2021.,

Yates, JoAnne. “From Press Book and Pigeonhole to Vertical Filing: Revolution in Storage and Access Systems for Correspondence.” The Journal of Business Communication (1973), vol. 19, no. 3, July 1982, pp. 5–26.

Vertical files can be organized alphabetically, numerically, or topically. Press books or other bound approaches have to be organized chronologically (in accession order). p. 6

Advantages of vertical files: 1. Papers are easier to physically handle. 2. Tabbed folders can be easily labeled in any way. 3. The system can be expanded at any time (it’s not dependent on specific furniture with a specific number of drawers, etc.) 4. When you need a folder, you can lift the whole thing out and take it away without disturbing the papers inside or the folders that surround it. p. 16 ^862162