I was intrigued by an advertisement in an old 1963 New Yorker with the heading, “A Title On the Door Rates a Bigalow On the Floor,” a slogan many of us remember. This heading is over a full-page photo of a man who very clearly does have a title on the door. He is sitting at a classy, French provincial desk. Behind him are chest-high bookcases holding impressively matched, bound volumes, and, on top, a framed photo of his family, a large trophy cup, and one of those familiar glass-domed clocks whose time is regulated by a rack of four balls that rotates horizontally left and right. On the dark paneled wall is a lighted portrait of the founding father of the venerable institution dressed in the style of the mid-1800s.
The man at the desk, gray-haired and distinguished in a dark blue suit, is talking to another man seated across from him in a matching French provincial chair, younger, eagerly leaning forward, in a black suit, clearly climbing briskly up the corporate ladder. Behind the desk, next to the bookcase, we can see a world globe and part of a stained glass window with some sort of crest suggesting an Ivy League university or a venerable financial institution. And, of course, in front of them, a wide expanse of maroon carpet that we can safely assume is a Bigalow.
I was struck by how that carefully laid out scene would be different today. For starters, the globe would be gone. Distance is no longer significant. The clock goes, too, replaced by a digital. Even the bookcases would be gone, made irrelevant by a laptop on the desk. Neither man would be wearing a suit today. In fact, they are now both women, and they are wearing the suits. The desk is a sleek glass-top. The chairs are mesh-backed Aerons. The former stained glass windows are floor-to-ceiling thermopane overlooking the Hudson River.
Unfortunately for Bigalow, the wall-to-wall is gone, too, with hardwood floors partly covered with scattered orientals or woven hemp rugs.
In the same issue is a cartoon of a man greeted by his wife at the front door as he returns home from work. He has a rolled-up carpet under his arm. He says, “They took my name off the door, but they let me keep the carpet.” Now, that sounds like today’s business world.