I'm sound designing a production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which is set in the 1960's, and part of the director's vision is to create the ambiance of a beehive. In my design I try to achieve this by blending every day sounds one would hear in an office to create a sort of 'buzz'; however, I don't have a great deal of experience with office sounds before the computer age. I mean there's the obvious (typewriter keys) but I want to include a wide range of sounds from the time period that might resonate with the audience, which generally has quite a few older patrons. Any suggestions?
this is fun: http://www.yesterdaysoffice.com/
I recently went to an antique shop and managed to get one of the vendors to rent me some of the crazy machines he had in his booth. I got the antique typewriter of course, but I also got a burroughs protectograph and a remington adding machine from right around the dawn of electricity.
3 hours and $25 later I was waaaay covered with those machines. Depending on your timeline that could be an option as well.
Vintage phone rings - and I'm not sure if they had any button-dial phones yet so also I would try some manual circular-dial phones.
Also, typewriters were quite prevalent back then so place them in throughout and I think with the other great suggestions you'll have a winning combination.
Also, and I think most importantly, is that people spoke differently back then. Watch out for the ADR call-outs or loop groups you decide to put in there because if they're too modern-sounding, it might throw you right out of the moment.
I also remember doing research for a 50's show I did not too long ago and the men usually wore stiff-wood or wing-tip shoes to work and those definitely sound different than a soft leather shoe footstep.