Flirting in the Club Was Much Easier in the 1920s

Patrons of Berlin nightlife venues used pneumatic tubes and table telephones to hook up.
June 23, 2017, 12:35am
Photo via Ballhaus Berlin's website.

Before the digital day of Tinder, Grindr, and texting, Berlin nightclubbers from nearly a century ago resorted to different methods of making love (or lust) connections on the dancefloor.

As Atlas Obscura writes, shy club-goers used a system of pneumatic tubes (through which cylindrical containers transport items) and private telephones set up at each of the venue's tables to send messages to other clubbers. Once a person zeroed in on a potential companion, he or she would take note of which table that person was at, and then either call or send a handwritten note to that table.

Atlas Obscura noted that the trend started with two local nightclubs, the Resi and the Femina; the former's communication system was said by the Chicago Tribune to be its "big lure." The Resi also seemed to be early adopters of comment moderation, as handwritten messages sent through pneumatic tubes were first inspected by female switchboard operators before reaching their intended targets. According to the book Voluptuous Panic, which explores the "erotic" world of Weimar, patrons at the Resi could also use the tubes to send people gifts such as perfume and cigar cutters.

According to Cabaret Berlin, the Resi closed in 1978 and the building demolished that same year, but the phone system still lives on in other clubs such as Ballhaus Berlin.

Earlier this year, we debated whether or not it's okay to go clubbing with the sole goal of having sex.