What does brassmein or (Brass Me In) mean?

In the old days before card swipes and bar codes were so common the "Brass System" was a really simple inexpensive and reliable method of timekeeping and tool control on large construction projects. Actually, the practice started as a safety roll call method in the mining industry.

Each employee was issued a brass coin approximately the size of a half dollar stamped with the employee's unique control number and a small hole to facilitate hanging it on a peg board in the brass shack. The typical brass shack was like a ticket booth with the window parallel to a walkthrough gate called the "brass alley".

Each morning the employee would "brass in" (pass through the brass alley where he would be given his brass). At start of work the timekeeper would close the brass alley and inventory the brass. The presence of a brass indicated the absence of a worker. At quitting time the worker would brass out and the brass would be inventoried again. A vacant spot on the pegboard represented a worker who had not yet brassed out. If an employee had not brassed out on time it could indicate a safety problem or simply an overtime assignment that would have to be verified.

During the course of the day if an employee needed an item from the tool crib he would use his brass as a security deposit until the tool was returned. A typical tool crib had a pegboard where the employee's brass would be posted along with a paper tag for each item he had out on loan. He would have to return all the tools at the end of the day in order to retrieve his brass.

Another good use for the brass was in an impromptu raffle or lottery. Each participant would deposit his brass in a hard hat. The one drawn out would identify the winner or looser, as it was also a common way of assigning unpleasant chores.

Even though the brass system has largely been replaced with electronic data collection methods it is still used on many large construction and mining projects.

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