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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • EAT MORE FISH, 1917

The Big P.O.: 1912

The Big P.O.: 1912

Detroit, Michigan, circa 1912. "Detroit Post Office." Behold the sooty Motor City. 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

 

Architectural Jazz

Gee, that building has a bit of everything in it, from the basic to the complicated. The architect must have been wanting to make a name for himself.

Those gargoylish ardornments protruding from each corner of the tower just above the clock faces are awesome. I just hope the Motor City isn't prone to earthquakes.

Re: Stripes

Depending on the specific year the photo was taken, it is either the ensign of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service or the U.S. Coast Guard (the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service merged with the U.S. Lifesaving Service in 1915 to form the U.S. Coast Guard). Prior to the explosive growth of the federal government, federal agencies and offices were housed in Post Office buildings (since the Post Office was actually authorized to have a presence in states by the Constitution whereas other federal authorities were not - see the 10th Amendment).

Mystery of the Forgotten Flag

The flag on the post office is an emblem of the past and was known as the Civil Flag. The flag originated with the Sons of Liberty in the American Revolution when they turned the flag of the British East India Company sideways to show they were sovereign from the rule of England.

Oliver Wolcott was responsible for the design of the flag seen flying over the post office in the photo. It consisted of 16 stripes, one for each state of the Union as of the flags design on June 1, 1799, and the totemic emblem of the US, the eagle. It became known as the Customs Flag, and was used to distinguish the non-military operation of US Customs.

More here.

[Someone there could use a refresher on the difference between "its" and "it's." - Dave]

More Than It Seems

Although it was called the "Post Office Building" by a couple of generations of Detroiters, this was really the Federal Building for the Detroit area, and contained the local offices of several federal agencies and the federal courthouse. It was torn down in 1931 to make way for a new WPA-era Federal Building on the same site. That very nice art deco structure is still in use today.

I believe the flag over the entrance is that of the U.S. Customs Service. Detroit has long had a significant Customs presence, as it is the busiest port of entry from Canada.

Name that Flag

The flag belongs to the (former) United States Customs Service, which was the primary tax-collecting agency of the Federal Government before advent of the personal income tax. Items imported into the country were charged duty, hence the location of the agency in a post office.

A color illustration of the flag can be found at Wikipedia.

The flag

looks like the US Customs ensign.

Flag above the entrance

Revenue Cutter Service Flag.

Flag flying over the entrance.

Q: What sort of flag is flying above the entrance?

A: The flag with the vertical stripes atop the right face of the building in the image is the United States Customs Service Flag. Just a brief ferry ride from Detroit, across the Detroit River, is Windsor, Ontario.

Flag ID

It's the flag of the US Customs Service.

I want that room

with the awning at the front on the top right.

Stripes

What sort of flag is flying above the entrance?

 
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