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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2018 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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City Gas Co.: 1913

City Gas Co.: 1913

        In the days before the long-distance transmission of natural gas, municipalities had their own plants where coal was heated to make what was called "city gas" or "illuminating gas."

March 31, 1913. "Construction of gas holder, Detroit City Gas Company." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

On Shorpy:
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Lost Crane

I'd sure like to see that circumferential hoist without anything around it! Did they lay a rolled rail at the hoisting end?


These storage vessels were called gasometers and consisted of multiple sections that rode inside of each other and rose and fell to maintain the service pressure as the the gas was used.

The gas went under many names including water gas, illuminating gas and producers gas. It was manufactured by heating coal in a closed retort and passing high pressure steam through the coal bed. The gas it produced was a mixture of methane and carbon monoxide it was far more dangerous than natural gas in the event of a leak.

All the sites where this gas was produced are super fund sites as one of the many toxic byproducts of the process was benzene which typically leaked into the ground.

Gas runs in my family

My great-grandfather worked for one such company in Newark, NJ when, in 1903, it became part of the Public Service (NJ) family of gas, electric and transport utilities at the conglomerate's inception; over 100 companies were merged into the startup in a single transaction. Several coal-blackened faces are seen in the accompanying photo (my forebear in the inset), but at the end of the shift, he'd clean up and change into jacket and tie for the streetcar ride home, as all respectable gents would do. Two more generations of family members -- my great-uncles and aunt -- would find employment there, although none quite so dirty as he.

It took me a while- -

but I did figure out the odd rivet designs on the tank, triple riveting covers both sides of the overlap steel plating.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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