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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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War of the Worlds: 1905

War of the Worlds: 1905

Detroit circa 1905. "The Campus Martius." This middle section of a three-part panorama features City Hall and one of Detroit's celebrated arc-lamp standards, or "moonlight towers" -- appropriately reminiscent of Wells and Verne in a plaza named after Mars. Detroit Publishing Company glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Lady in White

Please, no snarky comments, but I have a question.

There is a woman on the extreme right side of the photo, about 1/3 the way up the page (approaching the curb). She's dressed all in white, and she seems to be the only figure dressed in light-colored clothing as far as I can see. Is this "normal but rare" for the time, or is there some other explanation?

[White dresses not particularly unusual for the era. Many more can be seen on these pages. - Dave]

Texas Towers

Richard Linklater used them famously in "Dazed and Confused."

Early Detroit Iron

Is there at least one and possibly three early automobiles parked along the right curb?

Regarding towers

I find it interesting that people a century ago were so accepting of the wires and towers that brought them modern conveniences. Today we don't need towers for lighting -- but we do need them for our radios, TVs and cellphones so I find it paradoxical that so many people today oppose every new tower application. Yet they are typically the first to complain when their radio, TV or cellphone can't get an adequate signal.

Moonlight towers in Texas

There are more than a dozen survivors in Austin, where they are local landmarks. Some sources claim they were purchased used from Detroit.

And so it begins…

In an era of fine architectural detail and flowing lines of sight, the encroachment of the bland stark vision of industrial need and simplicity continues its blight on the aerial view now known only to the farmers, mountaineers, astronomers, and those who would strive to leave society and culture behind. First the telegraph, then telephone, then electricity took to the skies in coincidental trade for the odor of animal leavings in our cities and towns.

I have all my life cursed the pole and line, and welcomed those forward thinking communities that had the foresight to legislate the burial of all utilities. Perhaps someday, when in a much improved economy, and with less desire to spend on wars and trips to the moon, an investment can be made in finally putting to ground that which hangs outside our windows, standing between us and the clear blue skies with fluffy white clouds which lend our minds to daydream.

As an addendum, many millions of man-hours spent in Photoshop would be averted to more useful agendas, such as staring at the clouds and stars.

[Or you could just move to a better neighborhood. - Dave]

How DID they change the light bulbs?

Reading the "moonlight towers" link reveals how labor intensive early city lighting schemes were. Imagine lighting and extinguishing gas lamps on every corner! It was regarded as a triumph when carbon-arc rods were developed that lasted all night. Daily servicing of a limited number of tall towers was relatively manageable - but how did they ascend to the top? Surely not via the alternating rods forming a rudimentary ladder. Close scrutiny of the link images reveals a "man basket" that hoisted a worker inside the tower, using the pulleys visible in the photograph.

What time is it, really?

I notice the two clocks appear to read about 4 minutes different, even though they are within sight of each other.

A neat history of the "moonlight towers"

Is here.

More Towers

I see a second one way off in the distance at the right edge of the picture, and possibly a THIRD one way off beyond that!


And so became the wired aged. Wires everywhere. You never knew so many lines in the sky until you got that new camera and went outside to capture a scene, without the wires.

It's time....

Time for a Wilson High Ball. That's All.

False Moonlight

It would be great to see one of these in action (in a photo) at night time. I had never heard of them until now, except for use in modern movies.

Burned Out

Guess it's a good thing we don't have moonlight towers now. The "kids today" would probably climb them and spray paint them. Also, there would be those insisting "these things cause cancer."

Now I want a highball

I want one of those Wilson High Balls, with perhaps a San Telno cigar.

How Many Martians Does It Take?

This has to be the place were the "light bulb" jokes started.

Hats and Highballs

Immediately behind the Detroit Public Works Department's exercise of infrastructure improvement was John J. Gorman's hat store. As the roof sign shows, "that's all" was the motto of the Whiskey produced by Baltimore's Wilson Distilling Co. before and (for a short time after) Prohibition. Seagram's bought it out, closed the plant and moved what was left to Louisville.

Thanks for your Support

At first, I thought the triangular arc lamp base was sitting on the ground. The shadow reveals that it is perched on that single pole at the street corner.

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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