SHORPY Historic Photo Archive & Fine-Art Prints
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9000+ fine-art prints suitable for framing. Desk-size to sofa-size and larger, on archival paper or canvas.
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About the Photos

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.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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City Gas: 1912

City Gas: 1912

Circa 1912. "Foundation for retort house, construction for Detroit City Gas Company." A scene from the days when most big municipalities had an illuminating-gas plant where coal was heated to make the poisonous product known as "city gas." 8x10 inch glass negative. View full size.

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Moth Balls

If you ever used coal gas, it had a smell similar to moth balls. Natural gas has no odour, so an additive (mercaptans) is used so a leak can be detected. I visited New Zealand in the 1980s, and Christchurch, Invercargill and Dunedin were still generating coal gas. When you light the burner on a stove, coal gas ignites with a sharp POP, compared to natural gas. Otherwise, cooking is the same either way. I toured the Dunedin gas works twice before it closed as New Zealand's last gas works in 1987. It is now a museum, one of only three such in the world. You can read about it here.

City gas, town gas, coal gas, producer gas

Whatever the name, if you read a reference in a novel to sticking one's head into the oven to commit suicide, this is what is referred to, not today's natural gas. Natural gas is mostly methane. Coal-derived gas includes a substantial amount of carbon monoxide. It was the dominant household cooking (and sometimes lighting) fuel until the 1940s-1950s in the US, and somewhat later in Britain.

Taking a Leak

The pipes conveying steam from the mixer have sprung a nice leak right next to the workers. Nothing like a little live steam to liven things up!

A striking resemblance

however I don't remember this level of the game?

SHORPY OLD 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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