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Chase the Chills: 1920

Washington, D.C., 1920. "Pittsburg Water Heater Co." You'll come for the hot water but stay for the giant washing machine. 8x6 glass negative. View full size.

Washington, D.C., 1920. "Pittsburg Water Heater Co." You'll come for the hot water but stay for the giant washing machine. 8x6 glass negative. View full size.


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Just wanted to drop in and say thanks to the many photo sharers & comment posters that share their wonderful stories and information here on Shorpy.

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TTFN Carry on. :)

We Used One

. . . until the 90's. Wish we could still use our ornate and dangerous space heaters. It was wonderful to space warm your hands and back in front of one of these--the southern equivalent of a roaring hearth.

Carbon Monoxide

My grandmother had one of these. Although fueled by natural gas (NOT 'manufactured gas'), the unvented heater was a source of carbon monoxide.
This might explain her somewhat loopy behavior.

Strike that

In the front of the window display are a number of spring wire flint strikers. I've never seen this style. Similar torch strikers have a cup over the end to catch the gas to ease lighting but that would be pretty big for those burners! Saves having to dispose of a cord of matches every winter.

Getting warmer

kirksjunque has the location exactly right. Here's a detail from a 1921 photo showing the awning with street number.

Grandma had one of those heaters

In her living room. One winter day she left my 5 year old sister and me (6 yo) in the house to run to a neighbor's without lighting the heater. We had never touched the thing but were getting cold. We knew you needed matches and to turn the gas knob to get it to light. We got the sequence wrong and turned the knob first and struck the match second producing a small fire ball. Luckily, we weren't hurt...just scared and lesson learned. Those heaters could really dry a room out so grandma would place a tin can full of water to help hydrate the air. Also, it was important to let a little outside air in since the heater could also gobble up the oxygen in the room. If this happened while you were sleeping, the flame would die and the gas would fill the room and you'd suffocate. Grandma would turn off all the heaters at night and we'd be buried under at least 4 handmade quilts. Of course winters down here in Louisiana were much milder than up north.

Built to last

Those little gas heaters are still around. I work at an architectural salvage company and we STILL get requests for replacement ceramic elements for these exact Humphrey heaters. This company used to be at 1305 G Street NW according to the old city directory (Tel. National 1031). Long gone, of course.

General Electric and Zoroastrianism

Mazda brand light bulbs were made for decades after 1945 outside the USA. The company chose the name due to its association with Ahura Mazda, the transcendental and universal God of Zoroastrianism whose name means light of wisdom (Ahura = light, Mazda = wisdom) in the Avestan language.

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