SHORPY Historic Photo Archive & Fine-Art Prints
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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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Gas Giant: 1937

Gas Giant: 1937

        An old-school gasworks (back in the days before the widespread use of natural gas) where coal was heated to produce "city gas" or "illuminating gas," which was so poisonously toxic that people inhaled it to commit suicide ("taking the gas pipe"). The tank-like structure, called a gasometer or gas holder, telescoped up and down depending on how much gas was inside, its weight serving to pressurize the system and push gas through the lines.

1937. "Charlotte Street Gas Works, Charleston, South Carolina." 8x10 inch acetate negative by Frances Benjamin Johnston. View full size.

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They Don't Tear Anything Down in Charleston

Looks like part of the building is still there.

Gas Holders

The plant I worked in had ten gas holders of varying sizes to store argon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and a few other gases. Several were still in use into the late 1970s.

Toxic for decades

These coal gas plants (sometimes called 'manufactured gas' plants) were so noxious that many former locations are still toxic sites decades after being shut down, now needing extensive decontamination.

I watched one such site being rehabilitated in Marin County for use as affordable housing. The process took over a year and required the removal of 28,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil.

No Smoking!

I hope the tank was maintained to a higher standard than the adjoining brick building appears to be!

Still Energetic!

Building is still there, now an electric substation:

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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