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

Support Shorpy

Shorpy is funded by you. Help by purchasing a print or contributing. Learn more.

Social Shorpy


Join our mailing list (enter email):

Member Photos

Photos submitted by Shorpy members.

Colorized Photos

Colorized photos submitted by members.

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]

JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Re-Tire Men: 1929

Re-Tire Men: 1929

San Francisco circa 1929. "Gurley-Lord tire service station -- vulcanizing molds." The establishment last glimpsed here. 8x10 nitrate negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5
To stay online without a paywall or a lot of pop-up ads, Shorpy needs your help. (Our server rental alone is $3,000 a year.) You can contribute by becoming a Patron, or by purchasing a print from the Shorpy Archive. Or both! Read more about our 2019 pledge drive here. Our last word on the subject is: Thanks!


My somewhat educated guess is that this is neither a "service station" nor a tire factory. It is probably a retread facility. Retreading was very commonly done on passenger car tires for many years; I believe it is still commonly done on airliner, off-road industrial, and large truck tires because the carcasses of those tires are expensive. Large airplane tires are retreaded many times because of their expense and short tread life. (disclaimer: my knowledge of this topic is from 45 years ago, so maybe wrong today).

[As noted in the caption, we are looking at this place -- the Gurley-Lord garage at 1517 Mission Street. A business where service is performed is a service station. - Dave]

I still remember the smell.

When I was very young a good friend of my father's owned a recapping shop in my hometown. The hot rubber smell from the steam-heated molds is the most distinctive memory. The men buffing the old tread off the tires to be capped left piles of rubber dust, so the place I remember wasn't this clean. The man on the left is inspecting the inside of the tire for a stone bruise or a puncture that could leave a rough spot that would need to be cleaned up and patched. Some of the equipment to repair or inspect tires looks like it came right out of Torquemada's toolbox.

Automotively Exhausting

I watched the jazzy video and was exhausted in that short time! All I could think was how tiring (no pun intended) those workers would be after eight hours of handling those tires!

Video of Machines in Action

These molds would have been used to shape the tires, either to build them up from scratch or perhaps to patch them since this was a service station. The molds would likely have gone into an oven after the rubber and any strengthening elements (e.g., cables or wire mesh) were laid down, tacked together and formed by stretching and spinning the rubber into its final shape.

[The molds themselves are the "ovens." The white covering is asbestos. - Dave]

This video from 1934 shows the whole process at a tire factory:

This video may be from the 1920s and is clearer and much shorter. If you like hot jazz, it's the one to watch.

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.

Syndicate content RSS | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Photo Use | © 2019 Shorpy Inc.