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Upstairs, Downstairs: 1910

Upstairs, Downstairs: 1910

Probably Detroit circa 1910. "Gas Company." A worker with pipes and an air compressor. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.


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Photo Location

530 Brush Street is located at the foot of Edmunds Place, two blocks east of Woodward Avenue between Wilkins and Brewster Streets.

Tamper, tamper!

The joints were often sealed with tarred oakum and lead. After the asbestos rope was removed, the lead had to be hammered into the joint to make an air tight seal. This lucky worker had an amazing labor saving device, the air powered caulking hammer! I'm sure he felt that he was living on the forefront of technology.

102 years old

The little boy (I guess) in the far left doorway. Maybe Willard has called his name for Smucker's.

Wagons Ho

I see a wagon handle, but I am wondering how they would deliver it to the work site. I feel sorry for the poor guy who has to drag that through rough city streets and muddy work sites.

1910 Census

Maxwell Silver, physician, address 530 Brush Street, Detroit. He's 35 and was born in Russia. Street numbers were changed rather radically in Detroit around 1922, so it's difficult to pin down where on Brush Street this would be. It's pretty well all been razed, anyway.

High tech equipment

My eyes are drawn to that compressor rig and especially the engine driving it. It has two priming cups so I'm betting on it being a two-cylinder, a side draft carburetor with an air cleaner, no gravity feed tank in evidence above the carb so it's got a fuel pump, and jacketed for water cooling with a water pump in the system somewhere, all features pretty much exclusive to premium high performance equipment in 1910. A look at the other side would probably show that the box arrangement beside the compressor is the shroud on a large radiator handling the cooling for the engine and compressor together and it has a high volume fan driven by another belt we cant see in this shot.
That said, that big flat drive belt hanging out in the open with no guarding gives me the willies, they had a different approach to work safety in those days.

In short...

Is that man standing in a foyer hole or did he lose his legs?

Cast Iron Pipes

Those are cast iron gas pipes--and yes many of them are still in use in larger cities. I used to do work for a client that repaired leaking joints between the pipes.

Most of these lines were originally used with manufactured gas that was made from coal and contained more moisture than the natural gas that was used in later years. For the most part, the pipe is still in good condition but the joint sealing material tended to dry out when natural gas was used and would begin to leak over time.


Looks like he was using it to tamp the caulking in the pipe joints.

"Hello, Gas Company?"

Those pipes are probably still in use. "Hello, Gas Company. I've got a dead spot in my lawn over your pipe. Do you suppose it could, maybe, be leaking?"

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