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Genuine Gas Coke: 1912

Circa 1912. "Coke delivery wagon and workers, Detroit City Gas Co." Our second look at these grimy gents and their battered Packard truck. View full size.

Circa 1912. "Coke delivery wagon and workers, Detroit City Gas Co." Our second look at these grimy gents and their battered Packard truck. View full size.


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Clean Curtains, Clean Lungs

Public Service, Vol. 16, 1914

Successful Gas Coke Campaign at Detroit

A successful gas coke campaign was conducted during January by the Detroit City Gas Company at Detroit, Mich. Half page advertisements were used in all the large daily papers. The price was fixed at $6.25 a ton. Then a coupon, good for 50 cents, was printed in each advertisement. The following was [a portion of] the text of the advertising:

No other fuel will keep your house so clean—Genuine Gas Coke is clean in your cellar — makes a clean fire with practically no smoke, gas, or clinkers — and burns completely to a very fine ash. It is twice as bulky as coal, and yet it leaves only about half as many ashes.

Your house furnishings are too valuable to allow them to be covered with the fine coal dust that is bound to come where even soft coal is burned. Clean curtains — Clean walls — Clean linen — Clean lungs — These are some of the extras that come with Genuine Gas Coke.

Being light and porous, Genuine Gas Coke is easily kindled — This is not only a great advantage when you have to build a new fire, but even a greater convenience in getting the house warm in the morning. It only takes a couple of pokes and a little draft to wake your slumbering coals into a lively, flaming fire if you use Genuine Gas Coke.

Coke Ovens

I worked at USS Gary Works for many years where they produce coke gas from "metallurgical coal." Coke ovens are free of air and are fired by coke oven gas. The excess coke gas is piped throughout the plant, used in the blast and reheat furnaces, and boilers. Coke is used at the blast furnaces for iron production, it is also shipped by train to other mills that have no coke ovens.

Many moons ago there were coke gas pipelines to the city of Gary, used to heat and light homes and businesses.

Odd Man Out

A three man team with a two-seater open cab meant someone had to ride in the back with the coke. Depending on the driver's disposition, that could have been better than riding shotgun.

A Second Life

The state of the art windshield could very well have been someone's parlor window in a previous life. Safety glass had yet to be invented, as well as the idea of using mirrors for side and back vision. Doubtful that coke was delivered when it rained, but frigid temperatures, ice and snow surely would not have deterred these merry men from their rounds.

Coke as a domestic fuel

In my younger days, I bought coke for our open fires for winter, in the house. It burned very well and without the tarry smokiness of coal. The heat output was very good, however the topmost pieces would form a dark blanket over the internal glowing mass. To solve that, a piece of firewood put on top would be sure to have the whole coke mass aglow.

The famous Aga slow combustion stove was another example of an efficient coke-burning appliance. Many blacksmiths preferred coke for their forges.

With the phasing out of coal gas we have lost several byproducts that were readily available. Apart from coke, there was tar and creosote to name just two.

The most useful coke

I never considered that coke was used for heating fuel after the municipal gas extraction process. I do know that to this day steel plants have coke ovens that run continuously to turn coal to coke which is raw carbon for the blast furnace process of steel. The only difference is that instead of the coal gas being used for lighting, it is used to heat the furnaces; perhaps the only perpetual energy machine (sort of).

Gas coke

"Gas coke" was the remnant or char left over from the production of coal gas. The process involved passing high temperature steam through a bed of bituminous coal in a closed retort; the resultant gas was stored in gasometers and sold as illuminating gas. It was a filthy process and some sites 100 years later are still contaminated with the various byproducts.

Coke dealers

Imagine, selling coke openly on the streets of Detroit!
Sure glad that doesn't happen any more.


Wow, look at that bulb horn! I'd like to hear that blow.

DIY license plate

Before states decided to put convicts to work, they gave you a number, and you made your own plate from whatever materials you had on hand.

Rear brakes only, and no doubt proportionate to the muscle in the driver's leg.


The guy behind the wheel looks like he's had a bad day.

Chain Drive

Look at that big old chain drive!

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