Sunday, March 1, 2009

Looking back on looking back

Go figure. 

Sometimes the most trivial and mundane things take on a life of their own.  Take the simple water meter cover in New Orleans.  Of late, it has appeared on shirts, jewelry, photos and more.  Taking on "the part represents the whole", it has developed an aura of its own.  It represents in peoples' mind a symbol of the New Orleans they always knew.  A New Orleans from more carefree times. 

I supppose, though, that New Orleans and Wabash, Indiana, should look back together.  They should dream of days when jobs in Wabash were fueled by thousands of orders for meter covers from a city way down on the coast.

Point?  None in particular.  Just this:  when we look back at golden eras, we rarely look a back at all the connections and industry that supported them. Those are just part of the background.  Something that was supposed to be there.  Like groceries on the shelf.

A Paul Simon lyric said it best "still the man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."

--steve buser

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Julie said...

this is a great water meter lid. I like these types of items also. Some of the older workmanship in these items are great.

Babooshka said...

I have a fondness for manhole and water meter lids for a different reason. Most of them in the world bear the words "made in Birmingham" Brickhouse Dudley" or "Made in Cradley Heath". I was born in uk Birmigham and lived in Cradley Heath near Dudley. So nostalgic for me and I can see why the design for your are has been adopted as in way an beacon of hope. Strange what images we are drawn to on the dailies, but for me this is a home from home.

Ms M said...

Very interesting to see the water meter cover! The design on it...
Nowadays things like that don't get the "extra" care of attractive design unless it's functional.
And the connections between cities have changed a lot as more things are made overseas...

Jilly said...

I just love old drain covers, and often, like this one, they are so beautiful.

raf said...

Interesting thoughts and post, Steve. Certainly like the design of the lid.

gogouci said...

Awesome find. I happen to have a secret interest in iron works and displays.

Anonymous said...

The history of the Crescent Box Lid

In 1921, while making a sales call at the municipal water utility in New Orleans, Edwin Ford, owner of The Ford Meter Box Company, listened while George G. Earl, Chief Engineer and General Superintendent of the Sewage and Water Board, described the unsatisfactory meter settings used by his department. The settings were installed under unique conditions because much of the city is below the level of the Mississippi River, and rainwater must be drained from the ground and pumped over the levees. Over the years, the soil settled and the open-bottom meter boxes then in use filled with mud and soon became populated by gophers, crayfish, and other “intruders.” The settling soil meant the top of the box was often several inches above ground.

After hearing the complaints about the existing boxes, Ford spotted an empty drafting table in the utility’s design department and he quickly sketched his idea of an improved meter setting. The engineering staff liked what Ford showed them, and, back in Wabash, Indiana, Edwin refined his ideas and turned out the prototype of the Crescent Box designed for frost-free settings. It was a box with threads on the castings so that an inner-casting turns or screws up and down within the outer-casting, making possible an adjustment to grade.

After making a working sample, Ford was soon back on the train to New Orleans, where it was approved. When he returned to Wabash, he carried with him a trial order for one hundred of the new boxes. Since that time, the Crescent Box, named for the city for which it was designed, has been the standard setting for New Orleans. John Ford commented that in the year he joined The Ford Meter Box Company, 1924, nearly half of the company’s sales were to the City of New Orleans. “In the twenties,” John said, “if we had lost New Orleans, I’m not sure we would have made it.”

The lid of the Crescent box was customized for New Orleans with a crescent moon surrounded by stars. Today these unique lids have become collectors’ items. In the French Quarter, the city tack welds on existing Crescent lids to prevent theft. Various items of jewelry and various ceramics are among the items available today that reproduce the unique Crescent design first conceived by Edwin Ford in 1921.

(Portions excerpted from The History of a Small Indiana Company / 100 Years of Ford Meter Box, by Hank Leander and Pete Jones.)