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Dust is Death – Drive Thru Gas Station – Five Cent Owl Cigars

The Missouri History Museum in St. Louis has opened a new exhibit titled Capturing the City: Photographs from the Streets of St. Louis, 1900-1930 and it will be open through January 22, 2017. Three of the images shown here are also available for purchase, in addition, a photography-based book has been published to commemorate the display, learn more at the Museum.


  • One of two”Wayclense” Gas-Electric Street Sweepers on a street during the summer of 1916.

The “Wayclense” machine above was invented by Bernard Kern of Sandusky, Ohio, and the prototype was steam-powered; it was constructed before the first automobile was built in the US.  The contraptions did not use any water and were manufactured in Newark, New Jersey, by the Way-Clense Corporation and were quite popular at the time.

Two of the sweepers were used in tandem on wide streets, the one shown in the photo with a gutter cleaning attachment went first and was followed by the second unit. Power for the machines was supplied by a large four-cylinder marine engine located behind the operator; it was connected to a 125-volt generator, that in turn, powered electric motors for the differential and rear axle, the large suction blower, a dust separator on the trailer, and a fan for the front-mounted engine radiator.


  • A modern drive-in gasoline station and an automobile parts supplier, the image is circa the mid-teens.

This second image contains a modern drive-in gasoline station on Washington Blvd. and the Gerdelman Auto Supply Co. behind it. W. A. Allen. the former manager of the Pope Hartford Motor Co. of Canada, moved to St. Louis in 1914 and became the administrator of the motor car supplier.

And finally below is an exceptional circa-1910 image of a bar in the city that had no connection with the automobile other than some of its patrons drove there and some left DUI. The Bar’s Owl Cigar billboard contains an electric clock manufactured by the E. Howard and Co. of Boston that was reset to perfect time hourly by a telegraph signal from the W.U. Telegraph Co. to US Government Observatory time.


13 responses to “Dust is Death – Drive Thru Gas Station – Five Cent Owl Cigars

  1. A few questions on the photos today. Where were the gas pumps in the alcoves, none that I have seen before. The sign for Whiskies says for medical use, yet this photo predated prohibition. The chairs for the shoeshine stand are also missing.

  2. Probably the chairs were brought by the shoeshine guys to keep them out of the weather at night, etc, and to keep them from being stolen….I would imagine.

  3. The car directly behind the Drive Out sign seems to be a ca 1912 RCH roadster. What is happening with the car is not very visible however. I suppose the extremely long hosepipe isn’t used for pumping gasoline, but more probably for water?

  4. I noticed in the Owl Cigar shot the photographer seems to have captured his own image reflected in the mirror behind the bar door – looks that way anyway. Thanks for all your work on this site David, it is much appreciated.

  5. Oof. Having grown up in Chicago, I can just feel that damp, dank winter air chilling me to the bone in that service station picture. I don’t miss that at all.

  6. The “lowly , -but VERY NECESSARY “STREET SWEEPER ” began dealing with “road apples”, initially. Then model “T”‘s eliminated the horses in about 1920 . Tire compounds, Diesel particulates , the new BANANA craze, cigars, cigarettes and domestic dogs KEEP sweepers in business to this day! They all use one of the most highly researched Steel Alloys ! WHERE ??? BOTH: The CONICAL rotary SIDE Brush (es) AND the MAIN CYLINDRICAL Brush! WHAT??? WHERE??? the BRUSH BRISTLES on either brush type. A top quality spring steel that must endure EXTREME flexing !

  7. There is at least one more transportation related connection for the Owl Cigar billboard. The sign was located at 2 North 18th Street which was kitty-corner to Union Station, 1800 Market Street, St. Louis’ main train station. The address is also shown as 1735 Market Street which is part of the same corner lot. He appears to have run this establishment from about 1909 – 1912. He also ran another bar at 2300 Chestnut which was nearby.

    Walter J. Noble, born January 8, 1871 to Henry and Mary Noble, appears to have lived in St. Louis his whole life. Prior to being the proprietor of the bar he had been a street inspector. Unfortunately he died of cirrhosis of the liver on July 30, 1912. He left behind his wife Irene, his parents, and many brothers and sisters.

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