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Posted on May 9, 2021 at 12:38 PM by Ken Kocher
In March of 1905, the Madisonian reported that Demus Anderson was the proud owner of Madison’s first automobile. They added that Bill Cavin was the chauffeur teaching Demus “how not to let it get away already.” Of course, locals were not the only ones plying the roads in these new machines, so were tourists such as the two men, one from Florida and one from England, who managed to overturn their touring car near the Appalachee River. Walt Few, who pulled the vehicle back to the road with a team of mules, expressed the skepticism of many concerning cars saying he’d “take mules every time.”
Yet automobile ownership in Morgan County, Georgia, and the United States, continued to grow. By 1911, the cost of an automobile began to come within reach of the typical household. The word “automobile” shows up in local papers just once in the 1890s. The following decade it appears 23 times. By the 1910s there are 608 references and the 1920s sees use of the word 845 times. This explosion of automobile ownership and use would forever change the landscape of cities and towns and, in Madison, especially downtown. This new technology would change the way streets were used, introduce new types of businesses, and create new building forms.
One automobile related activity, the buying and selling of gasoline, would heavily impact downtown Madison. This installation of Madison Moments will focus on elements of the early days of gasoline sales that changed the streetscape of the time but that have been largely lost to time. Nonetheless, those changes set the stage for further evolution of gasoline sales and changes to downtown Madison that are still visible today.
Where would Demus have purchased gas for his car in 1905? Drug stores or general stores were some the first to have gasoline, originally as a cleaning solvent, for sale as evidenced by a 1912 Vason Bros. drug store ad in the Madisonian. Carbine’s hardware store sold gasoline engines, so presumably they would have carried gasoline as well. Early car dealers were also sources of gasoline. W.H. Adams, while the 1910s still primarily a furniture merchant, was selling Buicks and along with them tires, supplies, and gasoline. The Madison Machine Works which became the Madison Auto & Machine Company also sold gas.
How was gasoline sold? The drug stores and general stores mostly likely sold cans of gasoline which contained as much as five gallons. As demand grew, a higher capacity method of storing and dispensing gasoline was called for. The common solution was to have a barrel of gasoline on hand, usually located around the back of a building or in the corner of a garage. Both can and barrel sales required pouring the fuel into the fuel tank through a funnel lined with a chamois filter to remove impurities. Eventually, rubber hoses were attached to raised tanks for a more convenient transfer. Handcarts with pumps and tanks were available as well. One such cart can be seen in an ad for Madison Auto & Machine Company. Whether they actually used one is unknown.
The dispensing method that came to dominate gasoline sales by the late 1910s and early 1920s was the curb pump. This was a complete refueling system, and was composed of a gasoline pump, dispensing hose, flow meter and underground storage tank. As the name suggests, these pumps were located just beyond the edge of the street with the tanks buried beneath the street. Madison’s 1921 Sanborn Fire Insurance map shows eight businesses with curb pumps – some that may surprise you.
The logical spots are the auto dealerships and garages: Ben S. Thompson, Ford (read here about these pumps); W.H. Adams, Buick; E.L. Duckworth, Chalmers & Maxwell; and Madison Auto & Machine Co., Hudson & Essex. Also fairly logical is Ab Perkins’s Vulcanizing Shop (tire repair and sales) though on the map it is still shown as a harness shop. Less expected are the pumps in front of Vason Bros. Drug Store and Hammond’s Pharmacy. The pump at Hammond’s was likely put in when the building was Leake Hardware. While these locations may seem odd, recall drug stores originally sold gas by the can and likely expanded to curb pumps to retain this lucrative trade. The most unexpected is the pump at Shaw-Hemperly Undertakers! However, this location becomes less of a surprise after seeing their 1917 opening announcement listing their sales and services: “Funeral Directors and Embalmers; Buggies, Wagons and Harness; Saxon and Cole Automobiles.”
As one can imagine, the convenience that curb pumps offered to automobile owners came with some downsides. Lines of waiting vehicles alongside curbsides became nuisances, especially as more and more vehicles took to the road. As accidents became more frequent, curb pumps began to be seen as a significant public hazard not to mention this was all taking place on the public right-of-way. By the early 1920s, gasoline sales began to transition to drive-in stations generally dedicated to a specific oil company. The first of these in Madison will be the focus of some upcoming blogs.
Posted on January 22, 2021 at 5:57 PM by Ken Kocher
No doubt, on the morning of April 9, 1869 J. A Broughton was inspecting the charred rubble of his Dry Goods and Grocery store at the southeast corner of Washington and Main, a victim of the Great Fire that consumed nearly all downtown Madison. The Greenville Enterprise (SC) reported nine months later “one could hardly tell there had been a fire” and “Four large brick buildings were going up on the public square.” The two-story building that Broughton built was probably one of them. Little mention of Broughton’s business shows up in the local papers through the 1870s though we do find mention in lists of Madison’s businesses in Monroe’s Southern Witness, in The Atlanta Constitution, and a couple of trade journals. J.A. Broughton died in 1880 bringing a new business to the building which continued to be referred to as the Broughton Building or Broughton’s Corner.
The Hammonds moved their Augusta Cash Store – sometimes called the Augusta Cheap Store– from the Foster Building, cattycorner across Main Street, to the Broughton Building in September of 1883. Although the business was run by a husband-and-wife team, Mary Ann Hammond was more closely associated with it. Her stature in Madison’s commercial sphere is evidenced by the newspaper referring to her as Mrs. M. A. Hammond using her initials rather than her husband’s as was typical. In describing the move, The Madisonian noted that she would “carry on an extensive dress making department up stairs [sic] and conduct her usual business on the first floor – adding greatly to her dress goods department. The paper congratulated “this elegant lady on her success.” The Hammonds sold dress goods, millinery, embroideries, novelties, etc. here for a decade.
In early 1894 the building transitioned to a drug store. Clark & Hunter’s Drug Store moved from the Richter Building a few doors down on Main Street to the corner. E.B. Clark and J.H. Hunter owned this business as well as a furniture store. At the drug store, Neil Vason was the clerk and a Mr. Mountcastle was the prescriptionist. Clark left the partnership later that year to return to farming in Oglethorpe County. Hunter continued the business solely under his name until 1897 when he teamed up with Dr. M. F. Brooks. Like most drug stores at the time, they had a soda fountain where, in 1900, they introduced a new drink: Dr. Pepper’s Phospho Ferrates. You could also drop your laundry off to have it cleaned by the Guthman Steam Laundry in Atlanta. The firm employed several prescriptionists over the years including: W.B. Ogletree, Ewell Spearman, Mr. Quillian, and Butler Atkinson. Hunter & Brooks Drug Co. moved to the Atkinson Corner in 1902.
The Anderson Dry Goods Co. opened in March 1904. Their ads noted “Known by its Blue Front,” and “The only Blue Front in Madison,” and “The Blue Corner.” Guess what color they painted the building? It appears that by the Anderson's tenancy the arched window openings had been retrofitted with larger square windows. Roscoe Anderson plied his trade here for about four years. A 1906 advertisement announced, “a change in business causes us to offer our entire stock at exactly invoice cost.” It is unclear when the business closed, but the Madisonian reported in April 1908 that W.E. Shepard had bought Anderson’s stock of goods and would conduct a fancy dry goods business at the same stand. It was during Shepard’s occupancy that the storefront had a radical change. The newspaper reported improvements to the store in September 1914. The front appears to have been recessed and the corner opened.
The next tenant, following W. E. Shepherd’s relocation to a Main Street building in 1923, would undertake an even more radical change to the building. Enter the Age of the Automobile. This we will save for a later installment of Madison Moments.
Posted on December 29, 2020 at 10:36 AM by Ken Kocher
The telephone system was a focus of Madison’s people in 1938. The Kiwanis Club “had a hand in getting a new telephone exchange for Madison” – presumably this was new equipment because the Exchange remained at its upstairs location in the Vason Building where it had been since 1901. The bigger story was that Madison was to get a new, up-to-date, common battery system. Subscribers were polled as to their support for this a new system and an application was made to the Public Service Commission for the change. So what was this change?
Remember in the old-time movies when folks would turn a crank on the side of the phone to get the operator at the exchange? That was a magneto system where two dry-cell batteries on the customer’s end supplied talking power and signaling power was created by turning that crank to alert the operator at the exchange. With a common battery system all power for the customer’s phone and the switchboard was located in the central office. When the customer took the receiver off the hook, a lamp would light up on the switchboard to signal the operator to make a connection.
However, those plans, as well as the plans for a new common battery system, were thrown into disarray. In the very edition that reported the fire, the Madisonian asked what had become of the promised new system noting that now there was agitation for a dial system. This went on several months. The Mayor and Council passed a resolution requesting that Southern Bell install the common battery manual system at once. The newspaper reported, “Some want common battery and others want dial – and there you are.” Then one June day, Manager Sealy stopped by the Madisonian offices to report that a new exchange would be built next to the Ford dealership. It was to be a residence type building that would house the exchange, offices, and a new common battery system.
The Public Affairs Committee of the Kiwanis Club comprised of W. C. Hemperley, M. A. McDowell, and Ben S. Thompson sponsored the new exchange. That sponsorship was primarily in the form of Mr. Thompson having the exchange built. Mr. E. T. Chase, from the Atlanta contracting firm of Jirond Jones & Company (also reported as Giroud Jones), was the superintendent of the construction crew that began work in August. By October the building was ready for a walkthrough by the Madisonian who deemed it to be of excellent construction. An article described the layout and finishes in detail as well as a combination garage and supply room behind the building. This outbuilding can now be found behind the Variety Works event center housing a shoe repair shop.
The Southern Bell Telephone Exchange was ready for the “Cut Over” on November 25, 1939. Representatives of Southern Bell, the Kiwanis Club, and the City of Madison were present to witness the transfer of service from the old magneto system located in the post-fire, somewhat temporary site on Jefferson Street to the new common battery system at the exchange on Main Street. The cut over occurred with no gap in service. A week later, at a Kiwanis meeting, Bell Company officials expressed appreciation for the support of the project by the club. The company held an open house for the community the following January where visitors could experience the Voice Mirror and Voice Inverter a machine that gave visitors a chance to hear how their voices sounded to others. One year and a fire later, Madisonians finally had their new exchange and phone system.