The Number Man

We don’t know the “Number Man’s” name, but after some digging we do now know what he was doing and what the numbers mean. As many have suggested on this site, the numbers are related to City public works projects. In the photograph below you can see the “Number Man” holding a sign with number 234 which corresponds to NE Beech and Union. Below that is a portion of the Public Works map for the street widening project. You’ll notice his number corresponds to the map’s number for the lot at the northeast corner of the intersection. The lengthy project records for the widening of Union (MLK) from NE Going to SE Lincoln include a text description and a number for each property affected by the widening project. For major projects such as street widening, the Department of Public Works created maps showing the affected properties and gave numbers to the corresponding locations. Public Works also created many records that describe the value of each property and how the owners would be compensated for their losses.

3708 NE MLK (at Beech), 1929 : A2009-009.1014

3708 NE MLK (at Beech), 1929 : A2009-009.1014

Partial map (3708 NE MLK), 1929 : C 4331

Partial map (3708 NE MLK), 1929 : C 4331


View this image on Efiles by clicking here.

17 thoughts on “The Number Man

  1. Thanks for this confirmation! Can you provide the project text that describes this #234? I bet there’s a lot of nosy armchair historian blog-followers that would love to see a representative sample…

  2. RE: Aviation fuel. It seems that aircraft in the ’20’s and into the 30’s used gasoline, only a higher octane to prevent pinging in these air cooled engines, and, offer the most (safest) power to stay aflight. I would think that maybe the pump on the right provided a higher octane gasoline through the high nozzle placement to fill tanker trucks. Perhaps to service the Swan Island airport?

  3. Pingback: Union & Beech, 1929. | MLK in Motion

  4. Re Aviation Gas. In this case it is just advertising hype, As far as the pumps go they are hand operated with a lever and already becoming obsolete at the time of this photo. The idea here being that the fluid was un-metered in the modern sense and the customer could visualize the amount of product being purchased and delivered by pumping the fluid into the glass top of the gas pump which was marked like a glass measuring pump..These glasses appear to be marked in 1 gallon increments and to hold 10 gallons. The spigot on the right pump is to allow fluid to be dispensed into very small mouthed containers and is probably dispensing kerosine.or white gas.

    Believe me no one is going to be trying to fill a tank truck from this pump. At CF Tanklines in the ’60s we once accepted a job from Westinghouse to pump out for salvage a huge yard full of small transformers thru a 3/4 inch orifice in bottom of the transformers. We dispatched a truck equipped with a rotary pump capable of unloading a 7500 gal load in 30 minutes and the driver was there for three days and managed to recover just over 500 gals of transformer oil before Westinghouse pulled the plug and said enough.

    The development of Avgas began in the 1920s and in 1929 trademark enforcement was almost non existent as were consumer protections and one could make almost any wild claim about their snake oil and the use of Aviation Gas here falls into that category I fear.

  5. Some of these comments confirm my thoughts that this is late 20s possibly early 30s. Judging by the tire sizes and styles of dress etc., I believe the dating is accurate. I had to try and locate Frank and Ezra by using my 1940 Polk’s City Directory. Of the pages and pages of Johnsons, there are 19 Franks (not including Francis or Franklin, both of which also exist. Only 1 of the Franks was in the auto business and that was Frank L Johnson and his wife, Maud P. They had a place called Bridgewater Auto Service which is listed as a gas station. It was conveniently located at 4545 NE Union Av. For the record, they lived at 514 NE Failing.

    As for Ezra, I looked at the last names beginning with AG and found a fellow named Ezra Agee who, along with Ethel, lived at 3930 SW Baird Rd 6 box 302. In 1940, he was a mechanic over at L&CM Co.

    I realize that this is circumstantial and possibly coincidental but it seems plausible that both of these guys stayed in their fields in the general area.

  6. It’s great to finally get positive confirmation on what many of us have surmised regarding the number man and his numbers. Thank you!

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  8. Another off topic post but I am trying to find the garage my grandfather owned in the late 20’s, supposedly on Hawthorne Blvd. The name was Midway Garage and his name was Charles. O. Gibbs. If anyone could help me I would be most appreciative as Google has not been very helpful.

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