NE Union Avenue, 1929

A number man standing outside 3820-3824 NE Union Avenue (Martin Luther King Boulevard), near NE Failing Street, 1929.


City of Portland Archives, Oregon, A2009-009.1029

City of Portland Archives, Oregon, A2009-009.1029


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9 thoughts on “NE Union Avenue, 1929

  1. ice with lines molded in to make it easier to break apart (think of a bar of chocloate). ice back then came in big chunks, and if you wanted it smaller, you needed hammers, tongs, picks and shavers!
    i have a few with local ice company names on the handles….

  2. It looks like the owner of the plumbing business was Jacob H. Emmert, born in Indiana probably in the 1860s, died in Portland in May 1959. He seems to have been in the plumbing business in Portland since at least the 1880s, judging by city directories and newspaper advertising. This is all conditional and confusing because he had a brother close to his age named Henry J. (Jacob) Emmert (1863-1938) who also lived in Portland and was also a plumber and a chimney sweep; their father back in Indiana was Jacob Henry Emmert. Today’s photo shows J. H. Emmert (Jr’s?) home at 806 Union Ave. (later 3820 NE Union) and his adjacent plumbing shop at 804 Union. (Sources: Oregonian,

    Has anybody found a name for “Number Man”?? BTW, the photo shows not “a” number man, but “THE one and only number man.” All of the photos shown here over the years of the guy in the glasses and homburg smoking a pipe are of the same man. I’m still betting he is the unnamed assistant to the city photographer previously identified here.

  3. The automobile pictured is a 1925 Essex Six Coach. It was the first closed car to sell for the same low price as the open touring model.

  4. such a fun pic today!

    there may be at least two Number Men. this one is, of course, more obvious with the glasses and pipe. quite distinctive! but check the everso dandy Helen Bernard Cakes post and that number fella looks rather different.‎

  5. Joan: the Number Man holds a large numbered sign (239 in this case) in many city photos. These numbers seem to be used for studying street projects.

  6. For an explanation of “number man” see this previous VP post.

    Basically, the numbers are used to easily identify and connect photos of properties that are being affected by some kind of public works project to other documents, like maps, detailing the work being done. Typically they have shown up in street widening projects where the city is taking a portion of the property, or in the case of the Sandy Blvd. extension, sometimes taking the entire property.

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