12 thoughts on “Water Tanker, circa 1912

  1. I’ve seen several vacation photo’s of this era with folks posed on or in front of the water wagon which had a sign with the town name, such as “Portland Water Wagon”.

  2. Strikes me that the wagon technology had not progressed far beyond what was being used in the 1500’s. What would they think of today’s vehicles? A simpler time.

  3. I see from the efiles link that it was digitized from a postcard and that the location is likely the park blocks. I assume these wagons provided water to construction sites. But weren’t there water mains or fire hydrants downtown? Why not just tap those?

  4. This rig is most likely employed in residential water delivery. In 1912 many people were still living “off the grid” but finding their well water no longer usable. Thus the need to have potable water delivered to a home cistern.
    Water weighs 8.3 pounds per gallon, give or take by temperature and that is a 500 gal, or so tank. You do the math and that explains the really heavy tack and the serious brake.
    Those curly q vents are designed to trap dust or impurities from being introduced to the tank. The tank requires venting during unloading to prevent the tank from being sucked in by vacuum created by the escaping liquid. All so the vent provides relief from liquid expansion or contraction due to temperature change.
    That is a well built tank and I would not be surprised if it found it’s way onto a truck chassis in a few years after this photo.

  5. Portland had a water system in 1912. Bull Run water came in 1895 so I too wonder about the need for a water tanker on the Park Blocks.

  6. I suspect residential or commercial water delivery too.
    Portland had Bullrun, I dont think pipelines existed everywhere yet.
    My friends house whats known history been in their family since it was built near 52& Division. It was built 1915, Using a sunk well.
    Btw, surely to pissoff somebody at City Hall, Its still is used for irrigation water.

  7. This is purely speculation on my part but I think this photo was taken along either SW Jefferson, Madison or Main in Lownsdale/Chapman Squares area; based on the position of the sun.

  8. DavidJ — My favorite phrase origin site:

    has a very long article about “on the wagon.” The following is just part of it:

    “Water wagons were a commonplace sight in US cities at the time [late 19th century]. They didn’t carry drinking water but were used to damp down dusty streets during dry weather. Those who had vowed to give up drink and were tempted to lapse said that they would drink from the water-cart rather than take strong drink.

    “The first reference to it that I’ve found in print is from Alice Caldwell Hegan’s comic novel Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, 1901:
    “I wanted to git him some whisky, but hoe shuck his head. “I’m on the water-cart.”

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