Griffin Street

May 14, 2016

 Griffin Street, the former manufacturing site of Wayne Pump.

From the archives of The News-Sentinel, written by MICHAEL HAWFIELD...

       

      "Silvanus Freelove Bowser often recalled how one cold morning in 1885 he went to his Fort Wayne well to draw water for his wife.

The mist rising from the 70-foot well froze on the ropes, making the task of hauling the bucket very uncomfortable. Later, thinking about better ways to raise water from a well, the idea came to him of a simple pump that would produce a constant measure of liquid with each stroke of the pump handle. Although it turned out not to be feasible for a deep well, Bowser's self- measuring pump mechanism revolutionized the oil industry and, later, gasoline industry by making possible easy, accurate handling of liquid fuels from storage tanks.

The idea was a very popular one and a second pump company, the Wayne Pump Co., came to Fort Wayne in 1891. Competing intensely with Bowser, Wayne won the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition gold medal for the best self-measuring pump. Later, Wayne Pump produced the first gas pump with a visible dial and, in 1933, revolutionized the industry with the "computing pump." This pump was the first that automatically registered not only how much gas was being pumped, but also its cost.

Oddly, this invention did not receive the immediate acceptance that might have seemed natural. So Wayne Pump undertook a national advertising campaign to convince the public that this was the sort of pump neighborhood gas stations should have.

The catch phrase created for this campaign by the Fort Wayne advertising agency of Louis Bonsib was "Fill 'er Up" (when the computing pump stopped, the tank was filled). The campaign was a success.

A third pump company entered the Fort Wayne area in 1918 when the Iowa- based Tokheim Company was acquired by Fort Wayne investors, led by Ralph F. Diserens. Tokheim grew slowly in post- World War I Fort Wayne until it developed the extremely popular "visible globe" measuring pump (gas was pumped into an upper- glass tank to the gallon level the purchaser desired, then gravity was put to work to fill the tank of the automobile from this glass globe).

Tokheim became the leading pump company in Fort Wayne by the 1950s and pioneered in such areas as self-service equipment for gas stations and the now common financial- card reading machines that carry out the entire transaction through the customer's bank account. Today, Tokheim produces 38 percent of the gasoline pumps in the United States and is the world leader in pump control systems."

     

        Like so many factories in America, the Griffin Street factory is not remarkable in it's abandonment. Over the years the scenes of abandoned structures and industrial decay have become ubiquitous. Noam Chomsky referred to the post war era of American industry as, "The Golden Years" in his film, "Requiem for the American Dream". Everyone was employed, jobs and income were abundant, factories were everywhere. Chomsky's film provides an excellent perspective about this decay.

            I've been photographing the Griffin Street location for many years, along with other local scenes of industrial decay. I don't necessarily go to these places with a social statement in mind. These places seem ironic yet they're everywhere, many have been torn down. Maybe it's because it would be next to impossible to recreate these structures today. This was the first time I was able to get inside Wayne Pump, thank you, David Ingram. The main building was torn down last year and I'm happy I photographed it before it's demise. Many thanks to the dancers of Griffin Street, Katie Brown, Kerry Coughlin, Sam Huberty, Gavin McNally, HannanLeah Oeding, and Jordan Stevens. The structures wouldn't have been the same without the dancers.  

 

 

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