In the early 20th century, James "Smelly" Kelly used his legendary sense of smell and DIY inventions to find hazards, leaks, elephant poop, and eels that were causing problems in the New York City subway system. Atlas Obscura's Eric Grundhauser profiles the the man known as The Sniffer:
In addition to finding water leaks and plumbing issues, Kelly was also responsible for detecting dangerous gas and chemical leaks. From invisible gas fumes that could be ignited by a random spark, to gasoline draining into the system from above-ground garages, Kelly was there to find them out using his allegedly hypersensitive nose.
The most sensational tale of Kelly’s sense of smell was the time he was called to a 42nd Street station to suss out a stench that had overtaken the platforms. According to Kelly’s own account, the smell was so bad it almost bowled him over, but as he got his head back in the game, he pinpointed the source of the reek as… elephants. Amazingly, he was correct. The station in question had been built beneath the location of the old New York Hippodrome, which had been torn down in 1939. The Hippodrome had often featured a circus, and layers of elephant dung had ended up buried at the site. A broken water main had rehydrated the fossilized dung and subsequently leaked into the subway. Until, that is, Smelly Kelly was able to identify it.
"The Man Who Used His Nose to Keep New York’s Subways Safe" (Atlas Obscura)
No, they aren’t wearing any harnesses. But some of them are sporting rather dashing chapeaus. From Speed Graphic Film and Video: New York’s Chrysler Building, one of the city’s most iconic skyscrapers, was built in a remarkably short time–foundation work began in November 1928, and the building officially opened in May 1930. Even more remarkably, […]
12 years ago, I covered the launch of artist Jason Polan's project to sketch every single person in New York City (he'd previously sketched every work of art in the MOMA).
Andy Byford comes from generations of public transportation workers and worked his way from a London Underground platform supervisor to running multiple British rail lines; then went to Australia where he oversaw Railcorp in NSW; then to Toronto, where he ran a successful five-year initiative that turned the TTC into the American Public Transportation Association's […]
While mobile devices are all but essential and the center of so many individual universes these days, find one person who loves their wireless plan with that type of passion. Check around. We’ll wait… Didn’t find anybody, did you? That’s because most wireless plans are designed for the convenience of the provider and will nickel-and-dime […]
In the early days of the web, everyone wanted a .com domain for their site. As a result, all the good ones got snapped up. But .com no longer has the cachet it once did. In fact, many new businesses and individuals are opting for other top-level domain extensions. One of the most memorable is […]
As you shiver your way through February, you’re probably thinking about paying your heating bill. But in just a few short months, the summer sun is going to come calling — and the fear of pulling that energy bill out of your mailbox will start becoming very, very real. Air conditioning accounts for about an […]