If you’ve never looked down and noticed them before, you’ll be surprised by the huge variety of manhole covers out there on city streets.
They’re clues to the industries and ironworks that built the modern city.
The one above, spotted in Prospect Heights in Brooklyn, was made by Howell and Saxtan, a foundry on Adams Street. James Howell served two terms as Brooklyn’s mayor.
An 1885 guide called New York’s Great Industries described E. McGuinness & Co. as “a leading house engaged in the manufacture of iron railings, etc.,” established in 1878. This cover was found in the East 70s, not far from where McGuinness’s factory was.
Fassler Iron Works made it at least until 1970, where a Google search turned up some legal documents. A tenement is at the 10th Street address, between Avenues C and D.
This cover comes from the West Village. H. Richter was Herman Richter, an immigrant from Saxony who founded Centennial Iron Works at 190 Elm Street. His son Albert was his partner.
Elm Street—where is it? Apparently it’s been de-mapped. It was the original name for Lafayette Street south of Houston Street, but the name was changed in 1905.