What a 19th century manhole cover has to say

New York sidewalks and streets are a treasure of old manhole covers. Some are utilitarian, others decorative, but most are emblazoned with the name of the ironworks where they were made.


But this one, on the sidewalk on 11th Street east of Fifth Avenue, is more like a cast-iron advertisement for the M. J. Dempsey Foundry, located on West 55th Street.

Dempsey made furnace grates, coal hole covers, boiler castings, and dumping grates. It’s a small reminder of the great infrastructure advances (steam heat, coal delivery, furnaces) that helped make the city an manufacturing and industrial powerhouse.

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4 Responses to “What a 19th century manhole cover has to say”

  1. Frank Says:

    I always find it interesting that there are so many new manhole covers today with the legend “Made in India”. How can it be possible that it’s less expensive for the city to but these heavy items (at taxpayer expense) half way around the world and have them shipped (at taxpayer expense) to New York. Pop Knickerbocker where are you when we need you?!?!?

  2. Frank Says:

    Sorry for the typo; I can’t figure out how to fix it.

  3. Bob Jessen Says:

    Not a Manhole but a Coal Hole Cover. The Dempsey lid pictured has about a score of mates scattered across the City. For more, Try “New York Lids” Author House Press, 2002

  4. What a 70th Street coal hole cover has to say | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] cover, by the former M.J. Dempsey Iron Foundry in the far West 50s on 11th Avenue, is embedded into the sidewalk on East 70th Street, a pristine […]

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