A Field Guide to New York City Manhole Covers

E E I Co.

Edison Electric Illuminating Co.

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Almost Gone

This 19th century cover for the Edison Electric Illuminating Co (1880-1901) was almost covered over during a recent street repaving, but somehow kept it's toehold into the 21st. The E.E.I.Co installed the first electrical distribution grid in lower Manhattan in 1882, extending out from a generator on Pearl St. By 1891 it was building it's fourth generator on East 12th St. near this relic.


The wheel and spoke design was a widely used pattern on covers of all sorts (note it's use for Croton Aqueduct lids). But it's bold use of big san-sarif letters breaking the line of an outer ring gives it a bold, totally modern air. This distinctive usage was appreciated by the successor companies NYE and CECo.


Electric power was distributed by both overhead and underground cables, the underground mostly for distribution to substations. The Edison companies were the distributors of DC current


There are few if any other remnants of the Edison Electric Illumination Co in Manhattan although the name was used in Brooklyn until the 1930's. This example, on 13th St. between Ave's C & D is the only one I have encountered in Manhattan and the only one anywhere of its type.

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Don Burmeister -- Photographs