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From the Archives: Cutting a 48-inch cast iron pipe, May 16, 1905

PWD Catalogue No. 1986.002.1902

The distribution system put in place to carry Philadelphia’s filtered water supply to every neighborhood in the City, built along with the filter plants in the first decade of the 20th century, included miles of massive pipes this size. This photo shows how such a pipe was cut to the length needed. The steam engine on the right is transmitting power, via the gears and chain, to draw the blade around the pipe. As the blade goes around, the workmen tighten the blade so it cuts deeper and deeper until it cuts through the pipe.

The grinning child in the background may belong to one of the workmen, or to the photographer, or he simply could have been hiding in the pipe until the photographer said “Cheese!” and then popped his head out so he could be in the picture—something we now call “photo-bombing.” He was certainly not the first or the last child to do this, as a number of photos in the PWD Historical collection show, including this one from 1907.