Established in 1953 and located in Minneapolis, MN

A Little Street History

  1. Company street crews installed the first gas main at Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis near the Mississippi River in 1870. This main carried manufactured gas for the company’s 192 customers to illuminate their newly installed gas lamps. (Cost of installation = $15). These gas lights replaced the smelly and messy kerosene lamps. The first gas flowed through the Nicolet main on November 22, 1870.
  2. In 1891 the Minneapolis Gas Light Company had 104 miles of main and 3,900 gas light customers. The mains were made of yellow pine logs and were lined with tar. The pine logs were roughly 10 feet long and 13 inches in diameter. All of the gas traveling through the mains was manufactured from coal at our “gas works” plant located near our current River Building. There were periodic drips located on the wooden mains where oil and contaminants were drained. The manufactured gas produced these unwanted contaminants.
  3. In the 1920s a street “trencher” was developed to dig trenches for gas mains. Employees operated the trencher 16 hours a day in temperatures as low as -19 degrees with up to a foot of frost on the ground. It operated until 11:00 p.m. at night with few complaints from residents as they desired that gas be hooked up to their homes and were more than willing to put up with the noise. The “trencher” itself was a weird looking, very long contraption with wheels in front that looked like “army tank wheels” and large wheels with spokes in the back. It took many men to operate the “trencher” and had lights to function at night.
  4. In 1931 the “Berguson Hush House” was developed by the street. A street crew was laying main near the Swedish Hospital and wanted to avoid disturbing the patients. A portable house was placed over the paving to be removed, enclosing the noisy equipment and its operators. One wonders the effect this had on the long term hearing of these employees as this was before hearing protection was employed. A note: Swedish Hospital was quite anxious to be hooked up to gas – they cooked 37,000 meals monthly & cooking the meals with gas would be cheaper and easier.
  5. In 1935 street crews for the company piped gas lines to the Ford Plant in St. Paul, Fort Snelling, and the Minnesota Soldiers Home.
  6. In 1953 demand for natural gas continued to grow. Local 340 street crews laid over 97 miles of main with more than a million feet of trenches dug and filled. (Ten thousand services were installed that year).
  7. Local 340 crews laid the first plastic main in 1962. This dramatic new material was reeled off a giant spool directly into the ground as the ground was plowed.

Two GasWorker Old-Timers, Their Stories

Below are two short biographies of gasworkers from the early years of our company. Although Andrew Saltness was never a union member, this was only because there was never a union in existence at our company during his years of his employment. Severin Swanson did become a member of the forerunner of Local 340 – in 1937 when our union was first recognized by the company.

ANDREW SALTNESS

Mr. Saltness was one of the first Minneapolis Gas Light Company employees. He came to Minneapolis from Norway in 1875 and began working for the company in 1877 (the company was founded in 1870). Andrew drove a one-horse wagon along the Minneapolis streets pumping drips from mains. Drips were the accumulation of water and light oils condensed from the manufactured gas which would cause pipeline stoppages or a drop in pressure (the early gas mains were made of wood).

After a few years Saltness’ horse went blind, but the horse knew the route so well that he continued to do the route without his vision. Andrew Saltness became a fitter in 1882 and later a street foreman, the job from which he retired.

SEVERIN SWANSON

In 1886 Mr. Swanson began his employment with the Minneapolis Gas Light Company as a laborer in the street department. It was all manual labor with a pick and shovel in those days. Later he was promoted to fitter and in 1898 he was promoted to foreman in the street department. During his 50th year with the company, in 1937, he joined our union, as this was the year the company officially recognized our union. Five years later in 1941 he retired after nearly 55 years of continuous service with the company.