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April 12, 2011

Manual Traffic Signal

Filed under: Our Favorite Things — Adam Harris @ 10:26 am

Manual traffic signal, early 20th centuryThis 8 ½ foot tall traffic signal was used in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota and is manually operated. The signal was made circa 1900 and used until approximately 1930. A movable rod handle on the side of the pole operates the rotation of the signal. The signal has two arms painted green and marked “GO” and two arms painted red and marked “STOP”. A black cloth collapsible umbrella is mounted beneath the sign for use by the traffic controller in inclement weather. The metal pole is bolted to a slatted base platform where the controller would stand. The platform has two iron wheels at one end to facilitate moving the signal from one location to the next.

Traffic signals like this one were used across the United States beginning around 1909, when the first United States Patent was issued for a traffic control device. Police officers were in charge of traffic control until signals became fully automated in the late 1920s-1930s. A variety of illuminated traffic signals were first implemented in the late 1910s, but were not commonly used until the 1920s and the signals were not standardized until the 1940s.

On this day (April 12th) in 1923, St. Paul’s first automatic traffic signal, on a pedestal about ten feet high, began operating at Fifth and St. Peter Streets.

Sondra Reierson, Collections Assistant

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