News Stands at the Southeast Corner of 13th and Market Streets. Wenzel J. Hess, photographer,
January 3, 1950.
No dice. Well, not much luck, anyway. We searched high and low for photographs dating to Friday the 13th–any Friday the 13th. It didn’t help that searching for individual days isn’t an option here at PhillyHistory.org. So we did it the hard way, consulting a master list of Fridays the 13th going all the way back to 1801 (here’s a link to a.pdf list). We plowed through a couple of thousand images, one by one, making for a quiet winter evening. This yielded all manner of treasures that will come into these discussions later in the year, but slim pickings of what we were hunting for. The only image we could find from Friday the 13th was “Queen Lane Pumping Station-Showing United States Flag.” Not much, but that scene came with a bonus: it dates from 1913.
Could it be that city photographers avoided the streets on Fridays the 13th? After all, from 1890 to 2000 there were more than 150 of them. Could the photographers have completed their week’s assignments by Thursdays the 12th and reserved Fridays the 13th for work in the safety of the negative file room back in City Hall? Maybe…or maybe not. We’d be interested if anyone does run across other images taken on Friday the 13th in this collection—2012 has two more such Fridays in store.
In our search, we did find thirteens-all kinds of them to share. Most noticeable in the archive are depictions of that somewhat perennially down-on-its-luck street we know as 13th. Wenzel Hess’s noir gem, illustrated above, might be considered the epitome on the 13 genre.
And talk about luckless gems, we also fell for this image from 1919 depicting a forlorn “Battery of Thirteen Water Closets” behind 2976 Emerald Street set deep within the Kensington neighborhood.
But we don’t have to visit the outmoded outhouses of Kensington to wallow in our myriad of thirteens. Philadelphia is rife with all manner of them: Here’s 1313 South Broad Street in 1915; 1313 Locust Street in 1916; 1313 Walnut Street in 1925; 1313 Jefferson Street in 1959 and the sidewalk of 1313 Filbert Street in 1960.
But it’s all random, isn’t it? Thirteen is just a harmless number, until you are on the 13th floor of Philadelphia’s 13th tallest structure, the PSFS Building, and then, all of a sudden, it becomes very personal.