Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

THE SILENT POLICEMAN

Morning Star, July 12, 2020, pg. 3

In the early days of motoring in the early 20th century, automobiles began filling the streets of our communities. The traffic rules were new and unfamiliar, and were still being determined. One method of helping to control congestion at busy intersections was the installation of a "Silent Policeman," as they were called in those days. These were stationary poles that were placed in the middle of an intersection, and usually had a globe on top to provide light. There would be directions given on the sign below the globe such as "KEEP TO THE RIGHT."

These directions were important in order to regulate left-turns. Instead of making a "short cut" left turn across traffic and pedestrian lanes, the driver was instructed to "keep to the right of the sign" and go just past it, and then make the left turn.

Here in Albion there were at least a couple of "Silent Policeman" poles that were erected around 1920. One was at the Michigan Avenue-Superior St. intersection, and the other at the Superior-Erie St. intersection. The February 11, 1920 (100 years ago) Albion Recorder carried this story: "Hits Silent Policeman. A man driving a new Hudson sedan from Detroit to Iowa backed into the silent policeman at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Superior St. this morning about 9:30, and broke the light globe. When the driver drove off without trying to pay for the damage, the local authorities telephoned to the sheriff’s office and an officer stopped the car in Battle Creek. The driver agreed to settle for the damage and was then allowed to go on with his journey."

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a rare photograph of one of Albion’s "Silent Policeman" poles, at the Superior-Erie St. intersection. Based upon the style of automobiles in this scene, we estimate that this photo was taken in the early 1920s. The Policeman pictured here has the globe on the top, and the "KEEP TO THE RIGHT" sign below it. The pole is mounted on a large cast-iron base that was placed on top of the brick pavement. The sign for the Gale’s Hardware appears on the right. How many of our readers have heard of a "Silent Policeman?"


One of Albion’s "Silent Policeman" poles

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