Greater NYC Memory Container


During the early days of subway travel, it was believed that prolonged journeys under the earth caused memory loss. As a public service, most underground train companies provided a means of recording important thoughts and ideas, so that the traveller could retrieve them upon return. Early examples include the Greater New York Memory Container (GNMC), which was installed in 1904 during the construction of City Hall station. This device was unfortunately removed in 1931 because of the value of the metal to the ongoing war effort, but originally consisted of 30,000 miles of memory enhanced alloy tubing curled tightly around the station in concentric rings.

A mouthpiece near the ticket booth allowed riders to deposit their thoughts, and a listening post located at the top of the exit stairwell allowed for retrieval once the rider was safely above ground. Later models substituted lengthy tubing for a tank of whale oil. Whale oil memory containers represented a major technological shift but were short lived, soon to be replaced with devices making use of the newly discovered viscous memoriae, a fluid consisting of equal parts mercury, coal oil and ground bone.

Collaboration with Mary Lucking.