The word "metermaid" - does it pre-date parking meters?

This dictionary of etymology says meter maid (with a space) was first used in 1957 for a person who checks parking meters.

The parking meter itself was introduced in 1935.

So how does a reclusive artist-draftsman Achilles Rizzoli, about to self-publish a novel, come up with the pseudonym “Peter Metermaid” - in 1931?

Rizzoli evidently was gifted with spiritual visions. But was he able to predict the future without knowing it?

As far as I can tell, soundless like a coincidence. I just scanned the link, but didn’t see any claim that his name had anything to do with parking meters. Though it does seem odd that he would use a feminine adjective in his name. Maybe there were other types of meters that were read in the day?

I’m thinking gas or electric. Rizzoli lived in San Francisco. Might there have been women meter readers there in the 1920s?

Chicago trained women to read meters as early as 1919. Seems to have been strictly to fill in for men not yet demobilized from WWI, however.

My WAG is that Rizzoli simply took a pair of existing words and fahioned them into a fanciful-sounding surname without much thought to the literal meaning.

It’s just a funny coincidence that the term became something real years later.

FWIW, I notice he also signed one of his drawings “von der Maidenberg.” He also used virginal women - maids or maidens - as inspiration for renderings of fantastical, nonexistent buildings.

So, it could be that “metermaid” is supposed to mean “Virgin Measurer”, “Girl Measurement”, or something like that.

Bingo. They had 18 of them by 1925, paid them $4500/year.

Bingo. That’s what happened, unless someone comes up with another, more plausible theory.

“Portrait of four meter maids in uniform. Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, August 1918.”

Here, though, is the full picture, inscribed “Minneapolis General Electric Co. Meter Readers.”


I’m gonna go ahead and assume Mr. Rizzoli encountered women meter readers in San Francisco, and that they were called metermaids.