Tuesday, October 27, 2015

WOODIN | Oct. 27–NYC Subway Opens (ACF cars)

The NY Herald reported 125,000 rode the subway
this day in 1904.
October 27, 2016 – This day in 1904 at 2:35 pm, NYC Mayor George McClellan took the controls to open up the subway system.

The first line was privately built by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) covering 9.1 miles with 28 stations from City Hall Grand Central Terminal, west along 42nd Street to Times Square, and then north to 145th Street and Broadway.

At 7 p.m. that evening, the subway opened to the public. The New York Herald reported that 125,000 people paid a nickel each to take their first ride. IRT service expanded to the Bronx in 1905, to Brooklyn in 1908 and to Queens in 1915.

Since 1968, the subway has been controlled by the Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA), which operates 26 lines and 468 stations and transports 4.5 million people every day to their workplaces and relatives and vendors and friends. The longest line is the 32-mile A Train, which runs by a block away from where I live in New York City, from the northern tip of Manhattan to the southeast corner of Queens.

While London's system was built first (1863) and Boston's was the first in the USA (1897), the NYC subway system quickly became the largest in the USA and is said to be the world's only rapid transit system that runs 24-7, 365 days a year, except for the PATH train from NYC to New Jersey and sections of Chicago's elevated system. On New Year's Eve, the NYC subway has been advertised as being free so that people don't drive.


The first all-steel subway cars were built for the New York City subway by American Car & Foundry at the former Jackson & Woodin Company plant in Berwick, Pa.  In 1904 the company was headed by Frederick Eaton of Berwick, who died in 1916 and was replaced by Will Woodin.

The construction of the subway was assisted by John E. Milholland, an anti-machine (anti-Platt) Roosevelt Republican who had a controlling interest in the Batcheller Company, which was renamed The Pneumatic Tube Company. It built pneumatic tubes in which to transport mail – an expanded version of the system in use in department stores and libraries. He leased the tubes to the Post Office. He became very wealthy and built 27 miles of tubes under Manhattan that he sold to a Boston buyer.

His daughter Inez was the first woman to go through the new East River tunnel, being built for the subway to Queens. She died tragically in 1916, the same year as Frederick Eaton.

So 1916 was a watershed year for two prominent Presbyterian Republicans, who must have known each other. 

  • Through the death of Fred Eaton, the year saw the promotion of Will Woodin to CEO, where he remained until 1933, when he became FDR's first Treasury Secretary. 
  • But it took away from John E. Milholland his daughter. John  Milholland attacked his would-be patron, Woodrow Wilson's Postmaster-General, for his racist workplace policies. When Wilson was reelected, Milholland's business more or less ended. He died in 1925, leaving to his widow and two surviving children a trunk full of valueless securities – and a lot of valuable land in Essex County, N.Y.

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