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Boston Elevated Railway Company. Library records

 Collection
Identifier: M150

Overview

On July 2, 1894 the Massachusetts Legislature authorized the incorporation of the Boston Elevated Railway Company, a private company formed to build elevated railway lines to the suburbs of Greater Boston. In November 1896, after a proxy battle with the West End Railway Company, which had previously held a monopoly on streetcar routes for the Boston area, all surface and rapid transit were unified under the Boston Elevated Railway Company. The elevated lines were combined with the subway (which had provided its first ride earlier that year) under one coordinated management. The Boston Elevated Railway Company created new subway and elevated railway lines, and started the first motorbus routes in Boston. In 1916, the Boston Elevated Railway Company established the Boston Elevated Railway Library at its general offices. The library housed material relating to the company, new technology, safety, and materials about other transportation systems around New England, the United States, and the world. The Boston Elevated Railway Company, consumed by financial problems, was subsumed by the Metropolitan Transit Authority to become a government entity on August 29, 1947.

Dates

  • 1884-1967 (bulk 1921-1950)

Creator

Language of Materials

Collection is predominately in English; some material is in German.

Conditions Governing Access:

This collection is unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:

Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the University Archivist.

Historical Note

On July 2, 1894 the Massachusetts Legislature authorized the incorporation of the Boston Elevated Railway Company, a private company formed to build elevated railway lines to the suburbs of Greater Boston. At the same time, the Legislature created the Boston Transit Commission, which was a government agency designed to develop and execute a subway system in parts of downtown Boston. Both of the actions were in response to dissatisfaction with the electric streetcar system run by the West End Railway Company. In November 1896, after a proxy battle with the West End Railway Company, all surface and rapid transit were unified under the Boston Elevated Railway Company. On December 9, 1897 the Transit Commission supervised an agreement that stated that the Boston Elevated Railway Company would lease all property belonging to the West End Railway Company for 24 years, eight months and nine days from October 1, 1897. The Boston Elevated Railway Company took possession of the property on December 30. The elevated lines were combined with the subway (which had provided its first ride earlier that year) under one coordinated management.

Under Boston Elevated Railway management, transportation in the Boston area grew, including an expansion of subway routes and elevated railways. In 1922, the Boston Elevated Railway Company established bus routes to replace some rail vehicles. In 1936, other rail vehicles were replaced with trackless trolleys. In 1916, the Boston Elevated Railway Company established the Boston Elevated Railway Library at its general offices. The library housed material relating to the company, new technology, safety, and materials about other transportation systems around New England, the United States, Canada, Europe, and South Africa. In 1919, the Public Control Act was enacted which imposed a flat five-cent fare, guaranteeing the community public transportation and providing stockholders protection from financial loss. The Boston Elevated Railway Company continued to exist under this act, but could not keep up with its increasing costs given the five cent fare rate. The Boston Elevated Railway Company, consumed by financial problems, was subsumed by the Metropolitan Transit Authority to become a government entity on August 29, 1947.

In 1892, the newly formed General Electric named Charles A. Coffin as its first chief executive officer. Coffin himself was not originally an electrical engineer or in the electric services field but a successful independent business owner manufacturing shoes. He retired from General Electric in 1922 as the chairman of the board having successfully negotiated the company through its first thirty years. The Charles A. Coffin Foundation was created in 1922. The Foundation named after the first head of General Electric sought to “encourage and reward service in the electrical field” and gave prizes to General Electric employees. Prizes and fellowships were also awarded to lighting, power, and railway companies and graduate students involved either in delivering electrical services to the public or in studying ways to improve electrical services generally. The Foundation gave its first award to a public electrical railway system in 1923 to the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad.

Chronology

  • 1891 In July, Governor William E. Russell appoints a special commission to investigate the public transportation needs of Greater Boston and to make recommendations about the existing system. The Rapid Transit Commission defines the applicable territory as land that falls within ten miles of the State House.
  • 1892 In April, the Rapid Transit Commission recommends construction of four elevated railway lines and a subway route underneath Tremont Street; Charles A. Coffin named first chief executive officer of newly formed General Electric.
  • 1894 On July 2, the Massachusetts Legislature authorizes the incorporation of the Boston Elevated Railway Company and creation of the Boston Transit Commission.
  • 1896 On November 24, all existing and future surface, subway, elevated lines are combined under one unified management.
  • 1897 On December 9, an agreement is made to lease all the property of the West End Street Railway Company for a period of 24 years, 8 months, and 9 days from October 1, 1897. On September 1, the first subway in America runs underneath Tremont Street. On December 30, the Boston Elevated Railway Company takes possession of the land.
  • 1901 The first elevated train runs.
  • 1904 East Boston Tunnel, the nation's first underwater mass transit tunnel, is built underneath the Boston Harbor.
  • 1912-1913 Articulated streetcars are invented in Boston.
  • 1919 On July 1, the Public Control Act is enacted, which imposes a flat five-cent fare, guarantees the community public transportation, and provides Boston Elevated Railway Company stockholders protection from financial loss.
  • 1922 First Bus Routes are established in Boston.
  • 1922 Charles A. Coffin Foundation established.
  • 1923 Charles A. Coffin Foundation grants first $1,000 prize.
  • 1936 Boston opens its first trackless trolley line.
  • 1947 On August 29, the Boston Elevated Company is bought by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and comes under the authority of the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
1891
In July, Governor William E. Russell appoints a special commission to investigate the public transportation needs of Greater Boston and to make recommendations about the existing system. The Rapid Transit Commission defines the applicable territory as land that falls within ten miles of the State House.
1892
In April, the Rapid Transit Commission recommends construction of four elevated railway lines and a subway route underneath Tremont Street; Charles A. Coffin named first chief executive officer of newly formed General Electric.
1894
On July 2, the Massachusetts Legislature authorizes the incorporation of the Boston Elevated Railway Company and creation of the Boston Transit Commission.
1896
On November 24, all existing and future surface, subway, elevated lines are combined under one unified management.
1897
On December 9, an agreement is made to lease all the property of the West End Street Railway Company for a period of 24 years, 8 months, and 9 days from October 1, 1897. On September 1, the first subway in America runs underneath Tremont Street. On December 30, the Boston Elevated Railway Company takes possession of the land.
1901
The first elevated train runs.
1904
East Boston Tunnel, the nation's first underwater mass transit tunnel, is built underneath the Boston Harbor.
1912-1913
Articulated streetcars are invented in Boston.
1919
On July 1, the Public Control Act is enacted, which imposes a flat five-cent fare, guarantees the community public transportation, and provides Boston Elevated Railway Company stockholders protection from financial loss.
1922
First Bus Routes are established in Boston.
1922
Charles A. Coffin Foundation established.
1923
Charles A. Coffin Foundation grants first $1,000 prize.
1936
Boston opens its first trackless trolley line.
1947
On August 29, the Boston Elevated Company is bought by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and comes under the authority of the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Extent

0.75 cubic feet (3 containers, 5 flat file folders)

System of Arrangement:

Arranged in one alphabetical sequence by subject.

Physical Location

69/4, 71/2, FF5/D5

Custodial History:

These materials were collected by the Boston Elevated Railway Company Library.

Appraisal, Destruction, and Scheduling Information:

Several books in this collection are located in the rare books section of the Archives.

Bibliography

  • Massachusetts Bay Transportation Association History, "The Chronicle of the Boston Transit System." Massachusetts Bay Transportation. http://www.mbta.com/about_the_mbta/history/.
  • Ralph L. Power, Boston's Special Libraries (New York City: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1917), pp.21-24. (Z732.M5 B7 1917).
  • "GE Past Leaders: Charles A. Coffin, Biography," http://www.ge.com/company/history/bios/charles_coffin.html, accessed March 2009.
  • "Charles A. Coffin Awards Scrapbook," M150, Box 3.
Title
Finding aid for the Boston Elevated Railway Company Library Records
Author
Finding aid prepared by Eliana Wachs Cashman
Date
March 2008
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
92 Snell Library
Northeastern University
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US