New York Goes Underground

October 27, 1904
New York Subway System Opened for Business

In London, it’s “the Tube”; in Paris, it’s the Metro; and in New York City, it’s the subway. On Thursday afternoon, October 27, 1904, the mayor of New York City, George B. McClellan, officially opened the New York City subway system. The first subway train left City Hall station with the mayor at the controls, and 26 minutes later arrived at 145th Street. The subway opened to the general public at 7 p.m. that evening, and before the night was over, 150,000 passengers had ridden the trains through the underground tunnels.

If you have ever been to New York or seen it in movies or on TV, you have seen the streets full of cars and pedestrian traffic. New York City, even at the turn of the 20th century, had been in desperate need of a transportation system for years to help ease the congestion of pedestrians, horses, wagons, and carriages.

Finally overcoming legal, political, and financial problems, the Rapid Transit Subway Construction Company was formed and started construction on New York City’s famous subway in March 1900. You and your family can see the subway in action only seven months after it opened. Watch the 1904 movie made by cameraman G.W. “Billy” Bitzer.