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Last horse-drawn street car in Boston

Last horse-drawn street car in Boston Photograph
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[ This description is from the project: Staff Favorites ]

The first horse car line in Boston began operation on 26 March 1856, and for more than 40 years, horse-drawn streetcars dominated Boston's streets. By the end of the 19th century, streets were clogged with traffic, horses frequently were injured, and it became clear that Boston needed a new public transportation system. In 1888 the first electric streetcar line began operation, and in 1897 Boston's subway system, the nation's first, began operation. By 1917, only one horse-drawn streetcar remained in service along Boylston Street in the Back Bay. It is shown here in front of New Old South Church at the corner of Dartmouth Street.

“I could tell exactly where it was taken.”

MHS Staff Accountant Megan Peterson on the photograph of the last horse-drawn street car in Boston

As someone new to MHS who has not been able to fully experience the collections in person yet, I browsed the MHS website to learn more. I was really struck by the photograph of the “last horse-drawn street car in Boston” first because I could tell exactly where it was taken. I’d spent the last 7 years commuting to Copley Square and I know that area well. I love when I’m able to recognize places and buildings in old photographs. It’s so interesting to see how much has changed and even how much has stayed the same. When I read the photograph’s caption, I was even more excited. A few years ago I read a fascinating book called ‘The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway’ by Doug Most. I learned so many interesting things about Boston history from this book. The picture reminds me of the important transition from horse-drawn street cars to the subway in Boston.

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