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New York City Subway: Topics in Chronicling America

On October 27, 1904, the New York City Subway officially opens as one of the oldest public transit systems. This guide provides access to material related to "New York City Subway" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"Excavation under elevated road at Sixty Fifth and Broadway." April 27, 1902. Journal (Omaha, NE), Image 29. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

The New York City Subway is an exemplar of public transportation in the United States, and even in the world. It is one of the world’s oldest public transit systems, one of the world’s longest subway systems, the largest rapid transit system in the world by number of stations, and furthermore, one of the world’s most-used metro systems. Thousands of tourists and locals ride the trains every day of the year, at every hour of the day. Now an iconic staple of New York City, many New Yorkers cannot even imagine their lives without the subway system. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


November 1, 1903 During subway construction, people and animals tumble into the open ditch, dogs are made crazy by the explosions, and people complain of “subway’s knee.”
September 4, 1904 As construction approaches completion, New Yorkers take greater interest in the subway.
October 9, 1904 The New York subway, prior to opening, is lauded as the “greatest thing of its kind” and is expected to solve the city’s transportation problem.
October 27, 1904 The New York subway officially opens.
November 13, 1904 Health concerns are raised about poor subway ventilation and sanitation, as well as exposure to bacilli. Electricity and fans are proposed as solutions.
October 5, 1910 Gimbel Brothers opens a department store in the subway, dubbed the “Subway Store.”
May 25, 1911 The Interborough Company plans on extending the City Subway and offers reduced fares to Manhattan.
December 28, 1913 The subway stimulates New York City economy as demand for property along the subway line skyrockets.
September 29, 1914 A serious accident occurs when two trains collide, causing a fire and three deaths.
September 25, 1915 Premature explosion of dynamite causes a cave-in leading to hundreds of injuries and seven deaths.
January 1915 Burning of two electric cables result in partial asphyxiation of hundreds of passengers and one death.
August 2, 1918 The opening of a new section in the Manhattan subway causes thousands of passengers to become lost at Times Square as their routes are changed.
August 28, 1922 Mayor Haylor plans on providing 126 miles of new lines as well as six new tunnels, an extremely costly plan.