Griping about the subway: a New York tradition

The first subway line opened to riders on October 27, 1904. And almost since that day, New Yorkers have been grumbling, justified or not, about crappy service.

“Trains will run at the company’s convenience” states the fine print in this New York Herald cartoon from 1905.

It wasn’t just lateness that annoyed residents a century ago. Other grievances are the same ones we have today, like jam-packed trains and filthy stations. 

“All the trains are dirt-filled and full of nameless odors,” bellyached one passenger in a letter to the New York Times in 1915.

Even dim lighting was open to complaints. “The lighting of subway trains was now so poor as to be dangerous to the sight of passengers who might attempt to read their newspapers,” states a 1909 Times article.

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8 Responses to “Griping about the subway: a New York tradition”

  1. Griping about the subway: a New York tradition | New York Blogs Says:

    […] […]

  2. Subway Woes, Now and Then - City Room Blog - Says:

    […] the trains are dirt-filled and full of nameless odors,” reads a letter to The Times in 1915, quoted by Ephemeral New York. (Apparently, the more things change, the schmutzier they stay.) The short […]

  3. Nabe News: June 25 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    […] is nothing new.  It’s been happening since the debut of subways back in 1904.  Some grievances aired at the time were crowding, foul odors, and filthy stations.  Sound familiar? [Ephemeral […]

  4. Eavesdropping In: Giving The Slip To Slipper Room, M.I.A.'s Concert No One Is Supposed To Know About Says:

    […] New Yorkers have complained about New York since at least 1905. [Ephemeral] […]

  5. Hilarious Rider Complaints From the Early Years of the NYC Subway – Says:

    […] blog Ephemeral New York notes that in 1915, riders were already complaining that the subway was filthy and smelled bad. In a […]

  6. Dddd Says:


  7. MTA seeks managers – Outosego@scroll Says:

    […] Cartoon source : Ephemeral New York […]

  8. Outosego Says:

    Congratulations for your blog. Wonderful job! Enjoy the day.

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