What the Fifth Avenue bus looked like in 1920

The bus is the red-headed stepchild of New York City transportation options. While yellow taxis and gritty subways have earned iconic status, city buses slog along, functional but unloved.


Which is why it’s great to see a vintage postcard celebrating one bus line. Here’s a rickety-looking vehicle (is that a Mercedes logo?) stopped at the corner of 42nd Street, beside the then-new New York Public Library.

It appears to be part of the fleet of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company, which charged 10 cents to ride. In 1921, Mayor Hylan was committed to running city buses with a fare of only five cents—a rare public transit price cut!

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7 Responses to “What the Fifth Avenue bus looked like in 1920”

  1. Exile on Pain Street Says:

    I love the buses and always have. If I have time, I’ll take a bus. That 5th Avenue bus is great for people watching and touring. Not as quick as the subways, but a charm all their own.

  2. RonElFran Says:

    To me this looks more like somebody in about 1910 projecting what a bus of 1920 might be like. Note the clothing of the ladies on the street. Definitely not 1920 styles!

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    That’s a great point. I was going by the postmark date, which is 1920, but the card itself could be at least a decade older. Which makes the 10 cent fare seem even more costly.

  4. Frank Says:

    I believe it was around this time that drivers were called “Public Chauffeurs”.

  5. robertnill Says:

    That iuilt in France, and apparently the first busses used by the Fifth Avenue Motor Coach Company, in 1910. Foreign buses were not uncommon in large US cities before WWI.

    Here’s a link to a message board with the details – scroll down and you’ll see two color photos of similar busses in the Paris transport museum:


  6. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Very cool, thanks for the link!

  7. Kazza Says:

    That’s a great link. I read some of the posts, and found one pertaining to “our” bus (may I call it that?) in which the poster states they believe it was built by Brillié-Schneider.

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