Reading the newspaper on the subway in 1914

Rather than hiding behind newspapers, riders stare into tablets and smartphones. Instead of actual straps overhead, strap hangers today have a stainless steel bar to grab.


And could that really be a wood floor riders rest their feet on, unlike the one inside subway cars today?

But otherwise, the experience of taking the subway hasn’t changed much since Francis Luis Mora, a Uruguayan-born illustrator and instructor at William Merritt Chase‘s School of Art, painted “Evening News—Subway Riders” (top) in 1914.


Colorful ads beckon riders’ attention. People sit crammed in close in a row against car windows. And most everyone looks away from each other, their eyes focused anywhere but their fellow commuters.

Mora’s “Morning News,” above, from 1912, gives us a different lineup of riders, also looking away or into newspapers, with one man doing that thing of reading over a fellow rider’s shoulder.

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5 Responses to “Reading the newspaper on the subway in 1914”

  1. wack60585 Says:

    Reblogged this on wack60585.

  2. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    Terrific NYC paintings! Naturally the subway car’s interior is a give-away to the era — as well as the rider’s apparel styles. However, since the theme is ‘reading the newspaper’ – did you take note of how large the actualy newsprint was back then? Not only are there many more pages to the section, but the actual paper size is considerably larger; Therefore, the edition requires more columns of news or ads! This is during the time of ‘no colored ink’ in the newspaper too.
    (*I lived through some of these changes and am beginning to feel like one of those ‘newspaper reading dinosaurs’ in a Gary Larson cartoon — HA!)

  3. Carol Krois Says:

    An acquaintance told me that his mother, in the 1940s, I believe, wore black gloves while on the subway to hide the newsprint smudges and changed to white gloves as she went on to her office.

  4. georgebeach Says:

    Loved these images. I learned how to fold a newspaper to half-tab size so I could read it, flipping to continuation, on the busses and streetcars of New Orleans. Kept the habit for many years. Makes it easy to read the paper at the breakfast.

  5. lesle Says:

    I think of “early smartphones” when I see these.

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