An early city bus motors down Fifth Avenue

It doesn’t look very sturdy or comfortable. And an awful lot of people seem packed into that upper deck.

But if you needed to travel along Fifth Avenue between Washington Square and 59th Street in the early 1900s, this was your mode of transportation.

Double Decker2

New York was the first city to use “motor omnibuses” for public transit, and the earliest fleet hit the streets in 1902, according to The Wheels That Drove New York. In 1905, the Fifth Avenue Coach Company invested in 15 French DeDion Bouton double deckers, like the one in the postcard.

Motor buses for commuters were a hit, and even sightseeing buses popped up, the precursors to today’s big red tourist haulers. Within a few years, Fifth Avenue’s horse-drawn omnibuses were history.

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4 Responses to “An early city bus motors down Fifth Avenue”

  1. notmsparker Says:

    A great image! However, I´m afraid the description is not correct: those omnibuses are Mercedes-Benz, not DeDion.

  2. notmsparker Says:

    And I am taking my previous comment back:-) It is, indeed, the French make. What a striking similarity of symbols, though.

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Yes, I thought it was a Mercedes-Benz too!

  4. robert dowling Says:

    seeing as we are into buses with this post, anyone have any pics/news for omnibus co as far as I know ran on streets and avenue of west side of manhattan. use to take them quite a bit to junior high and high school. their colors were mirror iage of 5th avenue coach. also surfacetransit, red and white buses mostly, maybe some variations here and there. anhyhow all sometime in the 50s were eaten up by todays transit auth. as in 70s and 80s transite ate up rest of pvt bus operators (7 of them) along with their school bus subsidiaries. anyone have news/pics as I said .thanks.

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