Riding the NYC Subway Used to Be Fun—Then It Became a ‘Small Death’

TIME

Long before New Yorkers started taking their pants off to liven things up on the subway, the ride was a novelty even with everyone fully-clothed.

On this day 110 years ago — Oct. 27, 1904 — 150,000 people rode the subway when it opened to the public for the first time, regarding the new form of public transit more as a circus act than as part of the drudgery of daily life. The first subway line, which ran from City Hall to 145th Street and Broadway, opened to “the tooting of whistles and the firing of salutes,” according to the New York Times’ report of the day, which noted the awe of those waiting in line for their turn to ride in the tunnels:

The general public would not be admitted until 7 o’clock, and its curiosity was vastly whetted all the afternoon by the unfamiliar appearance of crowds emerging…

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