Wednesday, December 26, 2012

the 3¢ fare

 The Cleveland Railway Co. on Harvard in Newburgh/Cleveland, O.
Tom Johnson †1911 was Cleveland's great mayor. Part of his campaign was municipal ownership and the three cent fare. Johnson was a successful businessman, amongst his holdings were street car lines. He also invented the glass collection box for them. Prior to his mayoralty there had been several independent lines in the city. They eventually consolidated to two in 1893 (called popularly, Big Con, and Little Con), and one in 1903.

Now in this, Johnson battled national Republican kingmakers. His opponents were intimates of Presidents Garfield and McKinley: Marcus Hanna †1904 who bought McKinley's 1896 election, and was an Ohio Senator (appointed 1897); and banker Sylvester Everett who Garfield appointed government director of the Union Pacific Railroad. Everett in the Streetcar Strike of 1899 hired scabs and had the mayor send in the state militia (Cleveland's Troop A cavalrymen of the Ohio National Guard) to augment police in cracking heads. Everett broke the strike.

Johnson was elected mayor in 1901. He, himself, was a successful business man, and he knew with what sort of creatures he was dealing with. Tom Johnson also read Henry George. Henry George (Progress and Poverty 1879) wrote on political economy, and figured out the concentration of wealth  (increased profits) by control of land and monopolies created poverty. Johnson created, in 1906, the Municipal Traction Company to operate the streetcars with a 3¢ fare (as opposed to a nickel).  A franchise agreement produced the Cleveland Railway Company which operated from 1910 to 1942 and began under the 3¢ fare. 

Later buses would be added. General Motors was involved in eliminating the street car lines across the country, including Cleveland. Politicians were easy to bribe, and GM had many cars. Cleveland Railway became Cleveland Transit System. The last streetcar stopped behind St. Colman on West 65th in January 1954. Several Cleveland streetcars ran in Toronto, Ontario until 1982.

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