THE PRE–D.S.R. YEARS — Part II
|THE STREETCAR COMPANIES vs. MAYOR HAZEN PINGREE
(1890 – 1900)
On December 31, 1900, the Detroit Citizens' Street Railway; the Detroit, Fort Wayne
and Belle Isle Railway; the Detroit Electric Railway; and the Detroit Suburban Railway
were all sold and consolidated into one company. The city's street railway system would
now be known as the Detroit United Railway (DUR), and for the first time since 1865 all of
the city's streetcar lines were now owned by one company.
Even though ten years of attempts by Hazen Pingree, as mayor and as governor, failed to
result in Detroit owning and operating its own street railway system, the issue would continue
on for decades, with nearly every candidate for mayor or alderman running for office on either a three-cent fare, or
on an out-and-out municipal ownership platform. Although Pingree never lived to see his dream fulfilled, the well-
respected mayor had planted the seed in the mind of Detroiters that municipal ownership of the city's streetcar lines
was the best policy for its citizens. But it would take another twenty years for the Pingree dream to become a reality.
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Meanwhile, friction between the city and the street railway companies would continue. Since first entering office in
1890, Mayor Pingree challenged the streetcar companies to lower their fares. The issue had come to a head in
January, 1894, while the Citizens Company and the Mayor were battling over a new franchise extension. The fare
being charged at that time was five cents, but during the morning and evening rush hour the Workingman's Ticket
(sold at eight tickets for 25 cents) was accepted. But Pingree felt that the five-cent fare being charged during the
non-rush hours was too high, and wanted the fare lowered to three cents the entire day with free universal transfers.
When company officials refused, the mayor then changed his focus in another direction. Pingree decided to round
up a group of outside investors to build and operate a competing system that could offer a three-cent fare. He was
able to interest the Pack-Everett syndicate — a group of investors who owned street railways in Toronto, Montreal,
and other Canadian cities — to petition for a franchise in Detroit. With Mayor Pingree's intervention, a 30-year
franchise proposal was drawn-up and submitted to the Common Council where it was approved on Dec. 4, 1894,
and immediately signed by the mayor. The new company was incorporated as the Detroit Railway Company on
Dec. 10, 1894.
The new franchise, due to expire in 1924, granted the company the rights to build new lines on Warren, Forest,
Fourteenth, Harper, Hastings, Sherman, and other streets. It also stipulated that the fare would be eight tickets for
25 cents between 5:45 a.m. and 8 p.m., six tickets for 25 cents the remainder of the day or a five-cent cash fare with
free transfers all day. To accommodate the lower fares the city was required to pave between the tracks. The
franchise agreement also included the option for the city to purchase the lines at the expiration of the franchise. On
Dec. 14, 1894, Mayor Pingree would turn that ceremonial first shovel of dirt, and construction on the lines would
proceed quickly. By July 1, 1895, the first trial trips were being made along Warren and Forest Avenues.
On Monday, July 8, 1895, regular service began on the company's first line — Crosstown and Belle Isle — which
operated mostly along Warren, Forest and Mt. Elliott avenues, from McGraw Street (the western city limits) to Belle
Isle on the east-side. The ceremonial first car ran that morning with Mayor Pingree as acting motorman. During
October and November a number of these "3-cent lines" were placed into service, including Catherine and
Sherman; Fourteenth and Oakland; Belt Line-Up Fourteenth; Belt Line-Up Hastings; Porter: and a
downtown Ferry Loop route servicing the ferry boat docks along the river. Rights were also grated to the company
to operate into Capitol Park downtown. These so-called "Pingree 3-cent lines" were popular with Detroiters, and
would continue to operate at the 3-cent fare well into the year 1919.
Meanwhile, by January, 1896, a rather strange partnership seemed to be developing between the Detroit Citizens'
Street Railway and the Detroit Railway companies, with the former seeking approval to allow the later to operate
its cars along a number of its tracks — many of which were located downtown. Rumors were rampant, with many
fearing this growing cooperation was a prelude to a consolidation. These rumors seemed to gain more credibility on
July 29, 1896, when the Detroit Railway Co. was sold to a Detroit Electric Railway Company, just one year after
beginning operations. What was disturbing to many was the fact that many of the stockholders in this new company
were also owners and investors in the Citizens Company — the same company Pingree was trying to defeat. By
September, consolidation seemed more evident after the Detroit Electric Railway Co. closed its power house, and
later a repair shop, with all power and most repairs now being provided by the Citizens Company.
What was unknown at the time was that Tom Johnson (President of the Citizens) was secretly negotiating a deal to
also acquire the Fort Wayne & Belle Isle Company, which the city had just granted a franchise extension through
1924, upon an agreement to lower its fares. The Mayor's alternative plan to defeat the Detroit Citizens' Street
Railway was beginning to unravel.
On Jan. 4, 1897, the controlling interests in both the Detroit Electric Railway and the Fort Wayne and Belle Isle
Railway (renamed, Detroit, Fort Wayne and Belle Ilse on April 1, 1898) were purchased by the Citizens
Company. The management of the Citizens now had full control over both systems, with both franchises expiring in
1924. In 1897, all three companies were placed under one holding company, known as the Citizens Traction
Company. Masterfully, Tom Johnson had moved himself into the position to control all three of the street railway
companies operating in the city of Detroit.
The chain of events that led to the eventual take-over of the Detroit Railway Co. of course infuriated Pingree, and
as a result, the mayor began focusing, yet again, on another alternative plan — one which would authorize Detroit to
own and operate all of the city's street railways, and offer the three-cent fare city-wide.
CITY OWNERSHIP ALMOST BECOMES A REALITY:
After repeated failures to secure a franchise considered beneficial to the city, both the city administration, and the
people of Detroit, began leaning more and more toward municipal ownership of the city's streetcar system. Although
Hazen S. Pingree would become Governor of the State of Michigan in 1897, his campaign for city ownership and
control of public transit would continue. Ironically, Pingree would gain a strange bedfellow to assist him with this task:
Thomas L. Johnson. Although Johnson and Pingree had been adversaries over lower fares, they also developed
a friendship. Duty bound at that time to support his company, Johnson had now changed his political believes; and
Pingree's persistence on a three-cent fare had impressed him. Johnson now viewed municipal ownership as a great
social reform and cooperated with Governor Pingree to arrange to sell the entire street railway system to the city.
On Feb. 20, 1899, State Representative Malcolm J. McLeod, a former streetcar conductor and union
representative from Detroit, introduced a bill that granted Detroit the right to acquire its street railway lines. The
State Legislature passed the bill on March 24, 1899, and was signed by Governor Pingree the next day. This new
legislation, known as The McLeod Bill, would authorize the City of Detroit to construct, acquire, maintain and
operate a street railway system under the control and authority of a three-person Street Railway Commission.
Commissioners were appointed by the Common Council on April 1, 1899, with Governor Pingree appointed as the
Within three short days, negotiations would begin between the Detroit Street Railway Commission and the
Citizens Company, which had financial control over the remaining companies. Plans were being drawn-up to sell
the rail lines and underlying properties to the city. Meanwhile, a group of prominent businessmen, including J. L.
Hudson, were opposed to the sale and challenged the constitutionality of the Commission. They cited the loss of
the taxes being paid to the city by the railway companies as one of their reasons for objection. In April, 1899, they
sought a court injunction to stop it.
By early June 1899,lit appeared that municipal ownership had become a done deal, with a sale price of $16,800,000
in bonds having been agreed on. The new city-owned system was to be known as the Detroit Municipal Railway.
However, on July 5, 1899, Governor Pingree's dream of a municipally owned and operated street railway operation
in Detroit came to a halt when the Michigan State Supreme Court declared the McLeod Law unconstitutional on
six counts, one of which centered on the legality of the Commission to be empowered with its authority.
THE CITY LINES CONSOLIDATE:
With the municipal ownership of the streetcar system now an apparent dead issue, the owners of the city's street
railway companies, along with the owners of the outlying suburban system (where the lines were consolidated in
1892), announced that all of the street railway companies in the Detroit area had been sold and all the lines were to
be consolidated into one new system.
Hazen Pingree was born in Denmark, Maine, in 1840. After serving
in the Union Army during the Civil War, he moved to Detroit where he
became a successful shoe manufacturer. He later established the
very successful Pingree & Smith Shoe Company in 1866.
Pingree ran as the Republican Party candidate for mayor of Detroit
in 1889, and was elected by running on a platform of exposing and
ending corruption in city paving contracts, sewer contracts, and the
school board. Upon entering office he turned to fighting the privately
owned utility monopolies, and challenged the electric and gas
monopolies through municipally-owned competitors.
|MAYOR HAZEN STUART PINGREE
(Four-term Republican Mayor of Detroit — 1890-1897)
It was under Hazen Pingree that the "Thirty-Year War"
between the City and the streetcar companies began.
According to U.S. Census figures taken in 1890, the population
of the city of Detroit had risen to 205,876 — increasing the city's
ranking to the nation's 14th largest city. Hazen S. Pingree —
who would later become one of the most admired mayors in
Detroit's history — was just beginning his first of four terms as
mayor, while Benjamin Harrison was into his second year as
the 23rd President of the United States.
By 1890, much of the city's northern and eastern borders
resided just around the vicinity of the slowly evolving Grand
Boulevard, the first portion of which was dedicated in 1891.
When initial plans began on the looping boulevard in 1879, the
intentions were for it to encircle the outer limits of the city. But
annexation by Detroit in 1885 would bring the entire project
within the city limits. Meanwhile, the city's western borders had
already been extended along Livernois Avenue, McGraw,
Scotten and Lothrop. In 1891, two more annexations occurred;
one to the north would extend the city to the southern borders
of the villages of Highland Park and Hamtramck, while a
second would extend the city further eastward along the vicinity
of Bewick Avenue. As a result of these annexations the city's
land size had now increased to 28.35 square miles.
By the arrival of the 1890s, the city of Detroit was emerging as
an important and diverse industrial and manufacturing center.
A wide spectrum of goods — seldom remembered today as
products made in Detroit — would help play a role in placing
Detroit on the industrial map, decades before the arrival of the
|By the year 1926, Detroit's land area had reached 139.2 square miles, as depicted in the dark gray |
area in the above map. However, when Hazen Pingree became mayor in 1890, the city's land area
had increased from 12.7 square miles in 1875 (light gray area) to 22.2 square miles in 1885 — shown
above in white. Two more territories were added in 1891, increasing the city to 28.3 square miles.
(click-on map for a more detailed version)
automobile industry. At the time, a number of industries flourished within Detroit, manufacturing such consumer
goods as shoes; bicycles; paint and varnish; beer; packaged seeds for flowers and vegetables; and pharmaceutical
products. The leading bulk-product industries included lumber; iron and steel; salt, and flour-milling. The city was
also home to the major manufacturers of railroad cars; ships; carriages; and cooking stoves — with Detroit being the
recognized center of the stove-making industry. Surprisingly, by the 1890s, the largest industry in the city was the
tobacco products industry, which was a leading component of the Detroit economy during the latter half of the
Meanwhile, the arrival of the 1890s would also bring about a number of significant changes to the Detroit public
transit arena. The preceding years experienced a busy period of consolidations and take-overs among the various
companies, with the city's largest and oldest company — Detroit City Railway — absorbing a number of the smaller
operations.l As the city entered the new decade, only three city-based street railway companies were left operating;
the Detroit City Railway, the Fort Wayne and Elmwood Railway, and the Grand River Street Railway.
The new decade would also bring about a realization among Detroiters of the numerous advantages streetcars
propelled by electric power had over horse power. Many, including the new mayor, felt it a regrettable situation that
Detroit continued to jog along with old horse-drawn rail cars, while a number of large cities, including New York and
Cleveland, had already adopted modern electric streetcars. Although an attempt at electric powered streetcars had
already been tried within the city, and withdrawn (see Part 1), a few communities just outside of the city limits were
already using electric powered streetcars, including the city of Port Huron; the village of Highland Park; the village of
Grosse Pointe; and the city of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, across the Detroit River.
Meanwhile, an emerging political figure would arrive on the scene who would impact public transit in Detroit for
decades to come. In the fall of 1889, Hazen S. Pingree was elected mayor of Detroit. Pingree, a successful shoe
manufacturer who owned the Pingree & Smith Shoe Co., ran on a platform of exposing and ending corruption in
city government. Although he would be remembered as a champion of the people,lhe would prove to be a major
thorn in the side for many of the city's streetcar owners.
On Dec. 1, 1890, the Detroit City
Railway owner, George Hendrie,
would quietly form a new
corporation to obtain control of his
Detroit City Railway Co. This new
corporation, known as the Detroit
Street Railway Company, was
formed so that his company could
extend its franchise another
30-years to justify the investment of
the huge sums of money needed to
convert over to electric power. But
no sooner after the corporation was
founded labor problems arose.
In April of 1891, local transit
workers struck the Detroit Street
Railway Co. and the much smaller
independent Grand River
Railway Co., resulting in a bloody
and violent 3-day riot. A move by
the transit workers to fight for a ten-
hour work day, as opposed to a 12-hour day, sparked the move to unionize among a number of workers between
the two companies. Shortly afterward, a number of veteran employees were discharged — it was assumed — for
affiliating themselves with a new street railway employee's union that was being organized in the city. This in turn
touched off a strike on April 21, 1891, which erupted into a riot after sympathizers joined in support of the striking
streetcar workers. Many non-striking employees who managed to pull-out their cars were attacked by mobs, and a
number of streetcars were overturned and burned.
Finally, after Mayor Hazen Pingree had intervened, an arbitration committee was formed to resolve the issue. On
May 12, 1891, an agreement was reached and the new union (an AFL-affiliated local) would be recognized by the
city's street railway companies. After the union was recognized, agreements on a wage increase, a 10-hour work
day, and the granting of one guaranteed day off duty each fortnight (every fourteen days) were soon reached.l The
following year, the new local would send delegates to the national founding convention of the Amalgamated
Association of Street Railway Employees of America — founded on Sept. 15, 1892. The local would return to
Detroit as Local #3 of the AASREA, and today is known as the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) - Local #26.
THE THIRTY-YEAR WAR BEGINS:
Meanwhile, more problems were ahead for George Hendrie and his newly founded Detroit Street Railway Co.
Even though the city's three remaining streetcar companies appeared eager to electrify their lines, they also sought
some assurance from the city that their use of city streets would be guaranteed for a sufficient number of years so
that they could secure an adequate return on their heavy investment costs. Trouble began on June 23, 1891, when
the company's request to seek a new 30-year franchise — which, unlike other cities, included no financial benefit to
the City of Detroit other than the usual 1½-per cent tax on receipts — was approved by the Detroit Common
Council. Their decision immediately infuriated the citizens, many of whom signed petitions demanding that action be
taken to overturn the new council ordinance.
On July 9, 1891 — during a special meeting of the council — Mayor Pingree vetoed the council's decision, asserting
that to grant a 30-year franchise to this new corporation without allowing the city the opportunity to sell the franchise
rights to the highest bidder was unacceptable. The mayor took the position that it was either profit to the city from
the franchises or municipal ownership. Pingree, who was quickly becoming an advanced social reformist, viewed the
private ownership of "natural" monopolies without some compensation to the people as the giving away of public
property. Pingree began to fight privately owned utility monopolies, and challenged the electric and gas monopolies
by forming municipally-owned competitors. The veto by Pingree of that 30-year franchise — that also included a
proposed cable car line up Woodward Avenue — and the council's unanimous sustaining of that veto, marked the
first of many battles that would launch a long and bitter thirty year war between the streetcar owners and city hall.
Pingree was also of the opinion that the 30-year franchise granted the original company back in 1863 — which was
originally due to expire on May 9, 1893 — took precedence over an extended franchise granted the company in
1879. Back on Nov. 14, 1879, in addition to being granted the franchise rights of the Congress and Baker and
Cass Avenue companies (after both franchises were repealed by the city), the original Detroit City Railway Co.
was also granted a new 30-year extension by the Common Council fourteen years before the expiration of the
original agreement — thus extending their franchise to 1909, instead of the original 1893 expiration date. Mayor
Pingree considered the 1879 franchise agreement granted during the term of the previous one to be invalid. If the
mayor's position was correct, the city would have the opportunity within two years to renegotiate a new franchise
agreement, more to Pingree's liking. One that the Mayor felt would be to the benefit of the people.
THE WAR WITH CITY HALL CONTINUES:
While the franchise extension dispute continued on in the courts, several attempts were made by both sides to settle
the city's streetcar dispute out-of-court. In July, 1893, a special council committee led by Alderman James Vernor
(of Vernor's Ginger Ale fame, and an advocate for private ownership of the transportation system) attempted to work
out a tentative franchise with the company that would expire in 1921. However, this tentative plan would only lead to
more offers and counter-offers that would continue back and forth for nearly a year, but no agreement between the
Mayor and the Citizens Company could be reached. In June of 1894, a group of over 300 prominent Detroiters,
led by J. L. Hudson, petitioned the Mayor and demanded that a settlement be reached. Finally, on June 28, 1894,
the Common Council adopted a new franchise ordnance, but because it did not adhere to the lower fare structure
insisted on by the Mayor, he vetoed the ordinance. Once again, the company's attempt to extend its franchise had
After being unable to secure a 30-year franchise, the stockholders in the company decided to sell their interests. On
Sept. 1, 1894, ownership of the Detroit Citizens' Street Railway passed into the hands of a R. T. Wilson & Co.,
wealthy Wall Street bankers from New York City. Partnered along-side Wilson was Thomas L. Johnson, a former
U.S. Representative from Cleveland, who later became a principal owner and President of the company. Johnson
had gained his wealth and fame through his patented fare-box invention and his Johnson Farebox Co. He also
invested in streetcar companies in Indianapolis and Cleveland. The company also hired Jere C. Hutchins, a man
experienced in civil and railroad engineering, who was appointed Vice-President.
Finally, in October, 1894, the U.S. Court of Appeals rendered its decision. The court reversed the lower circuit
court and ruled against the city. In summary, the court agreed that the city had a right to grant use of its streets to a
corporation for an alloted time of its choosing, but it was the City that agreed to extend that franchise; so the 1879
franchise stands. Determined that more appeals be made related to the matter, the mayor attempted a hearing
before the State Supreme Court. On Jan. 22, 1895, that court refused to hear the case and Pingree had lost the
battle. But in all actuality, there were no real winners here. Even though the city failed in its attempt to render the
franchise null and void, the company, with only fifteen years remaining in the 1879 agreement, was unsuccessful in
acquiring further extensions. No doubt, the issue would have to be addressed again in 1909.
With the court case now resolved, Vice-President Jere Hutchins promptly began work to electrify the remainder of
the lines, with the last line — Chene Street — converted from horsecar to electric operation on Nov. 9, 1895. With
longer routes now possible, several lines were combined to form long crosstown routes, including the merging of the
Jefferson line with Grand River, and Michigan with the Gratiot line. A number of lines were rerouted, some were
even renamed, and the Woodward line was extended to Palmer Park, then located in Greenfield Township.
The city's first electric cars were of the single-truck type with hand brakes. They were heated with coal stoves and
were twice as fast as the horsecars. Even though they would often frighten horses and livestock, the citizens loved
them and climbed aboard the new electric trolleys in droves. The only viable competition at that time was the bicycle.
In the mean time, Detroit's smaller, independent Fort Wayne and Elmwood Railway Co. was reorganized as the
Fort Wayne and Belle Isle Railway on July 1, 1892. By October, electrification began on the company's lone Fort
Street line. Full electric operation began around February 23, 1893, resulting in the Fort Wayne and Belle Isle
Railway becoming the first streetcar company based in Detroit to operate under 100% electric operation.
|By the mid-1890s, a mixture of both horsecars and electric powered streetcars operated along the city's
streets. This photo (taken btwn 1893-95) looks east along Fort St at Woodward. While an electric streetcar
can be seen heading west along Fort St., a horse-driven streetcar heads north along Woodward.
ON A SIDE NOTE: The Bagley Memorial Fountain (r. foreground)—willed to the city by Michigan's 16th governor,
John J. Bagley—is seen here at its original location at Woodward and Fort St. In 1926, it was moved to
Campus Martius, but since 2007 has resided in Cadillac Square. (Schramm Collection Photo)
Detroit's last horse car made its farewell during ceremonies held on November 9, 1895, in
Campus Martius; marking the end of the "antiquated system of transit" in Detroit. Just after
3 o'clock on a rainy Saturday afternoon, a large crowd gathered as car #10 of the Chene
Street line—the last line to be equipped with electric cars—traveled down Monroe Avenue
and turned onto Woodward Avenue where it was taken to the foot of the street. A banner
was nailed to each side that read: "The last horse car." As company officials and civilians
jumped on board, the Pingree & Smith band played as the car was driven up Woodward
Avenue where it stopped in front of City Hall; surrounded by a vast array of umbrellas.
After a speech by Vice-President Hutchins of the Citizens' company, the car's two horses
were auctioned-off and the car then attached to an electric car and hauled up Woodward,
while the crowd began removing pieces for souvenirs. By the time it had reached Mayor
Pingree's residence and returned to City Hall, the windows were smashed, the platform
roofs broken down, the seats and advertisements removed, the doors pulled off, the roof
had been removed, and holes had been knocked in the sides. Although not much was left
but the car's truck, everyone present had fun and really enjoyed the celebration.
These final words appeared in the Sunday, Nov. 10, 1895 edition of The Sunday News–Tribune:
"The car had practically passed into history. The trucks were left, but little more could be said about the car. It was beyond repair,
but it was the last horse car which will ever be seen in Detroit, and even if its passing was marked with destruction it also
recalled the fact that Detroit is becoming a great and more magnificent city and that the day for slow travel has passed from the
City of the Straits."
|THE LAST HORSE CAR ON DETROIT STREETS — NOVEMBER 9, 1895
|(Drawings: The Sunday News–Tribune, Nov. 1895)
|Car #325, built by the Brownell Car Co. of St. Louis, MO and delivered to the Detroit Citizens' Street Railway
in 1893, was typical of the early-style electric cars used on the city's streetcar lines. These single-truck cars
were 30' 8"long, with open front and rear platforms, and seated 23-pass. (Schramm Collection Photo)
|MAYOR HAZEN S. PINGREE — "THE IDOL OF THE PEOPLE"
Under Pingree, Detroit formed the Public Lighting Commission to put its street lighting
under public control. In addition to cutting taxes, Pingree reached out to the unemployed
during the 1893 depression by initiating work-relief programs, and used vacant city land
for gardens (called Pingree Potato Patches) where the poor could grow vegetables. His
brand of social reform was the forerunner of the Progressive Era. His greatest struggle,
however, was with the street railway companies. Pingree served four (two-year) terms as
Mayor of Detroit—from 1890 to March 22, 1897—before becoming Governor of Michigan.
Hazen Pingree was named one of the 10 best mayors in U.S. history by a poll of scholars in the 1999 book titled, "The American Mayor." A statue
of Pingree, located in Grand Circus Park, describes him as "The Idol of the People." Pingree died on June 18, 1901, in London, England, while
returning from an African safari with then Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt. Hazen S. Pingree is buried in Detroit's Woodlawn Cemetery.
See Part 3, as the 30-Year War with City Hall continues during the DUR Years. (Revised version coming soon!)
The above article was compiled from information acquired from Detroit's Street Railways Vol.I (1863-1922) by Schramm/Henninig (Bulletin 117 CERA); A History of
The Detroit Street Railways by Graeme O'Geran; The Sunday News-Tribune (1895); the Detroit Free Press publication: The Detroit Almanac 300 years of life in the
Motor City; and other numerous publications and online sources.
|CHENE ST. HORSECAR: THE LAST DAY
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After realizing it was becoming a futile effort to secure a new franchise extension under the Pingree administration,
George Hendrie — citing failing health — decided to sell his streetcar company to a group of wealthy investors
based out of New York State. On Sept. 16, 1891, the Detroit Street Railway Company was purchased by the
newly incorporated Detroit Citizens' Street Railway Company for $3 million. Shortly thereafter, on Oct. 1, 1891,
the new company also purchased (for $1 million) the smaller independent Grand River Railway Company, which
also operated branch lines along Myrtle, Third (south of Grand River,) and Crawford (Hamilton) streets. This now
left only two streetcar companies operating within the city.
The new company, led by Thomas M. Waller of Bridgeport, Conn., announced that the company would improve the
schedules, redesign the cars, stress courtesy from its employees, and immediately take steps to electrify its lines.
Waller also emphasized that the local officers and the majority of the directors would be chosen from among Detroit
stockholders, including local business leaders — many of whom were close friends of the mayor. All of which done
in an attempt to win the favoritism of the citizens of Detroit.
Meanwhile, Mayor Pingree was not moved, and still held to his position that the 1879 extension of the original
company's franchise was illegal. In December of 1891, a committee of fifty prominent citizens urged the mayor to
seek legal counsel to assist the city in taking the matter before the courts. Even though the U.S. District Court
would initially rule in favor of the city, the Citizens Company decided to appeal, and the issue would remain in the
courts for nearly three years.
While hopefully awaiting a favorable outcome in the courts, the Detroit Citizens' Street Railway decided to move
ahead with plans to electrify 50% of its lines. Although never officially approved by the city, the company issued a
notification in April of 1892 of its plans to begin electrifying its Jefferson Avenue line, with work beginning in June.
On Aug. 22, 1892, at 7:42 a.m., the first of several trial trips were made along East Jefferson, from Woodward to
Baldwin avenues. As the cars swiftly sped along, working men would stop to wave their hats, while families left their
breakfast tables and waved their napkins from their porches. The following morning — Tuesday, Aug. 23, 1892 —
electric service officially began on Jefferson Avenue, utilizing a fleet of twelve cars to maintain the service.
On Dec. 15, 1892, electric operation began on the Woodward Avenue line, soon followed by the Mack Avenue
line beginning Dec. 17, 1892. After the conversion of the three lines were completed, any further electrification by
the Citizens Company would have to await the final outcome of the franchise litigation in the courts. However, the
company did announce on Feb. 15, 1893, that its electric streetcars would begin 24-hour service on its Jefferson
and Woodward lines.
|The Fort Wayne & Elmwood Railway Co. began operations in 1865. Their lone route along Fort Street was the
city's first crosstown route and operated between Fort Wayne and Elmwod Cemetery. One of three companies
still left operating by 1890—but unlike the others it was never engaged in any serious altercation with the city.
|The unique website which takes a detailed look back at the History of Public Transportation in
and around the City of Detroit.