Check from the West Philadelphia Passenger Railway Company

Means of transport have always been at the forefront of the development of our towns and villages. For many years the horse was the safest way to get from place to place.

The first passenger car (called a “tramway” because it used rails for its wheels) was run in England as early as 1807. The one in Philadelphia named on this check opened on July 2, 1858. A team of horses was used to pull the vehicle into the street. The lanes ran from 3rd to 41st streets along a major thoroughfare.

Some horse-drawn vehicles were small and roofless. These were called Wagonettes. The West Philadelphia team used larger vehicles called Horsebuses; these had a spring suspension, a roof and two seats in the middle, similar to the Wagonettes.

While researching this company, I came across the following news: people of color were not allowed to use the railroad in the usual sense, but they were allowed to stand on the platform with the conductor! This dire situation persisted until an act of the Pennsylvania General Assembly was passed in 1867 that abolished this treatment.

The horsecar was born when newly improved railway tracks were laid. Before that, the lines of stagecoaches and trackless omnibuses had their routes, mainly at the beginning of the 19th century. The horses with their tracks simply took over the old familiar roads used by the previous vehicles.

The first such line with horse-drawn streetcars was started in New Orleans in 1832. Many other communities followed through most of the 19th century. In fact, even with more and more electric trams, it was only a gradual change; some horse-drawn lines even persisted into the 20th century.