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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk



The New York Times
January 3, 1900

Electric Omnibus Makes Its First Appearance on Fifth Avenue—Trial Trip Satisfactory.

No one would have predicted several years ago, when the Fifth Avenue Stage Company and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were having so much trouble, that some day or other, and in all likelihood before the end of the century, horseless vehicles would take the places of the antiquated stages then running on Fifth Avenue.  But the horseless era in the history of Fifth Avenue started yesterday, and within the year it is likely that automobiles will have completely taken the place of the old Fifth Avenue stages.

At present the stages care for a heavy traffic during shopping hours, and the animals used to haul the 'buses are fairly representative of the genus equine, but the Fifth Avenue Coach Company, which operates the line, is seeking cheper motive power, as well as more stylish vehicles, and the proposition was made by a Hartford concern to use automobiles.  The proposition was taken to kindly by the management, and yesterday, for the first time, a trial trip of an automobile over the line was made.  The trip was not a regular one for passengers, although some of the patrons along the line seemed to think it was.  It was for the benefit of the officers of the company and their guests, a body of newspaper men, and it was a successful one from all standpoints.  The vehicle was the largest suitable for the purpose that could be obtained at present, and it will be run daily with the horse stages for probaby a month, in order that its advantages or disadvantages for transportation purposes may be thoroughly tested.

The proper size for an automobile 'bus, the power necessary to operate it, the capacity of the batteries, and the average speed when taking up and letting down passengers will all be determined upon through the test vehicle, and when the test is completed the company will, if it deems the automobile more suitable for Fifth Avenue traffic, order a sufficient number built.

The trip yesterday was a novel one to those who made it.  Manager Howard Scribner and two of his guests occupied the outside seat, while eight others sought more comfortable quarters within.  On down grades the 'bus ran freely, even under the motorman's brake, and on up grades its speed slackened perceptibly.  Pedestrians along the line looked at the 'bus curiously, and at Forty-fourth street a pair of horses, attached to a fashionabe brougham, shied to one side as it approched.  A young woman at Fortieth Street did not consider the 'bus anything extraordinary, for she stepped out briskly and hailed the motorman as she would have done ordinarily to the stage driver, and then looked embrarrased when the vehicle did not pull up.

The new 'bus made the trip from the stage barn to the terminus, on Washington Square South, and return in one hour, which is a gain of about forty minutes over the schedule time of the horse stages.

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