Philadelphia Rapid Transit scrapbooks

Collection 3651

( Bulk, 1928-1929 ) 1928-1932
(1.2 Linear feet ; 3 volumes)

Summary Information

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia Rapid Transit scrapbooks
Date [bulk]
Bulk, 1928-1929
Date [inclusive]
1.2 Linear feet ; 3 volumes
Finding aid prepared by Dan DelViscio.
Text [Box]
The Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company (PRT) was incorporated on May 1, 1902, and began construction of electric streetcar lines going into West Philadelphia, which was at the time a rapidly developing suburb. Within the year, PRT organized initiatives for the city’s first subway line, which ran under Market Street and was a predecessor to the current Market-Frankford Line. Despite many financial hardships the PRT grew rapidly rates in the early 20th century, but its management was inefficient, secretive, and grossly unpopular with the public and employees until Thomas E. Mitten became president. Around the time that the Market Street line was finished, PRT was almost bankrupt. In spite of its many hardships the PRT and would continue shaping the Philadelphia transit landscape until the early 1930s. The collection includes three volumes of newspaper clippings from the four prominent newspapers at the time. The clippings primarily center on the climate of the Philadelphia transit system at the time with the PRT as a major player. The clippings span from the late 1920s to the early 1930s, which were the PRT's last years.

Preferred citation

Cite as: [Indicate cited item or series here], Philadelphia Rapid Transit scrapbooks (Collection 3651), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania

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Background note

The Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company (PRT) was incorporated on May 1, 1902. Its incorporation came about during a time of serious competition for railways and transit in Philadelphia. Even at its beginning the PRT met with financial hardship and public dissatisfaction. Through a 1907 charter with the city of Philadelphia, the municipality took over much of the financial burden of the public transportation system. As a result of the contract, the PRT relinquished management in the development of Philadelphia's transit system. For example, the obligation of snow removal and various other responsibilities of maintenance previously provided by the rail companies now fell upon the city to finance. The contract also allowed the continued existence of the PRT underlying companies, a source of constant controversy. It was in March 1907 that the PRT finished construction on the city’s first subway line, which ran under Market Street, and a street level line on Broad Street.

On May 29, 1909, PRT employees went on strike as a result of poor financial decisions and fare increases which lead to a great deal of public ire. The striking workers congregated in various parts of the city, most predominately concentrating in streetcar suburb areas such as Frankford, Brewerytown, West Philadelphia, and Germantown. After sunset the strikes sometimes turned violent. Damages incurred by the strike left the Philadelphia transit network at a standstill for days until compromises between the PRT unions and management stifled the strike. However, dissatisfaction from the workers continued into 1910.

In the wake of the 1907 contract, the PRT showed deficits until 1915. It was not until the company came under the new management of Thomas E. Mitten, former president of the Chicago City Railway Company, in the latter part 1911 that the PRT began to show signs of cohesive growth. Mitten introduced a “Cooperative Plan”, which earmarked 22 percent of all the company earnings for wages, benefits, and pensions. In 1912 Mitten established the Cooperative Welfare Association, which put in order health benefits, and provided for co-operative purchasing of food and other consumer goods for employees. Under the new management of Mitten the PRT began thriving at the start of the 1920s.

On July 2, 1925, the city began to take serious steps towards buying out the underlying companies of the PRT system. This move came as a result of the constant stifling of construction due to the legal rights of those underlying companies who owned the tracks. This had been a problem since the PRT’s incorporation.

Ridership began to lessen after 1926, and the system grew more unsteady, Mitten started to sell assets to increase funds. A 75 percent interest in the Peoples Rapid Transit Company and the western bus lines was sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad in the latter part of 1928, although it remained under Mitten Management. The Pennjersey Rapid Transit Company was sold to Public Service Co-ordinated Transport of New Jersey in 1929. Discussions about the sale of PRT to the city of Philadelphia began in 1927.

In 1925 investigations into the PRT and its books began with audits issued by City Controller William B. Hadley. In the beginning Hadley was met with much opposition, but on November 11, 1928, he won lawsuits that allowed him access to PRT financial records. There he found a wealth of questionable business dealings such as unexplained advances, bribery, and ledger manipulations. In an effort to counteract the unfavorable press, Dr. A. A. Mitten, Thomas Mitten’s son, began putting out radio shows that detailed initiatives of the PRT in defense of the business and in direct opposition of the newspapers and media.

In 1929 Thomas Mitten was found dead in his summer home in the Poconos. The suddenness of the death of the PRT’s president led some to believe that it could be attributed to suicide due to mounting pressures from litigation and investigation into the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company books. In 1930, the Philadelphia courts removed control of the PRT from Mitten Management Inc. and appointed three receivers: Edward Hopkinson (Drexel & Co. and J. P. Morgan & Co.), E. L. Austin (former controller of the PRT and later director of the Sesqui-Centennial), and Dr. Herbert J. Tily (president of Strawbridge & Clothier and chairman of the Utilities Committee of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce).

On October 1, 1934, the PRT filed for bankruptcy. In the midst of the Great Depression, the City struggled to carry on its rapid transit plans. Construction began on the Locust Street Subway and on lengthening the subway-surface tunnels to 33rd Street in West Philadelphia. The PRT became the operator of the rapid transit line constructed on the new Delaware River (Ben Franklin) Bridge by the Delaware River Joint Commission. It opened between 8th and Market and Broadway, Camden, New Jersey, on June 7, 1936. With the resulting wane of patrons using the Delaware River ferries, the raised spur of the Market Street Line on Delaware Avenue was cancelled on May 8, 1939. The Broad Street Subway was stretched from South Street to Snyder Avenue in South Philadelphia on September 18, 1938. On January 1, 1940, the PRT was reorganized into the Philadelphia Transportation Company.

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Scope and content note

The collection consists of three disbound scrapbooks of clippings pertaining to the PRT. The scrapbook pages have been placed in chronological order into folders and boxes. The clippings originated from four main newspapers of the era: Philadelphia Inquirer,  Philadelphia Record,  Philadelphia Bulletin, and  Philadelphia Public Ledger. These clippings span from 1928 to 1932, the time after Thomas E. Mitten sold the Philadelphia Rapid Transit company to the city of Philadelphia. The clippings also coincide with pending litigations against the PRT regarding its business dealings.

The clippings heavily feature the construction efforts of the PRT and their costs to the city. The clippings also report on mounting or active litigation concerning the PRT. Of particular note were William B. Hadley’s suit to explore the PRT books and the litigations to buy out the PRT underlying companies. In addition, the clippings cover fare increases.

Volume three of the collection contains a column entitled “Inside Transit Facts” from The Philadelphia Public Ledger, which begins February 10, 1930 and ends March 12, 1930.The column was written by Edmund Stirling editor of  The Philadelphia Public Ledger, and gives readers a very detailed background of the Philadelphia urban transport system.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

 The Historical Society of Pennsylvania ; 2013

1300 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107


Collection is open for research.


Gift of Miss Frances Bradford, 1961.

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Related Materials

Related materials

Rudolph Blankenburg papers, 1881-1913 (Collection 1613)

Harold E. Cox transportation collection, 1803 - 1967 1858 - 1960 (Collection 3158)

George Albright Foreman scrapbook, 1918-1947 (Am. 889966)

Albert M. Greenfield papers, 1918-1969, undated 1930 - 1950 (Collection 1959)

A History and Analysis of Labor-Management Relations in the Philadelphia Transit Industry (typescript) by Thomas Roberts, 1959 (Am .38172)

Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company glass plate negative collection, 1903-1916 (Collection V15)

Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company and Philadelphia Transportation Company prints, 1907-1957 (Collection V44)

Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company photograph albums, 1905-1908 (Collection V42)

Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company photoprints, 1903-1910 (Collection V40)

Record of Philadelphia Transportation Route Changes, 1831-1957, compiled by W.F. Weigand, 1958-1960 (Am .367)

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Mitten, Thomas Eugene, 1864-1929.


  • Local transit--Economic aspects--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia--20th century
  • Local transit--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia.
  • Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company
  • Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company--History and criticism

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Chomet, Allison. "The Rise and Fall of the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company Historical Society of Pennsylvania." Fondly, Pennsylvania (blog) Historical Society of Pennsylvania. (accessed July 9, 2013).

Wood, Charles. Mitten, Men and Management. Philadelphia: P.R.J., 1922. [Call Number: Wd*.381]

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Collection Inventory


Philadelphia Rapid Transit scrapbooks March-December 1928 


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Philadelphia Rapid Transit scrapbooks December 1928-June 1929 


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Philadelphia Rapid Transit scrapbooks June-December 1929 


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Philadelphia Rapid Transit scrapbooks December 1929-October 1932 


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