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From the 1880s to at least the 1930s, streetcars provided the main means of transport in cities across the world. Horse-pulled and later electrically powered railways constituted the means by which many urban centers underwent an unprecedented physical and demographic expansion. Streetcars also redefined urban political culture, as some of the most intense local political struggles revolved around this key public service. Finally, electric streetcars, or “trolleys,” proved important culturally, emerging as a main signifier of urban modernity.

“Elevated car falls to street”—New York City, February 16, 1914
Source: George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress.

Horse- or mule-cars on rail, appearing by the 1850s, but especially the faster and more reliable trolleys in operation by the 1890s, greatly enlarged the area accessible on a daily basis ...

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