The New York City Subway opened for business in 1904. Over a century later, with 472 stops it has the distinction of having the most stations of any subway system in the world. In 2017 commuters made more than 1.72 billion rides on the subway’s 665 miles of passenger tracks. And some of the riders even found time to take a quick nap, like the one pictured here from 1939. Here are 20 of the rarest shots portraying the history of this venerable institution.
20. Official opening
It’s 1903 and the mayor of New York City, Seth Low, presides over a ceremony marking the official opening of the subway. Wealthy Republican Low went from being mayor of Brooklyn to mayor of NY City in January 1902, serving just one two-year term before losing at the polls to a Democrat.
19. Where’s the engine?
George B. McClellan was the man who succeeded Seth Low as NYC mayor. He obviously had the same appetite for subway photo opportunities as had his predecessor. Here we see him and other dignitaries aboard a strange and apparently hand-operated car. Presumably, powered locomotives were introduced soon afterwards. Otherwise the subway would probably never have caught on.