The cavalcade of transit vehicles that have served Philadelphia and other large American cities haven’t differed much from place to place. The odyssey almost always included rumbling stagecoaches, primitive omnibuses, railed horsecars, electric trolleys, underground subways, elevated railways, trackless streetcars, and diesel buses. Local peculiarities might include cable cars, counterweight trolleys, and even integrated airplane service. These diverse fleets have always caught the eye of professional and amateur photographers but less so that of historians. Nonetheless, specific knowledge of transportation in metropolitan areas is essential to our understanding of urban America.

James Wolfinger has examined more than just the history of mass transit in the influential city of Philadelphia. He has also addressed two other themes seldom investigated within that urban realm: labor union and personnel relations that sought to control work and the workforce; and a penetrating financial analysis of...

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