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Page 2 - Toll Issues: Private Individual and Early City of New York
copyright © 2020 ~ Philip M. Goldstein ~

Toll Scrip, Tokens and Ephemera of the States of New York and New Jersey

by Philip M. Goldstein

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Introduction &

Page Index
Pre-TBTA AgenciesTriborough Bridge &
Tunnel Authority

MTA Bridges & Tunnels
Port of New York Authority

Port Authority of New York
and New Jersey
State of New YorkState of New Jersey

Private & Early City of New York Toll Bridges, Plank Roads & Turnpikes

Private Issues for
Bridges, Plank Roads & Turnpikes
City of New York - Department of Bridges
Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan Bridge
Williamsburg Bridge
Blackwell's Island / 59th Street / Queensboro Bridge
Abolition of Toll Collection

Private Issues

   As the independent City of Brooklyn developed (as well as Queens, Richmond a/k/a Staten Island, and the Bronx) from farmland to suburb and from suburb to urban; private companies would construct a bridge over a stream, creek or marsh.

   They would also cover a heavily traveled path with wooden planks, thereby making a "plank road" or "turnpike" to facilitate easier transportation and the carriage of heavier loads. This was especially welcome during spring thaw, when melting snow and runoff would turn every small depression in the terrain into a quagmire.

   In consideration of the construction and maintenance of these bridges and plank roads, a toll was charged to use them. As can be envisioned, there were myriads of private entities that constructed bridges and thoroughfares crossing their tracts of land for public use.

   While most of the names of these private entities have been lost to history, some can be found mentioned here and there in historical documents in City Museums and Public Libraries; but the easiest and most expedient source for research has become Google Books. This is where the research for the following company and receipt was assembled.

   I have been fortunate enough in my endeavors of collecting toll scrip to obtain the following piece of history; a receipt for the travel of one team of horse with a wagon over the Brooklyn & Gowanus Toll Bridge issues in 1858. This bridge was located in the immediate vicinity of, and just to the north of the present day Hamilton Avenue drawbridge in the Red Hook / Gowanus neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

   Unfortunately, the tariff for crossing the bridge is not noted, so we cannot tell how much was charged for passage over the span, but it could not have been more than a few cents.

Brooklyn & Gowanus Toll Bridge Company - May 1, 1858
(near present day Hamilton Avenue Bridge, Brooklyn NY)

collection of Philip M. Goldstein

   My research has revealed the Brooklyn & Gowanus Toll Bridge Company was incorporated on April 29, 1833. When the City of Brooklyn set about improving the street grid in that area, circa the 1870's; they announce the construction of a new bridge to be built for Hamilton Avenue, with no toll charged.

   This obviously did not sit well with the principals of the Brooklyn & Gowanus Toll Bridge, and a lawsuit with at least one appeal was subsequently filed, with the matter dragging on to at least 1881. Ultimately, the City of Brooklyn bought out the company and constructed the first of the Hamilton Avenue drawbridges over the Gowanus Canal; which to my understanding was replaced with a span in 1905, and that span being replaced with the present pair of spans (one for each direction of traffic of Hamilton Avenue), which were constructed in 1942 and to which have subsequently been rebuilt in 2008 through 2009.

   It is with almost certainty, that other companies issued receipts for collected tolls as well. Following some quick research, a few of the names revealed were:

  • Brooklyn, Jamaica & Flatbush Turnpike Company (March 17, 1809)
  • Coney Island Bridge & Road Company (March 22, 1823)
  • Maspeth Avenue & Toll Bridge Company, (April 8, 1836)
  • Coney Island Plank Road (October 12, 1849)
   I am quite sure there were others...


City of New York - Department of Bridges

   As I am sure a lot of the casual readers may not be aware (especially those not from the New York City area); that the East River Bridges collected tolls as well, when they were first opened. These crossings include the:
  • Brooklyn Bridge - 1883
  • Manhattan Bridge - 1909
  • Williamsburg Bridge - 1903
    and the:
  • Queensboro Bridge - 1909
    (formerly named Blackwell's Island Bridge)
   These bridges have become to be known by the NYC driver as "free" bridges in the present day conversation (when held in discussion with the tolled crossings). But in fact, tolls were collected on these spans when they first opened individually (1883 through 1909 respectively) and until 1911, when it was realized the City of New York was not legally empowered to collect tolls, and thereby abolished.

   This is just another little tidbit of history that has been lost to time. That is, until now.

Brooklyn Bridge

   As a result of this erroneous belief of being a railroad or subway issue, I believe it is one of the most misunderstood and misattributed ticket issues circulating in the category of historical ephemera for New York City, and I sincerely hope this website can correct this.

   First and foremost, when comparing New York & Brooklyn Bridge Railroad tickets to the other issues, the very conspicuously marked "Promenade" and the "One Horse Vehicle" issues clearly lack the word "railroad":

New York & Brooklyn Bridge

Foot traffic / Pedestrian Ticket

(NOT railroad)

American Bank Note Company
2" x 1"
collection of Philip M. Goldstein
New York & Brooklyn Bridge

One Horse Vehicle (5 cents)
(NOT railroad)

American Bank Note Company
2 ½" x 1 ½"
collection of George S. Cuhaj
New York & Brooklyn Bridge Railroad

Cable Car Ticket
(shown for comparison - NOT a toll ticket)

Hamilton Bank Note Engraving & Printing Co.
2" x 1"

     If you were to perform a Google search of "Brooklyn Bridge Promenade" as I did; you will either see reference to and images of the wooden center walkway (over the railway tracks) on the Brooklyn Bridge, dating back to its opening in 1883; or you find reference to the Brooklyn Height Promenade over the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

   As the later Brooklyn Heights Promenade was not opened until 1950 / 1951 and does cross the Brooklyn Bridge, we shall not concern ourselves with it nor infer any relation of it to the ticket issue.

   Furthermore, C. C. Martin is listed as chief engineer and superintendent on the Promenade ticket. His name appears on all three issues: the Promenade, the One Horse Vehicle as well as the New York & Brooklyn Bridge Railroad issue. Research reveals that Charles Cyril "C. C." Martin was assistant engineer to Washington Roebling, which we all know continued building the Brooklyn Bridge after taking over upon his father's death, John August Roebling.
  Prior to this, C. C. Martin was the designing engineer of Prospect Park in Brooklyn. So with this information coming to light, we know see that C. C. Martin was not a "railroad" man, but a "city" man; with the New York & Brooklyn Bridge under his authority.

   Additionally during my research, I encountered several issues of "The City Record" which was the official journal of the City of New York throughout the 1880's. In those pages, they clearly define income from three separate sources of receipts on the New York & Brooklyn Bridge:
  • From the promenade
  • From the carriageways
  • From the railroad
   Another excerpt I will include here to further bolster my conclusions, is from the America Railway Journal, annual issue from April 1885 through March 1886. In it, it clearly defines the suggestion of eliminating the toll for foot passenger: "... Five promenade tickets for one cent..."

   So if you need further proof that the Promenade Tickets were toll related and NOT railroad related, I cannot help you any further at this point.

   In conjunction with the Manhattan Bridge issue in the next chapter, I felt it was now necessary to include the commonly seen Brooklyn Bridge Promenade ticket issue on this website. While it is often listed as a railroad or subway ticket, IT IS NOT, and I present the proof to reinforce this conclusion.

   According to the DEPARTMENT OF BRIDGES of the CITY OF NEW YORK -
   "The city's revenue from the Brooklyn Bridge is derived from four general sources:

(1) Payments by railroad companies for the right to operate cars over the
        bridge, and rental for tracks, stations, etc;
(2) tolls charged for vehicles;
(3) payments from railroad, telephone, telegraph, pneumatic tube and cable
        companies for the right to lay and operate cables and wires on the


(4) rentals from lessees of the vaults, warehouses and other spaces under the

   The city's revenue from the Brooklyn Bridge is not as much as formerly. One cause was the abolition of the 1-cent toll for passengers using the promenades.

   Another cause was the installation of the elevated railway and trolley lines on the bridge and the discontinuance of the bridge cars by the city."

   By referencing the following 1905 Brooklyn Daily Eagle Almanac, page 455 (seen at right); it lists the following tolls. It appears pedestrians / foot passengers were no longer required to pay a toll for crossing the Brooklyn Bridge.

   I have since found an earlier reference in the Report of the Industrial Commission on Transportation, May 1901; that being of testimony taken since May 1, 1900 (seen below) to the New York and Brooklyn pedestrian fare being free in 1900.

   So this would date the use of the Promenade t
ickets from 1883 to 1900.

   Upon finding a copy of the "Minutes of the Board of Estimate and Appointment of the City of New York" it is then learned that all the tolls were abolished on all other East River Bridges by August 31, 1911.

    So, what are the ticket worth? Other than essays, proofs, specimens & samples, the issued New York & Brooklyn Bridge Promenade and the New York and Brooklyn Bridge Railroad tickets are common; with no less than half a dozen listed for sale on eBay in Buy It Now or auction formats, in various conditions; at any given time. Furthermore, if you are patient, you will even see them listed in strips of four, five or more tickets still attached.

   Are they worth $45 each? Not on your life. If you think they are, then I've got both a bridge to sell you and swampland in Florida to sell you. And maybe I'll just just list it on eBay as "RARE! Waterfront Property."

   In short, the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade Tickets were not railroad. Not cable car, not trolley car, not elevated railway, not subway or anything else associated with any railroad. They are pure and simply: pedestrian toll tickets. Are they a unique piece of history? Absolutely. Do they carry an aura of nostalgic times of yesteryear? Yes. Are they rare? No.

   Strictly as a convenience to the reader, I include information from the Wikipedia page on the Brooklyn Bridge about the New York and Brooklyn Bridge Railroad for those collecting those ticket issues:

Cable Cars & Elevateds

   The New York and Brooklyn Bridge Railroad, a cable car service, began operating on September 25, 1883; it ran on the inner lanes of the bridge, between terminals at the Manhattan and Brooklyn ends.

   Since Washington Roebling believed that steam trains would bear excessive loads upon the structure of the Brooklyn Bridge, the cable car line was designed as a steam / cable-hauled hybrid. They were powered from a generating station under the Brooklyn approach. The cable cars could not only regulate their speed on the ​3 3⁄4% upward and downward approaches, but also maintain a constant interval between each other. There were 24 cable cars in total. 

   Initially, the service ran with single-car trains, but patronage soon grew so much that by October 1883, two-car trains were in use. The line carried three million people in the first six months, nine million in 1884, and nearly 20 million in 1885 following the opening of the Brooklyn Union Elevated Railroad. Accordingly, the track layout was rearranged and more trains were ordered. At the same time, there were highly controversial plans to extend the elevated railroads onto the Brooklyn Bridge, under the pretext of extending the bridge itself. After disputes, ultimately the trustees agreed to build two elevated routes to the bridge on the Brooklyn side.

   Patronage continued to increase, and in 1888, the tracks were lengthened and even more cars were constructed to allow for four-car trains of cable cars. Electric wires for the trolleys were added by 1895, potentially allowing for the future decommissioning of the steam / cable system. The terminals were rebuilt once more in July 1895, and following the implementation of new electric cars in late 1896, the steam engines were dismantled and sold.

   Following unification of the cities of New York and Brooklyn in 1898, the New York and Brooklyn Bridge Railroad ceased to be a separate entity that June, and the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT) assumed control of the line. The BRT started running through-services of elevated trains, which ran from Park Row Terminal in Manhattan to points in Brooklyn via the Sands Street station on the Brooklyn side. Before reaching Sands Street (at Tillary Street for Fulton Street Line trains, and at Bridge Street for Fifth Avenue Line and Myrtle Avenue Line trains), elevated trains bound for Manhattan swapped their steam locomotives for the cable cars, which would pull the passenger carriages across the bridge.

   Through services were discontinued from 1899 to 1901, and due to increased patronage following the opening of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT)'s first subway line, the Park Row station was rebuilt in 1906. At one point, there were also plans for Brooklyn Bridge trains to run underground to the BRT's proposed Chambers Street station in Manhattan, though work on the connection was never completed. The overpass across William Street was closed in 1913 to make way for the proposed connection, but reopened in 1929 after it became clear that the connection would not be built.

   After the IRT's Joralemon Street Tunnel and the Williamsburg Bridge tracks opened in 1908, the Brooklyn Bridge no longer held a monopoly on rail service between Manhattan and Brooklyn, and cable service ceased. New subway lines from the IRT and from the BRT's successor Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT), built in the 1910s and 1920s, posed significant competition to the Brooklyn Bridge rail services. With the opening of the Independent Subway System in 1932, and the subsequent unification of all three companies into a single entity in 1940, the elevated services started to decline, and the Park Row and Sands Street stations were greatly reduced in size. The Fifth Avenue and Fulton Street services across the Brooklyn Bridge were discontinued in 1940 and 1941 respectively, and the elevated tracks were abandoned permanently with the withdrawal of Myrtle Avenue services in 1944.


   A plan for trolley service across the Brooklyn Bridge was presented in 1895, and the Brooklyn Bridge trustees agreed two years later to a plan where trolleys could run across the bridge under ten-year contracts. Trolley service, which began in 1898, ran on what are now the two middle lanes of each roadway (shared with other traffic). When cable service was withdrawn in 1908, the trolley tracks on the Brooklyn side were rebuilt to alleviate congestion. Trolley service on the middle lanes continued until the elevated lines stopped using the bridge in 1944, when they moved to the protected center tracks on the left sides of the roadways. On March 5, 1950, the streetcars also stopped running, and the bridge was redesigned for automobile traffic exclusively.

Please refer to the Wikipedia page for the Brooklyn Bridge - Rail Traffic for citations.

Manhattan Bridge

   Literally within minutes of going public with this page, George S. Cuhaj, (an established token collector and author) sends me the following image, asking if I would include the East River Bridge issues on the page? Sure, why not! After all, they are bridge tickets from New York City, right?

   The following is a fare ticket for a led horse on the carriageway of the Manhattan Bridge. I believe the cost was 3 cents, and it is facsimile signed by J. W. Stevenson, Commissioner of Bridges for the City of New York. The Manhattan Bridge opened on December 31, 1909.

   This piece is interesting to say the least, and according to the Proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Volume 45, 1919; horse-drawn traffic on the Manhattan Bridge was prohibited during certain times of the day:

"The Manhattan Bridge roadway is 35 feet wide, sufficient to pass two lanes of traffic in each direction. In order to care for the morning and evening rush-hour traffic on this bridge, horse-drawn vehicles are prohibited from crossing from Brooklyn in the evening period and from Manhattan in the morning period. During both these periods this traffic is diverted to the Brooklyn Bridge, making it possible to accommodate three lines on the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn in the morning rush and to Brooklyn in the evening rush."

   Further research has uncovered that the four East River Crossings (from south to north): Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge and the Queensboro Bridges collected tolls for use of the roadway. To be absolutely clear, these were NOT a collection of fares for the streetcars or trolley lines crossing those bridges; this was automobiles, horses & horse & wagons utilizing the roadway. It is further understood the toll was 10 cents for automobiles.

   Take note of the artwork at the top of the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade ticket above; and compare to the artwork of this Manhattan Bridge ticket. it is the same silhouette of the tower with Gothic arches with cables! In reality, the Manhattan Bridge has a single Roman arch. Apparently, the same artwork was used, or at least copied; from the Brooklyn Bridge issue.

Department of Bridges - City of New York
Manhattan Bridge
Form E - December 31st, 1909
3 cent toll ticket for led horse on carriageway.

collection of George S. Cuhaj

Williamsburg Bridge

   Further research on the subject has revealed that the Williamsburg Bridge also collected tolls for automobile and horse drawn traffic crossing the span. Again, this was not a fare collected for streetcar or trolley car lines crossing the bridge.

   It is understood the toll was the same as the Manhattan Bridge and fixed at 10 cents for automobiles.

   At this time, tickets or scrip have not been seen.

Blackwells Island / 59th Street / Queensboro Bridge

   From the same documents that revealed the collection of tolls for the Williamsburg Bridge, it was also learned the Blackwell's Island Bridge collected a toll as well. This bridge is better known today as the Queensboro - 59th Street Bridge.    

   And once again, to be absolutely clear, this was a toll for automobiles and horse drawn vehicles, and was in the amount of 10 cents.

Abolition of Tolls on East River Bridges


   We also now know, by way of the following New York Times article dated July 7, 1911; why toll collection on the East River Bridges ceased.

all text & images: © 2020 Philip M. Goldstein ~