& Early City of New York Toll Bridges, Plank Roads & Turnpikes
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history, some can be found mentioned here and there in historical
documents in City Museums and Public Libraries; but the easiest and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
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.
Gowanus Toll Bridge Company - May 1, 1858
(near present day Hamilton
Avenue Bridge, Brooklyn NY)
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)
Island Bridge & Road Company (March 22, 1823)
Avenue & Toll Bridge Company, (April 8, 1836)
Island Plank Road (October 12, 1849)
I am quite sure there were others...
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:
Bridge - 1883
Bridge - 1909
Bridge - 1903
Bridge - 1909
(formerly named Blackwell's Island Bridge)
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.
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
York & Brooklyn Bridge
Foot traffic / Pedestrian Ticket
American Bank Note Company
2" x 1"
of Philip M. Goldstein
York & Brooklyn Bridge
One Horse Vehicle (5 cents)- SPECIMEN
American Bank Note Company
2 ½" x 1 ½"
collection of George S. Cuhaj
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
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..."
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.
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.
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.
According to the DEPARTMENT OF BRIDGES of the CITY OF NEW YORK -
A STATEMENT OF FACTS as PUBLISHED BY THE CITY CLUB OF NEW YORK, OCTOBER
"The city's revenue from the Brooklyn Bridge is derived from four
Payments by railroad companies for the right to operate cars over the
bridge, and rental for tracks,
tolls charged for vehicles;
payments from railroad, telephone, telegraph, pneumatic tube and cable
companies for the right to lay and operate cables and wires
rentals from lessees of the vaults, warehouses and other spaces under
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 tickets from
1883 to 1900.
So, what are the ticket
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:
Cars & Elevateds
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
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
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
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.
refer to the Wikipedia page for the Brooklyn
Bridge - Rail Traffic for citations.
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:
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
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.
Island / 59th Street / Queensboro Bridge
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
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.
& images: © 2020 Philip M. Goldstein ~ www.nyctollscrip.info