Now I, as Mayor, in the name of the people, declare the subway open!
New York Mayor George B. McClellan
With these words, New York Mayor George B. McClellan closed a morning of oratory at City Hall in honor of the opening of the New York City Subway System. At precisely 2:35P.M on Thursday, October 27, 1904, the first subway train emerged from City Hall station with Mayor McClellan at the controls.
Twenty-six minutes later, the inaugural express arrived at its destination at 145th Street. The system opened to the general public at 7 P.M Before the evening was out, the Interborough Rapid Transit Company had tunneled some 150,000 passengers around the city.
An underground transportation system for New York City had been proposed as early as 1868. Even then, navigating city streets clogged with pedestrians, horses, wagons and carriages proved dangerous and frustrating. Between 1870 and 1900 many private companies attempted to take on the project, but each time, legal, political, and financial obstacles proved insurmountable. While completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 and the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903 eased traffic moving into Manhattan, congestion within the city remained a problem.
In the fall of 1894, New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly for municipal ownership of the subway system, clearing some of the legal and political hurdles. However, funding and organizing such a tremendous construction project continued to pose a challenge. Finally, financier August Belmont organized the Rapid Transit Subway Construction Company, and, in March 1900, ground-breaking ceremonies were held at Borough Hall in Manhattan