Museum Open

The New-York Historical Society Museum & Library will be open on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25. For details, please visit our calendar.

Subway controller

Object Number: 
1922.103
Date: 
1904
Medium: 
Silver, steel, ebony
Dimensions: 
Overall: 8 1/4 x 9 1/8 x 2 7/8 in. ( 21 x 23.2 x 7.3 cm )
Description: 
Cast silver and steel presentation train controller handle with a molded circular pivot at on end and a molded ebony grip with plunger attached to the top of the opposite end; embossed across the top of the handle, "CONTROLLER HANDLE/ USED BY/ THE HON. GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK/ IN STARTING THE FIRST TRAIN ON THE/ RAPID TRANSIT RAILROAD FROM CITY HALL STATION/ NEW YORK, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 27TH, 1904." in roman letters; embossed on the side of the handle, "PRESENTED TO THE HON. GEORGE B. McCLLAN/ BY AUGUST BELMONT,/ PRESIDENT. INTERBOROUGH RAPID TRANSIT COMPANY." in roman letters; makers' marks stamped on the side.
Gallery Label: 
New York City mayor George B. McClellan used this sterling silver subway controller to start the city's first subway train on its maiden voyage on October 27, 1904. August Belmont, president of the Interborough Rapid Transit Railroad, presented the hefty handle during the festivities at City Hall. McClellan was so intoxicated by the speed of the train that he raced through the scheduled station stop at 42nd Street and continued uptown, only yielding the controls to the company's conductor at 103rd Street.
Bibliography: 
Bach, Debra Schmidt. "Witness to history: Furniture and historic relics." The Magazine Antiques 167 (2005): 162-167.
Credit Line: 
Gift of George B. McClellan
Provenance: 
Presented by August Belmont (1816-1890); to George B. McClellan, Jr. (1865-1940), the donor.
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group