This week in history: A pneumatic subway, a “magical” eclipse, and a flash flood. Read more below and dive deeper with The Great Courses Plus.
February 26th, 1870– Pneumatic Subway in New York City is debuted
The New York subway is one of the largest in the world and certainly one of the busiest. It’s not the oldest (predated by London’s tube) but did you know that a pneumatic “subway” spanning 300″ under Broadway and Warren streets that was a contemporary of the Tube?
In 1870, Alfred Ely Beach premiered his “Beach Pneumatic Transit” under the New York City streets. He first introduced it in 1867 at the American Institute Fair. Originally, his idea was to use pneumatic tubes for mail (an idea which he patented in 1865), but expanded to a people-mover to improve travel through crowded metropolises. The test at the fair was successful enough to have the New York Times write that the invention was “the most novel and attractive feature of the exhibition.” Beach also caught the
eye of Boss Tweed; this allowed him to pass a bill to construct a system of pneumatic tubes (for mail… not people.) Regardless of what the bill allowed, Beach and his team constructed a 300″ long, 10″ diameter tube with two massive fans on either end.
The experiment was a success and certainly a novelty for the city at the time. Sadly, when time to request funds for expansion came, Boss Tweed petitioned for an elevated subway and eventually won. The tube was closed up in 1873 and found a number of times after by contractors and curiosity seekers. It has been destroyed in years since to create new subterranean structures.
Learn more about change in the 19th century with The Industrial Revolution
February 29th, 1504– Christopher Columbus foils mutiny with eclipse prediction
Christopher Columbus, famed for his 1492 trip to what would become America, set sail for another course in the early 1500’s. In 1503, Columbus found himself stranded in Jamaica. Searching for food, Columbus and crew were welcomed by the indigenous people and supplied with provisions. Sadly, Columbus’s crew started cheating and stealing from the natives.
“…with great howling and lamentation they came running from every direction to the ships, laden with provisions, praying the Admiral to intercede by all means with God on their behalf…”