Candid Photos Of New Yorkers Riding The Subway In 1960

The sites and sounds of the NYC subway are well known to the
4.3 million peoplewho ride it every day.

The sleepy commuters, crowded cars, conductor’s voice, and train doors opening and closing are just a part of travelling around New York City.

And though the subway system has only gotten larger and more punctual since the first line was opened, the subway commuters themselves have not changed all that much.

Photographer Enrico Natali moved to New York City to become a photographer’s apprentice in the 1950s. He started taking his own candid shots of people on his commute to work on trains or waiting in the underground stations in 1960.

“Since I lived in the depths of Brooklyn and rode the subway to where I worked in Manhattan, it seemed reasonable to make the subway my first project,” Natali said. “I became so involved in the work that for a time I all but lived in the subway.”

In his recently published photography book, “New York City Subway, 1960,” Natali’s 53-year-old photographs have finally come to light. The pictures show a past era, but those same sleepy commuters, busy cars, and subway conductors.

New York's first official subway system opened in Manhattan in October of 1904.

Source: MTA

At the time, there were 28 stations from City Hall to 145th Street and Broadway.

Source: MTA

Subway customers bought tickets to pay their fare until May 10, 1920.

Source: MTA

Then coin-operated subway turnstiles took over, accepting nickels and then dimes when the fare rose to 10 cents.

Source: MTA

In June of 1953, the New York State Legislature created the New York City Transit Authority (now MTA New York City Transit). Its job was to manage and operate all city-owned bus, trolley, and subway routes.

Source: MTA

Tokens debuted on subway lines in July of 1953, because the turnstiles couldn't handle two different coins when the fare rose to 15 cents.

Source: MTA

It was a common scam to jam the token slot with paper. A passenger would insert a token, become frustrated when the gate wouldn't open, and go to a different gate. Then the token thief would suck the token from the jammed slot with their mouth.

It was called 'token sucking' and police officers were known to sprinkle chilli powder into the slots to discourage the thieves.

In 1954, single-route service becomes available from the Bronx at 205th Street all the way to Brooklyn's Coney Island.

Source: MTA

In 1955, the Third Avenue El, the last elevated line in Manhattan, closed.

Source: MTA

And in July of 1960, the last trolley buses stopped service on the five remaining Brooklyn routes.

Source: MTA

Subway car seats have also evolved over the years, from wicker to cushioned chairs, and now the plastic benches we have today.

Source: Forgotten NY

Advertisements were also a common site on the subway, just like they are today.

Source: Gothamist

By the 1960s, the New York subway was being called 'The Daily Miracle.'

Source: Gothamist

There were over 1,000 transit police officers, ranging from plainclothes law enforcement officers to those in uniforms.

Source: Gothamist

In addition to security, maintenance was also extremely important: All trains were cleaned daily and tuned up regularly.

Source: Gothamist

During the 1960s, almost 9,000 trains carried up to 6 million fares per day.

Source: Gothamist

At the time, that was three times more than all other railroads in the country combined, per year.

Source: Gothamist

Today, the New York subway system is the largest in America, with an estimated 1 billion people going through the turnstiles each year.

Source: NY.com

So thanks, New York City subway, for keeping NYC moving.

Another glimpse into the past:

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