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Sioux City Bus and Transfer Company Flyer

Date: c. 1890


Description: This flyer advertises the services of the Sioux City Bus and Transfer Company, a light livery service company. Livery in this sense means that the company delivered passengers and light luggage to parts of the city using horse-drawn vehicles. The carriages and coaches of the company could also be rented out for pleasure riding, parties, weddings, and so on. It is most like a combined taxi and limo service today, and the main occupation of livery companies was carting people and their luggage from railroad stations to their homes or vice versa. These companies were a private alternative to the public horse-drawn street cars in Sioux City that existed in the late 19th century. These horse-drawn streetcars look similar to their electric counterparts (what we call trolleys today) with an attached harness for horses. Actually in Sioux City it was usually a singular horse, as the original horse-drawn streetcars were small and only seated about eight people. The streetcar ran on a rail to provide a surface more stable than the dirt road. Throughout the nation horse-drawn streetcars began to be replaced by cable cars in the 1880s, but Sioux City only had one. All other public transit was provided by horse-drawn streetcars, the steam suburban rail lines, or these special livery companies.


In the 1890s however, Sioux City transit became electrified. The streetcars went from horse-drawn to electric powered. These new streetcars were attached to an overhead electric wire via a trolley pole. A trolley pole is a long pole attached to the streetcar with a pulley attached to the electric wire above and transfers power into the car so it can move. Because their operation depended on these trolley poles, electric streetcars are often referred to as trolleys or trolley cars. Electric cars still ran on rails even after the streets were paved to ensure the connection with the electric wire above. After the transit companies were consolidated these electric streetcar lines were expanded and ran all over the city, Downtown to various neighborhoods and even into South Sioux City, Nebraska. These electric streetcars were the primary means of public transportation in Sioux City until the 1940s, when they were replaced with busses. Today busses continue to provide transit service around the city, but the Downtown Trolley, a motorized vehicle made to look like the old electric streetcars, services Downtown today to pay homage to the transit of Sioux City’s past.


Donor: Robert Joseph

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