Chapter 22: Appreciation of the Chamber
Rapid Transit in New York City and in the Other Great Cities · Chamber of Commerce, 1906
The proceedings of the Chamber in appreciation of the services of its members on the Board of Rapid Transit Commissioners are set forth in the following extracts from its minutes:
Meeting of January 7, 1904. A. Barton Hepburn-- Mr. President, many if not most of the great enterprises that come so closely home to the general welfare and interest of this entire community have had their origin and found the mainspring of their successful accomplishment through the action and activity of this Chamber. Probably no one of the great enterprises to which I have referred comes more closely home to the entire community individually than the Underground Rapid Transit Railway, now nearing its completion. It is fortunate for this community that our merchant princes and successful business men, like the President of this Chamber, Mr. Orr, Mr. Smith and others, can be induced, or gladly come forward, to give to the public the benefit of their services in the accomplishment of these great enterprises solely in the public interest and for the public good. The President of this Chamber, with five other members, together with the Mayor and Comptroller, constitute the Rapid Transit Commission. Their labors have been long and arduous, and it seems to me that we owe it to ourselves, as well as to them, at this particular time to take some fitting notice of the services that they have rendered, which will inure so greatly to the benefit of our community. In that connection I have a preamble and resolution that I desire to offer:
"Whereas, The Chamber of Commerce initiated the plan and prepared the bill passed by the Legislature on the 24th of May, 1894, under the provisions of which the Underground Rapid Transit Railroad is now nearly completed; and
"Whereas, The President of this Chamber and five of its members, with the Mayor and Comptroller of the city, were duly appointed a Board of Rapid Transit Commissioners; therefore, be it ...
Resolution Appointing Committee. "Resolved, That the Chamber desires to make suitable recognition of the eminent services rendered by the Commissioners, and to this end Messrs. George F. Seward, Jacob H. Schiff and Cornelius N. Bliss be and they are hereby appointed a Special Committee to consider and report at the next meeting what action in their judgment should be taken by the Chamber."
Mr. Hepburn-- Mr. President, in deference to your well known modesty, being a member of the Commission as well as President of this Chamber, it seemed well to vary the invariable rule under which we act, and to name the committee in this resolution instead of providing that they be appointed by the Chair. I move the adoption of the resolution.
The resolution was unanimously adopted.
Meeting of March 3, 1904. The Special Committee made the following report, which was advised to be printed and a copy sent to each member:
Tablet, City Hall Station. "This First Municipal Rapid Transit Railroad of the City of New York Suggested by the Chamber of Commerce, Authorized by the State, Constructed by the City."
Report. In the City Hall station of the Rapid Transit Subway is to be placed a tablet bearing this inscription: Suggested By The Chamber Of Commerce, Authorized By The State, Constructed By The City.
This inscription is right, but it does not adequately set forth the service this Chamber has rendered.
Our city has special need of rapid transit. Its principal business section is at the southern end of Manhattan Island. The island is narrow and the residential section stretches far away to the north. It includes also a great district beyond the East River. The conformation of the city differs in this respect from that of London, or Paris, or Berlin, where there has been unimpeded growths in all directions from common centers of business and population.
Physical Difficulties. In each of these great cities the physical difficulties of such enterprises have been less. In each of them the difficulties attending the organization of such work has been less. They are all capitals of great states, so organized within themselves and so associated with the respective national governments that great public works are not halted for lack of intelligent, appreciative and effective support. This city, the second in population on the globe, is not the capital of a State. Vast in the magnitude of its population, yielding place to no other in financial and commercial importance, it is not the mistress of its own affairs. Its local government indeed is often in conflict with the State Government because of constitutional conditions and of the free play of political forces.
While these things are true we yet stand in face of the great facts that harmony has been secured between the State and the city; that the greatest work yet known in the world for the purpose of giving transit facilities to a great population is nearing its completion, and that it is the Chamber of Commerce and a representative body of its members that have so planned and so worked as to bring about the great result.
Tablet, City Hall Station. "Staff of the Chief Engineer."
There is a feature in American affairs that should be recognized by every citizen who appreciates and loves his country. We live under republican institutions. The effective quality of such institutions is seldom so great as that of the older forms of government. Public measures there are generally directed by a compacted body of men who, by reason of ability and experience, have come into supreme control. Under a republican system there is always changeable control, and public measures can never be pushed beyond the point to which public sentiment has progressed. It follows that in any republic public sentiment must be developed and organized by the people themselves. It has come to pass, happily, in our great land, that the development of right sentiment and the organization of measures demanded by the public interest have received the attention of unofficial citizens. The field of work of this Chamber is broader and more important than that of any like body in the older countries. Our people, quick to see the needs of any situation, are constantly organizing unofficial bodies that do good work.
Recognition by the Chamber. It is said that republics are ungrateful. It may be so. But it cannot be said that the people who live under republican forms of government are ungrateful toward the men who in public or private life serve the public with fidelity. On the wall yonder hangs a great historical picture. It presents the tribute of this body to Mr. Field and his associates in an achievement incomparable at the time and of vast concern to the world. Those who have participated in the transactions of this body have seen it often yield just honors. The man who more than any other created right public sentiment for a sound currency, Mr. Hanna of Indiana, stood here of late to receive addresses of appreciation and an engraved medal from the Chamber. The man most prominent in the work of devising the basis for the Rapid Transit enterprise received at your hands like honor, and yonder in a corridor of this beautiful hall is to stand his statute done in marble. He was a citizen who served the public officially and who served it unofficially with singular clearness of vision, with devotion and with truth, and the rewards granted to him by this Chamber have been such as will make his memory last until these walls crumble into dust. If it be true that republics as such are ungrateful let us take care that no such charge may be brought against our citizenship at large.
What has been said is general in terms. Facts specific in character should be set forth lest some one may say that the work of the Chamber and of its members has not risen to the height of public achievement indicated in the language thus used. The facts are salient ones and he who runs may read the record.
The State authorized the work. The Act of the Legislature granting this authority and determining the methods to be followed was prepared under the direction of a Committee of this Chamber, approved by this Chamber, and urged upon the Legislature by this Chamber until success was won.
Composition of Commission. Under that Act the city was empowered to carry forward the enterprise by a commission of eight persons. The President of this Chamber for the time being and five other persons all members of this Chamber and designated by it were Commissioners. To these were added the Mayor and Comptroller of the city. The Act made the body a continuous one, it being provided that the Commission should itself fill vacancies in its number. It happens in this way that six out of eight Commissioners have always been members of this Chamber. And it happens in this way that the great republican need of unofficial service has been satisfied in a remarkable manner.
Work Performed. The foundation of the enterprise having been so laid, the duties of the Commissioners began. It was for them to create the thing so planned for. Their work has been of a kind that cannot be told in detail. They determined the route of the subway, having regard to existing means of transportation, to the convenience of the population actually existent and that hereafter to exist, and having regard to the right development of territory shut out from reasonable access to the business center. They determined plans for the structure, fitting them to the streets to be traversed and to the probable exigencies of traffic. They laid the financial scheme, having regard to the prompt construction of the work on economical lines and conserving the permanent interest of the city in the work, by providing that the city, after a term of years, shall come into complete ownership and control of it. They carried through the courts proceedings necessary to legalize the plans so made. They selected and supervised the engineering staff. They reconciled differences with the city as to moneys required and as to the use of streets and interferences with public utility services. They reconciled differences with individual property owners. They determined the construction of the operating plant in order to secure safety for the multitudes who will use the subway.
Tablet, City Hall Station. "Rapid Transit Subway Construction Co."
Is it too much to say that all this duty has called for attention, prudence, and ability of the highest order, and that the harmony secured and the public approval vouchsafed at each stage of the work indicates that attention, prudence and skill have been exhibited in a degree that has left nothing to be desired?
The work nears completion. By July it is likely that our citizens will be in full use of its benefits. What we may do here to set forth the merit of the work and the merit of those who have done it will but faintly express the appreciation of the people who will be served by it. In knowledge of this the Chamber and the members of the Commission will receive their best reward.
Your Committee in submitting this report desires to add that it hopes to submit at the next meeting of the Chamber a further report indicating what means should be organized first, in order that the Chamber may take a right part in celebration of the opening of the Rapid Transit Subway to public use, and second, in order that the service rendered by members of the Chamber may be properly recognized.
Your Committee submits the following resolution:
Resolved, That this preliminary report be received and printed for the use of the Chamber and its members.
All of which is respectfully submitted. (Signed,) Jacob H. Schiff, George F. Seward, Cornelius N. Bliss, Special Committee.
Meeting of April 7, 1904. The report made as stated above was adopted by the Chamber.
Meeting of November 2, 1904. The Special Committee, several gentlemen having been added to its membership, offered the following report, which was adopted:
Report. To the Chamber of Commerce: Your Committee was appointed in January last. On March 2 it made a preliminary report which was printed for the information of members. That report presented briefly the following facts:
That our city is so situated that rapid transit is more necessary here than in any other great city.
That this Chamber, impressed by the importance of the subject, studied it with care, prepared the form of legislation required and pressed it to action by the Legislature of the State.
That these studies involved not only physical problems of a serious nature, but also administrative problems of importance and difficulty.
That the law actually secured provided the means for a right solution of all these problems involved.
That it committed the enterprise to a Commission of eight persons, six of whom were members of this Chamber.
That continuously ever since six members of the Commission have been members of this Chamber, the other two being the Mayor and Comptroller for the time being.
That the Commission deserves high commendation not only because it determined plans for rapid transit broad in scope and fitted to-the needs of the city, and has carried these forward under difficult circumstances, but also, and notably, because it has so planned that the city owns the franchise, and will eventually come into possession and control of the entire system with little or no debt outstanding.
It is not the purpose of your Committee to enlarge upon the report so made or to elaborate remarks. It has waited until the subway, so far as it is completed, has come into use, and every citizen may see for himself its magnitude, the fitness and beauty of its details, and its capacity to serve the convenience and comfort of our population at the moment and so long as multitudes of people congregate within our borders.
The subway speaks for itself in these directions. It speaks also upon a further point. In all its parts it bears witness to the forethought of those who were the direct instruments in its construction, and to their skill, capacity, courage and constancy. If it is a great work, it it so as the result of adequate design and effort.
But the subway is as mute as the great pyramid in another direction. It has no voice to name and thank its own builders. That duty rests upon us who have been the human witnesses of their labors.
Your Committee now suggests the ways by which the Chamber may give deserved honors to those of its members who have served the enterprise. We advise:
Book. 1st. That your Committee be instructed to prepare and print a descriptive and historical memoir of the enterprise to the end that the instrumentality of this Chamber, of its members, and of others in the great work may be properly recorded in permanent form. Your Committee believes that such a record is necessary to a right appreciation of the work that has been done, and, as well, that the record will serve a large public purpose by indicating how similar municipal purposes here and elsewhere may best be promoted.
Medals to Commissioners. 2d. That your Committee be instructed to cause to be struck suitable medals in gold, similar to the one already presented to Mr. Hewitt, and that these medals be presented in this Chamber to Mr. Orr and to those members of the Chamber associated with him in duty.
Medal Presented by the Chamber of Commerce to the Rapid Transit Commissioners.
3d. In order that the matter may proceed in a proper way, your Committee proposes that the Executive Committee be requested to decide to what extent current funds of the Chamber may be utilized for the purposes stated.
Group Picture. A further proposal has been considered by your Committee. It is this-- That a group picture, presenting the portraits of those of our members who have had to do with Rapid Transit work, be procured and given place on the walls of this Hall as a companion piece to the Atlantic Cable picture.
Your Committee is prepared to say that such a picture would adorn our walls, would be of peculiar interest to our members so long as the Chamber exists, and that the services of our members would be fittingly honored in this way. Books go to the shelves of libraries and in the end are lost sight of. Medals remain in the family and are not remembered elsewhere after a brief season. A great painting remains an object of interest, of pride, and of inspiration for an almost indefinite period. Your Committee cannot but hope that such a picture may be placed upon our walls, but it has no thought that it can be provided for out of the current funds of the Chamber nor otherwise than by the generous action of individuals.
Your Committee desires that the way may be kept open to secure such a picture, and to this end asks the Chamber to authorize the Executive Committee to give any needed assurances that a suitable painting, if offered, will be gratefully accepted by the Chamber.
Your Committee respectfully submits the following resolution: That this Chamber holds in great appreciation the unselfish and highly successful services of Mr. Orr and his colleagues, and with the desire to give this appreciation tangible form requests the Special Committee to give effect, to the best of its ability, to the plans set forth in its report.
(Signed) George F. Seward, Cornelius N. Bliss, Jacob H. Schiff, A. Barton Hepburn, A. Foster Higgins, C. Adolphe Low, Isidor Straus, Charles S. Fairchild, J. Edward Simmons, Isaac N. Seligman, Special Committee.
Medal Presented by the Chamber of Commerce to Abram S. Hewitt.
Meeting of December 7, 1905. The Special Committee submitted the following report:
Report. To the Chamber of Commerce: At a regular meeting of the Chamber in January, 1904, the following preamble and resolution, offered by Mr. Hepburn, were passed:
Whereas, The Chamber of Commerce initiated the plan and prepared the bill passed by the Legislature on the 24th of May, 1894, under the provisions of which the Underground Rapid Transit Railroad is now nearly completed; and,
Whereas, The President of this Chamber and five of its members, with the Mayor and Comptroller of the city, were duly appointed a Board of Rapid Transit Commissioners; therefore, be it
Appointment of Committee. Resolved, That the Chamber desires to make suitable recognition of the eminent services rendered by the Commissioners, and to this end Messrs. George F. Seward, Jacob H. Schiff and Cornelius N. Bliss, be and they hereby are appointed a Special Committee to consider and report at the next meeting what action in their judgment should be taken by the Chamber.
At the meeting of March following your Committee presented a preliminary report.
At the meeting of November following your Committee made a further report containing, among other matters, the following proposals:
Instructions. 1st. That your Committee be instructed to prepare and print a descriptive and historical memoir of the enterprise, to the end that the instrumentality of this Chamber, of its members, and of others in the great work may be properly recorded in permanent form. Your Committee believes that such record is necessary to a right appreciation of the work that has been done, and, as well, that the record will serve a large public purpose by indicating how similar municipal purposes here and elsewhere may best be promoted.
2d. That your Committee be instructed to cause to be struck suitable medals in gold, similar to the one already presented to Mr. Hewitt, and that these medals be presented in this Chamber to Mr. Orr and to those members of the Chamber associated with him in duty.
These proposals were approved by the Chamber.
Your Committee, in pursuance of the authority so given, has caused to be struck seven medals of suitable size and design, and now brings them to the Chamber in order that they may be formally presented to the persons named below: Alexander E. Orr, Morris K. Jesup, John Claflin, Woodbury Langdon, Seth Low, John H. Starin, Charles Stewart Smith.
Scope of Book. Your Committee has to report further that the memoir or book authorized by the Chamber is now in the hands of the printer. It will contain a description of passenger transportation facilities in our city and vicinity from an early day, and a statement of plans now being prosecuted for further developments. It will contain also much matter relating to the underground railway systems of London, Glasgow, Paris, Berlin, Budapest, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. The book, with its pictures, maps and plans will run to more than 300 pages.
Your Committee believes that the information presented in this book justifies the following conclusions:
(1.) That the work done by the Rapid Transit Board and the plans determined upon for further work will provide our city in its various sections with a very complete system of rapid transit facilities.
(2.) That this system, to say the least, will compare favorably with that of any other city in the world.
(3.) That the physical difficulties met and overcome have been greater than in any other city.
(4.) That the working out of a right system has been more difficult by reason of peculiarities of governmental control, State and Municipal.
Invited Guests. Your Committee has had no duty assigned to it as respects those gentlemen who have served on the Commission in an official capacity beyond presenting to the members a just and appreciative statement of the facts. These gentlemen include Mayors Van Wyck, Low and McClellan, and Comptrollers Coler and Grout. But your Committee has believed that it would be grateful to the Chamber to invite these gentlemen to be present and to witness the honors that we feel free to bestow upon gentlemen of our own membership toward whom we entertain sentiments of gratitude that are enhanced and deepened by the affection generated in years of intercourse on this floor. Some of the gentlemen so invited are present and will know that our gratitude is not bounded by the walls of this room, but extends also to them in full measure.
Your Committee has not failed to remember that one gentleman has served on the Board who was not an official member, and not a member of this Chamber. This gentleman, Mr. George L. Rives, known to us all as a man who has served the city in important ways and always beneficially, has been invited to this meeting in order that he may also be the recipient of our thanks.
Your Committee has invited to be present also Mr. William Barclay Parsons, Mr. August Belmont and Mr. John B. McDonald. These men, in their several departments, have exhibited such broad capacity and such faithfulness that no account of the subway which fails to note their services could be considered at all complete or just.
Your Committee has not been authorized to apportion honor between the members of the Board, official or unofficial. Yet we think that the members of the Board would themselves consider us remiss if we should fail to state that the services of two gentlemen have been especially valuable. Your Committee refers to the late Mr. Hewitt and to Mr. Orr. To the acute mind and wide political and administrative experience of the former is to be largely credited the combination of the theories of municipal ownership and private enterprise adopted and adhered to in the subway undertaking, and which has made the work especially satisfactory to our people. To the trained business intelligence of Mr. Orr, to his fertility of resource, his critical care and sturdy courage, is to be largely credited the solution of the grave problems that were met at every turn in the prosecution of the work.
Object Lessons. Our great community is to be congratulated in an especial manner upon the fact that the best virtue and the best intelligence of our citizenship have been enlisted in the enterprise. It is not always that this happens under our institutions, and not always that it happens under any institutions. That it has happened here, in a city thought by some to be given over to the lust of wealth and careless as to the course of administration, must give cheer to every man who is proud of his city, and who believes that high integrity as well as high capacity are to be found here in no stinted measure.
Your Committee proposes now to place the seven medals in the hands of the temporary presiding officer, to be by him in your presence, to-day, presented to the several gentlemen for whom they are intended; that five copies of the book shall be given to each of the Rapid Transit Commissioners, official and unofficial, one copy to each member of the Chamber, and that 500 copies be printed for distribution among public libraries.
Your Committee moves the adoption of this report and the approval of the proposals just recited. Respectfully submitted, (Signed) George F. Seward, Cornelius N. Bliss, Jacob H. Schiff, A. Barton Hepburn, A. Foster Higgins, C. Adolphe Low, Isidor Straus, Charles S. Fairchild, J. Edward Simmons, Isaac N. Seligman, Special Committee.
The further proceedings on this occasion were as follows:
THE PRESIDENT- Before action is taken on this interesting report you will see the propriety of my calling to the Chair our Vice-President, who is with us, Mr. Charles Lanier. I will ask him to take my place. Mr. Lanier took the Chair.
Mr. Alfred P. Boller. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, it is fitting in seconding the adoption of the report just read to make a few remarks in appreciation of the work of this Committee.
In its whole history of public accomplishments the Chamber of Commerce never did a greater thing than become sponsor for the magnificent system of Rapid Transit Subways, with which this city is now blessed, and enabled to march forward toward its destiny of being the First City of the World.
Great as this achievement has been, the Chamber has done even more than create a work of public utility of far reaching consequences. It has shown how a great public work, of incalculable value to the City of New York for all time to come, can be conceived, organized and carried out, freed from those political entanglements, which so often prove a source of waste, extravagance, or scandal.
This is, indeed, an occasion of pardonable self-congratulation for a great deed well accomplished, and the Chamber honors itself in honoring those men on whom has fallen the burden and responsibility of the trust committed to them.
As an engineering work, the New York Subway is, I believe, unmatched in any city in the world in magnitude and the extent of the difficulties overcome, and is an enduring monument to that youthful brain that the Rapid Transit Commission called in to their aid, to show them how the work they had undertaken could be accomplished. It must have been an inspiration that dictated to that Commission the selection of its technical head, when, instead of following the usual course of seeking an engineer of trained experience, with a record of great deeds accomplished behind him, they committed the responsibility of planning the exceptional work they had undertaken, as well as its supervisory execution, to the hands of a young engineer who had his spurs yet to win, and experience on a large scale to get. It was an unheard of procedure, but the results accomplished have shown that in no respect has the wisdom and judgment of the Commission been vindicated in a higher degree than when they called William Barclay Parsons to be their Chief Engineer.
No reference to the engineering side of this splendid subway system is complete without congratulating the Commission upon the limited tenders they had for the work when advertised for contract, which resulted in the selection of John B. McDonald as contractor, whose genius for organization, coupled with a fertility of resource, was a potent factor in achieving the results obtained. It was a happy combination of circumstances that brought together such well balanced co-ordinating factors as our Rapid Transit Commission, its Chief Engineer, and its Chief Contractor, resulting in a completeness of scheme on bold, broad lines, that has excited not only the admiration of the engineering world, but of all well-wishers of civic righteousness for the high sense of trusteeship which actuated its administration.
May the example set by this Chamber for enlisting "high integrity and high capacity," in the service of the city, shine forth as a standard of endeavor for all future time, as the burnished gold on the medals that to-day are bestowed on those of our members who have so faithfully discharged a great public duty.
Mr. President, I would like to add a few remarks upon the report just read by Mr Seward. A limited number of copies of the record was provided for. There was no provision for a stock on hand in the Chamber. They are provided for distribution among the members and for library distribution. We ought to have an edition here in the Chamber, as the material is so valuable that there will always be a demand for it; and, perhaps it is not in order, but I think it would be well for the Executive Committee to take up that question and consider the advisability of printing an additional number of copies for future use.
THE CHAIRMAN-Are there any further remarks? Gentlemen, the question before you now is the adoption of the report of the Special Committee. What is your pleasure?
J. EDWARD SIMMONS-I move its adoption.
The report was then unanimously adopted.
THE CHAIRMAN-I see that the Hon. Edward M. Grout, Comptroller, is with us. We would like to hear from him.
MR. GROUT—Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the Chamber, I came as a witness, and did not expect to be a participant in your ceremonies. Perhaps the process of elimination, by which I am the only public official here who is not a member of the Chamber, has led you to ask me to speak. I can add nothing whatever, it seems to me, to what is contained in the very full and fair report of your Committee. The noticeable thing in the Rapid Transit law in my mind, as I have seen it in administration, is the recognition of the necessity of the continuous work of a continuing executive body; and that precedent has been adopted, in a measure, in the great and important work which the city is about to undertake of procuring a larger supply of water for the city; and it seems to me that in every public improvement where the plans must of necessity require a long period of time to complete them, the principle which you have caused to be adopted in the Rapid Transit Act, of a continuing body, as against public officials who serve for a short period, is the principle to be chosen.
One personal word I would like to say. It is a matter of great pleasure for one who has sat for four years on the Board with the members of your body who are there, to see them receive at your hands this recognition of the valuable services which they have performed for the city. [Applause.]
THE CHAIRMAN-Mr. William Barclay Parsons is present with us. We would be glad to hear a few remarks from him. [Applause.]
MR. PARSONS-Mr. President, I don't think there is much for me to say, after I have thanked you, sir, and the members of the Chamber, for the invitation to be here to-day and to receive the thanks of the Chamber, and for the very flattering remarks that were made, especially by Mr. Boller, in seconding the report of the Committee. Mr. Boller referred to the work of the "young engineer." But the young engineer could not possibly have succeeded if he had not had during his eleven years of service with the Rapid Transit Commission the full and absolute support of that Commission at all times; and for that support I should like now to make full acknowledgment, and thank the members of the Board for having given it to me so unreservedly and fully as they have done. The Committee state that they have made no attempt to apportion honors. Of course, it is not for me to do so; but I do not think I am stepping beyond the bounds of propriety when I say that in this eleven years of service as the executive officer of the Commission I was necessarily brought into very close contact with the President of the Board, and I know that at many very critical moments, if it had not been for his steadfastness and absolute and unswerving belief in the enterprise of which he was the head, we would not have had rapid transit to-day. And I think, therefore, this city owes the Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Orr, a very great debt, and that this Chamber, of which I am a member, also owes to his efforts the fact that we are celebrating to-day the achievement of his labors. [Great applause.]
THE CHAIRMAN-Mr. George L. Rives is present. We would be glad to hear from him. [Applause.]
GEORGE L. RIVES-Mr. President, for the very great compliment which has been given to me in the report of the Committee I can only express my most sincere and grateful thanks. I was born in this city, have been brought up here; I have lived here all my life. It has always been my desire and my ambition to deserve the good will and confidence of my fellow citizens. I need not say to you, therefore, with what pleasure I feel that such efforts as I have been allowed to make for the service of the people of this city are appreciated and approved by those who represent the commercial and financial interests of the metropolis. Quite apart from any personal question, I want to express my very great gratification that this Chamber has thought it right in this public and striking manner to recognize the value of the services of the members of the Commission. My own membership in the Commission ceased four years ago, so that I can speak in a very impersonal manner of the efficient and admirable work which they have done. It is only those who will take the trouble to inform themselves, as your Committee has done, of the great difficulties that had to be overcome, difficulties of an engineering character, difficulties of what I might call a moral character, difficulties of a legal and financial character-only those who thoroughly understand that can appreciate how complete and striking a victory this Commission has won. Unfortunately a great many people do not understand the subject. One of the candidates for Mayor at the recent election, standing upon the platform of Municipal Ownership, and backed by hundreds of thousands of votes, is now advocating the passage of legislation which will legislate out of office the Rapid Transit Commission, and change radically the law under which they have operated. Such legislation was introduced last year and defeated, but it will be introduced again at the coming session of the Legislature and urged with a great deal of vigor and with a great deal of popular backing. I need not tell this Chamber what I think personally of the merits of the Rapid Transit Act under which these things have been accomplished. We are reminded to-day of the fact, as everybody here knows, that the existing law was initiated and framed under the auspices of this Chamber. If this Chamber desires to see that law continued in force; if this Chamber does not wish to see the conservative safeguards removed which Mr. Hewitt so admirably contended for and so admirably introduced into this bill, I venture to suggest that it is the part of this Chamber to have its voice heard at Albany during the coming session of the Legislature. I need not tell you that the influence of the Chamber in such a matter will be very great and may possibly be decisive. And I do hope that whatever the Chamber may do or leave undone, it will at least carefully examine into this subject with the purpose of retaining the conservative safeguards which have been thrown about this matter. Mr. President, I can only end as I began, by thanking the Chamber very sincerely for the great compliment that has been paid me. [Applause.]
THE CHAIRMAN-We would be glad to hear from Mr. August Belmont, who is also present here. [Applause.]
MR. BELMONT-Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, it was not my purpose to say anything to you, but, of course, I must respond to the request of the Chair. I really do not think that I can add anything, except to ask you to review the work, you who are business men and understand what it means to organize a corporation and manage it in the face of the difficulties which corporations of to-day encounter; and I can only say that I trust that that management has met with your approval and will meet with your continued endorsement. You see the results of it. You know the claim which it has for conservative capitalization and for careful conduct. I speak of that with some pride, and that is as far as I can go. The future will have to speak for itself. [Great applause.]
THE CHAIRMAN —I am sure; gentlemen, we would like to hear from Mr. John B. McDonald.
JOHN B. MCDONALD-Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the Chamber of Commerce, it affords me great pleasure to be here to-day to do honor to the men of New York who have contributed so much to the great work of constructing the first Municipal Railway of Greater New York.
It would be a twice-told tale were I to recount the story of the many obstacles met and overcome. The facts exist, however, that with the aid and countenance of your body, the patience and forbearance of the public, the unfailing support of the Rapid Transit Commission and its Chief Engineer, supplemented by the co-operation of this and preceding municipal administrations, you have given to the City of New York the greatest Rapid Transit Railroad in the world.
Little more than a year has elapsed since the road was opened for active operation. I think it may be fairly said that but few, if any, anticipated the great benefits to the public which it confers. Even now its capacity is overtaxed.
There remains much to be done to meet the demands for transportation of this Empire City. Build where you will, the ever increasing population of New York will absorb your facilities, and the crying demand of the hour is for more accommodations.
I know that so long as the public interests are entrusted to those who have not failed in the past we may look confidently to the future.
I congratulate you, gentlemen, and the City of New York upon the accomplishment of your gigantic undertaking. That your work has been completed and placed in the public service without a shadow to mar its fair fame will live in history a monument to those who have directed and aided in its construction. [Applause.]
The Chairman then presented the medals to the gentlemen named in the report.
THE CHAIRMAN-We will now listen to Mr. Alexander E. Orr.
ALEXANDER E. ORR-Mr. President and gentlemen, my fellow-members of this Chamber, to whom you have just presented these golden tokens as evidences of your recognition and approbation of their services as Rapid Transit Railroad Commissioners of the City of New York, have commissioned me to express to you in their behalf their sincere and heartfelt thanks for the honors you have conferred. For myself I cannot help remembering at this moment, with keen feelings of gratitude, the honors which have come to me for many years past from you, my fellow-members of this Chamber. Several times you elected me your Vice-President, then, for five consecutive terms, your President; then you advanced me to the dignified position of honorary membership, and now, as if in confirmation of all that has gone before, you have presented me also with the gold medal of the Chamber as an additional evidence of your appreciation and respect. Truly, the lines have fallen to me in very pleasant places, and for it all I can only tender you, as I now do from the deep places of my heart, my grateful thanks.
It has been both a pride and pleasure to the members of our Commission to know that the very first move toward real and effective rapid transit under municipal ownership was made by this Chamber, and it was for this reason that when designing the tablet to commemorate the building of the first rapid transit road in New York our Commission decreed that the very first line of the inscription should read: "Suggested by the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York," there to remain as long as' the solid bronze should last as the evidence of your contribution to real rapid transit development.
It is true that in the prosecution of this great work confided to our care there were, especially in the earlier stages, some serious set-backs and very many discouragements; but knowing as we did that we possessed the confidence and support of this Chamber, we again and again took courage, till we finally reached the goal that you, after critical investigation of future possibilities, had the wisdom and the foresight to suggest.
We are glad, yes, more than glad, Mr. President, that Mr. Seward's Committee has mentioned names other than our own, of men who have given true and loyal service to the cause of rapid transit, and without whose aid and co-operation the problem now so happily solved would have remained an unsolved problem to-day.
With the Committee's permission we desire to add to the list the names of the late Justice Henry R. Beekman, who, under the supervision of this Chamber, drafted the rapid transit law, and of Edward M. Shepard and Albert B. Boardman, who, with George L. Rives, already named in the report, acted as our counsel and made all rough places in our legal pathway smooth, and then in a few brief words emphasize the names-first, of that great and good and patriotic New York citizen, our dearly loved fellow-member, Abram S. Hewitt, [applause] known to us all as the father of rapid transit. No poor words of mine can add to the luster of his great fame, but I am sure it is a pleasure to us all to remember that during his lifetime we were able to recognize his services in a manner that brought joy and happiness to his heart.
And of William Barclay Parsons, our Chief Engineer, who designed and superintended the building of the subway, and whose professional skill proved equal to every engineering difficulty that was encountered and won for him a well merited national and international reputation. It may interest you to know that Mr. Parsons' direct ancestor of several generations back obtained the original Charter of this Chamber from the British Crown. And of John B. McDonald and August Belmont, who at an opportune moment came to the front, when so many held back, and with faith and courage accepted the contract for construction and operation, which crowned all our previous efforts with success. And of Edward M. Grout [applause] and Bird S. Coler, who as the chief financial officers of the city, were members of all our important Committees, and helped us so much in determining franchise values, which to our minds are the most valuable of all municipal assets. All these names should be held in our grateful remembrance as long as rapid transit is deemed essential to the comfort, happiness, and development of this great City of New York.
In conclusion, it is not for me to forecast the future, but I cannot help believing that passenger transportation through large cities by subway contrivance has come to stay. [Applause.]
CHARLES STEWART SMITH-Mr. Chairman, some of my associates on the Rapid Transit Board have made a suggestion to me which I have very great pleasure in communicating to you. Mr. Seward, in his report, and my friend, Mr. Parsons, in his remarks, paid a very merited compliment to the President of the Rapid Transit Board. My friends on my left have suggested that I should say something which would express the convictions of the members of the Rapid Transit Board regarding their President. Mr. Orr has executed his great work and borne his immense responsibilities with absolute fidelity, great industry, and very great ability. [Applause.] There were times when the Board felt very uncertain of public support. A good many of our best citizens in New York talked about a "hole in the ground." But Mr. Orr had unbounded faith that in the end the rapid transit work would receive the approbation of the citizens of New York city. I want simply to say that I wish to confirm the remark in the report made by Mr. Seward in reference to Mr. Orr, on the part of the Rapid Transit Commissioners themselves. [Applause.]
CALVIN TOMKINS-Mr. President, in 1888 Mayor Hewitt sent a message to the Board of Aldermen of this city on the subject of rapid transit. It was probably the first great rapid transit paper which emanated from a city official. I find extracts from that message have been embodied in a resolution presented to this Chamber, and I think it would be peculiarly appropriate and grateful at this time if by general consent that resolution, which is virtually and practically Mr. Hewitt's message, could be read and receive our consideration. We have heard from the other gentlemen who have been peculiarly instrumental in bringing about this great public work. I think it is fitting that we should hear a few of the words of Mr. Hewitt who was the great leader in that enterprise. I would ask general consent. I believe the Secretary has that.
A. BARTON HEPBURN-Mr. President, the resolution which the gentleman refers to was introduced and referred to the Committee of which I am Chairman. I embodied the sentiments of Mr. Hewitt as expressed in his message, and with it, I presume, the Chamber would generally agree; but my Committee did not think it right or opportune or proper to report to this Chamber an expression of abstract sentiment. We are practically business men, and when any practical question comes before us for action it is quite right that we should express our sentiments; but for this Chamber to approve formally the sentiments expressed by Mayor Hewitt in a message which he delivered some time ago did not seem to us to be a proper thing to do, even conceding that we approved of the sentiments expressed, and for that reason the resolution is lying in Committee unacted upon.
MR. TOMKINS-I ask general consent to present it.
MR. SIMMONS-Mr. Chairman, inasmuch as the programme laid down by the Special Committee has been completed and the business of the Chamber has been finished I move that we adjourn.
The Chamber then adjourned.
Alexander E. Orr
Statue of Abram S. Hewitt
Morris K. Jesup
Charles Stewart Smith
John H. Starin
William Barclay Parsons
George S. Rice