TROLLEY WARS

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9781560986089: TROLLEY WARS

American cities' rapid expansion after the Civil War fueled the growth of organized transportation systems - omnibuses, horsecars, and later electric streetcars. Trolley Wars traces the social dynamics of these first mass-transportation systems as they developed in Rhode Island, the most urbanized state in Gilded Age America. Covering years of careening growth, Scott Molloy focuses on the laborers who operated the transit system, the changing ownership of the streetcar lines, and the strong bond that grew between trolley crews and passengers - a bond that sustained a powerful political alliance during the bitter "car wars" of 1902. Nineteenth-century motormen and conductors often spent their entire career on one route, becoming sentinels of the community with loyal followings among riders. As the changeover from horsepower to electricity revolutionized urban travel, out-of-state syndicates purchased the transit lines and instituted cost-saving measures that irritated employees and patrons alike. Even more unsettling was the links between the corporations and the Republican-dominated state legislature in Rhode Island - an unholy alliance that ignored the organized carmen's demand for better wages, shorter hours, and safety improvements. A showdown, Molloy demonstrates, was inevitable. Labor's response to corporate arrogance and corrupt politics galvanized citizens throughout Providence, Pawtucket, and surrounding industrial areas. The ensuing walkout, transit boycott, strike, and fundraising efforts to aid picketing workers during the car wars were supported across class lines and directed at both the railroad and the politicians. Molloy dissects Rhode Island's 1902 car wars and relatesthem to a larger pattern of labor unrest and urban malaise throughout the country. He argues that the development of urban mass transportation involved a battle for control of city streets and city government. By focusing on transit workers in Rhode Island, Trolley Wars

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About the Author:

SCOTT MOLLOY is Professor of Labor and Industrial Relations at the Labor Research Center, University of Rhode Island. He has published widely and won many teaching awards, including RI Professor of the Year, 2004-2005.

From Booklist:

Labor and industrial relations professor Molloy examines the conflicts that grew out of America's shift from horse-drawn to electric-powered transport in heavily urbanized Rhode Island during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In only a few years, the fledgling electric trolley car industry exploded, causing a host of benefits and problems. On the labor front, trolley workers split along the lines of age and seniority, fighting each other over pay and benefits. Management and owners battled labor unions. Meanwhile, the trolley's reliability and speed made life more efficient--and hectic. In shaping cities, the trolley prompted the blossoming of suburbs, as the middle and upper classes now had an easy means to enter and leave the congested cities. An extremely readable mix of history, sociology, and labor politics. Brian McCombie

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MOLLOY SCOTT
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