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Interpreting the Evidence

Double-Decker Bus, New York City, 1938

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    The Great Depression and WW II (1929 - 1945)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    New York City
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Double-Decker Bus, New York City, 1938 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Passengers boarding a double-decker bus on Fifth Avenue near 42nd Street in New York City, July 1938.
Historical Context
The first bus line in the United States started in 1905, when the Fifth Avenue Coach Company began operating gasoline-powered double-decker buses in New York City.  The motor bus quickly replaced the horse-drawn omnibus, which had been used for public transportation since the late 1820s.  Buses became an increasingly popular form of public transportation over the next several decades.  By the 1930s and 1940s, buses had replaced most of the electric trolleys in New York City, as well.  Today, New York City has approximately 5,000 buses and 3,000 miles of bus routes.
Essential Question
How does the availability of transportation affect the economic and cultural aspects of a society?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and evaluate the impact of this technology on the local communities.
Historical Challenges
What was the first city in New York State to replace all streetcars with buses?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Approximately how many miles does each bus cover in the five boroughs of New York City? (Hint: Use the numbers in the Historical Background passage to find your answer.)
Science: Investigate the differences and similarities of gasoline-powered and electric-powered vehicles.
English Language Arts: Use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the horse-drawn omnibus and the motor bus.