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Interpreting the Evidence

Subway Train, New York City, 1936

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Era:

    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 Subway Train, New York City, 1936 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A train coming into the Schermerhorn Street Subway Station, New York City, 1936.
Historical Context
Construction of New York City's first subway line started in 1900; however, most of the subway system we use today was built from 1913 to 1931.   Additional lines were added in the 1930s, which ended the need for the elevated trains that ran the same routes above ground.

Prior to 1920, subway customers bought tickets to pay their fares. After 1920, customers used coin-operated turnstiles. Rates started at five cents and later increased to ten cents. When the fare rose to fifteen cents in 1953, tokens were used instead of coins, because turnstiles couldn't accept two different coins.  Today, the fare for the subway is $2.00, and customers use MetroCards instead of tokens.

New York City’s subway system carries nearly five million passengers a day on hundreds of miles of track, making it one of the largest and busiest subways in the world.

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 local communities.
Historical Challenges
Research the difficulties construction workers encountered when digging the subway in New York City. Are the subway tunnels used for any other reason? Which cities had subway systems before New York City? What other cities use subways today?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Approximately how much money does the subway take in on an average day in New York City?
Science: Research what kind of energy the subway system runs on. Is it comparable to any other forms of transportation?
English Language Arts: Write an essay about which is more efficient: the elevated train or the subway.