(San Francisco): Key System Transit Company / Key Terminal Railway, Ltd. 1923 - 1957. Includes 25 items, including two blueprint reproductions and six photographs; pagination of textual items varies from a single sheet printed recto only, to the ~30 pp cache of System Instructions and Route Information. B/w photographs (most 8" x 10", one 4-1/4" x 7") and other intratextual illustrations, blueprints of railcars printed in brown ink (16-3/4" x 33-7/8" and 21" x 40-1/8"), charts within timetables. Varying sizes, ranging from a 1" x 4-5/8" ticket, to ~9" x 6" booklet and advertisement, to ~12" x 9" booklet and certificate, to ~14" x 21" staple-bound "station record of train movements (when unfolded). Printed on buff, pink, white paper in brown and black ink. Two items with orange printed paper wrappers, Large block of transit lines housed within a bolted binder with stiff brown paper covers. Moderate wear to collection. Slight damages observed: modest rubbing and wear to paper and wrappers, age-toning to some sheets, light soiling and a few modest tears (no losses). Withal, a VG collection of items. Item #40415
Key System was a privately owned mass transit company that serviced San Francisco and the East Bay from 1903 to 1960, when it was taken over by AC Transit after a prolonged series of scandals and missteps. Originally the San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose Railway (SFOSJR), the company underwent several transformations and reorganizations until 1923, when it was renamed the Key System Transit Company, and 1938, when it then was renamed simply Key System.
In 1946, National City Lines became majority shareholders in the company, and began decommissioning streetcars in favor of buses; in 1947, nine corporations were convicted of conspiring to monopolize bus sales by the Federal District Court of Southern California, and in 1949, National City, General Motors, and others were convicted of conspiring to monopolize the sale of buses to their subsidiary companies. The Great Streetcar Scandal, as it came to be known, brought Key System to disgrace, and was a major factor in causing transbay ridership to plummet from 22 million in 1946 to 9.8 million in 1952. By 1958, Key System’s early success had been completely eroded by corruption, anemic ridership, and the greater shift nationally to automobile transportation. Its last commuter train run was on April 20, 1958; in 1960 AC Transit took over operation of the Key System facilities. [Wiki]
This diverse collection provides an extended history of the company, from its early heyday to its final struggling years. Reproductions of blueprints of early cars help to reveal how changes in the composition of rolling stock (the addition of pantographs, the positioning of doors and seating, etc) would affect the company’s success, and timetables, ticket stubs, and photographs provide archival evidence of the company’s development. Ironically, a “Key System News” newsletter from 1923 roundly decries the use of automobiles in mass transit, citing hundreds of automobile-related deaths as well as a message by President Harding to Congress on December 8, 1922: “With full recognition of motor car transportation we must turn it to the most practical use. It cannot supersede the railway lines, no matter how generously we afford it highways out of Public Treasury. If freight traffic by motor were charged with its proper and proportionate share of highway construction, we should find much of it wasteful and more costly than service by rail . . . .”
Full details of the contents are as follows: Key System Transit Lines cache of materials (timetables, routes & instructions for 1948, 49, 50 & 57), with extra leaves of timetables for January 1948 & 1957; 5 used Key System tickets (for July of 1944, January 19 [no year], and 1936 (one a partial ticket); the Annual Report for 1932; a "Key Note" Address to the members of the Employees' Association of Key System "upon subjects of common interest to the Company and Employees”; Timetables A, B, C, E, F, and H for 1949 and 1957 (includes lines for Oakland 12th Street, Oakland - Grand Avenue, Berkeley - Shattuck Avenue, Piedmont - 40th Street, Berkeley - Sacramento Street, & Claremont - 55th Street); 6 b/w photographs (on both glossy and matte paper); "Key System Transit Co. Stock Certificate,” filled out and signed on the 19th of June, 1930; undated Station Record of Train Movements (10 pp); ”Key System News" newsletter (Vol. IV, No. 1, January 17, 1923); and two large blueprint reproductions of railcars commissioned for Key System.