About 140 years ago to this day, something quite momentous happened in New York history: the first subway line was opened to the public. The system was the invention of Alfred Ely Beach and his company Beach Pneumatic Transit Company. Beach put up $350,000 of his own money to build the first prototype and tunnel and his company managed to put it together, somewhat secretively, in just 58 days. The tunnel measured about 312 feet long, eight feet in diameter, and was completed in 1870.
When Beach initially filed for permits to construct the project beneath Broadway, on the eastern edge of what we know today to be Tribeca, he claimed that he was simply building postal tubes beneath the street. Beach later had the permits amended, slyly claiming he was excavating a single large tunnel wherein the smaller tubes could reside. Construction was however obvious and well-documented by the papers, but Beach remained hush until the New York Tribune published an article—which many suspect was planted—a few weeks before the line’s opening. ….