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Transfer Tickets or Nothing

Transfer Tickets or Nothing Cause Button Museum
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Transfer Tickets or Nothing button back Cause Button Museum
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Black text on a yellowish white background with a blue white and red outer ring

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Buttons made by The Whitehead & Hoag Co. Newark, N.J., U.S.A. Pat April 14, 1896, July 21, 1896

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In 1895, the city of Providence, Rhode Island demanded a public transit system that would allow for free transfers for passengers. The Union Railroad Company claimed it would lose $250,000 annually through a transfer system due to fraud. As a sort of compromise, Union Railroad demanded that the city waive its tax obligations in order to offset its loss through the free transfer system. The city refused to meet this condition and introduced city-wide legislation for a free and unrestricted transfer system. The URC made a counteroffer for free transfers in exchange for not having to sponsor road repairs.

Senator Nelson Aldrich argued for the rights of URC, claiming that if the company’s rights were not upheld, the rights of all public and private corporations would be at risk. Councilman P.J. McCarthy countered by arguing that the city’s legislators were servants of the URC and warned of the dangers of allowing one company to monopolize the city’s transit system. As the debate continued, the Outlet Company passed out the “Transfer Tickets or Nothing” button to the public as a sort of protest against the URC. It wasn’t until 1902 that the URC actually began issuing transfer tickets, and then only in exchange for legislative favors.

Molloy, S. (1996). Trolley wars: Streetcar workers on the line (pp. 92-94). Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.

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