By: Alex Temple, Gettler Project Archivist
For the past several months, work has continued on processing the Benjamin Gettler Papers donated to the Archives & Rare Books Library. Gettler was a notable lawyer, businessman, and civic activist in Cincinnati, an international philanthropist, and a former member of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees. I’ve been fascinated by the amount of public transit-related history in this collection. An often over-looked part of urban history is transportation infrastructure. Public transportation records can tell us not only where people lived, worked, and played, but also the routes taken and who the routes served. They can also provide insight into how, where, or why neighborhoods changed over time.
Cincinnati’s public transportation, as we recognize it today, really began in 1873 when several horse-drawn tram systems merged to form the Cincinnati Consolidated Railway Company. Nearly a decade later, it was renamed the Cincinnati Street Railway Company (Gettler, 2012). It remained the Cincinnati Street Railway Company until 1952, after the company had fully transitioned from rail to rubber-tire service, becoming the Cincinnati Transit Company.
Gettler himself was a prominent figure in Cincinnati’s transit history, as his involvement started slightly before the switch from streetcars to buses and through the sale of the Cincinnati Transit Company to the City of Cincinnati, forming the South Ohio Regional Transit Association (S.O.R.T.A.), and finally serving on the S.O.R.T.A. board beginning in 2003. A good deal of the collection in the Benjamin Gettler Papers comes from his involvement in public transportation, including items such as meeting minutes from the board of directors. One in particular which I found exciting to study was the meeting minutes from the board of directors from 1952 to 1954. Continue reading