[Trolley cars near Boston Commons, Boston, Massachusetts]
Boston was once a center for shipbuilding and it has always been a neighborhood of immigrants. It was part of the New England corner of triangular trade, receiving sugar from the Caribbean and refining it into rum and molasses, partly for export to Europe. Boston was chartered as a city only in 1822 as a result of a transformation from a small and economically stagnant town in 1780 to a bustling seaport and cosmopolitan center by 1800. It had become one of the world's wealthiest international trading ports, exporting products like rum, fish, salt and tobacco. By the mid-19th century Boston was one of the largest manufacturing centers in the nation, noted for its garment production, leather goods, and machinery industries. Manufacturing overtook international trade to dominate the local economy. A network of small rivers bordering the city and connecting it to the surrounding region made for easy shipment of goods and allowed for a proliferation of mills and factories. Boston's "Brahmin elite" developed a particular semi-aristocratic value system by the 1840s—cultivated, urbane, and dignified, the Brahmin was the very essence of an enlightened aristocracy. He was not only wealthy, but displayed personal virtues and character traits. The Brahmin had expectations to meet: to cultivate the arts, support charities such as hospitals and colleges, and assume the role of community leader. In 1831, William Lloyd Garrison founded The Liberator, an abolitionist newsletter, in Boston. It advocated "immediate and complete emancipation of all slaves" in the United States, and established Boston as the center of the abolitionist movement. The earliest Irish settlers began arriving in the early 18th century and they were forced to hide their religious roots since Catholicism was banned in the Bay Colony but later, throughout the 19th century, Boston became a haven for Irish Catholic immigrants. Today, Boston has the largest percentage of Irish-descended people of any city in the United States. The Irish took political control of the city, leaving the Yankees in charge of finance, business, and higher education. From the mid-to-late-19th century, the Boston Brahmins flourished culturally. Higher education became increasingly important, principally at Harvard (based across the river in Cambridge). The Brahmins were the foremost authors and audiences of high culture, despite being a minority. Emerging Irish, Jewish, and Italian cultures made little to no impact on the elite. From the late 19th century until the mid-20th century, the phrase "Banned in Boston" was used to describe a literary work, motion picture, or play prohibited from distribution or exhibition. During this time, Boston city officials took it upon themselves to "ban" anything that they found to be salacious, immoral, or offensive: theatrical shows were run out of town, books confiscated, and motion pictures were prevented from being shown—sometimes stopped in mid-showing after an official had "seen enough".
The history of trams, streetcars or trolleys began in the early nineteenth century. The world's first horse-drawn passenger tramway started operating in 1807, it was the Swansea and Mumbles Railway, in Wales, UK. It was switching to steam in 1877, and then, in 1929, by very large (106-seats) electric tramcars, until closure in 1961. Horse Cars The first streetcar in America, developed by John Stephenson, began service in the year 1832 in New York. Harlem Railroad's Fourth Avenue Line ran along the Bowery and Fourth Avenue in New York City. These trams were a horse- or mule-powered, usually two as a team. It was followed in 1835 by New Orleans, Louisiana, which is the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world, according to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Horsecars were largely replaced by electric-powered trams following the improvement of an overhead trolley system on trams for collecting electricity from overhead wires by Frank J. Sprague. Sprague spring-loaded trolley pole used a wheel to travel along the wire. In late 1887 and early 1888, using his trolley system, Sprague installed the first successful large electric street railway system in Richmond, Virginia. By 1889, 110 electric railways incorporating Sprague's equipment had been begun or planned on several continents. Steam Cars Trams were also powered by steam. The most common type had a small steam locomotive (called a tram engine in the UK) at the head of a line of one or more carriages, similar to a small train. Systems with such steam trams included Christchurch, New Zealand; Adelaide, South Australia; Sydney, Australia and other city systems in New South Wales; Munich, Germany (from August 1883 on), British India (Pakistan) (from 1885) and the Dublin & Blessington Steam Tramway (from 1888) in Ireland. Steam tramways also were used on the suburban tramway lines around Milan and Padua; the last Gamba de Legn ("Peg-Leg") tramway ran on the Milan-Magenta-Castano Primo route in late 1958. The other style of steam tram had the steam engine in the body of the tram, referred to as a tram engine (UK) or steam dummy (US). The most notable system to adopt such trams was in Paris. French-designed steam trams also operated in Rockhampton, in the Australian state of Queensland between 1909 and 1939. Stockholm, Sweden, had a steam tram line at the island of Södermalm between 1887 and 1901. Steam tram engines faded out around 1890s to 1900s, being replaced by electric trams. Cable Cars Another system for trams was the cable car, which was pulled along a fixed track by a moving steel cable. The power to move the cable was normally provided at a "powerhouse" site a distance away from the actual vehicle. The London and Blackwall Railway, which opened for passengers in east London, England, in 1840 used such a system. The first practical cable car line was tested in San Francisco, in 1873. Part of its success is attributed to the development of an effective and reliable cable grip mechanism, to grab and release the moving cable without damage. The second city to operate cable trams was Dunedin in New Zealand, from 1881 to 1957. The San Francisco cable cars, though significantly reduced in number, continue to perform a regular transportation function, in addition to being a well-known tourist attraction. A single cable line also survives in Wellington, New Zealand (rebuilt in 1979 as a funicular but still called the "Wellington Cable Car"). Another system, actually two separate cable lines with a shared power station in the middle, operates from the Welsh town of Llandudno up to the top of the Great Orme hill in North Wales, UK.