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American cities’ rapid expansion after the Civil War fueled the growth of organized transportation systems— omnibuses, horsecar, and, later, electric streetcars. Trolley Wars traces the social dynamics of these first mass-transportation systems as they developed in Rhode Island, the most urbanized state in Gilded Age America. Covering years of rapid growth, Scott Molloy focuses on the laborers who operated the transit system, the changing ownership of the streetcar lines, and the strong bond that grew between trolley crews and passengers—a bond that sustained a powerful political alliance during the bitter “car wars” of 1902.
In lucid prose based on scrupulous research, Molloy dissects the car wars and expertly knits them into the larger pattern of labor unrest and urban malaise gripping turn-of-the-century America. Originally published in 1996, the classic Trolley Wars is now made available for the first time in paperback to readers, students, and scholars of labor history, with a new Author’s Note.