Apr 15, 2021 - Sale 2564

Sale 2564 - Lot 270

Price Realized: $ 1,375
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 1,500 - $ 2,500
(NEW YORK CITY.) Papers of one stagecoach operator's long lonely battle against the Third Avenue Railway. Several hundred manuscript and printed documents (0.7 linear feet) in one box; condition varies, with many documents having some wear or dampstaining, as well as heavy annotation by Mills. Vp, bulk 1859-1875

Additional Details

John Toan Mills (1821-1910) ran the Bull's Head stagecoach line along Third Avenue up to 42nd Street in Manhattan, which was being driven out of business by a horse-drawn rail line along the same route. Starting in 1859, Mills began petitioning to be allowed to run his own horse-drawn cars along a portion of the same rails, on the principle that the rails were a public utility. This was granted in December 1863, which brought him into conflict with the Third Avenue Railroad Company, a fast-growing company in the process of becoming the dominant streetcar operator in the city. This battle, which had a David vs. Goliath tone, continued in one form or another though at least 1886. Offered here are the files kept by Mills relating to this fight: correspondence, petitions, drafts of legislation, resolutions. Mills wrote constantly to governors, mayors, and state legislators in an effort to get formal support for his claim. One side battle was over construction costs due to his son-in-law John L. Brown; another was a battle with one Henry Hart, who had apparently welched on an offer to buy out the stage line.

One interesting file contains 11 long petitions circa 1861 filled with names and addresses of "property owners and residents," urging the state legis;lature to grant Mills rail access, "as a relief against the inconvenience and suffering we have been obliged to submit to for a number of years, by riding in crammed, over-crowded and ill-ventilated cars." Another file contains printed handbills, court cases, and legislative speeches on the case; other files include many manuscript drafts of legislation. Mills was continually writing and re-writing the history of the case. One result is a heavily annotated manuscript draft timeline history of the railway by Mills, starting in 1830 ("Since 1830 stage lines existed on 3rd Ave & the Bowery & Chatham St. The first established was known as the Bulls Head Line"), and continues over 6 closely written pages through 1868, plus 4 pages of appended documents. Similarly, slips of paper contain extracts from his diary dated 1866 to 1872. His correspondence file includes retained drafts of letters to Governor Fenton, Mayor A. Oakey Hall, state senator Charles Folger (later Secretary of Treasury), and many others. Most of the papers relate to the Third Avenue Railway case, but also included are a file on construction work done for the Croton Aqueduct in 1868; and a battered but heavily annotated album of cartes-de-visite--family, friends, and Ulysses S. Grant. This archive is more than just a legal case--it is a twisted corner of New York life in the mid-19th century.