With the opening of Topeka’s first steel bridge across the Kansas river only a few days away, the Commonwealth of February 9, 1870 editorialized:

So long as a toll bridge intervenes between the north and south parts of our city, there will be undesirable divisions of interest and feelings between the two sections. We not only want a free bridge, but we also want Mr. [Mortimer] Cook to use the capital he has invested in the bridge in another enterprise second in importance to the bridge. We mean a street railway . . . . The plan of making a suburban town southwest of the city, and connecting it with the city and the railroad depots, is good . . . . We want Mr. Cook to work up such an enterprise. Let us buy his bridge so he can have the means to do it.

On January 1, 1871 the city of Topeka and Shawnee county did jointly purchase the bridge for $100,000. Although Mortimer Cook, a Topeka grain

 

dealer, reportedly made a handsome profit not only from the sale but from toll income for nearly eleven month, he was not tempted to reinvest the proceeds in any of the forthcoming local railway ventures.

During the next decade, an even dozen corporations obtained charters to build and operate street railway systems in Topeka. The promoters of all but one, the City Railway Company, left nothing more to show for their efforts than an assortment of beautifully lithographed stock certificates.

Sam Radges’ annual Topeka Directory for the year 1800 was about to go to press (in November, 1889) when it became known around town that Col. John W. Hartzell, manager of Topeka Omnibus Company, had interested a group of Topeka’s leading citizens to join him in organizing what was to become the town’s first operating street railway, the City Railway Company. In an

introductory feature of the directory for 1880, “History of Topeka,” it’s author, a prominent local attorney, Joseph G. Waters, expressed what may have been the consensus of opinion of the carriage trade:

We have also some fellows here who would like to get us to put our foot into it and vote for street horse cars, to disfigure our boulevards and avenues, and crowd and hamper our already overburdoned streets.

From an editorial in the Daily Capital, September 22, 1880:

The capital has no argument to present against this argument between two applicants for the street railway franchise. If our capitalists see in it a profitable investment. . . We believe every citizen will unite in wishing them success . . . . What in our estimation would be more profitable for the city and contribute very much more to it’s growth and prosperity, is the erection of a good water works.

 

 

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