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Notes on the Collection of Transfers

W. J. Sidis




         158. General Interest in Transfer Collection.  So far we have been describing what transfers are and how to collect them and how to distinguish the details of those collected, but the collector's interest in the subject we have assumed. Now it is hardly fair to assume that the reader will be interested in collecting street car transfers, since such a hobby is, to say the least, a rare one. It is, therefore, necessary to explain in what way a collection of transfers or the process of making such a collection can be of interest.

        In the last few chapters we have mentioned a few of these points, but actually there are many matters on which one has to touch in the process of collecting transfers and in the proper understanding of the collection one already has. We may mention, for instance, the geographical and topographical interest, both in the exploration and in the analysis of the transfers themselves. There is also the interesting sidelights which such a collection throws on the politics in which transit companies are necessarily involved; though we hardly recommend that this political interest be carried far enough to induce the collector to take sides in any such disputes. We mention the historical interest added to many incidents if our transfer collection tells us something about the places in question. There may also be the element of personal interest, where each transfer in the collection may have its associations connected with the manner in which the collector obtained it; the collection also constituting a fair record of the collectorís travels. And it is not difficult to work in other items of interest, humor and anecdote. As a result the collection of transfers can prove itself a diversion in many more ways than one as well as a somewhat educational pastime.

        The geometrical interest enters the transfer-collecting process in many ways: in the envelope making, in the understanding of street and car routing, in the measurement of transfers, in the allotment of divisions and sub-divisions in the file code, and in the making of routing and distribution maps. One who is interested in arithmetical or statistical figuring can work it into transfer collection in connection with the calculation of car indexes, as well as figuring the possible number of combinations in different varieties of date codes, or in different combinations of print and color, or of fronts and backs. Such figuring also enters into the score kept of the number of transfers in the collection and checking it up the count of each envelope.

        This sort of figuring leads to the question of the effect of different sorts of street arrangement (rectangular blocks, diagonal streets, haphazard crooked streets, etc.) on city traffic. Here the most effective arrangement for traffic purposes is that which gives, on average, the shortest distance between two points: and, surprising as this may seem, it is not straight streets that accomplish this most effectively. In a rectangular block city, the average percentage of excess of street distance over air distance is about 24 per cent, while in a city of crooked, haphazard streets such as Boston, it is nearer 6 per cent. The latter arrangement also makes many lines of crosstown transit possible that would be difficult to arrange otherwise, and naturally has its effect on the car index, which indicates the effectiveness of the transit service. Note the high car index of Boston as given in Section 66, is probably partly due to this circumstance.

        159. Historical Interest.  Besides the mere fact that transfer issues reflect the growth and decline of cities there are other elements of historical interest, such as where the places covered have themselves some historical interest; and transfer collection is an excellent way to become acquainted with many such places. For instance, a trolley ride along the traditional route, or close to it, with a souvenir in some such form as a transfer used in Lexington, can add some interest to the story of Paul Revereís ride. Reading of the commencement of the Shays Rebellion of 1786, at Northampton, Mass., seems more real, somehow, if one can fish out of a collection a transfer labelled "Northampton Street Railway." A collection of Washington transfers seems to make news from the capital seem a bit more realistic, especially such forms as mention well-known places like the Capitol, the Treasury, Pennsylvania Avenue, etc. And a collection of several hundred transfer forms, all from that one city, can bring home a bit more forcibly the real size of New York City. In many other ways historical interest can be found if one looks for it in a collection of these "bits of paper" which seem at first so commonplace and uninteresting.

        160. Anecdotes and Verse.  One may derive much amusement out of transfers. Many street car and bus companies issue little leaflets to whoever wants to take them, usually put in a box labelled "Take One." A story taken from one of these will illustrate what is wedged into some of these. According to this story, a man applied for admission at the gates of St. Peter, and was told to go to the other place. He immediately replied: "Gimme a transfer."

        Another such leaflet issued in a different part of the country advises:

"Donít cross before a trolley car.
Youíll find more room behind it."

        It is said that a Harvard College student got on a street car, and wishing an extra ride, asked the conductor for a transfer. When asked where to, he said, "Anywhere." The conductor winked and said, "All right. I will give you a transfer to Waverly." The student was afterwards laughed at when he told the story, and was informed that the asylum for the feeble-minded was located at Waverly.

        Besides such anecdotes as the above, there may be some interest in expressing in verse form (for easier memorizing) any information concerning routing and transfer privileges, especially when some change is made. The following in an extract from a verse we made up on the opening of the Cambridge Subway (Boston-Cambridge, Mass., [Sat.] March 23, 1912).

"From subway trains at central, a transfer get and go
To Allston or to Brighton or to Somerville you know.
On cars from Brighton, transfer to 'Cambridge Subway, East,'
And get a train to Park Street, or Kendall Square at least.
                     .         .         .         .        .        .
The trains are timed as follows: A Cambridge Subway train
Two minutes stays in Park Street, and then backs out again.
From Park Street three to Kendall, to Central Station five,
Eight minutes after Park Street, at Harvard 'twill arrive.
                     .         .         .         .        .        .
'Twas in the year of 1912, on March the twenty-third."

        Again, an extract from a verse to explain the company numbering of routes, as tried out on some lines in and around Boston for a time:

"A car from Elevated at Woodlawn may arrive;
If so, the sign above the car will show six-fifty-five.
From Tunnel out to Chelsea, two trolley lines are seen;
By the Meridian Bridge four-ten, by Central four-sixteen.
From Gladstone Street four-nineteen will at the tunnel stop.
From Harvard Square prepayment cars are to North Cambridge run,
Which on the top will show the number seven-fifty-one."

     Or an extract from a verse in the form of a Mother Goose Alphabet to explain the letters on the Cars of the Los Angeles Railway. (Compare the company lettering as explained in Appendix D.)

"A is for Adams, well-known man of state.
B is for Brooklyn, that borough so great.
C is for Crown Hill, or Crooked, maybe.
D is for Depot, where stops the Espee.
E is for Eagle Rock, towards the north.
F on the top of a car stands for Fourth."

        Of course, it is hardly to be expected that transfer collectors will generally care to expound the information they acquire through the collection by means of verse; but, for anyone to whom such matters may be of interest, it will afford some entertainment, as well as fix the information in mind. We know of someone who, strange as it may seem, was actually helped to take the right route by remembering a snatch from one of these verses.

        161. Conclusion.  We have given an outline of the mode of collecting transfers and the things that must be noted in the course of making such a collection. This sort of collection has not been taken up as yet to any extent, but there is no reason why it should not be as interesting as other collection hobbies, such as the collection of postage stamps, coins, medals, bills, and other objects. People have found interest in collecting even match boxes; why not transfers? We have found that collecting transfers is quite as entertaining and instructive as some people find the collection of stamps and coins; and we hope that we will not be alone in finding such an interest.

        One thing in which the collection of transfers differs from other kinds of collection, is that such collection can never be commercialized, since trading in transfers is illegal, being presumably fraudulent even where there is no specific law in regard to transfers as such. Therefore, collectors must always be amateurs, collecting for the intrinsic interest in it; the professional collector cannot very well appear in this field, nor would it be desirable that he should. The collector of transfers will, therefore, not be faced by the problem of the stamp collector of issues printed exclusively for sale to collectors and not for circulation.

        We, therefore, now conclude this book in the hopes that the reader will have found some interest somewhere in its pages, even if he does not desire to enter the field as a collector.


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