1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

    List of finding aids

    R.I.H.S. Library page

    R.I.H.S. home page

 Records of the United Transit Company

 and the United Electric Railways

 Streetcar operators, Rhode Island

 Records, 1914-1966. Bulk, 1935-1963.

 Size: 15 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 94

 Processed by: Cindy Bendroth, May 1989

Revised in February 1990 and September 1999

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            The Rhode Island streetcar and bus history is complex and often confusing due to various ownerships, leases and regulations. Although there were up to 15 street car companies, most were merged under one owner or leaser. The fear of thousands of Rhode Islanders being left without transportation due to the financial difficulties and whims of the streetcar companies convinced the state that "laissez-faire" government would not work with public transportation. Therefore the Public Utilities Commission began regulating the industry and by the 1960s, the state had completely taken over what became the bus system.

            In 1887, the first electric car rolled down South Main St. There had been street cars in Rhode Island as early as 1865, but "electric fever" had hit Rhode Island and many new companies came to life. So much activity was taking place that by 1902 there were 15 companies. However, most of these companies were not independently owned.

            Marsden Perry, Nelson Aldrich and William Roelker saw the possibilities of profiting from the electric cars. In buying up shares of Union Railroad Company and the Pawtucket Street Railway Company, they formed a holding company called United Traction and Electric Company. The Traction Company organized the RI Suburban Railway Co. (1899), which bought the Pawtuxet Valley Street Railway Co., the Cumberland Street Railway Company and a Barrington/Warren company in 1900. Interstate Consolidated Street Railway Company was absorbed in the Suburban system in 1901.

            The Traction Company never was a big financial success. In order to combine the Traction Company's holdings, United Gas Improvement Company of Philadelphia and the Traction Company formed the Rhode Island Company in 1902. The Rhode Island Company leased the United Traction holdings and their leases. Rhode Island Company's first year was plagued by striking workers that crippled the streetcar company for part of the year. By 1906, the Rhode Island Company's stock was passed around from one company to another. The Rhode Island Securities Company, a holding company for the United Gas and Improvement Company, owned most of the stock. By 1907, J.P. Morgan's New Haven Railroad Company controlled most of the stock of the Rhode Island Company.      By 1910 the ownership of companies broke down as such: J.P. Morgan owned stock in NY, New Haven and Railroad Company which owned all the stock of the Providence Securities Company. The Providence Securities company held securities and owned stock in the Rhode Island Company which in turn owned the Columbian Street Railway Company, Providence and Burrillville Street Railway Company and Woonsocket Street Railway Company. The Rhode Island Company also leased and operated from the United Traction and Electric Company who owned shares and bonds of the Rhode Island Suburban Railway Company, Pawtucket Street Railway Company and the Union Railroad Company. The Union Railroad Company owned stock and leased the Providence Cable Tramway Company.

            In 1914, because of antitrust laws, the New Haven Railroad was ordered to divest itself of New England streetcar companies. The Rhode Island Company floundered as it found itself with little money to pay leases and competing with automobiles and the forerunner of the bus, the jitney. By 1918 the Company was deep in debt and the Rhode Island Superior Court terminated the leases of the Rhode Island Company.

            The Rhode Island Company went into temporary receivership and in January 1919 all Rhode Island Company lines (except the Seaview line and the Providence Danielson Railway co.) were consolidated under the United Electrical Railways Company (UER). All of the United Traction properties (Union Railroad, Pawtucket Street Railway and RI Suburban and Providence Cable Tramway) were transferred to UER also. UER was given its charter in 1919. To avoid future public inconvenience because of the streetcars' financial affairs, the legislature placed the corporation under the full and exclusive control of the Public Utilities Commission.

            By the early fifties, the UER faced financial difficulties as commuters began to rely on automobiles rather than buses (which replaced the streetcars). The United Transit Company (UTC) took over UER in 1952. Finally in 1964, Rhode Island created the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) which allow the state to acquire any private company if abandonment of their service would hurt the public. In 1966 it acquired UTC and the public transportation system became state-owned.


Public Utility Annual Reports

Rosenberg, Samuel Henry. "A History of Street Railways in Rhode Island" (University of Rhode Island master's thesis, 1962).

Return to top

Scope and content:

            The collection contains mostly financial records and payroll from the UER and UTC and annual reports of streetcar companies. The collection dates from 1914 to 1972, the bulk of the material dating from 1935-1963. Technically it is the records of many companies: the UER, UTC, RIPTA and the streetcar companies. However, because the company inherited the records of the others and added to them, the collection is maintained as a whole.

            The annual reports are copies of those sent to the state or federal public utilities commissions from the various streetcar companies affiliated with the Rhode Island Company. The UER later took over and consolidated these companies. The annual reports are from the United Electrical Railway Company, Rhode Island Company, Pawtucket Street Railway Company, Union Railroad Company, Rhode Island Suburban Railroad and others. The financial records include operation sheets, cash payments and payroll records for the administration, although there are some general employee records. One series contains Narragansett Electric Company director meeting notes. A.E. Lewis, president of the UER, was also on the board of directors for the Electric Company.

            Other related collections are Mss 60 (United Traction and Electric Co. Records) and Mss 61 (United Transit Workers' Union).

Series description

Series I: Annual Reports, 1914-1945 (2.5 lin. ft.)

            Series I contains many of the annual reports of the Railways belonging to the RI Company and the United Electric Railways. The series is arranged alphabetically by company and then chronologically.

Series II: Payroll, 1953-1963 (4.5 lin. ft)

            This series consists of the payroll of UER and UTC employees. The administration payroll includes monthly reports of earnings. Two ledgers have general employee weekly payroll records and two quarterly earnings ledgers, which contain mostly tax information. Arranged chronologically.

Series III: Miscellaneous Financial Records 1924-1966 (7.25 lin. ft.)

            Operation sheets, cash sheets, line earning reports, tax reports, department purchase orders, invoices, minutes of the board of directors, and monthly financial reports of the UER and UTC. Series also includes volumes containing the ICC accounts, property and equipment amounts and depreciation records. Arrangement is by size of material and somewhat alphabetically.

Series IV: Narragansett Electric Company and Miscellaneous, 1946-1949 (.25 lin. ft.)

            Reports for meetings of the directors. Reports belonged to A.E. Lewis, one time president of the UER. Also included is one folder of the UER and UTC Bowling League and the day schedule for 1972 (probably RIPTA), and several folders on taxicab companies from the 1930s ans 1940s, bought out by UER. Arranged chronologically.

Return to top


            The Rhode Island Historical Society Library was given the UER and UTC collection by the State of Rhode Island through the State Records Manager, Albin Wagner, in 1989.

Return to top

Processing note:

            Most all of the collection was kept and the ledgers were kept in their original form. Ledger sheets were put in oversize boxes. Loose payroll records were gleaned of papers that duplicated information; although samples were kept. The collection was entered in OCLC #19789291, May 31, 1989. New items were not entered in OCLC after February, 1990. In 1999, one additional box of material was found in Society storage space, which had been part of the original accession but had inadvertently never been processed. This additional material was integrated in September of 1999, and was not given a distinct accession number.

Return to top


Series I: Annual Reports

            Interstate Consolidated Street Railway Company

1                      to Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), December 1921

2                      to ICC, December 1922

            Pawtucket Street Railway Company

3                      to ICC, December 1919

4                      to ICC, January-June 1921

5                      to Public Utilities Commission of RI (PUC), January-June 1921

            Providence Cable Tramway Company

6                      to PUC, January-June 1921

            RI Company

7                      to ICC, January-June 1914

8a&b               to PUC, January-June 1915 (2 copies)

9                      to PUC, January-June 1916

10                    to PUC, December 1916

11                    to PUC, December 1917

12                    to PUC, December 1918

13                    to PUC, December 1919

14                    to PUC, December 1920

15                    to PUC, January-July 8, 1921

16                    to ICC, January-July 8, 1921

17             to ICC, January-June 1921

             RI Suburban Railway Company

18                    to ICC, December 1919

19                    to PUC, June 1915

20                    to PUC, January-June 29, 1921

21                    to ICC, January-June 29, 1921

            Seaview Railroad Company

22                    to ICC, December 1919

            Union Railroad Company

23                    to ICC, December 1919

24                    to PUC, January-June 1921

25                    to ICC, January-June 1921

            United Electric Railways Company

26                    to ICC, July 9 - December 1921

27                    to PUC, July 9 - December 1921

28-34              to ICC, December 1922 - December 1928 (7 reports)

35-41              to PUC, December 1928 - December 1934 (7 reports)

42                    to Division of Public Utilities of RI (DPU), December 1935

43-45              to DPU, December 1936 - December 1938 (3 reports)

46-50              to Public Utilities Administrator of Dept. of Business Regulation, December 1939-December 1944 (5 reports)

Series II: Payroll

(Ledger 1) UTC weekly payroll, January-June 1956

(Ledger 2) UTC quarterly earnings for employees, 1953-1956

(Ledger 3) UTC earnings by quarters, 1957-1963

(Ledger 4) UTC weekly payroll, July-December, 1958

Box l

            Employment record (UER), 1952

            Employment record (UTC), 1952

            Life insurance information cards, 1938-1954 (employees named L-M) (gives birth dates)

            Payroll, 1937-1939 (3f)

            Payroll, 1941-1945 (5f)

            Payroll [and sample], 1946-1947 (2f)

            Payroll, 1948

            Payroll [and sample], 1949

            Payroll, 1950-1951 (2f)

            Payroll [and sample], 1952-1953 (2f)

            Payroll [and sample], 1955-1956 (2f)

            Payroll [and sample], 1957-1964 (8f)

            Salary list, 1932-1936 (UER)

Series III: Miscellaneous Financial Records

Box 1 (cont'd)

            Taxes, 1961-66

(Ledger 4A) Monthly Financial Statements and Operating Reports, 1946

Box 2 (oversize)

            Cash payments, 1952-1955

(Ledger 5) Cash payments, January 1958 - April 1963

(Ledger 6) Cash payments, October 1965 - July 1966

Box 3 (oversize)

            Analysis of profit and loss, 1925-1958

            Operating sheets, 1959-1963

            Operating sheets, 1960-1962

(Ledger 7) Operating sheets, 1952-1968

(Ledger 8) Operating sheets, 1964-1966

Box 4 (oversize)

            Improvement suspension (1948-1963)

            Analysis of miscellaneous debits, 1940-1958

            UER and UTC miscellaneous rents, 1924-1949

            Adjustments and lines abandoned, 1963-1965

            Line earnings, 1963

            Day schedule, 1972

(Ledger 9) Taxes by town, 1934-1966

(Ledger 9A) Taxes and insurance, 1951-1966

(Ledger 10) UER and UTC carrier operating property and depreciation accounts, 1942-1966

(Ledger 11) UER and UTC equipment changes and conversion accounts, 1951-1963

(Ledger 12) Vouchers payable, April 1962 - June 1966

Box 5

            Volumes 21-59 [accounts, depreciations, equipment], 1921-1959 (9f, 8 notebooks)

Box 6

            Volume 60-65 [accounts, depreciations, equipment], 1960-1965 (2 notebooks)

Box 7

            Department orders, 1952

            Department orders, 1953

            Department orders, 1954

            Department orders, 1955

            Department orders, 1956

            Department orders, 1957

            Department orders, 1958

            Department orders, 1959

            Department orders, 1960

            Department orders, 1961-1963

            Invoices, 1963, May-June

            Invoices, 1963, July-September

            Invoices, 1963, October-December

            Invoices, 1964, January-April

            Invoices, 1964, May-September

            Directors' meeting agendas, 1944-1945

            Directors' meeting agendas, 1946

            Directors' meeting agendas, 1947

            Directors' meeting agendas, 1948

            Directors' meeting agendas, 1949

Series IV: Narragansett Electric Company and Miscellaneous

Box 6

            Narragansett Electric Company Director's Meeting Agenda, 1946-1949 (4f)

            Bowling league, 1927-1949

            Time schedule, n.d.

Box 7

            Gaspee Cab / Terminal Cab Company minutes and incorporation, 1930-1933

            Monahan Taxi Co. - Corporation returns, 1944-1947

            Monahan Taxi Co. - Pay rate changes, 1945-1947

            Yellow Cab Co. - Application for expanded service, 1934

            Yellow Cab Co. - Canceled notes held by U.E.R., 1932-1947

            Yellow Cab Co. - Corporation returns, 1944-1947

            Yellow Cab Co. - Pay rate changes, 1945-1947

            Yellow Cab Co. - Petty cash slips, February-March, 1945

            Yellow Cab Co. - Settlement with estate of Charles Keenan, 1945

Return to top


Electric utilities - Rhode Island

Gaspee Cab Company

Interstate Consolidated Street Railway Company

Lewis, Arthur E.

Monahan Taxi Company

Narragansett Electric Company

Pawtucket Street Railway Company

Providence Cable Tramway Company

Railroads - Rhode Island

Rhode Island Company

Rhode Island Suburban Railway Company

Seaview Railroad Company

Street railroads - Rhode Island

Taxicabs - Rhode Island - Providence

Terminal Cab Company

Transportation - Rhode Island

Union Railroad Company

United Electric Railways

Yellow Cab Company

End of finding aid - return to top