Closed for Business

The Story of Bankers Trust Company During the Great Depression

Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company

Established in 1902 as a conglomerate of independent transit companies, the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company began constructing streetcars in West Philadelphia. Within the year, they completed plans for the city's first underground subway system, running under Market Street, as well as a street surface line on Broad Street. The company experienced serious financial straits during the subway's construction, but it was eventually completed in 1905. Through the first decades of the 20th century, PRT suffered severe labor unrest stemming from financial mismanagement, and trolley and subway operators went on long and sometimes violent strikes in 1909 and 1910. By the 1920s, after an overhaul of company management in which Thomas E. Mitten was installed as company president, PRTC employees were about a sixth of its total stockholders and labor disputes mostly subsided.
In September 1929, Thomas Mitten and the PRT were sued by the city of Philadelphia for charging excessive fees and diverting funds, and the city demanded an independent audit of the company. A month later, Mitten was found drowned in his summer home, and although he left much of his estate for the benefit of PRT, it declared bankruptcy by 1934.
In 1940, PRT was re-organized into a more centralized business out of a splintered model involving sixty-eight different subsidiary companies, and was then called the Philadelphia Transportation Company. Albert Greenfield served as one of the reorganization managers, as well as on the Board of Trustees, and was at least partially responsible for the new company structure. Greenfield received upwards of $95,000 for his work in reorganizing the company. Earnest Trigg, another Greenfield associate, also sat on the Board of Advisors. The Philadelphia Transportation Company was bought by SEPTA in 1968.
Archives Directory for the History of Collecting in America. Philadelphia Transportation Company Agency history record (finding aid). Frick Collection. Accessed November 14, 2012.
"Leased for 999 Years." New York Times. May 6, 1902.
Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company. "Results of Ten Years of Operation, 1911-1920." Accessed September 10, 2012.
"Riots in Car Strike in Philadelphia." New York Times. May 29, 1909.
"Sees Workers Owning Philadelphia Transit." New York Times. August 31, 1923.
"Sharp Break in Traction Stocks." New York Times. September 13, 1907.