Tooting Their Own Horn: Fort Wayne and Northern Indiana Traction Company

Looking through newspapers for information about transportation items can come up with some interesting results. Today, I want to look at a full page advertisement that was taken out in the 18 December 1915 issue of the Fort Wayne Daily News. The headline asks the question: “What Has The Traction Company Done For Fort Wayne?” The first sentence basically reads “let us see what the real facts are and then everyone judge for himself.” Then facts start pouring out.

The history of the company comes first. “The Fort Wayne & Wabash Valley Traction Company was organized under the laws of Indiana in 1903 for the purpose of acquiring, building and operating street and interurban street railroads and electric light and power plants. In 1911 it was reorganized under the laws of the state of Indiana, with practically the same stockholders and officers, under the name of Fort Wayne & Northern Indiana Traction Company. These two companies, for the purpose of this article, are properly treated as one and will be designated the ‘Traction Company.'”

The difference between it being called, by me, an advertisement and by the author as an article comes from my training, many years ago, as a journalist. Articles in newspapers usually come in the form of columns. One of the lessons that was beat into our heads as journalism students is that space is a premium. Basically, anything the newspaper is “paying the freight for,” i.e. paying staff members to write, has to be as informative and as short as possible. The subject “article” is a full page, large type entry.

More history follows, with a list of properties that the FtW&NITC acquired through the years, starting in 1904. The first list was from that year, mostly properties that had been in receivership (at least once). List of those those assets are: 1) the Fort Wayne street railroad company; 2) the interurban line (built by the Fort Wayne & Southwestern Traction Company) from Fort Wayne to Wabash; 3) the Fort Wayne Electric Light & Power Company (built by the Fort Wayne & Southwestern Traction Company); 4) the Wabash River Traction Company, owner of the line from Peru to Logansport; 5) Logansport Street Railways, then owned by the Logansport Railway Company and the Logansport, Rochester & Northern Traction Company; and 6) the Lafayette Street Railroad Company, owners of the street cars in Lafayette and West Lafayette.

From this paragraph alone we learn that the street cars in Fort Wayne, Logansport, Lafayette and West Lafayette all belong to a company based in Fort Wayne. Also, interurban connections from Fort Wayne to Logansport fall under this company’s umbrella.

The company in question, according to the article, built two more lines to help facilitate access to more Indiana towns. The first line the company built connected Fort Wayne to Bluffton. At Bluffton, the line connected to the Union Traction Company, which gave Fort Wayne, via electric traction lines, access to Montpelier, Hartford City, Marion, Muncie, Anderson and Indianapolis.

The second line built by the Fort Wayne & Northern Indiana Traction Company connected the street railways of Logansport to the street railways of Lafayette, thus creating a link from West Lafayette to Fort Wayne. This, according to the writer, allowed connections with other interurban lines “running North and South at Wabash, Peru, Logansport and Lafayette.”

With these two additions, with connecting routes owned by other companies, it was possible to ride the interurban from Fort Wayne to Chicago, Indianapolis, Louisville, and Dayton, Ohio, in addition to numerous other small Indiana and Ohio towns along the way.

The next part of the article goes on to describe some of the advantages of the traction company to the city of Fort Wayne. The first mentioned is that the company is based in Fort Wayne, with the jobs staying in that city. Second, the building of a million dollar electric plant is heralded. Third is the expansion of services from that plant to all of the residents of the city of Fort Wayne, with “electric light and power service not surpassed in any city in the country.”

The article then mentions the rebuilding of the entire system of railroads, including street car tracks, to the equal of steam railroad properties.

The financial expenditures of the company, and the beneficiaries thereof, were also mentioned. The company sank $333,583 into the paving of the streets in just the city of Fort Wayne. This kept the taxpayers of the city from having to pay that amount. This also allowed, according to the writer, “jitneys” to use, and abuse, that work for which they pay nothing in usage or taxes. Those same “jitneys” also have the ability, and apparently the desire, to block street cars in the performance of those duties.

There were other things mentioned…mostly the amount of taxes and payroll the company pays to especially the governments of Allen County and the City of Fort Wayne. Since the words “render hazardous the lives of people using the streets” were used in this advertisement, one would assume that there were citizens in Fort Wayne questioning the desire to keep the Fort Wayne & Northern Indiana Traction Company in business. The rebuttal, in the form of this full page of the Fort Wayne Daily News, makes it clear that the benefits of the company outweigh the cons of it. And, it goes to lay part of the blame on the company’s reputation on the other users of the streets that, according to the writer, the company paid out of its own pocket to provide to the city.

The article, which also appeared in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette the next day, was signed by James M. Barrett, President of the Fort Wayne & Northern Indiana Traction Company.

I am not here to make a judgement on the merits of the arguments. It was an interesting article that I found while searching for something else. But I am doing what I do best, sharing the information and letting my readers make their own call. If you have access to newspapers.com, the link directly to the article is: 18 Dec 1915, Page 3 – The Fort Wayne News at Newspapers.com. Since it is such a large article, I won’t be posting it here. I may, at a later point, make it available.

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