July 29, 1911: Common Cup on New Jersey Trains

1211 Skull Common CupJuly 29, 1911: New York Times headline. Stops Fare Advance on Jersey Roads. “As soon as the rate matter had been disposed of the commission, sitting in the Essex County Court House, Newark, NJ went into a hearing on the question of the railway drinking cup, which the Jersey Legislature recently legislated out of existence. Practically every railroad in New Jersey was represented, and all the roads are fighting the suggestion that individual cups of paraffin or any other like substance be substituted at the railroad’s expense for the outlawed common drinking cup.

State Senator H. V. Osborne was present to urge that the roads be required to meet the situation promptly and practically so that the honest thirst of the traveling public will not go unslaked.

For the Lehigh Valley it was stated that while the public drinking cup had been taken away promptly when the law became effective, no substitute had been found. The company was considering the matter, but had not determined what could be done. The company, however, is still supplying ice water in its coaches.

At this point State Senator Osborne said the roads could very well afford to furnish individual drinking cups since they had not long ago raised the passenger rates, and were now proposing to raise them again. The suggestion did not seem to meet with instant favor from the railway representatives. Mr. Osborne stuck out, though, that the suggestion was entirely reasonable and the plan practicable. The most radical position against the roads’ doing anything seemed to be taken by W. G. Besler of the Jersey Central. At one time he argued so earnestly against giving the public anything to drink from that some present thought he was arguing on the other side. He said he had rarely seen any one drink out of the common cups as if to prove that people didn’t get thirsty on trains whether the weather was hot or not. Some who heard him at once suggested that the reason people didn’t drink was because they preferred to go thirsty rather than drink from the common cup, with its attendant risks of catching disease.

Mr. Besler further argued that while there had been an outcry when the roads first removed the cup little or no grumbling was now heard, and he thought the people were becoming satisfied either to go thirsty or carry individual cups. He said he had heard no complaints from immigrants at all, though he had suspected that this class of travelers would suffer the most. The absence of complaints from immigrants, he thought, was due to the fact that they usually carried all their possessions with them, and found it easy to fish out a cup of some sort when one was needed.”

Commentary: Interesting picture of customer service at the turn of the 20th Century.

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