Barbara Perry Bauer

Trolley Time – The Streetcar in Idaho

Following the Civil War, new technologies created a wave of invention which swept the United States and transformed the life of middle-class Americans. Among the more important developments were the telephone, the phonograph, and the electric light. However, no invention had a greater impact on the American city between the Civil War and World War I than the streetcar. The nation’s first streetcars were introduced in the East and were dependent on horse power. In 1880, Thomas Edison experimented with a half-mile-long electrified railroad. In 1887, Frank Julian Sprague, known as, “The Father of Electric Traction”, successfully devised and electic streetcar system. The streetcar spread throughout the country and in 1893, only six years after Sprague devised the system, more than 250 electric railway companies had been imcorporated in the United States. Historian Barbara Perry Bauer will discuss the people behind the system, describe its evolution in the Treasure Valley from a Boise streetcar system, to a mordern “Interurban” system that provided valley residents with convenient mass transit. Using historic maps, photographs, and ephemera, she’ll describe how the railway system was vital to the development of neighborhoods and communities in Idaho.