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The New York Times, May 2, 1897, p.24:


Cabs that Are Expensive, 'Busses that Are Cheap,
and Underground Roads that Are Nasty.


Shillings Go Fast if You Ride in Hansoms,
'Busses are Uncomfortable and Common,
and the Underground Roads Dark, Murky, and Puzzling.

    LONDON, April 17--"Take the yellow 'bus down to Oxford Street, and there change to the blue 'bus. Be sure you don't take the green one, for that is three ha'pence, and the blue is only a penny. Then from Charing Cross take the pink 'bus down to Fenchurch Street and you'll not have more than half a mile to walk. Bear along to the left, and take the third turning."

    That is a fair sample of London directions. Take the yellow 'bus, or the blue 'bus, is always the first thing; then change to some other 'bus, and walk a long distance, and there you are. It soon becomes tiresome when you have a great antipathy to the London 'buses.
    There must be New Yorkers still living, octogenarians and such advanced persons, who remember the stages that once formed a considerable part of the "traffic" of Broadway. Those stages were models of comfort and convenience compared with the London 'bus. In my honest desire to say something pleasant about these London monstrosities, the only thing I can think of is that they are better than our Fifth Avenue stages. But that is merely because nothing could possibly be worse.
    In this place, where, on account of the vast population and the great distances, the means of local transit should be the most expeditious and most comfortable in the world, they are far worse than in any other city I have seen. Any 10,000-inhabitant city in our far West has much better transit facilities. But the London 'bus is an Institution; and Institution is spelled here with a big I, and lasts through the ages. Never mind the crowding at the gates next time you take an elevated train, Mr. Manhattan; be thankful for the mercies that have been vouchsafed you.

    There are only three methods of transit in London--for the few "trams," or street cars, are in such out-of-the-way places that they hardly need to be considered. The hansom cab is the first and most expensive, the 'bus comes next, and the underground railway is the third.

Ubiquitous Hansom Cabs.

    The hansom is one of the greatest temptations that the American in London has to struggle against. It is ever present, ever ready to welcome one with open doors. But it soon bankrupts even an American.
    You come out of an office and wish to go to another a mile away. The 'bus will carry you there for a penny, but then you must walk four or five blocks to catch the 'bus, and perhaps four or five more at the other end of the line. Most likely it is raining, and the streets are dangerous with buttery mud.
    There stands Hansom No. 15,827, and the driver is looking at you. You feel the loose shilling in your vest pocket and hesitate a moment, and then you are lost. Up goes your finger.
    "Hansom!" you say, with your finger still up. But not at all in the way you said it when you first arrived. You have heard the London way, and try to imitate it. The word comes out sharp and quick, as if you were speaking to your own coachman at so much a month; and instantly cabby's hand goes up to show that he understands, and he starts for you.
    If there happen to be two hansoms close together, and both drivers catch the signal at once, there is a race, and pedestrians must look out for themselves.

Whistling for Cabby.

    When you are in your house, which with an American usually means a lodging house or one of the "board and residence" places where they call you a paying guest, (as you are, at the price,) and want a hansom, you do not go out to look for it or send a servant. You simply go down to the hat rack and take down the whistle that hangs there by a little chain. Standing on the front steps, you blow the whistle, and within a few seconds you hear a horse's hoofs clattering over the asphalt street, and cabby holds up his hand in answer.
    In the lodging districts it is no unusual thing to hear half a dozen whistles blowing at once. The whistlers are largely Americans, of course, so new to London that they do not know how soon the dreadful hansom habit can scatter a fortune.

    But here, at any rate, is the hansom. While you have one foot on the step cabby leans down inquiringly, and you tell him where you wish to go. "Buckingham Palace; and drive fast; the Prince is waiting for me."
    "Very good, Sir!" says cabby, and moves a lever by his side that closes the folding doors of the cab. Off he goes like the wind, his horse running sometimes, sometimes only trotting fast. The sooner he can earn your fare and be rid of you, the better chance of catching another customer.

    In a moment you find that your coat is well wiped with mud, having scraped against the wheel. You also notice that with every step the horse splashes mud upon you over the little doors, which reach only half way up. Besides, it is raining, most likely. You raise the trap in the roof over your head.
    "Let down the window, cabby," you tell him.
    Cabby moves another lever, and down comes the window on a hinge, in one time and two movements. With the first movement the sash strikes your hat brim and knocks it off; with the second it just grazes the end of your nose and makes you jump. But it is down, and you are shut in, protected from the weather.

    If there has been a slight rain, so that the asphalt streets are moist but not thoroughly wet, you may have a little excitement. A partial wetting makes the street very slippery, and the horse slides along, stumbles, recovers himself, slips, and down he goes; and away you go into the glass window, which breaks and cuts you. Or perhaps the doors and window are open, in which case you make a dive over the dashboard, find yourself on top of the prostrate horse, dodge the legs that he moves like a row of windmills, and maybe scramble away unhurt; maybe otherwise. Such accidents are not at all uncommon.

    The horse is soon up again, at any rate, for he is used to such falls, and away you go, and in five minutes you are at your destination, if it is not too far. Nothing could be more convenient. A policeman has warned cabby against breaking out of the line, but that you have nothing to do with.

    "I can't find Towington Square, sir!" one of them told me one night. He must have been very new at the business.
    "I have nothing to do with that," I told him, like an old Londoner. "I can't direct you; it is your place to find it. Hunt up a Constable and ask him the way."
    He found it at length, and seemed quite proud of the feat.

An Expensive Luxury.

    Before you enter the house your shilling has changed hands. It is no longer yours, but cabby's, and you have no more change. When you have finished your business and come out you yield again to temptation and call another hansom. That half-sovereign in your purse must be changed then; and before night you put your hand in your pocket for money and find that there is none there; the change from your "half-sov.," as they call it, is gone.
    Then you cudgel your brain, and by and by remember the hansom to Baker Street Station, the hansom to King's Cross, the hansom over Tower Bridge to Bermondsey, then back again, and two or three more hansoms later on.
    The British silver coin becomes very soft in London; it melts away in the pocket, and oozes out, and no man may tell where it goes. But the jolt of the hansom liquifies it entirely, and it disappears like snow under a hot sun. For this reason, few Londoners of ordinary means make habitual use of the hansom. Their best customers are strangers, who have not yet learned better. The hansom is swift and convenient, but far too expensive for common use.

    "I always took a hansom when I first came here," an American said to me yesterday--an American whose salary is something over 1,000 a year. "But I could not stand the expense. I travel in penny 'buses now. My firm at home has an idea that $5,000 a year here is equal to almost $10,000 a year in New York, but that is a great mistake. London is by no means a cheap city; it is a very expensive city. Don't tell me about the necessities being cheap! In a big city a thousand extras become necessary."

    If your pocket is well-lined with sovereigns, there is still an objection to the hansoms. They are almost sure to give you cold. It does not take long to find that out, for everybody tells you so, and your own cold is sufficient proof. With the doors open, as they usually are, you ride into the wind, and the wind retaliates.

The Penny 'Busses.

    When you have nearly ruined yourself with hansoms, and, instead of half sovereigns you have only pennies and ha'pennies in your pocket, you turn naturally to the 'buses. They are ungainly looking things, and uncomfortable, but you cannot help yourself.
    There is hardly anything on the surface of the earth to compare them with for description. One of our old Broadway stages, made somewhat larger, but no higher, with a platform at the back, from which a narrow and winding stairway leads to the roof, and a row of low seats on each side of the top, four seats on each side, and each seat wide enough for two, will, perhaps, give some idea of it.
    You must imagine the thing so low inside that a man of even ordinary height must stoop, and the rail on top, like the backs of the seats, is so low that the same man must bend well over before he can reach anything to hold on by. And just as he is about to crawl into a seat, the 'bus starts with a jerk, and he is spilled into somebody's lap. Many serious accidents happen every year on the tops of London 'buses.

    Put sixteen persons, besides the driver, on top of a 'bus, and you have a something that looks topheavy enough to turn over at any moment. But they never do turn over. The outside seats are the favorites, and people wait for the next 'bus rather than go inside.
    The male Londoner climbs up, gets his seat, and loads his pipe, and goes to smoking. He may be seated beside a lady or a little girl, but that is no matter; the British Constitution guarantees the right to smoke ad. lib. on top of a 'bus, and the Briton must have his rights. The lady in the next seat can climb down if she doesn't like second-hand smoke from cheap "shag."

    The ride on top of a 'bus is often very pleasant, I must admit, when once you are comfortably seated, if you do not worry about the chances of breaking your neck in getting down. You have a fine view of the streets and the people, and of whatever you pass. The fact that you make part of an advertising pageant need make no difference. Every 'bus is plastered all over with signs of infant foods, patent milks, plays, soaps, and patent medicines.

    But what, when it rines, as the Cockneys say? Is not the top of a 'bus uncomfortable on a riny day? Bless your 'art; that is hall provided for. On most 'buses there is a rubber apron attached to each outer seat, and you have only to draw it around you when the shower comes.
    And that is not all. So wonderful is the march of improvement that we now have what we call the umbrella 'bus. There is an umbrella attached to each seat, and when it rains you have only to hoist your umbrella. Who would have thought of such luxuries fifty years ago?

    The messenger boy, or the errand boy, is happy as a King when he gets a front seat, lights his cigarette, and takes out his penny novel or his pink newspaper. He is to have a ride of two or three miles for a penny or a penny-ha'penny, which his boss furnishes. Susie, the working girl, with her rosy cheeks and her heavy English shoes, evidently enjoys it. "Arry, the clerk, in his silk hat, and conscious of his seventeen shillings and sixpence a week, considers it a luxury. But to an American who, in the dim and shadowy past, once took a ride in a cable car or an elevated train, the London 'bus seems a fit companion for the Tower or the ruins of Melrose Abbey.

Beastly Underground Trains.

    So, nothing is left but that unspeakable thing, the underground railway--or the main sewer, as Londoners call it. I suppose there is not as outrageous a means of transit in any other city in the whole world. It is not worth while to waste adjectives upon it; the word vile describes it thoroughly. The only good thing about it is the fact that the employes, like most Londoners, are almost invariably polite and attentive. It would be a sorrowful thing for New York if we were to take to building railroads under ground.

    Many Americans no doubt remember the pictures of the London underground that were published in one of our prominent magazines a few years ago. There were fine, high arches, lights glittered everywhere, and happy-looking travelers waited for the sumptuous trains to draw up. But the artist who made the pictures must have had a fine imagination, that lifted him high above the sordid regions of fact.

    To travel by the underground, you go into a dismal-looking station and apply at the "booking office" for a ticket, taking it first, second, or third class, as you prefer.
    Before you have made many journeys you learn that there is very little difference between the first-class carriages and the third, all being equally bad, and all going by the same train. But there is a considerable difference in the cost; what costs a shilling first class costs about a sixpence third class.

    A man at the top of the stairs punches your ticket as you go through the gate, and you look down several long flights and see far below dim figures moving about in the haze. In some conditions of the outside atmosphere it seems impossible at first to breathe the foul air of the tunnel. It is an air that you can see; and you feel it the moment it strikes the lungs. The predominant smell is sulphur, mingled with coal gas, smoke, and damp.

    The sole light in the daytime comes through a series of small brick arches, that run up slanting to the air above, and what little can steal down the stairways. The long platform consequently is dim and ghostly, and it is nearly always dirty, though brooms are cheap enough here. Beyond the end of the platform, in both directions, is the black tunnel, totally unlighted.

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    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Europe, is an island nation in the northern Atlantic Ocean, comprised of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The capital is London. The area of the United Kingdom is 94,249 square miles (244,820 square kilometers). The estimated population of United Kingdom for July, 2008 is 60,943,912.

    As the dominant industrial and maritime power of the 19th century, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and science. At its zenith, the British Empire stretched over one-fourth of the earth's surface.

    The first half of the 20th century saw the UK's strength seriously depleted in two World Wars and the Irish republic withdraw from the union. The second half witnessed the dismantling of the Empire and the UK rebuilding itself into a modern and prosperous European nation.

    As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, a founding member of NATO, and of the Commonwealth, the UK pursues a global approach to foreign policy; it currently is weighing the degree of its integration with continental Europe. A member of the EU, it chose to remain outside the Economic and Monetary Union for the time being.

    Constitutional reform is also a significant issue in the UK. The Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly were established in 1999, but the latter was suspended until May 2007 due to wrangling over the peace process.
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Traveling in Dark and Smoke.

    Presently there comes a shrill little whistle, and in a moment you hear a rattling of wheels and axles that leads you to suppose, till you learn better, that some disabled old engine is being taken to the shops. But it is no disabled engine; it is a train--perhaps your train. They all have that peculiar rattle, as if they were about to fall apart.
    You must be careful, however, about taking the train, for several sets of trains run over the same tracks, some going in one direction, some in another. You hurry up the platform to ask the only guard in sight, and he tells you; and if it is your train you begin to look for a "carriage."

    If your ticket is first class, generally the nearest carriages are all labeled second class, or third. As the train is about to start, you take the first carriage you can get, no matter what its calss; and next instant the porter goes along, slamming to the doors. There is no one to direct you to the carriage in which you belong. If you have a third class ticket, you may enter a first class compartment with impunity, running the risk of some railroad detective in plain clothes asking to see your ticket and arresting you for fraud.

    "All right!" the guard shouts. The engine gives another shrill whistle; and off you go, into the darkness. Engine and cars are both ridiculously small. There is one tiny gas jet in the roof of the car, and that is the sole light. There may be six or eight people in the compartment with you, or you may be all alone. The deeper you go into the tunnel, the thicker is the sulphurous smoke.

    You are at perfect liberty to get out wherever and whenever you please. No one will interfere with you in the least, nor is there any one to give you information. The names of stations are never called, and you do not see the guard till you get out. It is your business to know where your station is. There is a sign at each station telling what it is; but the sulphury smoke covers the windows with a film, and you cannot see without opening the door--and even then seeing is hard work, in the dim light.

    Arrived at your destination, or perhaps a few stations beyond it, you give up your ticket to the man at the gate, and he thanks you for it, and you climb the long flights of stairs into comparatively pure air, and feel thankful that you have escaped.
    Our elevated roads and cable roads are not quite perfect, but they are half a century in advance of any transit facilities to be found in London.

The above is the 4th in a series of over 40 New York Times articles by reporter William Drysdale describing his European tour in 1897 and 1898. The 2nd article in the series can be read on the London News page, the 7th article from the series on the England News page, the 29th and 30th articles on the Paris News page, and the 31st article on the France News page.

The British pound was worth about $4.86 in 1897;, and, by retail price index, 1 in 1897 was equivalent to about 77.99 in 2006. In the old British monetary system (prior to decimalisation) there were 12 pence (pennies) in 1 shilling and 20 shillings in 1 pound, therefore 240 pence in 1. A penny from 1879 would have been worth about 0.32 in 2006 money.

The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1897 was equivalent to $25.82 in 2008.

TIME Magazine, March 31, 1947, p. 29:

FOREIGN NEWS: Ein Tywysoges [cover story-- see photo of cover]
    ...HRH Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor... has learned, among other things, never to yawn in public officials' faces.
    Last week, as Britain's Royal Family wended their triumphal way through Africa (largely for the purpose of introducing Princess Elizabeth to her polyglot future subjects), she was often tempted to yawn. For weeks she had been through an endless procession of official receptions, tedious reviews, soporific speeches and tiresome dedications...
    To many a dusky African subject of King George, Queen Victoria is still remembered as "The Great She-Elephant across the Big Water."...

    Since Victoria's day her Empire has come on troubled times. The Crown itself has lost its last remaining ounce of direct political power.* But what the Crown has lost in weight, it has gained in glamour. Princess Elizabeth, who will be the next wearer-- unless her parents, most improbably, have a son-- shows no more sign of greatness than the young Victoria did. She is not required to be great; she is expected to be gracious.
    Britain's heiress is called "Princess" by right of her royal birth, but she has no title in the peerage, and is rated a commoner by law. She is medium tall (5 ft. 4 in.) slim, (cameras give her a falsely hefty look), full-bosomed, with brown hair, a creamy, fair complexion, blue eyes, and white teeth (a shade oversize). She has neither her father's shy reserve or her mother's dazzling charm...

    To all appearances Princess Elizabeth is exactly the daughter that plain, conscientious King George and matronly Queen Elizabeth deserve...
    For all her understandable boredom in South Africa, Elizabeth has inheirited from her parents the instinctive ability to do the right thing. At a Girl Guide (Girl Scout) review in dark Basutoland, it was she who spotted a bus full of Guides kept well apart from the rest. Despite the anguished cries of officials, she promptly went over to talk to them. They were the Girl Guide troop from a leper colony. Next day everyone in South Africa knew what the Princess had done.
    In Buckingham Palace, just as she might have in some U.S. Middletown, the heiress to the throne had her own troop of Girl Guides, the 7th Westminster Company, organized by children of Palace staffers. The Queen gave the girls a company flag, and in time Elizabeth worked her way up to be patrol leader... "Here," she once told her chatterbox sister Margaret, "I am not your sister, and I'll permit no slackness." Margaret, too, can be critical. "Lilibet," she once said, "that's the fourteenth chocolate biscuit you've eaten. You're as bad as Mother-- you don't know when to stop."
    From the first, Elizabeth's father and mother (Papa and Mummie) were determined to keep their daughter's life as free from the shadow of the Crown as possible. But in Britain, as in most of the Empire, Princess Lilibet was the private darling of every household...

    ...her sense of importance was in no way diminished by a kindly, doting old Sovereign whom she called "Grandpapa England."...
    Statuesque Queen Mary, still the greatest influence in Elizabeth's life, was never one to tolerate arrogant nonsense as she shepherded her small relative through London's museums and theaters. Once when Lilibet tugged at her impatiently because there were crowds outside "waiting to see me," Granny Queen whisked the proud Princess home via the back door...

    The Pinkle-Ponkle. ...every day from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with an hour off for lunch, [Elizabeth] studied history, grammar, literature and arithmetic with her Scottish governess "Crawfie" (Miss Marion Crawford).
    To give an added regal polish, there were lessons in French (from a French countess), German, art, and dancing. As time went on, the Vice-Provost of Eton, erudite Clarence Henry Kennett ("Shee-Kay") Marten (later knighted and promoted to Provost), was called in to brush up the Princess' constitutional history.
    As a student, Elizabeth was always systematic rather than brilliant. She learned to play Schumann, Chopin, and Beethoven capably and accurately on the piano, although she preferred Bing Crosby recordings. Her drawings, like the horse she executed on linoleum for Granny Queen's Christmas, were painstaking and thorough. Very different were Sister Margaret's drawings of an imagined character called the Pinkle-Ponkle, who hovered vaguely over towns. "If her were to come down," Margaret replied to all critics, "he'd find worm sandwiches and caterpillar jam-- green jam." Like her father, Elizabeth worries a great deal over Margaret. "Wherever did you learn such slang?" King George once asked his younger daughter. "Oh," said Margaret, "at my mother's knee-- or some such low joint."

    ...Devoted to horses, (she pretended her legs were a team and called them Flycatcher and Harmony), [Elizabeth] had her own pony at four. Her backyards were the family's vast estates: Victoria's Balmoral; Birkhall, her parent's house in the Highlands; and Windsor Castle.

    ...It was all very cozy as long as her father remained Duke of York. Then in 1936 came the death of Grandpapa England and the eleven hectic months that ended in Edward VII's abdication. Feckless little Margaret Rose was disgusted. "Now we'll have to move to the Palace" she said. "And I've only just learned to spell York and now I'm not to use it any more." But Elizabeth's eyes were round and solemn as she spied a letter on the hall table addressed to "Her Majesty the Queen." "That's Mummie now, isn't it," she said in an awestruck voice.
    Two years later the country went to war...

    Yellow Glare. At 18 the heiress to the throne came of age, imperially, ready to assume the Crown if her father died. As a private person she would not come of age for three years. The question of her official debut could be put off no longer, and in 1943 the wartime Princess was officially introduced to her people in the vivid, yellow glare of the blast furnaces in a Welsh tin-plate mill. Miners, factory girls, housewives and dock hands turned out by the thousands to cheer her on a two day tour. Denied the privilege of hailing her as the Princess of Wales (she is still only Heiress Presumptive, on the suppostion that a male Heir Apparent may be born to claim the title of Wales), the Welsh bestowed upon her their own homespun title, Ein Tywysoges-- "Our own Princess."

    ...In stage center, Elizabeth blossomed as she had never had in the back row. Reporters called her a natural, and radiomen crooned in delight when, at the end of her first broadcast, she added a homey little touch by asking Margaret to say goodnight to the British evacuees abroad...
    Like her Uncle David, the Duke of Windsor, Elizabeth loves horses (she rides superbly), racing (if possible, she never misses a race when the royal stable is entered), swing music, nightclubs, and having her own way. But Elizabeth's rebellions are those of any headstrong, well-reared child suffering an overdose of family. "I'd like a car of my own," she told a friend recently, "but there's so damn much family talk about which make I must have that I don't think I'll ever get one." Her greatest insubordination to date followed the King's official announcement that the Princess would join none of the women's services. Elizabeth had other ideas, and not long afterward the King meekly announced that his daughter had been granted a commission in the A.T.S. (British WACs). As Elizabeth, dungaree-clad, her pretty face smeared with grease, learned how to drive and dismantle Army trucks, the Empire beamed with approval.
    Fundamentally Elizabeth is a dutiful and levelheaded daughter who enjoys reading the latest best-sellers (For Whom the Bell Tolls was a favorite), knitting (she hates sewing), and gossipy teas with Margaret and a few girl friends before an open fire at the Palace...

    Prince Charming? ...Britain's cooing matchmakers have been at work on her. When the Princess took to nightclubbing, the speculation, abetted by trigger-fingered columnists, increased tenfold, until any sleek young lord seen dancing twice with Lilibet was a marked man. Since she seldom sits one out (she is a gifted and tireless dancer), the field was enormous. But during the last year it has narrowed to a single contestant: a well-scrubbed, curly-haired lieutenant of the Royal Navy, who was born sixth in line to the throne of Greece.
    Prince Philip of Greece is the nephew of Elizabeth's cousin Lord Mountbatten, with whom he has lived all his life... King George can approve his daughter's marriage only with the consent of the Cabinet, and so far Philip's connection with the Greek regime, remote as it is, has been a slight hitch. But last week, as plain Lieut. Philip Mountbatten, Prince Philip was granted his British citizenship, and event that hitch seemed to have been overcome. When Elizabeth is asked about her engagement, she replies with a coy, "For that you must wait and see." But the Empire is quite prepared to welcome Philip as future Prince Consort, and expects the announcement any day now. It may come on her birthday.

    ...Princess Elizabeth's 21st birthday party in Cape Town will be the last grand ceremonial of the African tour. There will be more salutes, more reviews, more fireworks, and another grand ball. There will be state presents for everyone: a gold box full of diamonds (to put on his Garter star) for the King, and engraved gold tea service for the Queen, 17 graduated diamonds for Margaret-- and for Elizabeth herself, 21 graduated diamonds interspersed with baguettes to string on a necklace. For Elizabeth that day will mean also a rise in income from 6,000 to 15,000 a year, and the chance to manage her money...

*The Crown's sole positive duty is now "to consult, to encourage, and to warn." But the King can still-- theoretically-- without consulting Parliament, disband his country's Army, sell all the Navy's ships, dismiss most of the civil servants, pardon all criminals, close all churches, create every citizen a peer, pick his own Prime Minister, and declare war on anyone he chooses. In practice, no King-- or Queen-- would dare do one of these things.

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