Reading the newspaper on the subway in 1914

Ephemeral New York

Rather than hiding behind newspapers, riders stare into tablets and smartphones. Instead of actual straps overhead, strap hangers today have a stainless steel bar to grab.

Subwayridersinnyc1914francisluismora

And could that really be a wood floor riders rest their feet on, unlike the one inside subway cars today?

But otherwise, the experience of taking the subway hasn’t changed much since Francis Luis Mora, a Uruguayan-born illustrator and instructor at William Merritt Chase‘s School of Art, painted “Evening News—Subway Riders” (top) in 1914.

Subwaymorningnewsmora

Colorful ads beckon riders’ attention. People sit crammed in close in a row against car windows. And most everyone looks away from each other, their eyes focused anywhere but their fellow commuters.

Mora’s “Morning News,” above, from 1912, gives us a different lineup of riders, also looking away or into newspapers, with one man doing that thing of reading over a fellow rider’s shoulder.

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