“N.Y. Post Office Pneumatic Tube” c. 1912. Photo via Library of Congress
We’ve been so pleased with the fact that the Hyperloop plan has brought our favorite forgotten technology to light: the pneumatic tube system in NYC. Gizmodo and Curbed gave Untapped some great shoutouts to our pieces on the tube system and where to find the remnants today. The pneumatic tube system was used for a covert, secret construction of a subway in 1870 by fantastical inventor Alfred Ely Beach. It worked, but was shut down by Boss Tweed three years later. Pneumatic technology is also used in the New York Public Library stacks and for trash under Roosevelt Island.
But one of our favorite things about the pneumatic tubes are the stories from when it was used as part of the United States Postal system in NYC.
- The first cylinder tube to travel through the NYC system contained “a Bible, a flag and a copy of the Constitution, according to this incredible article by Robert A. Cohen
- The second contained an imitation peach in honor of Senator Chauncy Depew (He was fondly known as “The Peach”).
- A third carrier had a black cat in it, for reasons “unknown.”
- Sandwich subs were reportedly delivered via pneumatic tubes from a renown subway shop in the Bronx to downtown postal stations (also from Robert A. Cohen’s article).