John B. Slawson Obituary

John B. Slawson was important in the history of both omnibuses and horsecars in New Orleans and, indeed, in the industry at large.  Here is his obituary, as published in the New York Times of Saturday, February 13, 1886.

DEATH OF JOHN B. SLAWSON.

HIS PART IN INTRODUCING THE "BOB-TAIL" STREET CAR

The death of John B. Slawson yesterday at his residence, No. 16 West Forty-sixth-street, closed a long and active life.  Mr. Slawson was 72 years old, and although afflicted with Bright's disease his vitality was such that until Tuesday of this week he was out and about his business.  Although a native of Orange County, and making his early ventures within this State, Mr. Slawson went to New-Orleans in 1840 and there achieved his first success.  While engaged in cotton pressing in another's employ he started a line of stages for passenger traffic in that city.  In a few years he ran out an opposition line.  The demands upon his facilities grew so fast that in 1860 he organized the New-Orleans City Railway Company, of which he became President.  Before that, while running his stages, he had invented a fare box, with the idea of saving in expenses.  The box worked so well that it was put upon the street cars.  It there proved to be of great service, and Mr. Slawson determined to secure for himself all the rights of the invention.  The war came on at this time, and the invention was of use rather than profit for several years.  From 1866, however, he availed himself of every opportunity to make the invention pay him, developing it after his own ideas and by purchase, so that of 1ate years he has owned 35 patents for fare boxes.  The majority of the bob-tailed cars all over the world have their fare boxes and change wickets perforated with his initials.  In pushing this enterprise he was aided by the John Stephenson Car Company, in which he was a large stock-holder, and of which he was treasurer since 1876.  Every bob-tailed car built by this company contained a "J. B. S." fare box.

Mr. Slawson was always disposed to buy up rival inventions rather than litigate, but in 1880 he was forced to sue Loftus Wood, of the Flatbush-Avenue and Prospect Park Road, Brooklyn.  The suit went against him, both in the lower court and on appeal, but his business was then too well advanced to be materially injured by the adverse decision, as his patents were then about to expire by limitation.  In 1874 Mr. Slawson built the Central Crosstown Road, running on Seventeenth and Eighteenth streets, in this city.  He was President of that company from the time of its organization, retaining also a large interest in the New-Orleans road, which had become a very valuable property.

Mr. Slawson was so long in the South that his sympathies were enlisted in that cause when war was threatened.  He was a delegate to the Louisiana Convention of 1861 and signed the ordinance of secession there adopted.  On the capture of New-Orleans he defiantly flung a Confederate flag from the offices of the railroad company on Canal-street, near the Clay monument, for which offense Gen. Butler was anxious to call him to account.  Mr. Slawson considered it prudent to leave the country and remain in Europe until peace was assured.  On his return he came to this city to live.

Copyright 2014 Louis C. Hennick.  All rights reserved.

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