“You're talking about desire. The name of that... streetcar that bangs through the Quarter."
Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
To this day the tram remains the least glamorous of all methods of public transport, but at least American electrical engineer Stephen Dudley Field (1846-1913) tried to give the humble vehicle a little more pizzazz.
Field was not issued with a patent for his system of propelling railway cars by electromagnetism until 1880, even though it had been installed in New York City in 1874 by the twenty-eight-year-old inventor—a man often called the "father of the trolley car." The innovative method of providing electricity to the onboard motor worked by having a dynamo generate a current, which was conveyed via two metal wheels that linked the motor with either one of the rails. The system was pretty ineffective and actually highly dangerous, but it marked an important change in the way that people viewed public transport.
In the years between the implementation of the electric streetcar in many U.S. cities in the late 1880s and World War I (1914-1918), it became a very popular way of getting around. Because the electric streetcar traveled significantly faster than any of the other forms of transportation, the notion of commuting became a much more palatable option to city residents. Rather than having to inhabit houses right in the center of the cities, people could now move out along the lines of streetcar routes into the suburbs without causing too much disruption to their daily routine.
Although Dudley Field enjoyed great success in his lifetime, collecting more than 200 patents for various inventions, few can appreciate his work since none of them actually bear his name. Imagine—a streetcar named Dudley.