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Jay T. Last Collection of Transportation: Railroad Passes: Finding Aid
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content
  • Related materials in the Huntington Library
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Jay T. Last Collection of Transportation: Railroad Passes
    Dates (inclusive): 1848-1980
    Bulk dates: 1860-1960
    Collection Number: priJLC_TRAN_Passes
    Collector: Last, Jay T.
    Extent: approximately 3,055 items in 14 binders
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Prints and Ephemera
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2191
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: The railroad passes in the Jay T. Last Collection of Transportation consist of over 3,000 railroad passes issued primarily by American railroad companies to individuals in the 19th and 20th centuries, with the bulk of the collection dating from 1860 to 1960.
    Language: English.
    Finding aid last updated on September 22, 2015.


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Item title, Call number]. Jay T. Last Collection of Transportation: Railroad Passes, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    This collection forms part of the Jay T. Last Collection of Graphic Arts and Social History, which was donated to the Huntington Library by Jay T. Last in 2005 as a gift in progress. The bulk of the transportation ephemera was transferred to the Library in 2010.


    The Jay T. Last Collection is an unparalleled archive of printed paper artifacts that documents American lithographic, social, and business history. The collection began in the early 1970s when physicist and Silicon Valley pioneer Jay Last moved to Southern California and started collecting citrus box labels he found at local flea markets and rummage sales. As his collection grew, Last realized that these labels conveyed important information about commercial printing, graphic design, and social history, and he expanded his collection to include other forms of American visual culture. Today this collection contains more than 200,000 lithographic prints, posters, and ephemera of mostly nineteenth and early twentieth century American origin and represents works by more than five hundred lithographic companies.

    Scope and Content

    The railroad passes in the Jay T. Last Collection of Transportation consist of over 3,000 railroad passes issued primarily by American railroad companies to individuals in the 19th and 20th centuries. The passes provided the pass holder with permission to ride on the railroad, usually through the end of the calendar year, and the passes in the collection bear a variety of titles including annual pass, season ticket, time pass, free ticket, exchange ticket, and complimentary ticket. The bulk of the collection dates from 1860 to 1960, but among the earliest passes in the collection is one issued by the Schenectady and Troy Railroad in 1848; one of the most recent items is a 1980 pass for the homemade narrow-gauge Anacortes Railway.
    The passes typically contain printed text with the railroad company’s name, rules governing the use of the pass, and year, with spaces to be filled in with the pass holder’s name and affiliation (often another railroad company), the pass number, and the authorizing signature of an executive of the railroad such as the president, superintendent, or secretary. Most of the passes in the collection are filled out in manuscript, or are typewritten in the 20th century, though some are blank. The passes average 2 ¼ x 4 inches in size and are typically printed on cardstock of varying colors, and many include multiple-color printing.
    The decorative details of the passes vary across the collection, though most examples from the late 19th century and early 20th centuries contain engraved or lithographed designs and images. Visual decorations include patterned borders and scrollwork, logos, and vignettes primarily with transportation-related images such as railroad locomotives and trains, as well as buildings, views of landscapes, rivers and bridges, and wilderness scenes, and animals. Some passes have printed maps or pass conditions and rules printed on the card verso.
    American railroad companies issued the majority of passes primarily for annual travel on commercial passenger lines. Among the anomalies in the collection are passes of interurban electric lines, foreign railroad companies, primarily from Canada and Latin America countries, such as passes of the Ferrocarril Mexicano, a 1934 pass of the South Manchurian Railway, a 1936 pass for the Liverpool Overhead Railway, as well as a 1861 blank form providing passage for Illinois State Troops by the Illinois Central Railroad Company, and a United States Railroad Administration 1921 pass for William C. Curtin, an accountant in the Office of the Comptroller, with his photograph pasted on the verso.
    Many of the passes include a printer credit line, and well over a hundred different printers are named on the passes. A sampling of some of the printing companies more heavily represented in the collection include the American Bank Note Company of New York; the Bailey, Banks & Biddle Company of Philadelphia; Calvert Lithographing Company of Detroit; the Courier-Journal Engraving Company of Louisville, Kentucky; Gast of St. Louis; Hosford & Sons of New York; Maverick, Stephan & Company of New York; Poole Brothers of Chicago; Rand, Avery & Company of Boston; Rand, McNally & Company of Chicago; S.C. Toof & Company of Memphis; the Western Bank Note Company of Chicago, and Woodward, Tiernan & Hale of St. Louis.

    Related materials in the Huntington Library


    The collection is physically arranged in fourteen binders first by century (with eight binders containing passes from the 1800s, and the following six containing passes from the 1900s), and then alphabetically by company name.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  


    Business records.
    Business records -- United States -- 19th century.
    Business records -- United States -- 20th century.
    Passes (tickets).


    Advertising -- Railroads.
    Railroad companies.
    Railroads -- Pictorial works.
    Railroads passes.
    Railroads tickets.
    Railroads -- United States -- Maps.