It’s not Taylor Swift or Beyonce. A crowd outside Los Angeles City Hall for the unveiling of the advanced new PCC streetcar in 1937.

There’s big profits in smog and sprawl. Nobody did more to cash in than Alfred Sloan. Sloan created modern General Motors, and was the company’s president, CEO and chairman for more than three decades. He should have gone to jail for his anti-streetcar conniving, but he never faced a prosecutor. Other GM executives were lashed with wet noodles in 1949 sentencing.

Executives of co-conspirators – Mack, Standard Oil of California (Chevron), Firestone Tire and Rubber, and Phillips Petroleum – were also handed token penalties.

Sloan was masterful at marketing cars, but GM”s Yellow Coach bus manufacturing division was a money-eating dud until the firm started playing dirty on a large scale in 1935.

SINNERS AND SAINTS

Les crud de la crud. The finger-wagger is Barney Larrick, who GM vice-president Roger Kyes sent to the Twin Cities. Second from right is mob lawyer Fred Ossanna. Both went to jail on fraud and conspiracy charges.
PCC streetcars in Washington DC. These vehicles were unusual in that they got their power from an underground conduit.

ELECTRIC COMPETITION

For decades, a huge electric railway industry in North America competed effectively with the automobile. That’s why car, oil, bus and rubber manufacturers and retailers fought to get rid of it for so long.

In the 1990s, many of the same greedheads who’d destroyed electric railways launched another campaign to stop electric cars in California. This too is covered in A Streetcar Named Conspire.

GM’s Alfred Sloan had an extremely effective partner in his program to vaporize electric railways, ram through freeways and let subways and commuter railroads deteriorate: New York’s Robert Moses. Both men were from wealthy backgrounds, brilliant, hard-working and disturbingly single-minded. Moses is a major character in A Streetcar Named Conspire. The definitive story of his life is Robert Caro’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Power Broker.

GIVE ME VISUALS

A Streetcar Named Conspire is packed with photos and graphics – 24 pages in full color. Plus maps, drawings, tables, charts …

THE COMPANY

Faraday/Maxwell Books honors Michael Faraday (1791-1867), the London researcher, and Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879). Many consider Faraday one of the greatest scientists ever.

Maxwell is less renowned than Faraday, but he had a brilliant career as well. He put the Englishman’s discoveries into strict formulae which are still used by physicists and engineers.

Did Faraday invent the electric motor? It’s complicated. Other important innovators in this field were the peculiar-but-brilliant (and incredibly prolific) rival to Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), Zenobe Gramme (1826-1901) and Thomas Davenport (1802-1851).