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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

Take the Jitney Uptown!

On July 21, 1915 the paper reported that the cities of Normal and Bloomington were considering what to do about the jitney buses that had recently started serving the cities.

This isn't a photo of a jitney bus in McLean County, but it is what one looked like at the time. An article in the New York Sun in 1915 answered the question of what a jitney was: "A Jitney bus, my children, Is any thing that run on four wheels and gasoline and five cents. The four wheels and gasoline represent the bus part of the equation, and the Jitney Is a quick cut to the twentieth part of a dollar. You pay the Jitney and the bus takes you to your destination."

A jitney was a small Russian coin and was slang for a nickel. These jitney buses were setting themselves up in competition with the city trains, which were owned by some influential people in the city. Later in the month, the city council decided to charge each person who operated a jitney bus with obtaining a $5000 bond, but some people thought that a $10,000 bond was necessary. At that time, if a person was killed by a train, the family was compensated with $10,000 in insurance money. That is over $232,000 in today's dollars.

Here is another example of the use of the word "jitney" to indicate a nickel. Prior to 1915, the word jitney only appeared in the Pantagraph a handful of times, but in 1915, it was in common usage.

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