Founded by William Tyson, the Tyson Telegraph Line was a private transportation company in New York City during the middle part of the 19th century. Using a fleet of 20 coaches, the company operated fixed routes throughout the city.
Omnibuses were oversized coaches that were pulled by a team of horses, and possessed the capability to carry many passengers while allowing riders to easily disembark as required.
As with modern public transportation, omnibuses varied in both size, capacity, and style. Pictured below are a few examples.
During this era there were multiple competing omnibus companies that operated routes throughout the city. Like the Tyson Telegraph Line, several issued their own fare tokens. Many employed similar dies featuring pictoral omnibus devices. These companies included Haskins & Wilkins, Marshalls & Townsend, Young & Ward, Finch Sanderson & Co, Kipp Brown & Co, and Third Avenue Rail Road. Like the Tyson tokens, they were all struck and issued circa c. 1845-1855.
While most all known extant examples are holed, the author has seen one example of a Tyson token which was not holed. The specimen was a NY630La variety, and it appeared to be in uncirculated grade. Thus, it is likely that this one specimen had never been circulated, given that those issued into circulation were holed by operators so that they could be easily affixed to strings.
Pictured to the right are the four different varieties of the Tyson Telegraph Line tokens. The most prevalent diagnostic distinction between all four is how “Co” and its accompanying punctuation was struck on the obverse.
Below are the four varieties of the Tyson & Co Telegraph Line Omnibus tokens. Of the four varieties, the NY630-Ld is by far the most rarest. Most Omnibus tokens were holed after they were struck so that the driver could place them on strings¹.
Notes and Sources
A Guide Book of United States Tokens and Medals, Jaeger, Whitman, ©2008
The Atwood-Coffee Catalogue Fourth Edition Volume II, John M. Coffee Jr., AVA
The Atwood-Coffee Catalogue, John M. Coffee and Harold V. Ford, AVA
Library of Congress Digital Archives