Parisian transport was regulated since the early 1800s and no public vehicle could circulate in the city without a special permit. In 1853, the first double decker buses called impériales appeared in the streets. The upper floor was uncovered and admitted only male passengers as the women’s voluminous crinolines were a dangerous obstacle in climbing the steep steps. The creation of the Compagnie Impériale des voitures de Paris in 1855 merged all existing public transport companies. Twenty-five public transport lines covered 150 km of Parisian streets. In the 1860’s there were thirty-one omnibus lines, which served the city’s main thoroughfares from 8 a.m. until midnight. Private cabs, hailed on the street and marked with red numbers, cost 2 francs the hour. Small steamboats known as mouches (flies) or hirondelles (swallows) plied the Seine.
Left: In 1855 Paris saw faster and larger two-horse omnibuses with 24 seats. Inside seats cost 30 centimes and included a transfer. A seat on the impériale cost 15 centimes, but no transfer was possible.
(Photo Richard Nahem)