The first subway system in the City was not the one you ride today, rather a pneumatic tube in the Financial District that was illegally constructed and operated in 1870.
In this short video from the New York Daily News, learn all about it.
Technically, he still wasn’t allowed to build a subway — but Beach didn’t allow himself to be bothered with such technicalities. Blatantly disregarding the details of the charter, Beach built a tunnel that was 8 feet in diameter and 300 feet long. To dig the secret tunnel without attracting attention or disturbing the traffic above, Beach came up with a new cylindrical tunneling shield.
Check out the accompanying article for more info on Beach’s pneumatic subway.