James Towley Presenting check to Fred Ossanna with burning streetcar behind them
Men are named from left to right. The last streetcars in Minneapolis were burned in 1954. Ossanna was the head of the Twin City Rapid Transit Company. He also got kickbacks from Standard Oil and General Motors to convert the system from streetcars to buses. The system was too streetcar heavy by the 1950s and ridership was declining as people were moving to the suburbs and buying more cars. Instead of just trying to keep the heavily used streetcar lines and converting the rest of the system to buses, the entire system was converted in the 1950s.
Although some older streetcars were destroyed like the one above, many were sold to other cities and reused. Twenty went to Shaker Heights Rapid Transit in Cleveland Ohio. Newark, New Jersey took 30 streetcars and the remainder of the more modern PCC streetcars went to Mexico City, where they lived a long life into the 1980s.
Ossanna, who had an association with local gangster Isadore Blumenfeld was later convicted of mail fraud and sentenced to four years in prison. Barney Larrick, TCRT vice president was sentenced to two years. TCRT also filed a civil suit against Ossanna, seeking restitution for losses from assets (like scrap metal, copper) that were sold at below market prices for kickbacks. Those convicted pocketed over $1 million of TCRT assets in 1950 dollars.
Alison Nowak from Southwest Minneapolis Patch, recently wrote a great article on the legacy of the streetcars.