“In relation to transportation, in 1920, 84% of the residents of the city utilized the bonde (trolley car) as their main means of locomotion. The rest went by trains, boats and buses. Going forward, the number of automobiles in the city grew a lot, and cartoons satirizing the large number of people being run over in the city were far from rare, though due to the inability of the drivers, the lack of attention paid by pedestrians — unfamiliar with these machines — and, principally, the high speed which the cars reached: close to 30km/h.
Bond, an English word that means letter of guarantee, contract, title worth a given amount, was the name of the passenger receipt tickets on the first collectivee transport vehicles that, since the Empire, circulated in Rio de Janeiro. The reason for the “bondes” (receipt tickets) were that the cost of riding a trolley car was lower than the average bill carried on one’s person, thus they handed out enough tickets for 5 rides for the cost of one bill (of 1,000 réis, in the late 1800s). In time, people started to call the trolleys by the name of the tickets (much like the history of the word “trem” as it’s used in Minas Gerais).
The bondes were a democratic means of transport, serving the whole population:
“In them they sat, side by side, men and women, whites and blacks, poor and wealthy, each one on the way to do their respective activities…”
The first bonde route to start circulating in Rio de Janeiro was in 1859, with animal traction, connecting the modern-day Praça Tiradentes with the Alto da Tijuca. However, the company was dissolved in 1866, due to a financial crisis: in 1868 the service was restarted thanks to a concession given to an American company Botanical Garden Railroad, connecting Rua Gonçalves Dias to Largo do Machado. (Abreu, 1997:44)
These very means of transport took people to the beaches, to popular festivals (religious and other), to the movie theaters (there were 13 in the city), to the playhouses and to the soccer fields. They were the main forms of entertainment for the population.
Source: Um Olhar Bem Humorado Sobre o Rio dos Anos 20
Yet another interesting fact was that there were bondes for different purposes and occasions in the 20s. There were “bondes de distinção” for weddings and baptisms, there were ones for sick people and yet others for deceased ones. The image above shows a “bonde-assistência” (ambulance) from Cia. Ferro-Carril do Jardim Botânico in 1922.