A Bus to the Moon: The New Luna Conveyance Company

May 18, 2019

Elon Musk eat your heart out. In celebration of tonight's full moon we have an unusual 19th-century cartoon depicting "the New Luna Conveyance Company", an omnibus service ferrying passengers “to the Moon” and advertising routes “to the Seven Stars” and “the Milky Way”. The coachman and ticket taker wear comical pointed hats, one with a crescent moon symbol, as well as binoculars conveniently strapped to their heads, while passengers delightedly gaze out with similar devices and more traditional telescopes. 

The origin of this lithograph is unclear, but it's probably a joke aimed at the proliferation of omnibus services during the early Victorian Era. The only other copy we can find is a coloured version in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. That one is more complete, as it includes the second title, “New Omnibus Company — Capital £12,00,000,000” which has been trimmed off in our copy. Though undated, it's likely that this cartoon was published during the 1830s or early 40s, when networks of private omnibuses were rapidly expanding in European cities. The first British line was established in Manchester in 1824, followed by George Shillibeer’s London service in 1829, with competitors springing up almost overnight. The New Luna Conveyance Company's ridiculous capital accumulation of billions of pounds (which would make it a modern unicorn start-up!) seems to be a joke aimed at the rush to invest in and roll out these new omnibus services.