Just about a year after his hair-raising drive in London, Albert Johnson passed away. Here, with the fascinating tale of his early life, is an excerpt from an obituary of Mr. Johnson, from the July 7, 1901, issue of the Cincinnati Enquirer

“For a man who had been a controlling spirit in huge enterprises from the Mississippi to the Atlantic, and who for years had been prominent in that most public of industries, street railway operation, Albert L. Johnson was not widely known. That is, as a man. His name, his power as an organizer and his daring as a promoter were familiar to all who follow the course of events in the financial world and the ever-present problem of local transportation. But the man himself was not really a public character.

“Yet his personality was at least as interesting as that of many men who are pictured and described from day to day. He accomplished many things in his thirty-nine years of life, things worth while, whether from his own standpoint or that of the public. His original capital, too, was no greater than that of others whose rapid rise to wealth has furnished texts. It consisted of poverty, determination and daring.

“In many phases he was personally a type of the modern American, keen, aggressive and self-confident in business, tireless as a worker, and delighting in recreation where muscle ruled. Sometimes, when his superabundant energy demanded an outlet, he would choose an unusual form of exercise. Several times, when he was general manager of street railways in Cleveland, he spent the night clearing the tracks of snow. After a heavy fall, this was not a task for a weak man. The snow plows were huge machines, drawn by teams of eighteen horses. In the midst of a whirling blizzard, Johnson would take charge of one of the big plows and, holding the reins himself, would drive the team at furious pace through the silent streets, finding the keenest joy in battling with the cold and the driving snow and guiding the plunging animals.

“His liking for this strange amusement was doubtless due in part to his love of horses. He was never so satisfied as when driving a spirited team, and in this he followed the bend of his Kentucky forebears. His skill was extraordinary, too, for there was not a man in the country, perhaps, who could handle a four-in-hand with such deftness and skirt danger so closely without mishap.

“From his boyhood, Al Johnson was associated with his brother, Tom L., now mayor of Cleveland, who was ten years his senior. They were Kentucky-bred boys, sons of a Confederate officer who lost all his property in the Civil War. Their first venture in street railways was in running a line in Covington. They had three or four battered cars, a few mules and infinite patience. Al Johnson was driver and conductor combined of one of the cars, but assisted also in the management of the company.

“When Tom Johnson took hold of the street railway business of Indianapolis his brother, Al, joined him. He started in as a conductor, though a stockholder in the road. This double position made him one of the most faithful employees of the company. He rose from the ranks, however, and at twenty-two was general manager.

“It was in 1883 that the Johnsons entered Cleveland and began the long fight against entrenched rivals, which ended in victory. They bought the Brooklyn road, a one-horse line of bobtail cars, which started out in the suburbs and ended nowhere in particular. All the other lines on the west side of the city were controlled by Mark Hanna; those on the east by Dr. Everett. These magnates laughed at the puny beginnings of the Johnsons. They continued to charge fifteen cents for a ride from one side of the city to the other.

“But gradually the Johnsons began to reach out. They offered to pave Scovill avenue if the city would allow them to lay tracks on it. The city consented, and three and a half miles were added to the line. Then they began a fight to cross the viaduct, where Hanna had sole rights. Al Johnson was the leader in this assault and, after patient work, he succeeded in having an ordinance passed making the viaduct free.

“But there was still a strip of a mile separating the Scovill avenue line from the Brooklyn line, and Al Johnson set about getting it. It took him four years, but he never ceased work until he succeeded. He had been elected an alderman in the meantime, and had great influence with young men in politics. Having maneuvered so that the mayor and his rivals were out of town, he laid the tracks at night, and his rivals failed to dislodge him.

“Once it was completed, the Johnson line began to do business with the people. One fare was made the rate for any distance over the line, and it was not long before the Hanna-Everett companies had to meet the rate. Now one many ride fifteen miles in Cleveland for five cents.”