William Phelps Eno ("Father of Traffic Safety")

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William Phelps Eno

Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Death: Died in Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, United States
Place of Burial: Simsbury, Hartford County, Connecticut, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Amos Richards Eno and Lucy Jane Enno
Half brother of Mary Jane Eno Pinchot

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About William Phelps Eno ("Father of Traffic Safety")


William Phelps Eno (June 3, 1858-December 3, 1945) was an American businessman responsible for many of the earliest innovations in road safety and traffic control. He is sometimes known as the "Father of traffic safety", despite never having learned to drive a car himself.

He graduated from Yale University in 1882, where he had been a member of Skull and Bones.

Though automobiles were rare until Eno was an older man, horse-drawn carriages were already causing significant traffic problems in urban areas like Eno's home town of New York City. In 1900, he wrote a piece on traffic safety entitled Reform in Our Street Traffic Urgently Needed. In 1903, he wrote a city traffic code for New York, the first such code in the world. He designed traffic plans for New York, London, and Paris.

Among the innovations credited to Eno are the stop sign, the pedestrian crosswalk, the traffic circle, the one-way street, the taxi stand, and pedestrian safety islands.

In 1921 Eno founded the Eno Foundation for Highway Traffic Control, today known as the Eno Transportation Foundation. The Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to studying and promoting transportation safety. Eno was one of the first honorary members of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.


Simsbury Free Library Beg inning in 1874 the Simsbury Free Library (SFL) served as the public library for the Town of Simsbury. The designation “Free” was used to distinguish it from the subscription libraries that were common at that time. Under the terms of the Eno trust, the library was operated by an independent, unpaid board of ten trustees. In 1970 the Town of Simsbury assumed financial responsibility for the public library and began to lease the building from the trustees. In 1986 the town responded to increasing library use caused by population growth by opening the new, municipally-owned and operated Simsbury Public Library one block away. The SFL enjoys a collegial relationship with the Simsbury Public Library, but is an unaffiliated private institution that is dedicated to serving the public. During its years as a public library countless thousands of children and adults passed through the building in search of entertainment, knowledge and enlightenment. Today the SFL still is a vital cultural resource for Simsbury and the surrounding communities. A non-profit institution run by its unpaid board of ten trustees, the SFL is sustained by its endowment, grants, donations and membership and user fees. The SFL building is now home to the: S imsbury Genealogical and Historical Research Library Wil liam Phelps Eno Memorial Center Ensi gn Bickford Corporate Archives T hese three collections are open to the public Thursdays - Saturday 9:30 am - 3:30 pm and by appointment. They are managed by Library Director and Archivist Allison B. Krug. The library welcomes volunteers.The SFL building also houses the: The Farmington River Watershed Association, which occupies the second floor and maintains an Audubon library. Th e Simsbury Chamber of Commerce, which occupies the English basement and has a business reference library. The Architecture of the BuildingThe SFL collection was moved in 1890 to the present building, which was designed by noted Hartford architect Melvin H. Hapgood and donated by Amos R. Eno. Mr. Eno’s daughter, Antoinette Eno Wood, donated the rear addition in 1924 and many other improvements.

The building is a remarkable example of the Colonial Revival architectural style that was popular in New England during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and it has many features inspired by the earlier American Renaissance and Federal styles. The front of the building has a pair of Palladian windows flanking a columned porch at the main entry and a stone plaque over the entry porch engraved with the words “Simsbury Free Library.” Many of the windows have leaded glass panes, including the fanlight in the recessed tympanum over the stone plaque. The two chimneys have barrel vaulted caps and the roof is copper shingle.

Inside, the entrance foyer opens into an exquisite reading room with a large fireplace. Many volumes from the original collection line the walls. Paintings, statuettes and a grandfather clock donated by the Eno family are also on display. After the removal of the public library collection, the building underwent extensive renovation and was restored to a historically accurate appearance. In 1991, it was added to the Connecticut Register of Historic Places. Event RentalThe first floor of Simsbury Free Library building is available to members of the Simsbury Genealogical and Historical Research Library and to non-profit organizations to use for meetings and events. Interesting Sites Relevant to the Eno FamilySimsbury Cemetery

The SFL grounds are adjacent to the historic Simsbury Cemetery, which has gravestones dating from 1688 to the present. It is the final resting place for Amos Richards Eno and his wife, Lucy Jane Phelps Eno, and many members of their family, including Antoinette Eno Wood, William Phelps Eno and their older brother, Amos F. Eno, a major benefactor of the New York Public Library. Many of the earlier gravestones are significant examples of periods in mortuary art. Those interred there include veterans all of America’s wars, including the French and Indian, Revolutionary, and Civil War.

The SFL has published Simsbury Cemetery Gravestone Inscriptions, Simsbury, Connecticut, 1688-2000, Volume I: The Old Section compiled by Joyce A. Cahill.

Eno Memorial Hall Across Hopmeadow Street from the SFL is the Eno Memorial Hall, a red brick, white columned Colonial Revival building which opened in 1932. It was given posthumously to the town by Antoinette Eno Woods in memory of her parents, Lucy Jane Phelps and Amos Richards Eno. For many years Eno Memorial Hall served Simsbury as its town hall as well as a community center and the home of the Abigail Phelps Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, for which Mrs. Wood had served as regent. Only one town office remains, the Social Services Department, but the multi-functional public building is still the home of the D.A.R. It also houses Simsbury Community Television, Inc. (SCTV: Channels 5, 21, 22) and the Simsbury Senior Center. Its auditorium is the venue for entertainments and cultural programs.

Simsbury 1820 House Now an elegant country inn, the house on a rise half a block south of the SFL was built by Elisha Phelps, the father of Lucy Jane Phelps, wife of Amos R. Eno. Mr. Phelps was a judge and congressman and his father, Noah Phelps, was a Revolutionary War hero. After Elisha Phelps died, Lucy and Amos Eno purchased the house from his other heirs and used it as their summer home. Both they and their daughter Antoinette modified and enlarged it. One summer it saw the birth of their grandson, Gifford Pinchot, who became the first head of the U.S. Forestry Department and Governor of Pennsylvania. The building is now on the National Register of Historic Places. For more about the history of the Simsbury 1820 House, go to: http://simsbury1820house.com/about.htm

Phelps Tavern Museum Owned by the Simsbury Historical Society, this house two blocks north of the SFL was built in 1771 by the brother of Revolutionary War hero Noah Phelps and owned by him for a time. It served during several periods as a tavern. For more about the history of the house, go to: http://www.simsburyhistory.org/phelps-tav.-mus.html

Town Farm Dairy In 1883 the Town of Simsbury accepted the gift of a farm from Amos R. Eno “for the support and care” of the town’s poor. Today the farmhouse and a portion of its original acreage are preserved by the Friends of the Town Farm Dairy. It is at 71 Wolcott Road, about 3.2 miles northeast of the Simsbury Free Library.

For more about the farm and the Friends of the Town Farm Dairy, go to: http://www.townfarmdairy.org Key Events in Simsbury Free Library History 1872 Members of a Simsbury social and literary club begin to promote the idea of establishing a public library for the town and to give fundraising events.1874 Amos R. Eno establishes a trust to fund a free library for the Town of Simsbury and appoints ten trustees. Thereafter, the SFL serves as Simsbury’s public library and is located initially in the Hop Meadow District School.1890 Dedication of Simsbury Free Library building.1924 Completion of the library building addition, a gift from Antoinette Eno Wood, the daughter of Amos and Lucy Jane Phelps Eno. Mrs. Wood also provided the decorative balustrade in front of the building.1970 Simsbury Tercentennial Celebrated. Town of Simsbury assumes financial responsibility for the operation of the library and rents the SFL building from the trustees.1986 SFL retains independent private status as Town of Simsbury establishes Simsbury Public Library in newly constructed building.1986 Farmington Valley Watershed Association occupies second floor of the SFL building, including the FVWA’s Audubon Library collection.1988 The Simsbury Genealogical and Historical Research Library (SGHRL) opens in the SFL building’s English basement. It is supported financially by its members and the SFL.1991 Major renovation and restoration of SFL building completed. SGHRL moves to a portion of refurbished first floor.1991 SFL building listed on the State of Connecticut Register of Historic Places.1992 The Eno Foundation for Transportation entrusts the furnishings, artifacts and library from William Phelps Eno’s former office to the SFL. The William Phelps Eno Memorial Center is dedicated. It occupies the north end of the SFL’s main reading room. Mr. Eno is recognized internationally as the “Father of Traffic Regulation and Transportation Engineering.”1992 Simsbury Chamber of Commerce occupies English basement level of the 1924 addition to the SFL building, bringing their business reference library.1998 With a grant from the Ensign Bickford Foundation, a specially equipped archival room is added beneath the main floor to safely store the early business records and memorabilia of the Ensign-Bickford Company (which has operated in Simsbury since the 19th century) and other valuable historical records.1998 A 5-foot-square stone plaque with the seal of the Eno Foundation for Transportation in high relief is added to the southeast corner of the SFL building.


William Phelps Eno was the youngest child of SFL benefactor Amos R. Eno and his wife, Lucy Jane Phelps Eno. In 1867, at nine years old, he was struck by the total confusion he witnessed in New York City caused by snarled traffic. He later wrote, “That very first traffic jam (many years before the motor car came into use) will always remain in my memory. There were only about a dozen horses and carriages involved, and all that was needed was a little order to keep the traffic moving. Yet nobody knew exactly what to do; neither the drivers nor the police knew anything about the control of traffic.”

Everyone who ships or receives goods or who travels by foot or any type of conveyance – on land, water or in the air – owes thanks to Mr. Eno. He was the original architect of traffic regulations and transportation engineering that shaped the rules that now govern the movement of people and goods in small towns and large cities throughout the world. He pioneered a plan for a New York subway, became involved in maritime activities, was a strong supporter of railroad development, and in the early 1920s launched research on the future of aviation.

Mr. Eno developed and led the fight for most of the traffic-flow innovations we now take for granted, including: Right hand driving Systems of shared intersections One-way traffic circles One-way streets Traffic lights Traffic signs Pavement marking Regulations against jaywalking Taxi stands Off-street parking Driver’s licenses Vehicle registration Traffic tickets Mr. Eno’s influence around the world was profound. For example, he preferred rotaries to stop signals as the best way to keep traffic flowing. This concept of his strongly influenced the building of Piccadilly Circus in London and the rotary around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

He was awarded the cross of the Legion of Honor by the French government after World War I because his traffic system allowed the French to speed 60,000 troops to Verdun to halt the German advance toward Paris and turn the tide of the war. Later Mussolini dictated that Italy would adopt Eno’s traffic control system. Germany modeled its autobahn on his idea of a national network of superhighways and this, in turn, influenced the building of the U.S interstate highway system.

William Phelps Eno Memorial Center A unique personal archive of historic transportation materials William Phelps Eno is internationally recognized as the “Father of Traffic Regulation and Transportation Engineering.” The William Phelps Eno Memorial Center was created and entrusted to the SFL in 1992 by the Eno Transportation Foundation, which was founded and privately endowed in 1921 by Mr. Eno in Westport, Connecticut. Its headquarters are now in Washington, D.C.

William Phelps Eno's Office The Center occupies the north end of the SFL’s main reading room. Using Mr. Eno’s furniture, paintings and artifacts, it recreates the office he had in the Foundation’s Connecticut headquarters. In it you will find all of Mr. Eno’s original scrapbooks in which he saved visionary writing and correspondence with world leaders and other notables dating from the late 1800s. Here you will see copies of detailed research documents and publications from his time to the present, since his work is continued by the Eno Transportation Foundation. True to its motto Ex Chao Ordo (Out of Chaos, Order), the Foundation carries on today at an even greater pace and includes all modes of transportation.


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William Phelps Eno ("Father of Traffic Safety")'s Timeline

June 3, 1858
New York, New York, United States
December 3, 1945
Age 87
Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, United States
Simsbury, Hartford County, Connecticut, United States