Roof-seat Break or Char-a-banc

roofseatbreakSerial No. 18339
Brewster & Co.
New York

The char-à-banc was so named by French builders because the seats are placed across the carriage more or less at the same height as the driver’s seat. About 1844, King Louis Philippe presented a char-à-banc to Queen Victoria. British builders copied and modified the design. Large public versions came to be built, sometimes having seats wide enough to carry four persons, and these were used for sight-seeing tours. In common parlance in Britain they were known as “sharrybangs” or “sharrers.” A private char-à-banc was built with the seats almost as high as the roof seats on a coach, being mounted on a long, boxlike body. Perhaps for this reason, American builders called this sporting version a “roof-seat break.” It was built in various sizes by the leading American builders and came to be used with a pair, unicorn, or a four-in-hand to take parties of friends to race-meetings or other sporting events.

This break was built to the order of Harry Hamlin of Buffalo, New York, and Mr. Seabrook found it, in about 1954, in poor condition near Monmouth, New Jersey. New wheels and other restoration work were needed, and at first it was fitted with electric battery-operated drum brakes to the rear wheels. It was difficult to devise a method of applying these brakes gradually, and the shock of sudden application was found to put too much stress on the spokes of the large wheels. Eventually the original axles and rim brakes were replaced in about 1974.

Brewster & Co. of Broadway and 47th Street, New York. This type of break became popular in the 1890s and is one of several exclusive Brewster designs. It has no perch and is hung on elliptic springs in front and a combination of side- and cross-springs at the rear. It can be used with a pair of horses or a four-in-hand.

Helping preserve our horse-drawn heritage for over 50 years.