These stagecoaches were built by the Abbot-Downing Company of Concord, New Hampshire. Coaches of this sort were used to transport passengers, mail, currency and gold all throughout the western United States. The manufacturer referred to these vehicles as “Mail Coaches” and they were built in six, nine and twelve passenger sizes (not counting any roof-top passengers). With the rack on top, space in the boot under the driver’s seat, and a rear compartment, this vehicle could accommodate lots of baggage as well as passengers. These coaches were painted in bright colors and then decorated with ornate scroll work and vivid oil paintings. The coach shown here reflects the typical and most common color scheme used by Abbot-Downing. Concord coaches were widely used in all parts of the United States and also in South America, South Africa and Australia. In the 1870s they would have cost between $1,000 and $1,200. The stagecoach pictured here (#251) is presently displayed at the Wells Fargo History Museum in San Diego. There are five museums located in the California for the Wells Fargo Stagecoach. To view more extraordinary photographs of a Wells Fargo Stagecoach visit the Wells Fargo Bank’s History Site. Photos courtesy of the Wells Fargo Bank, San Francisco, California.
Small park drags were in demand about the turn of the century as more ladies took up the sport of four-in -hand driving. The Ladies Four-in -Hand Club of New York was formed about that time, and Holland & Holland advertised small coaches in THE RIDER AND DRIVER, a New York sporting magazine. The Park Drag is a derivative of the earlier English Mail Coach and Road Coach which criss-crossed Britain by the hundreds, carrying passengers and mail in the early 19th century. The birth of railroad travel replaced these coaches and it became fashionable for young men to buy up the out-of-use coaches to drive for sport and play. It became so popular that a Four-in-Hand Club was formed in London in the latter half of the century and driving meets were often held in Hyde Park. The coaches used by the members began to be referred to as “Park Coaches.” Many enthusiasts began having newer coaches manufactured to meet a surprising demand. The newer coaches, updated to be somewhat lighter and more refined in appearance, came to be known as “Park Drags.” Instead of including space for cargo and mail, these drags were equipped to carry an elaborate assortment of food and refreshment for the passengers. Holland & Holland was one of the world’s most highly respected manufacturers of coaches and drags. John Holland, one of the owner’s of the firm, was a Master of the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers of London. The company was purchased by the Long Acre company of Kesterton in 1888 and its traditional name was retained. The Park Drag shown here is a pony sized vehicle that may have been manufactured to meet the demands of those ladies who began to enter the sport at about the turn of the century, many of them wishing even smaller and lighter coaches that might be put to ponies.
In 1838, the English statesman, Lord Brougham, designed a vehicle for himself and went to a London coach builder by name of Robinson to have the carriage built. Not quite satisfied, Lord Brougham redesigned the carriage and had Robinson build another in 1839. This version quickly became known as a Brougham. Prior to its construction there was no enclosed carriage designed to be pulled by one horse. The Brougham might have been included in our Coach category; for it generally falls into that classification. We, however, have tried to make a distinction between servant driven vehicles and other coaches that might have been driven by their owners. In America, this vehicle is also often referred to as a Coupe. In Europe, however, the Coupe is generally considered to have a swelled body and a rounded front panel. Notice the straight side and front panel on this coach. Many carriage manufacturing companies built Broughams and most of them produced varying styles and sizes of the vehicle that would accommodate from two to four passengers. Pictured here is a beautiful specimen by Brewster & Company, of New York City, that was likely built very early in the 20th century. This particular Brougham has only a single inside seat for two people and is thus called a Bachelor Brougham.
It seems that the Landau is a design of German origin, perhaps from the Bavarian town of Landau. It meets all the criteria of the Coach family even though it does not have a fixed roof, but a top that folds down or up in 2 separate pieces which generally lock-up at a center point. The entrance door is generally low and usually has a step for easy entry. Interior seats, allowing for 4 people, face each other. The driver’s seat, of course, is elevated and on the outside of the carriage. The Landau pictured here represents a variety with a canoe shaped bottom line, or continuous curve, rather than the more common drop-center that has much more angular lines. This carriage is called a Dress Landau and would have been used exclusively by noble families and only on special or ceremonial occasions. Note the crest on the door panel. Such formal vehicles would have been highly unusual in America. This Landau was manufactured in Stuttgart, Germany, by F & W Munch, in approximately 1890.
Don Berkebile, in his extraordinary and classic work, CARRIAGE TERMINOLOGY: A HISTORICAL DICTIONARY, tells us that a vehicle such as the one pictured here was called a Glass Coach in order to distinguish it from a Hackney Coach (or public coach). The vehicle would have been used for only the most important or ceremonial occasions and obviously owned only by the wealthiest of families. Such a coach would have been highly uncommon in America. This vehicle was manufactured in Scotland by G. Glascow in about 1895. The gilded ornamentation on this coach is obviously beautiful; however, one wonders why so square a driver’s seat was used or put in place. Berkebile, Don H: CARRIAGE TERMINOLOGY: A HISTORICAL DICTIONARY [Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C., 1978]
The Victoria is one of the most elegant of all carriages and it was extremely popular among well-to-do families. It is thought that the design originated in England in the middle of the 19th century and, perhaps, derives from the Phaeton built for King George IV (see George IV Phaeton). The Victoria could be horsed by either a single or a pair. It has only one seat for two passengers and a coachman’s seat supported by iron work. Another version of this carriage, the Panel Boot Victoria, would have had a box-framed driver’s seat, allowing for storage, and a straight dashboard in front of that seat. It became very fashionable for ladies to be driven through the park in a carriage of this sort by a stylishly dressed private coachman. Though some question how popular the carriage was in America, it can not be argued that many a Victoria has survived over the years and can now be found in both private and museum collections. This Victoria was built for William F. Burden, of New York City, by Brewster & Company in 1894.
What carriage tour would be complete without viewing a Hansom Cab? Its name is nearly as well known to the American public as the Buckboard or even the generic term Buggy. However, it is probably more misidentified and mislabeled than any carriage that exists. How often visitors to Central Park claim to have ridden in a Hansom Cab when, in fact, one can no longer be found on the streets there. It’s name has been popularized by the classic tales of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle; however, most readers, not being able to visualize one as they read, often think the term is simply synonomous with “carriage.” In fact, the vehicle is so distinct that it becomes easier to identify than any other type. As you can see as you view this marvelous example by D. P. Nicholas & Company, of New York City, it is a two-wheeled vehicle with a body hung very close to the ground, affording easy access to passengers through twin doors in the front of the cab. The driver’s seat is high up and behind the body of the vehicle. The driver could open and shut the passenger doors from where he sat. The Hansom Cab was used primarily as a public vehicle and became the cab of choice in most major cities of England and America. There were, however, some private Hansoms manufactured and the one pictured here may, indeed, be an example. The particular vehicle was probably manufactured in the last decade of the 19th century. The Hansom Cab derives its name from its inventor, Joseph Hansom, an English architect, who patented the design in 1834.