Sleighs – Coson Carriage Tour

Fore-Door Comfort Cutter

Cutters, to differentiate them from sleighs, are considered light sleighs, with only one seat, and usually pulled by one horse. It is a distinctly American term that does not appear to have been used prior to 1800. Cutters are usually broken down into two additional categories — Albanys and Portlands. The Portland varieties have rather straight angular lines. The Albany cutter has a slightly swelling body and curved, rounded lines. This cutter is a Portland style with doors. Doors are unusual in cutters and were a very late development — probably an influence of automobile designers. It was manufactured in Maryland, by J.D. Eckenrode, sometime in the first or second decade of the 20th century.

Four Passenger Sleigh

This unusual sleigh was built late in the 19th century by H.H. Babcock, of Watertown, New York. This was a company of excellent reputation and they did fine design work and employed excellent craftsmen. This lovely specimen provides ample evidence that their reputation was deserved. It is louvered on the sides. This was probably done to give it a sporting appearance and not for any practical reason. These louvers inhibit what one could do with fancy decoration and, therefore, the sleigh takes on a rather plain look. There is some storage space beneath the seats which is accessed from the rear. It all causes one to imagine a lovely winter picnic after a graceful, gliding ride near one of the beautiful finger-lakes in New York.

Another Four Passenger Sleigh

This is certainly a very unique sleigh! (Or, is it a cutter?) Some experts would consider the small jump seat (or half seat), facing rearwards, not enough of a seat to take this out of the cutter category. This seat was probably just meant for small children. These things sometimes get important to members of the Carriage Association and one can hear little arguments like this taking place over breakfast before the start of a day’s activities at an Annual Conference. Some of our members are rather famous (notorious) for such arguments. Whatever, this particular sleigh was rebuilt in Nebraska in 1974. Notice that it has a crank brake that could have been applied by the driver. See the large, curved spike that would lower into the snow and ice. Interesting, but not very effective in stopping an over-spirited horse.

Four Passenger Bob Sleigh

Bobs refer to short sleds that are used in pairs under the body of a vehicle. These bob-runners, as the ones on the sleigh pictured here, can swivel and therefore make the sleigh easier to turn. They can also make the sleigh a bit unstable in deep snow conditions, especially on downhill runs. This particular sleigh has some unusual springs on each set of runners. It may have been these springs that caused its builder, John Kingsbury, of Albany, New York, to seek patent protection in 1890. This sleigh is a beautiful piece and anyone would be proud to own it.

Portland Cutter

Look at this graceful Portland Cutter. This fine example of the species was built around the turn of the century by the Cortland Carriage Company. Such a cutter could have been purchased for under $20 at the time of its construction. They were extremely popular in America and many companies were manufacturing them. In 1908, Sears and Roebuck advertised models similar to this one for $16.75. How much of that must the builder have gotten? Not much is known about the Cortland Carriage Company. It’s possible that it is the successor to the Cortland Wagon Company which had financial troubles and went out of business early in the 1900s (though in 1904 they turned out over 16,000 carriages).

Six Passenger Swell-Body Sleigh

This is a fine example of the Albany type sleigh, with a graceful, swelling body. They’ve also been called Hudson Valley Sleighs. It is a uniquely American design that originated in upstate New York. What magnificent craftsmanship is required to build such a sleigh! The precise and beautiful striping on the body of this sleigh only accentuate the curved workmanship. The look simply flows and this sleigh can be elegantly turned out to four horses or to a pair. It would not have required much of the horses to pull this sleigh across hard-packed snow. Notice how high the driver’s seat is, to afford a better view over a large team. This Albany type sleigh was always more spectacular in its decoration than the Portland type.

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