Break (or brake) is an English word that derives its origin from the “breaking” in of colts or untamed horses. They were often also used for exercising teams of horses. Thus, carriages used for such purposes became known as Breaks. Many of these vehicles had no body, but consisted only of heavy running gear and a high driving seat (often called Skeleton Breaks). Eventually the term was used to classify a wider variety of vehicles that were intended to carry a large number of passengers. For instance, when one puts a body on such a vehicle, one now has a Body Break. Or, as many manufacturers called them, a Wagonette Break. This particular Break was made in 1891 by Brewster & Company of New York City, which made a great many of these carriages. The seat behind the driver’s position is removable. There is a boot beneath of front seat that is accessible through a door facing the rear.
Fitzroy Stanhope was a designer of carriages in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Several vehicles are associated with his name because of their similarities in design to those of his much earlier vehicles. The Stanhope Phaeton is one of those. This carriage is sometimes called a Demi-Mail Phaeton because it is a lighter version of the Mail Phaeton. The Stanhope Phaeton is so named because its’ body is so similar to the gig design of Fitzroy Stanhope with a groom’s seat added. Many purists would argue that this carriage should not be referred to as a Stanhope because it does not include the type of forecarriage design to which shafts might be fastened. However, its manufacturer, Brewster & Company, designated it a Stanhope Phaeton and the term has become commonly used. This particular Phaeton was manufactured in 1900 for an H. S. Smithers. It is certainly not a common vehicle, but many companies manufactured them and hundreds have survived to this day.
Phaetons come in all sorts of varieties and sizes. It is a term that often confuses the casual visitor to carriage museums and collections. Indeed it should, because it was such a widely, inconsistently used term that derives from the Greek (Phaethon, son of Helios, who drove the Chariot of the Sun with such careless abandon that Zeus struck him down with a lightning bolt to prevent him from destroying the Earth with fire). The term was first applied to classify a carriage during that 16th century period in France when it was so fashionable to use classical pseudonyms. Usage of the term spread quickly to England and America. There are few distinguishing characteristics that can restrict the use of the term — perhaps only that it is an owner driven vehicle and that it nearly always includes some sort of top that would shelter, at least, the driver. The name was applied to both large and small carriages that might be drawn by one or more horses. Actually, manufacturers used the term extremely loosely and it gains one little to consider why any particular vehicle might have been called a Phaeton. The Spider Phaeton was so named, however, because of its extremely delicate lines and lack of bulkiness. Notice the rear seat for the groom and how open and delicate it looks compared to the one on the Stanhope Phaeton that is included in this tour. The Spider Phaeton was originally designed in America in the 1860s, but became very popular in both America and Europe in the last decade of that century. Carriages of similar design were manufactured by many companies. This Spider Phaeton was built by Healey & Company, of New York City, in about 1900. This company was highly respected and, in 1884, built a very large factory on West 43rd Street.
Extension Top Surrey
The carriage shown here was manufactured by H.A. Moyer, of Syracuse, New York, early in the 1900s. The surrey is certainly a family-type vehicle, carrying 4 people easily, with an abundance of leg-room. American companies began building carriages of this type some time around 1870; however, those early versions did not have the graceful look of this fine carriage. The earliest 4 passenger Surreys had a straight top-line and one of the front seats would likely have lifted up to allow passengers access to the rear seat. This extension top is foldable and settles down nicely and out of the way, behind the rear seat. Tom Ryder reminds us that these tops are often erroneously called “auto-tops” in the mistaken idea that they were the inventions of the early auto industry. Not so, they can be found on carriages 50 years before the first auto came along. Berkebile* points out that the origin of the name is not known, though it is likely somehow associated with the English county of Surrey. *Berkebile, Don H: CARRIAGE TERMINOLOGY: AN HISTORICAL DICTIONARY [Smithsonian Institute]
In England, the “Gooch Wagon” was made exclusively by Mills & Sons. It is they who gave the carriage its name. Several manufacturers in America made vehicles of similar design and applied the name freely. The builder of this particular Gooch Wagon is unknown. It was probably manufactured early in the 20th century. Henry Hooker & Company, of New Haven, made a carriage similar in design to this one, but called it a Hiko Spider — probably because of its delicate nature. Notice that there are 3 springs on the under-carriage.
Basket-Body George IV Phaeton
Various phaetons, termed George IV Phaetons (George the Fourth) were manufactured by many builders in both England and America. The term begs for some explanation. The basic design was copied from a carriage that was originally made for King George IV of England in 1824. The King was then elderly and, shall we say, quite rotund. He still wanted to drive his own carriage on occasion and asked that one be built that would allow him easy entry. As ladies began to drive more commonly this design appealed to them because of this ease of access. After a time, carriages of this design-type were often referred to as Ladies Phaetons. This particular carriage, by the French Carriage Company, of Boston, Massachusetts, was probably built sometime at the turn of the century. Because of its wicker body it was intended for summer use and the folding parasol top could be added to provide protection from the sun. There are no lamp brackets included on this carriage because it was intended to be driven during daylight hours.
The Wagonette is another family-type carriage, very popular because of the ease with which passengers could be included. The earliest Wagonettes were built in England prior to 1850. The early versions were always quite large and were thought of as country vehicles. As their popularity grew so did the variety of styles and sizes. The primary identifying feature of the Wagonette is the longitudinal seats to the rear of the driver’s position, facing each other as in the Omnibus, with a door in the rear. The driver’s seat may be on the same level as those rear seats or slightly elevated. This pony size Wagonette was built by Walburn & Riker, of Ohio, a firm known especially for the pony carriage they manufactured. Their story is told brilliantly in a book by Ben Riker: PONY WAGON TOWN.