Carriage Travel Through the Ages

By Tabetha Waite

In the modern age that we live in, it’s so fast paced and busy, that it’s hard to imagine getting around in a simple horse and carriage, as so many of our ancestors did. But not everyone could afford such a luxury, just like the ‘horseless carriage’ when it was first introduced to the populace. My grandmother grew up in the 1940’s, and even then, living on a farm in rural Missouri, she told me how rare it was to see an automobile on the road.

Why? Because with any sort of technology there is a certain amount of work that goes into it, and carriages were no exception. Not only did you have to provide for the horses that would pull your chosen conveyance, but there was also the cost of the carriage itself. They were the product of highly skilled craftsmen such as woodworkers, wheelwrights, blacksmiths, trimmers, leather workers and painters. They took pride in their designs and riding in a fashionable carriage around society was no exception.

I have a lovely reference book in my personal library filled with images borrowed from various magazines and advertisements of the age. While many of these following carriages were American made, some were also used in England, as European immigrants who came to this country brought their craft styles with them, which we changed and adapted into our own unique designs.

As a writer of historical romance in the Regency and Victorian time periods, I enjoy the elegance of this bygone era, so I hope you will enjoy this alphabetical guide.

Barouche
This was very similar in style to the Brett design, although it had a partial falling top like the landau, and in some cases, extension tops.

Beach Wagon
Also referred to as a depot or jersey wagon or carryall, it held four or more passengers. It was intended as a recreational vehicle. Although it has also been referred to as a Dearborn Wagon because a gentleman of the same name drove one into the fields.

Berlin Coach
Refers to a 17th Century running undercarriage.

Bike Wagon
Introduced in the late Victorian era, it was one of the last carriages ever designed. It was made with wire wheels and rubber tires.

Break
A popular sporting vehicle, it was used for hunting parties and picnics with enough room for eight passengers, dogs, food, and ammunition. The original style was used for breaking and exercising horses, eliminating the damage to the finer carriages.

Brett
Built in the mid-Victorian era by James Goold & Co. in New York.

Brougham
This carriage originated in London in 1839 and was intended as a gentleman’s vehicle, but it was also used as a public cab, both in England and America. Another specific spring design was called the ‘Dorsay Brougham’ after Count D’Orsay.

Buckboard
They were called this for the boards used for the flexible wood in the floorboard and suspension. They were usually built with two or more seats. It was another staple of the American Old West.

Cabriolet
This style was introduced in the 17th Century and remained popular throughout England through the mid-Victorian era. One particular style became known as a panel-boot Victoria. With its tall wheels, it was almost a sort of double-phaeton.

Caleche
This particular vehicle had limited use because of the expense to remove the front and most of the top. With only the half-top, it became known as a barouche.

Chaise
Another popular design during the Regency era, the name means ‘chair,’ and it is also referred to as a shay. It’s generally a two-wheel design for two passengers, although there is space on the rear for a tiger to stand.

 Clarence
Similar to a coach, it was more of a large coupe. It could also be rather costly.

Coach
This was a vehicle reserved for the wealthy. It could cost anywhere from $1000-$1300 during the mid-19th Century. An American design called a ‘Falling-Front Coach’ is similar to a landau. James Goold & Co. also created a ‘Drawing-Room Coach’ that could be situated into an open vehicle.

Coal Box Buggy
This was one of the most popular carriages in America introduced in the late Victorian era. It got its name from its resemblance to a coal box.

Concord Wagon
This was invented in 1813 by Lewis Downing in America.

Coupe
These were essentially synonymous with the brougham in America.

Curricle
Refers to a two wheeled chariot drawn by two horses and carries two passengers, including the driver. Popular during the Regency era.

Dog Cart
This was an American cart developed from the 18th Century English shooting gig. It is intended as a sporting vehicle. Using one horse, two grooms would generally be situated at the rear, while a ventilated box under the seats held the hunting dogs.

Drag
This was a modified version of the road-coach used for recreational or sporting purposes, while the former was for public or family travel. One particular model by Hincks and Johnson boasted extra space in the front and rear boots that could actually be folded down into a serving table. An iron ladder was standard, so that ladies could climb onto the roof seats. Servants rode inside.

Driving Wagon/Runabout
These were popular with ladies with their rubber tires which made for quieter and easier riding.

Gladstone
Similar to the Brett, although it had no half-doors.

Goddard Buggy
This was developed in the 1840’s in Boston and named after the builder of the same name.

Governess Cart
Originally an English design, it became popular in the States in the late-Victorian era. It was commonly used to transport children and many had bodies of wickerwork.

Hansom Cab or Private Hansom
It was used in the States as a business vehicle and more commonly in England as a hired conveyance. The windows could be removed to decrease weight.

Jagger Wagon
Popular in America, it was economic and comfortable for travel.

Jaunting Wagon
The American version of the Irish jaunting car. Intended for outing parties.

Jenny Lind
A Swedish soprano, this mid-19th Century carriage was also named after the celebrated lady.

Landau
This particular model originated in Germany during the first half of the 18th Century and lasted up until the time of the automobile. It is similar to a coach although it has a falling top that can be collapsed. Because of its weight and complex design, it was another carriage for the wealthy.

Landaulette
A smaller, more compact version of the landau with a falling top, it resembled the size of a chariot. It could also come with an expensive price tag.

Mountain Wagon
This was particularly favored in America over the rugged terrain. It would have been used as a depot wagon or even a stage.

Opera Bus  
This was a style of private omnibus that was around during the mid to late Victorian era as use as a family vehicle and a depot wagon.

Phaeton
We normally hear of gentlemen in our novels driving this sort of conveyance, but there were different types other than the high-perch. Some had curtains that could be rolled down in inclement weather and a charcoal-burning foot warmer. Some had a drop-front, which afforded easier access. Some called ‘basket phaetons’ were even made of wickerwork and were popular for park and beach use. In 1830, English mail coaches were revised into more of a sporting and better suspension style of the ‘mail phaeton.’ Stanhope was a smaller version of the mail phaeton. The ‘Queen’s body’ was geared more toward ladies in the Victorian era. The ‘spider phaeton’ was an American design that became a gentleman’s carriage. The ‘George IV phaeton’ was popular for ladies’ driving, as it was designed to show off their fashions.

Piano-Box Buggy
Another Victorian style that was popular in American that became one of the forerunners of the Model – T Ford. Certain piano-box designs were referred to as Brewster Buggy’s due to their style of suspension.

Pony Cart
Popular with ladies and children, they were normally driven about in country villages.

Rockalet
A combination of a rockaway and a landaulet.

Rockaway
This was a practical family carriage. It was also used in Victorian era in America. 

Shifting-Seat Buggy
This single passenger vehicle could be expanded to accommodate three.

Skeleton Wagon
Intended for the track.

Speeding Wagon
Built for a single passenger, it was typically found at horse shows.

Spring Wagon/Democrat Wagon
This was built with removable seats and became popular in rural areas, or with a single seat, as a business vehicle.

Stanhope Gig
Later referred to as a buggy. Invented in 1815 by Fitzroy Stanhope, it was popular due to its suspension. It was drawn by one horse or two in tandem. It was considered a gentleman’s vehicle and was frequently seen at horse shows.

Sulky/Road Cart
A late Victorian design popular in the States, it was well known by its pneumatic or “bicycle” style tires. Some were used on racing tracks, but various models could be used on the road for better comfort.

Surrey
This has also been called a Whitechapel wagon or a corning buggy popular in the Victorian era in England and America.

Tandem Cart
A variation of the dog car where two horses were hitched in tandem.

Trap
The English version of the American dogcart. Popular styles included a divided front seat where the passengers could sit backwards.

Victoria
Named after Queen Victoria, this was popular for park driving in both America and England.

Vis-à-vis
This was a pleasant summer carriage that originated during the 18th Century, but its name grew in popularity by the mid-19th Century. Some models even resembled a rockaway style.

Wagonette
These were made in England in the 1840’s. These were unusual for their rear entrances. Some could be family oriented or for public use, while other styles were used for excursions and as a summer omnibus.

Winter Carriages

Booby-Hut
This was a sleigh popular in Boston. It had a coupe style body.

Albany Cutter
This was a sleigh also known as a Goold cutter. Many of these styles would have ornate scrollwork. The most popular was the Kimball Cutter.

Sleigh
An actual sleigh was brightly finished and had ornate scrollwork. They could fit several passengers, up to six, and while most were open, there were several designs, and some could even be made with falling tops.

And there you have it! While we can get our cars in a variety of colors and styles today, it was the same when searching for the right type of carriage that could suit your purse, and meet your needs, no matter where you lived. While you couldn’t purchase a bright yellow vehicle in the Regency, as most vehicles were painted black or particularly dark colors, that lovely shade could be used as a fashionable trim.

Credit for these sources go to ‘American Carriages, Sleighs, Sulkies, and Carts – 168 Illustrations from Victorian Sources’ edited by Don H. Berkebile.

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