Long Island Museum Carriage Exhibition 

The Carriage Era
Carriages - not cars - once ruled the road. These forerunners of automobiles and trucks were absolutely essential to American life in the 1800s. Carriages came in an amazing assortment of sizes, shapes, and finishes. And they had a wide variety of uses. They moved people from place to place, transported goods, demonstrated their owners' pride and accomplishments, and provided new leisure opportunities. But, carriages were not for everyone. Owning a vehicle, and the horse or horses to pull it, took a good deal of money. It might surprise you to know that a smaller percentage of the population then owned carriages than now own cars. Come along with us and explore the fascinating world of carriages and the transportation solutions for a nation on the move.    
Coupe Rockaway, 1871. A.S. Flandrau, NYC
Gift of Franklin H. Joseph. The vehicle type known as the Rockaway originated right here on Long Island. It was named after the village of Rockaway, Queens, then a fashionable beach resort. Carriage shops in nearby Jamaica perfected its design. An enclosed family vehicle, the Rockaway's most distinguishing feature is its roof. This extends over the front seat to give protection from the weather to the driver, whether a coachman or a family member.
Wells Fargo Coach, ca. 1869. Abbot Downing & Co., Concord, NH
Gift of the Railway Express Agency. The overland express coaches of Wells Fargo & Company were critical to the westward expansion of the United States. During the mining boom, these coaches transported millions of dollars worth of raw gold bullion to exchange offices, as well as mail and passengers. When Wells Fargo announced overland passenger service in April 1867, customers could travel from Sacramento to Omaha for $275.
Market Wagon, ca. 1900 
Gift of Mrs. Henry Lewis III, G. Howland Meyer, S. Willets Meyer and Charles G. Meyer, Jr. Market Wagons carried produce from farms to urban markets and manufactured goods from factories to distant customers. Produce was typically stacked as high as possible and covered with a tarp secured by ropes. Sometimes the heavy-laden wagons were carried on flatbed railroad cars or abroad ferries. This wagon was owned by G. Howland Leavitt, a prosperous landowner in Bayside, Queens, Long Island.
Junior Express Wagon, ca. 1915. Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company. South Bend, IN
Gift of William John Spies.This wagon was typical of children's vehicles made to look like full sized carriages, but meant to be pulled by the family's pet goat or a dog. Although intended as toys, these vehicles offered children the practical experience of handling a set of reins. Studebaker's Junior Express Wagon is a miniature of the company's mid-size freight wagon, even mimicking the painted decoration of the larger model.
Buckboard Surrey, 1895-1905. Goubert & White, Glens Falls, NY
Gift of Charles Aden Poindexter. This buckboard was almost as common as the buggy during the carriage era. No millionaire's carriage house was complete without one. But drivers and livery stable proprietors, who supplied vehicles fro hire, also favored the buckboard because of its simple, inexpensive construction ans ability to carry several passengers. These attributes meant that the traditional buckboard could be made by local blacksmiths everywhere. 
Vis-A-Vis Sleigh, ca. 1880. Maker William Lown. Troy, NY
Gift of Mrs. Frederick Stickles, Lila S. Churchill and Mrs. Walter O. Noyes in memory of Frederick Stickles. Sleighs were the principal means of transport over snowy roads. Many families owned sleighs but not carriages, since a sleigh was less expensive, lacking the wheels, axles and suspension system of a carriage. The name 'vis-a-vis' (french for 'face to face') describes the way passengers rode in this sleigh.
U.S. Mail Wagon, 1900-10. Hanford Wagon Works, Unadilla, NY
Postal service began in the United States during the carriage era. A postal delivery system was in place as early as 1863 in larger cities; Rural Free Delivery followed, beginning in 1896. Long-distance mail was carried by stage liners or by individual riders. The mail wagon, used for local delivery, is fitted out inside with convenient compartments for letters and postal supplies and the rack at the rear was available for large parcels. 
Skeleton Wagon, ca.1860
This wagon is typical of the extremely lightweight vehicles developed after 1850 for trotting races. The shape is related to heavier road wagons, yet in the skeleton wagon every element has been reduced to only what is absolutely necessary. The horse had very little to slow it down.
American Gig or Riding Chair, 1760-80
Gift of the Society of the Cincinnati of the the State of New Hampshire. A seat suspended between two wheels and attached to a horse was the quintessential vehicle of the early carriage era. Some historians see the source of this carriage's design as the Egyptian chariot. This gig is said to have been driven by the Marquis de Lafayette. It originally belonged to the Brinckerhoff family of Chittenago, New York.
Chariot D'Orsay, 1875-85. Million & Guiet, France
The chariot type of carriage was recognized by its elevation, large wheels, and extreme elegance. It was driven by a coachman and accompanied by footman to assist passengers. This carriage, with its silver-plated hardware, belonged to William K. Vanderbilt, one of the wealthiest men in America.
Carriages at the Center
The standard of living of Americans improved greatly during the 1800s. As a result, more and more people were able to own vehicles and in turn were to able to demand more and better roads. And as roads grew and improved, people could go more and more places - and faster. This, in turn, greatly helped the developing American economy, since horse-drawn vehicles often provided the necessary connections between other forms of transportation -  trains, canal boats, and steamships - to get people and goods from point of origin to final destination. 
Credits: Story

Exhibition Title: Going Places

Curated by: The Long Island Museum

Credits: All media
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