Stagecoaches of Vintage America | US Mail and Passenger transporters-19th century
The Concord Stagecoach was the most widely used coach in the developing Midwest and Western half of the US.
Today Concord Stagecoaches are what we know to look like a stagecoach.
The Concord style coach is used in Western movies and on display in living history museums to display icons of the American history.
What started as a contract to haul the US Mail on wagons turned into a full service passenger transports as the population moved through the Midwest and on Westward.
Although stagecoaches were used between England and Scotland dating back to 1670 the first documented stagecoach passenger service in America began in 1785.
It was no more than the standard box wagon used to carry the mail with added wooden benches.
The wooden benches were not padded or equipped with any springs or other mechanism to soften the bumps in the road.
In 1827 J.S. Abbot and Lewis Downing of Concord New Hampshire began making a passenger coach named The Concord Coach.
The coach was totally supported by layers of leather straps measuring 3” thick. These supports were called leather thorughbraces, look for them in the pictures.
The idea seems to have come from some of the early coaches that were made in England that used a suspended coach to soften the road.
Like those used in England the coach compartment itself was designed with a rounded bottom somewhat like the design used on a baby cradle to rock the baby to sleep.
In fact Mark Twain once commented that the Concord Stagecoach was just like a large cradle.
With the leather thorughbraces the coach would rock back and forth as well as bounce absorbing the direct impact of the rough dirt roads.
Abbot and Downing appear to have used a much heavier wagon gear and wagon wheels.
They must have realized the rugged country side in America would be much different than traveling the more refined roads in England.
The upward part of the coach appears to have also been designed heavier and to be more functional for transporting both passengers and cargo across rugged terrain.
The rugged Concord Coach gained a reputation of never breaking down and stayed the mainstay of companies such as Wells Fargo and The Butterfield Company who both ran commercial passenger routes.
Stagecoach routes continued up until even the early 1900s to remote areas where trains had not reached.
While train service made travel so much comfortable eliminating the main traveled stagecoach routes, it was bus service that finally took over the remote routes and would finally bring a close to the stagecoach era.
The Concord stagecoach was designed with two facing main seats and fold down seats in the middle for extra passengers.
The inside upholstery resemble the rolled and tucked leather seats and pleated head liners that were found in private carriages.
There was no glass used in the windows, instead rollup shades made of leather would be lowered and snapped down to protect passengers during inclement weather and dust storms.
The driver seat set up above the horses and was wide enough for a driver and a guard. The seat allowed a full 360° view which came in handy as stagecoaches were often easy targets for robbers.
The coaches were equipped with a leather riffle sheath and both the driver and guard would carry holstered guns.
A heavy cargo rack across the top of the coach held mail bags, strong boxes and suitcases.
A leather covered storage compartment on the back of the coach held luggage that could be damaged during inclement weather.
Both the driver and guard were exposed to all weather elements and were committed to keep the stagecoach on schedule in all but the worst travel conditions.
Stagecoaches were pulled by a team of typically four and sometimes six horses. The teams would be changed out at company owned or contracted way stations along the routes, to keep the stagecoach rolling.
Some of these stops included an Inn for the passengers and crew to have a hot meal and night’s sleep before having a hearty breakfast to start the next day’s journey.
The pictures are of an replica of Concord Stagecoach that was built by a Texas Company.
Texas produced more stagecoach business for Abbot and Downing than any other state.
The Abbot and Downing company name was later changed to just Abbot Downing Company making the most sought after stage coaches and other wagons up until 1847.
Then Abbot and Downing started separate companies both including their sons.
Abbot and his son named their company J.S and E. A. Abbott Company while Downing and his sons went by The Lewis Downing & Sons Company.
Both companies were located in Concord New Hampshire and both built the same quality Concord stage coach.
When Abbot retired in 1865 the two companies merged back to become the Abbot Downing Company.
The Concord Stagecoaches continued to enjoy their famous reputation as the companies mainstay but they also built all types of different coaches and wagons up until 1899.
Pictures are courtesy of Cottage Craft Works .com a back-to-basic online general store featuring vintage reproduction products.