1902 Encyclopedia > Carriage


CARRIAGE, a term which in its widest signification includes all structures employed for the purposes of transport of merchandize and movable goods and of human beings. Such vehicles are generally mounted on wheels, but the sledge and the litter are types of the exception to this rule. Carriages, according to the definition above given, includes in these days avast variety of forms, ranging from the humble wheelbarrow and rude farm-cart up to the luxuriously appointed sleeping-cars of railways, and the state carriages of royal personages. A narrower application, however, limits the term to such vehicles as are used for the conveyance of persons, and it is in this restricted sense that the term is here used. Cars or carriages for use on railways or tramways are also excluded, and will be dealt with in other connections.

Although, doubtless, the primitive means of transport was by riding on the back of the horse, camel, elephant, or other animal, there is evidence that the use of certain kinds of carriages dates from a very remote antiquity. When Pharaoh advanced Joseph to the second place in Egypt " he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had;" and later, Joseph, by command of the king, sent waggons out of the land of Egypt to convey Jacob and his whole family to the land of his adoption. Thus at this early period there were two distinct types of carriage in use among the civilized inhabitants of Egypt,—a country which from its level character presented facilities for the development of this species of conveyance. The use of chariots in Egypt and among early nations generally was reserved for rulers and warlike leaders.

It was among the Romans that the use of carriages as a private means of conveyance was first established, and with that people carriages attained great variety of form as well as richness of ornamentation. In all times the employment of carriages depended greatly on the condition of the roads over which they had to be driven, and the establishment of good roads, such as the Appian Way, constructed 331 B.C., and others, greatly facilitated the development of carriage travelling among the Romans. In Rome itself, and probably also in other large towns, it was neces-sary to restrict travelling in carriages to a few persons of high rank, owing to the narrowness and crowded state of the streets. For the same reason the transport of goods along the streets was forbidden during the ten hours between sunrise and sunset. For long journeys and to convey large parties the reda and carruca appear to have been mostly used, but what their construction and arrange-ments were is not known. During the empire the carriage which appears in representations of public ceremonials is the carpentum. It is very slight, with two wheels, some-times covered, and generally drawn by two horses. If a carriage had four horses they were yoked abreast, among the Greeks and Romans, not in two pairs as now. From the carruca are traced the modern European names,—the English carriage, the French carrosse, and the Italian carrozza. The sirpea was a very ancient form of vehicle, the body of which was of osier basket-work. It originated with the Gauls, by whom it was named henna, and by them it was employed for the conveyance of persons and goods in time of peace, and baggage during war. With its name are connected the modern French banne, banneton, vannerie, and panier,—all indicating basket-work. The essedum was a two-wheeled carriage, the form of which the Romans copied from the war cars of the Belgse.

These various vehicles were sometimes very splendidly ornamented with gold and precious stones; and covered carriages seem more and more to have become appendages of Roman pomp and magnificence. Sumptuary laws were enacted on account of the public extravagance, but they were little regarded, and were altogether abrogated by the emperor Severus. Suetonius states that Nero took with him on his travels no less than a thousand carriages.

On the introduction of the feudal system the use of carriages was for some time prohibited, as tending to render the vassals less fit for military service. Men of all grades and professions rode on horses or mules, and sometimes the monks and women on she-asses. Horseback was the general mode of travelling ; and hence the members of the council, who at the diet and on other occasions were employed as ambassadors, were called rittmeister. In this manner also great lords made their public entry into cities.
Covered carriages were known in the beginning of the 16th century, but their use was confined to ladies of the first rank ; and as it was accounted a reproach for men to ride in them, the electors and princes sometimes excused their non-attendance at meetings of the state by the plea that their health would not permit them to ride on horseback. Covered carriages were for a long time forbidden even to women ; but about the end of the 15th century they began to be employed by the emperor, kings, and princes, in journeys, and afterwards on state occasions. In 1474 the Emperor Frederick III. visited Frankfort in a close carriage, and again in the following year in a very magni-ficent covered carriage. Shortly afterwards carriages began to be splendidly decorated; that, for instance, of the electress of Brandenburg at the tournament held at Ruppin in 1509 was gilded all over, and that of the duchess of Meck-lenburg was hung with red satin. When Cardinal Dietrich-stein made his entrance into Vienna in 1611, forty carriages went to meet him ; and in the same year the consort of the Emperor Matthias made her public entrance on her marriage in a carriage covered with perfumed leather. The wedding carriage of the first wife of the Emperor Leopold, who was a Spanish princess, cost, together with the harness, 38,000 florins. Those of the emperor are thus described : " In the imperial coaches no great magnificence was to be seen ; they were covered over with red cloth and black nails. The harness was black, and in the whole work there was no gold. The panels were of glass, and on this account they were called the imperial glass coaches. On festivals the harness was ornamented with red silk fringes. The imperial coaches were distinguished only by their having leather traces ; but the ladies in the imperial suite were obliged to be contented with carriages the traces of which were made of ropes." At the magnificent court of Duke Ernest Augustus at Hanover, in 1681, there were fifty gilt coaches with six horses each. The first time that ambassadors appeared in coaches on a public solemnity was at the imperial commission held at Erfurt in 1613. Soon after this time coaches became common all over Ger-many, notwithstanding various orders and admonitions to deter vassals from using them. These vehicles appear to have been of very rude construction. Beckmann describes a view he had seen of Bremen, painted by John Landwehr in 1661, in which was represented a long quadrangular carriage, apparently not suspended by straps, and covered with a canopy supported by four pillars, but without cur-tains. In the side was a small door, and in front a low seat or box; the coachman sat upon the horses; and the dress of the persons within proved them to be burgomasters. At Paris in the 14th, 15th, and even 16th centuries, the French monarchs rode commonly on horses, the servants of the court on mules, and the princesses and principal ladies sometimes on asses. Persons even of the highest rank some-times sat behind their equerry on the same horse. Carriages, however, were used at a very early period in France ; for there is still extant an ordinance of Philip the Fair, issued in 1294, by which citizens' wives are prohibited from using them. It appears, however, that about 1550 there were only three carriages at Paris,—one belonging to the queen, another to Diana of Poitiers, and the third to René de Laval, a very corpulent nobleman who was unable to ride on horseback. The coaches used in the time of Henry IV. were not suspended by straps (an improvement referred to the time of Louis XIV.), though they were provided with a canopy supported by four ornamental pillars, and with curtains of stuff or leather.

Occasional allusion is made to the use of some kinds of vehicles in England during the Middle Ages. In The Squyr of Low Degree, a poem of a period anterior to Chaucer, a description of a sumptuous carriage occurs :

"To-morrow ye shall on hunting fare And ride, my daughter, in a chare. It shall be cover'd with velvet red, And cloth of fine gold all about your head, With damask white and azure blue Well diaper'd with lilies new."
Chaucer himself describes a chare as
"With gold wrought and pierrie."

When Richard II. of England, towards the end of the 14th century, was obliged to fly before his rebellious subjects, he and all his followers were on horseback, while his mother alone used a carriage. The oldest carriages used in England were known as chares, cars, chariots, caroches, and whirlicotes; but these became less fashionable when Ann, the wife of Richard IL, showed the English ladies how gracefully she could ride on the side-saddle, Stow, in his Survey of London, remarking, "so was riding in those whirlicotes and chariots forsaken except at coronations and such like spectacles." The same writer states that in the year 1564 Guilliam Boonen, a Dutch-man, became the queen's coachman, and was the first that brought the use of coaches into England. Although Stow is incorrect in thus attributing the introduction of coaches to the time of Elizabeth, there is no doubt that at the period he indicates, the use of wheeled vehicles began to be so common that it then became a prominent public fact. " Little by little," he again states, " they became usual among the nobilitie and others of sort, and within twenty years became a great trade of coachmaking." By the beginning of the 17th century the use of coaches had become so prevalent that in 1601 the attention of Parlia-ment was drawn to the subject, and a Bill " to restrain the excessive use of coaches " was introduced, which, however, was rejected on the second reading. Their use told severely on the occupation of the Thames watermen, and Taylor the poet and waterman complained bitterly both in prose and verse against the new-fangled practice :—

"Carroaches, coaches, jades, and flanders mares Doe rob us of our shares, our wares, our fares. Against the ground we stand and knock our heels, "Whilest all our profit runs away on wheeles."

The sneers of wits and watermen notwithstanding, coaches became so common, that in the early part of the 17 th century they were estimated to number more than 6000 in London and its surrounding country.

Vehicles plying for public convenience, we have seen, were in existence during the period of the Roman empire, and concurrently with the renewal of carriage locomotion in the 16th century, public carriages were again re-established. Hackney coaches were first introduced in France during the minority of Louis XIV. by one Nicolas Sauvage, who lived at the sign of Saint Fiacre in the Rue St Martin, and hence hired carriages came to be called fiacres, though eventually the name was restricted to such as were stationed for hire in the streets. In 1650 Charles Villerme obtained the exclusive privilege of hiring out fiacres in Paris for a payment of 5000 livres. The prototype of the modern omnibus first commenced plying in the streets of Paris on the 18th March 1662, going at fixed hours, at a stated fare of five sous. Soldiers, lackeys, pages, and livery servants were forbidden to enter such conveyances, which were announced to be pour la plus grand commodité et liberté des personnes de mérite. In the time of Charles X. the omnibus system in reality was established ; for no exclusion of any class or condition of person who tendered the proper fare was permitted in the vehicles then put on various routes, and the fact of the carriages being thus at the service of all gave rise to the present name.

Hackney coaches were first established in London in 1625. Writing in 1634 to Lord Stafford, Mr Garrard says,— " Here is one Captain Bailey ; he hath been a sea captain, but now lives on the land, about this city, where he tries experiments. He hath erected, according to his ability, some four hackney-coaches, put his men in livery, and appointed them to stand at the May-pole in the Strand, giving them instructions at what rate to carry men into several parts of the town, where all day they may be had. Other hackney-men seeing this way, they flocked to the same place, and perform their journeys at the same rate, so that sometimes there is twenty of them together."

In 1637 there were in London and Westminster no fewer than 50 such coaches; in 1652 they had increased to 200, and in 1654 to 300, employing 600 horses. In 1694 the number of hackney coaches was limited to 700, and in 1715 to 800. Thus, notwithstanding the competition of sedan chairs, the hackney-coach held its place and grew in importance till it was, about 1820, supplanted by the cabriolet de place, now shortened into " cab," which had previously held a most important place in Paris. In that city the cabriolet came into great public favour about the middle of the 18th century, and in the year 1813 there were 1150 such vehicles plying in the Parisian streets. The original cabriolet was a kind of hooded gig, inside which the driver sat, besides whom there was only room left for a single passenger. Mr Hansom, the inventor whose name attaches to the London two-wheeled vehicle to the present day, patented his cab first in the year 1834. It consisted originally of a square body hung in the centre of a square frame, the two wheels being about 7 feet 6 inches in diameter, the same height as the vehicle. On this very numerous improvements were quickly made, and in 1836, after a fresh patent had been obtained in name of Messrs Gillett and Chapman, a com-pany was formed for establishing hansom cabs essentially the same as now in use.

Of coaches possessing a history the two best known in the United Kingdom are Her Majesty's state coach, and that of the Lord Mayor of London. The latter is the oldest, having been built, or at least first used, for the procession of Sir Charles Asgil, Lord Mayor elect, in November 1757. The body of this wonderful vehicle is not supported by springs, but hung on leather straps ; and the whole structure is very richly loaded with ornamental carving, gilding, and paint-work. The different panels and the doors contain various allegorical groups of figures re-presenting suitable subjects and heraldic devices painted in a spirited manner. The royal state coach, which is described as " the most superb carriage ever built," was designed by Sir William Chambers, the paintings on it were executed by Cipriani, and the work was completed in 1761. The following is an official description of it :—

' ' The whole of the carriage and body is richly ornamented with laurel and carved work, beautifully gilt. The length, 24 feet ; width, 8 feet 3 inches ; height, 12 feot ; length of pole, 12 feet 4 inches; weight, 4 tons. The carriage and body of the coach is com-posed as follows :—Of four large Tritons, who support the body by four braces, covered with red morocco leather, and ornamented with gilt buckles, the two figures placed in front of the carriage bear the driver, and are represented in the action of drawing by cables extending round their shoulders, and the cranes and sounding shells to announce the approach of the monarch of the Ocean ; and those at the back carry the imperial fasees, topped with tridents. The driver's foot-board is a large scallop shell, ornamented with bunches of reeds and other marine plants. The pole represents a bundle of lances ; the splinter bar is composed of a rich moulding, issuing from beneath a voluted shell, and each end terminating in the head of a dolphin ; and the wheels are imitated from those of the ancient triumphal chariot. The body of the coach is composed of eight palm-trees, which, branching out at the top, sustain the roof; and four angular trees are loaded with trophies allusive to the victories obtained by Great Britain, during the late glorious war, supported by four lions' heads. On the centre of the roof stand three boys, representing the genii of England, Scotland, and Ireland, support-ing the imperial crown of Great Britain, and holding in their hands the sceptre, sword of state, and ensigns of knighthood ; their bodies are adorned with festoons of laurel, which fall from thence towards the four corners. The panels and doors are painted with appropri-ate emblematical devices, and the linings are of scarlet velvet richly embossed with national emblems."

Modern Carriages.—The forms of carriages as now built are so numerous as almost to defy classification, and they altogether baffle detailed description. The climate, con-ditions of life, and various other circumstances of different countries have originated modified forms of carriage in each of them, some of which have come into general use, while others are seldom seen out of the land of their origin. Mr G. N. Hooper, of the firm of Hooper & Co. of London, who has given valuable assistance in the preparation of the present article, supplies the following table of modern carriages with the countries of their origin :—

== TABLE ==

In addition to this list there are numberless forms of fancy carriage, and the misdirected ingenuity of coach-builders is frequently exercised in the attempt to combine the features and advantages of several vehicles in one structure,

generally with the result of rendering it unfit to be used with comfort or safety in any form.
In comparing the carriages of the present day with those of earlier periods it should be borne in mind that many circumstances apart from the skill and invention of the coach-builder have combined to modify, or to necessitate the modification, of such structures. The condition of streets and roads was such, at no very remote date, as to permit of only the most cautious traffic within limited areas in vehicles of great strength, solidity, and weight. The paving of streets and macadamization of highways gave designers of carriages facilities for planning vehicles of a light, airy type on more elegant lines, of which oppor-tunities they were not slow to take advantage. Again, previous to the introduction of railways, not only public coaches but private carriages had to be built with a view to afford accommodation for undertaking long journeys, which are now entirely performed by railway, and that circumstance also now enables the coach-builder to give primary attention to the comfort, gracefulness, and elegance of the vehicles he constructs. But after allowance is made for all such circumstances, there remains to coach-builders, and especially to those of Great Britain, a very large share of credit, for the inventive skill and ingenuity which has brought the modern carriage to that perfection of workman-ship and artistic finish which it everywhere displays. To enumerate the improvements in coach-building, which have been effected chiefly in the present century, would demand a much greater space than can be devoted to this subject. It must suffice simply to point to the Collinge axle invented in 1792, now universally adopted, by means of which wheels require oiling only once in several months. The elliptic springs, upon which nearly all carriages are now mounted, were patented by Obadiah Elliott in 1804. A great many ingenious devices have also been adopted for facilitating the opening and closing of the head of landaus or such carriages as are made to be open or close at pleasure. And generally coach-building has enjoyed a full share of the advantages flowing from the improved mechanical devices and processes of modern times.

Coachmaking.-—Coachmaking is a combination of crafts rarely united in one trade, embracing, as it does, work in such diverse materials as wood, iron, steel, brass, cloth, leather, ivory, hair, &c. A great division of labour and numerous highly skilled artizans are consequently employed in the various stages in the construction of a high-class carriage. The workmen include body-makers, who build up the part in which persons sit; carriage-makers, who make or fit together all the under parts of the vehicle on which the body rests; wheel-wrights, joiners, and fitters ; trimmers, who fit up the inside of the carriage ; and several classes of smiths for special work connected with the iron framing, axles, springs, &c. Painting is an important part of the business, those professing it being divided into body, carriage, and heraldry or ornamental painters; and after the painter comes the polisher who gives the final brilliant polish to the outside of the whole structure.

A very great deal in the coach-making business depends on the selection of materials. Ash is the kind of wood commonly used in the framework both of body and carriage ; and the quality best suited for body-wood is that of a mild and free nature, while for the carriage the wood cannot be too strong or robust. Full-grown wood, of course, is best suited for both purposes, and the planks must be allowed to lie until they are properly seasoned, as is indeed most essential with all the wood used in the building of a carriage. After the framework is made, the lower part of the body is panelled up with the softest bay mahogany, plain and free from grain. The kinds of wood generally applied to coach-wheel making are elm or fustic for the naves, oak for the spokes, and ash for the felloes ; but beech felloes are often used, and it has been found by experience that beech, when the felloes are cut from the log shortly after it is felled, and kept until they become dry before being put upon wheels, answers admirably for this purpose. American hickory is also one of the best available woods for spokes as well as carriage poles; and a large trade is now con-ducted between Great Britain and the United States in the importation of American machine-made hickory wheels. Canadian black walnut has also come into use as a sub-stitute for mahogany in panelling, and many other woods are available for special portions of carriages.
Formerly, in the making of coach-springs, nothing was used but German steel, which from its hardness was more apt to snap than the English steel now employed for that purpose. The latter combines with superior elasticity a strength that enables the spring-maker to fabricate his springs at least one-third lighter, while they stand equal fatigue. The iron mounting of coach-work requires the skill of experienced smiths; for, besides solidity, some degree of taste is requisite to form the shapes and sets of the different parts. No branch of coach-making contributes more to the elegance of the vehicle than that of the painter His colours must be of the best quality in order to stand exposure in all weathers. The varnish used is copal, of which there are two kinds,—the finest for finishing the body, and the second for finishing the carriage. Between paints of different qualities and varnish, a well-finished carriage gets from twenty to twenty-four separate coats before it is finished. Between each coating of varnish colour and varnish the work is carefully rubbed smooth and flat with pumice or fine glass paper, and the final polish is attained by rubbing with the palm of the hand.

The growth and development of railway travelling, instead of checking the use of horse-drawn vehicles, or injuring the art of the coach-builder, has had a very powerful influence in the opposite direction. Railway travelling has caused an enormous increase in the use of cabs and other public vehicles, while increasing wealth has multiplied luxurious private carriages. The revival of the driving of four-horse drags, in imitation of the old stage coaches, between London and various suburban towns (one going to Brighton), which has taken place of late years, is deserving of note. These coaches were put on the road by members of several aristo-cratic clubs, not with a view to profit; their success, how-ever, has been very great.

As a coach-making and coaching country, England has long held the foremost place. " The road," its coaches, and their drivers figure largely in the popular literature of the country, and the perfection of coach equipment has been an unfailing source of national pride. British coach-builders still continue to hold, almost without dispute, the highest position in their craft; and that expensive luxury— a first-class London-built carriage—cannot, for honest workmanship, handsome lines, and beautiful finish, be excelled by any product of industry. (J. PA.)

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