Carriage Making

views updated


CARRIAGE MAKING. Horse-drawn vehicles were made in the North American colonies from the earliest days of settlement, although most travel was on horseback because of poor roads. Soon after American independence, the number of horse-drawn vehicles dramatically increased as a result of territorial expansion, a mobile population, and the democratization of travel.

Famous builders of wagons and stagecoaches established themselves at strategic points like Troy, New York, and Concord, New Hampshire. After carriages for the well-to-do ceased to meet the demand for personal wheeled transportation, private conveyances developed. The first example of this was the one-horse shay, or chaise, a light vehicle with two high wheels adapted to the rough roads and numerous fords of the undeveloped country. For fifty years these were so popular that proprietors of carriage shops were usually known as chaise makers.

By the middle of the eighteenth century, the chaise was superseded by the four-wheel buggy, the most typical American vehicle prior to the cheap motor car. It was simpler, lighter, stronger, and less expensive than other similar conveyances.

Carriage making reached the height of its development in 1904, then declined rapidly. The number of horse-drawn vehicles made in the United States in 1939 was less than 50,000, compared with 1,700,000 thirty years earlier. The number of wage earners engaged in making such vehicles in 1939 had fallen to less than 5 percent of the number at the opening of the century. By the 1950s the industry produced only racing sulkies and a few made-to-order buggies.


Clark, Victor S. History of Manufactures in the United States. 3 vols. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1929. The original edition was published Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution, 1916–1928.

Moody, Ralph. Stagecoach West. New York: T. Y. Crowell, 1967.

Wooster, Harvey A. "Manufacturer and Artisan." Journal of Political Economy 34 (February 1926).

Victor S.Clark/t. d.

See alsoHorse ; Stagecoach Travel ; Transportation and Travel ; Wagon Manufacture .