Stage Waggons and CoachesStage Waggons and Coachees

Ron Vineyard

August 2000

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report Series - RR0380

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library

Williamsburg, Virginia

August, 2002


Ron Vineyard

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Williamsburg, Virginia

August 2000

1 English Road Waggon10
2 Early American Stage Waggon 13
3 Sketch of Stage Waggon by Pavel Svinin 17
4 Sketch of Stage Waggon for Colonial Williamsburg18
5 Reproduction Stage Waggon 19
6 Stage Waggon, ca. 1810 20
7 Floating Bridge across the Schuylkill 25
8 Oval-bodied Stagecoach, ca. 1820 38
9 American Stagecoach, ca. 1830. 41
10 Coachee at the Smithsonian Institution 53
11 Wilkinson Coachee. Date Unknown 57
12 Wilkinson Coachee, ca. 198558
13 Right Side of Wilkinson Coachee 59
General 1
Early Travel 3
Early Stage Waggons 9
Later Stage Waggons 13
Stage Travel 22
Stage Drivers 27
Travel Perils 31
Stagecoaches 38
Operating costs 43
Coachee 47
General 50
Definitions 57
Wilkinson Coachee 64
Coachees in Virginia 67
Notes 64
Index 67


This report traces development of stage travel from the early road wagon in England to the American Stage Coach of the nineteenth century. The Stage Wagon of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was very similar, if not identical, to the Coachee of the same period. Both of these two styles, therefore, are included in this report. Additionally, these two styles, the Stage Waggon and Coachee are considered by most to be among the first American carriage styles developed by American artisans. Later styles such as the Stage Coach and Buggy, better known by most today, appear to have been derived from these early vehicles. Improvements in the Stage Wagon led to development of the American Stage Coach, and refinement of the Coachee style led to development of various styles including the American Buggy.

Included in this document are descriptions of the Stage Wagon and Coachee, observations by travelers concerning both vehicle and drivers and details of operating a stage line in the late eighteenth century. This information has been drawn from a variety of sources, including the works of Paul Downing contained in articles for The Carriage Journal, Don Berkebile in his Dictionary of Carriage Terminology, and Laszlo Tarr in his History of the Carriage. An additional source, which proved invaluable, was Stagecoach East written by Oliver W. Holmes and Peter Rohrbach. Also, various eighteenth and nineteenth century county records, account books, and the Woolfolk Family Papers in the collections of the Swem Library at The College of William of Mary provided interesting and valuable data.


The purpose of this document is to collect and present relevant information on these two important vehicle styles, the Stage Wagon and the Coachee, in order to better understand their development and importance to our country in its formative years. It is hoped the information contained in this report will aid in providing accurate, in-depth interpretation of these vehicles at Colonial Williamsburg.




The term, Stage, as associated with Stagecoaches and Stage Waggons is believed derived from the fact that vehicles used for public transportation accomplished their journeys in stages, after each of which the horses, and perhaps the vehicle itself, were changed. During the early eighteenth century, the terms, Stagecoach and Stage Waggon, were commonly used in an indiscriminate and synonymous manner. The term, Stage Waggon appears to have been the preferred usage during the later decades of the eighteenth century; with the term, Stagecoach, returning to common with development of the Concord and Troy style coaches of the nineteenth century.

In the American colonies, stagecoach service started in the early eighteenth century with limited routes between several major population centers. There was only a modest amount of staging in the East during the fifty years before the Revolution War, but after that conflict, stage travel experienced rapid growth. The stagecoach network, with its special culture of stagecoach taverns and stagecoach customs, continued to develop through the early nineteenth century, reaching its golden years in the East during the two decades from 1820 to 1840. (1)

In 1785 Congress passed legislation allowing stagecoaches to carry the mail on established stage routes, thereby giving them quasi-public status as an arm of the General Post Office. For the next sixty years the stagecoach was the main carrier of the mail in the United States, and until railroads and the telegraph became common in the 1840s it was the nation's 2 principal communications mode. Contributions by stage lines to the fledging Republic, in its often uncertain early days, were therefore enormous.

Stage lines in the East had a generous policy toward publishers of newspapers, allowing them low rates and free printers' exchanges. This encouraged a healthy and expanding newspaper industry, and thanks in large part to the stages, the American people of the nineteenth century became the largest newspaper-reading population in history up to that point. Again, that contribution to molding the thinking of the Republic's citizens is almost incalculable. (2)


Early Travel

Travel in colonial days in North America, when not by water or on foot, was chiefly on horseback. Even after carriages of various sorts were introduced, many people continued to prefer horse and saddle for their traveling. In many areas outside the towns, the roads were practically impassable for carriages during much of the year. Horse and rider, encountering unexpected obstructions, could act with more freedom and therefore move with greater speed and certainly than a vehicle. Also, horseback travel was less expensive—a weighty consideration for ordinary people of limited means. (3)

In Virginia during the eighteenth century, four-wheeled carriages such as the coach and chariot became the fashionable vehicle of the gentry, and two-wheeled carriages such as riding chairs and chaises were commonly owned by gentry and working people alike. However, most people, of the common sort, had no access to traveling vehicles whatsoever. (4)

Carriage ownership for the State of Virginia, as reflected in the Personal Property Tax Records of 1790, was only 3.3 carriages per 1000 population. This figure varied significantly depending upon the many factors associated with the particular area being examined. In the Tidewater area the average was 6.1 carriages per 1000 population. In the Shenandoah Valley and the areas beyond the Allegheny Crest the averages were 0.6 and 0.04 per 1000 population respectively. The counties of Accomack and Northampton on the Eastern Shore of Virginia present an interesting example that is considered an anomaly. In these two counties carriage ownership (primarily two-wheeled carriages) was 13 per 1000 population, more than double the 4 next highest area, the Tidewater area. In general, these figures suggest private carriage ownership in Virginia was quite low during the late eighteenth century. (5)

Stage service began in several areas of the colonies in the early eighteenth century. Hugh Huddy was awarded a patent by the State of New Jersey in 1706 allowing him to establish a stage line between Burlington and Perth Amboy. In the Boston area, stage service was established in 1716 with "once a fortnight service between the Orange-Tree in Boston to Newport in Rhode-Island ". (6)

By mid-eighteenth century, stage lines were established connecting New York and Philadelphia with "stage-boats" providing service over the rivers and other bodies of water. Stage lines from Philadelphia, augmented with "stage-boats", offered somewhat limited service as far south as Wilmington, North Carolina in 1761. (7)

On November 3, 1737, the Pennsylvania Gazette contained the following advertisement:

"Notice is hereby given that the Post Office in Philadelphia is now kept at B. Franklin's in Market Street, and that Henry Pratt is appointed riding Post Master for all the stages between Philadelphia and Newpost in Virginia, who sets out about the beginning of each month and returns in 24 days, by whom Gentlemen, Merchants and others, may have their letters, etc., carefully conveyed and business faithfully transacted, he having given good security for the same to the Hon. Col. Spotswood, Post Master General of all his Majesty's Dominions in "America."
On April 28, 1738, the Virginia Gazette supplemented this notice with a more expanded announcement: 5

"Alexander Spotswood, Esq., Sole Deputy Post-Master-General of America, having formed a new regulation for carrying on the several Post Stages with greater expedition and certainty than hitherto, this is to advertise the Publik thereof; and that by this regulation the several Stages will be performed as follows, viz: The Post is to set off from the General Post Office at New Post on Wednesdays, the 26th . Inst. To cross over Potowmack that night, and arrive at Annapolis on the Friday: there he is to make some stop and then proceed to Susquehanna, where he is to arrive on Saturday night; and exchange Mails with the Philadelphia Rider, who is there to meet him; The Monday following he is to return to Annapolis, and arrive at Patowmack on Tuesday night, from whence the Mail is to be brought to New Post on the Wednesday, and the next morning to set out for Williamsburg where he is to arrive on Saturday.

...And in order to extend the Post Office Still further to the Southward, Col. Spotswood has been pleased to grant a commission to William Parks, the Printer of this paper to carry on a Stage from Williamsburg to Edenton, in North Carolina, which is to be performed once a month, Summer and Winter. The Stage is already begun, and the Post is to set out again from Williamsburg on Monday the 8th of May, to go over Hog Island Ferry: from thence to Nansemond court House; thence to Norfolk Town; and from thence to Edenton... "

On June 22, 1739 an advertisement announced continuation of the southern stage routes from Edenton to Charles-Town in South Carolina by way of Cape Fear. With this extension, there was:

"Now a communication..., by post, all the way from Piscataway and Boston in New England, through the principal towns and places in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina to Charles-Town in South Carolina, and from thence there are frequent opportunities to Georgia. "(8)
However, a letter from George Washington to Sir Edward Newenham, dated March 20, 1785 stated:
"From the Southern parts of this State (Virginia), say from Norfolk, thro' Hampton, Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Alexandria which is within a few miles of this place (Mount Vernon), there is a regular Stage which passes thrice every week, it is neither of the best or worst kind. From Alexandria thro' the Metropolis of every State, Annapolis in Maryland 6 excepted, which is a little to the right of the Post Road which goes thro' Baltimore. There is also a regular Stage to Portsmouth in New Hampshire, they are of a similar kind, and pass as often as those first mentioned; so that not more than three intervening days can happen between one Stage day and another. A person may therefore, at any time between the first of April and first of December, travel from Richmond (the metropolis of this State) to Boston, in ten or twelve days; and return in the same time. Between this State and Charleston, South Carolina no Stages are as yet established, and the country for the most part being poor and thinly inhabited, accommodations of every kind, I an told are bad. So much for public convenience; and I do not think I should deceive you much, was I to add that Sir Edwd. Newenham would find no difficulty to be accommodated, in this and some other States, with horses and carriages of private gentlemen, from place to place where inclination or business might induce him to go."

In 1784 the General Assembly of Virginia granted Nathaniel Twining the exclusive privilege of operating a stage line between Alexandria and Richmond. The act also allowed Twining to charge passengers "five pence per mile, and five pence per mile for every one hundred and fifty pounds weight of baggage". Later that year the General Assembly granted John Hoomes the exclusive privilege of operating a stage line between Richmond, Petersburg, Hampton, Norfolk, and Portsmouth. Again the fares were set the same as for Nathaniel Twining. (9)

John Hoomes was granted exclusive rights to the Alexandria to Fredericksburg and the Fredericksburg, Richmond and Hampton routes by the General Assembly in 1787. The set fares for these routes were "three pence, three farthings per mile for both passengers and 150 pounds of baggage". Also that year, Richard Towns and John Woolfolk were awarded exclusive rights to the Richmond and Petersburg, and the Petersburg and Portsmouth routes. Rates were the 7 same as specified for John Hoomes for his routes from Alexandria, Fredericksburg, Richmond and Hampton. (10)

The Richmond to Petersburg route, formerly granted to Richard Towns and John Woolfolk, was awarded to William Pennock in 1789. The fare was established as three pence per mile. That same year Joseph Wilsey of North Carolina, James Rosekrans of New York, and Robert Twiford of Accomack were granted exclusive privilege of running a stage waggon from Northammpton court House to the line of Maryland. These same men were awarded the right to establish one or more "packet boats" for the purpose of conveying their stage passengers across the Chesapeake Bay from the Eastern Shore to the towns of Norfolk and Portsmouth. Rates for the packet boat trips were established at fifteen shillings per passenger and fifteen shillings for each horse. (11)

Early stage travel in New England is described by Allan Forbes and Ralph M. Eastman in their Taverns and Stagecoaches of New England written in 1954. They wrote that in the Boston area:

"...the first stagecoach line, operating on a regular schedule, seems to have been the one established by Bartholomew Stayers, with headquarters at the Sign of the Lighthouse in the North End of Boston, not far from Old North Church. The rout was between Boston and Portsmouth, New Hampshire and the year was 1761. The reason given was 'for the encouragement of trade between the two places.' The first vehicle used was what Stayers described as `a large stage chair' drawn by two horses and guaranteed to seat four passengers. In less than six weeks, such was the success of the venture, conveyances to accommodate five people were put into use. In May of 1763 the `Portsmouth flying Stagecoach' was launched, carrying six passengers inside...


The great increase in travel and business following the peace of 1763 which abolished our French frontier and threw the 'Eastward' open to American settlers, encouraged Stayers to employ a coach-and-four which he boasted was always on time and never lost a passenger or package. When needs demanded, he put six horses to his coach, and so regular was his service that it attracted what the law required should be sent by mail.

The Stayers coaches appear to have been built by Adino Paddock of Boston. He and Stayers were loyalists and when the Revolution came both went to England to live."

Adino Paddock was one of the premier coach makers in Boston. A native of Boston, he began his business as a "Chaisemaker" in a shop near the Common in 1758. Paddock's business was extensive. He made carriages and sleighs of all kinds, he performed work for other Boston chaisemakers whose establishments were not large enough to undertake all operations, and he kept his sizable force of tradesmen busy building vehicles for a variety of customers up and down the New England coast.

Born into a solid yeoman family from Harwich, he came to Boston with his widowed mother about 1736 and was bound out as an apprentice to learn the trade of chaisemaking. He became senior warden of St. John's Masonic Grand lodge in 1759, and rose to the same position in the Master's Lodge in 1761. Entering the militia, he soon displayed those talents of leadership and good fellowship so necessary for advancement in rank. Profiting by instruction from the British officers at Castle William, he developed the skills necessary for promotion. He held the rank of major in 1771, and by 1775 he had been promoted to Colonel and placed in charge of the colony's artillery.


Always a tireless and willing worker for the community, Adino Paddock was chosen fire-warden annually for ten years. In 1769 he was placed with such local worthies as John Scollay, John Rowe, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Thomas Dawes, and William Cooper on the important Boston Committee on the State of Public Affairs. By 1772 he is referred to as "Esquire" in city and county records. However, stigmatized as a Tory, he departed Boston with General Howe for Halifax and his property, valued at £3,151, was confiscated. (12)

Early Stage Waggons

Early Stage Waggons were a very primitive type of public traveling carriage used in England and America during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The earliest form of the Stage Waggon in the Colonies was nothing more than an ordinary covered road waggon with several transverse benches inside. The benches had no backs or padding and the bodies were set directly on the running gear without benefit of springs or thoroughbraces, so that riding was most uncomfortable. Likewise, in England the Stage Waggon presented a rather depressing picture at the beginning of the eighteenth century. It was generally a clumsy, quadrangular structure, carrying a number of passengers huddled together on its wooden benches. These older vehicles used as stages in England were little different from the ordinary carriers' or road waggons. (13)

Others described the early Stage Waggon as a "lumbering passenger and freight waggon, its bow-like canvas cover supported on hoops or tilts ". Although mainly for boxes, barrels and packages, a number of passengers crouched between items of merchandise. There were neither springs nor brakes and many found it more comfortable to walk part of the journey on foot. On 10 RR038001Illustration 1. English road wagon by Thomas Rowlandson, ca. 1795 English Stage Waggons wheels were well-dished with broad treads, helping to level out the ruts for other traffic. A team of eight or more heavy horses was controlled by a waggoner who walked or rode on a separate horse beside the waggon. (14)

An advertisement from The Boston Newsletter, September 4, 1721. Carried the following:

"This to give notice, that Peter Belton at the sign of the Rhode Island and Bristol Carrier in Newbury Street at the South end of Boston has a Road Waggon for carrying goods, men, women and children between Boston, Bristol and Rhode Island once every week; sets out on Thursday next, and so every Tuesday, to return on Saturday; where all persons may be accommodated on reasonable terms; as also with goods, lodging and entertainment for men and horses."


A Road Waggon of the eighteenth century was just that — an ordinary waggon of the period with some fitted out for road travel; these, with the exception of the techniques of manufacture, were structurally little different from the farm waggons. The bodies or beds were unsuspended — that is, they were set directly on the transom or bolsters, as they came later to be called, of their carriages without benefit of springs or even thoroughbraces. Thus, there was little riding comfort on the un-backed wooden benches placed crosswise of the body. These benches were probably removable, should the demand for space for carrying "goods" exceed that for carrying persons. An ad for the northerly route between Trenton and New Brunswick in 1734 stated the Stage Waggon "will be fitted up with benches, and covered over, so that passengers may sit easy and dry." (15)

As previously stated, these early Stage Waggons were typically drawn by four or six horses. Sometimes a single leader was used, making a five or seven horse team. These horses were the large, sturdy draft animals, selected for their strength and durability rather than speed and elegance. The pair of horses nearest the front of the wagon was called the "Wheel Horses" or "Wheel Team." The left wheel horse was often called the "near wheel horse" and the right member of that team was called the "off wheel horse". The second pair of horses in a six-horse team was called the "Swing Team", with the left horse called the "near swing horse" and the right horse called the "off swing horse." The lead pair was referred to as the "Lead Horses" or the "Lead Team." Likewise, the left and right horses in this pair were called "near" and "off" respectively. In the case of a single leader, that horse was simply called the "leader." With four-horse teams the pairs were called the wheel horses and the lead horses.


Wheel horses were usually the largest and most dependable since they had the responsibility of not only drawing the wagon, but also turning the wagon by moving the pole from side to side, pivoting the front axle assembly. In addition, the wheel horses provided the power for backing the wagon and the only braking action was supplied by these horses as well. Thus, strong animals with well-developed hindquarters were selected for these positions. The lead horse or horses were generally the lightest of the team, the most intelligent, and most highly trained. In England, the wheel horses drew from two pairs of shafts, while in America the wheel horses drew from either side of a central draft pole. In many cases, the driver rode the near wheel horse in the same manner as wagons hauling freight.

Harness for horses used to draw these early Stage Waggons is believed to be much the same style as that used on freight waggons. In October 1808, John Woolfolk purchased three sets of harness for his Petersburg to Portsmouth Stage from James Shiphard at a cost of £10 per set. Three years later in 1811, he bought two additional sets of Stage Wagon harness at a cost of $50 per set.


Later Stage Waggons

The importance of lightening vehicles and therefore decreasing draft had long been the goal of vehicle makers. American Coachmakers led the way in this effort, and in the later decade of the eighteenth century developed vehicles which were the lightest known in RR038002Illustration 2. Early American Stage Waggon from a plate by Isaac Weld, ca. 1796 proportion to their load carrying capacity. This lightening of construction was logical and greatly encourages by increased travel and demand for greater speed over improving roads. 14 Stages being produced were specifically designed for passengers, with the older, heavier waggons relegated to transportation of merchandise and other products. In 1800 the two types were separately listed for toll charges on the Lamberton, New Jersey Ferry, as indicated by the New Jersey Gazette for March 18, 1800. Stage Waggons (the newer style) with four horses were charged 2 Shillings, 10 Pence. The old type, referred to as "Common Travelling Waggons", with four horses were charged 2 Shillings, 9 Pence. (16)

Using this new and developing technology, a gradual improvement took place in the construction of the Stage Waggon during the last third of the eighteenth century. The seats were sometimes placed on springs, and eventually, the bodies were suspended on thoroughbraces. Bow-supported cloth tops gave way to permanent standing tops supported by eight slender pillars, leaving the sides open, with rolled curtains that could be let down in inclement weather. Only a few of these Stage Waggons had doors, therefore, passengers had to crawl in, with difficulty, through the open front of the vehicle, over the driver's seat, the latter being under the same roof and on the same level as the passenger seats. The driver often shared his seat with one or two passengers.

Late in the century the body profile began to depart slightly from the straight lines of the wagon body, and became somewhat curved, so as to resemble a Coach body. With the installation of side doors for entry, some Stage Waggons had the foremost passenger seat facing the rear. This style remained the preferred vehicle for public transportation until development of the oval-body stage coaches, known as Concord and Troy stagecoaches, about 1820. (17)


Several descriptions of this late eighteenth century style called the Stage Waggon are remarkably similar. The following description is from the Diary of Charles W. Janson, who traveled in America during the period, 1793 to 1806:

"I now mounted for the first time, an American Stage, literally a kind of Light Waggon. While I attempt to describe this clumsy and uncomfortable machine, I cannot suppress the wish to being possessed of one of them, with horses, harness, and driver, just as we set off in order to convert them into an exhibition in London.

This vehicle which is on the same construction throughout the country is calculated to hold twelve persons, who all sit on benches placed across, with their faces toward the horses. The front seat holds three, one of whom is the driver, and as there are no doors at the sides, the passengers get in over the front wheels, and take their seats as they enter; the first, of course, gets seats behind the rest. This is the most esteemed seat because you can rest your shaken frame against the back part of the waggon. Women are therefore generally indulged with it, and it is often laughable to see them crawling to their seats; and if they happen to be late, they have to straddle over the men who are seated farther in front. It is covered with leather, and instead of windows there are flaps of that article, which in bad weather are let down, and secured by buckles and straps. In summer these flaps are folded up, and this is some alleviation from the repeated shocks you receive in going over the roads, many of which are never repaired."

Francis Bailey wrote in his Journal of a Tour in Unsettled Parts of North America, in 1796-1797:

"From Baltimore to Philadelphia are ninety-eight miles; between which places there is no want of conveyance, as there are three or four stages run daily. In one of these I place myself on the morning of March 3, 1796. A description of them perhaps would be amusing. The body of the carriage is closed in, about breast high; from the sides of which are raised six or eight small perpendicular posts, which support the covering — so that it is in fact a kind of open coach. Form the top are suspended leather curtains, which may be either drawn up in fine weather, or let down in rainy or cold weather; and which button at the bottom. The inside is fitted up with four seats, placed one before the other; so that the whole of the passengers face the horses; each seat will contain three passengers; and the driver sits on the foremost, under the same cover with the rest of the company. The whole is suspended on springs; and the way to get into it is 16 in front, as if you were getting into a covered cart. This mode of traveling, and which is the only one used in America, is very pleasant, as you enjoy the country much more agreeably than when imprisoned in a close coach, inhaling and exhaling the same air a thousand time over, like a cow chewing the cud; but then it is not quite so desirable in disagreeable weather.

In his 1807 Notes & Reminiscences, Thomas Twining described the Stage Waggon in the following manner:

"The vehicle was a long car with four benches. Three of these in the interior held nine passengers, and a tenth passenger was seated by the side of the driver in the front bench. A light roof was supported by eight slender pillars, four on each side. Three large leather curtains suspended on the roof one at each side and the third behind, were rolled up or lowered at the pleasure of the passengers. There was no place nor space for luggage, each person being expected to stow his things as best he could under his seat or legs. The entrance was in front, over the driver's bench. Of course the three passengers in the back seat were obliged to crawl across the other benches to get to their places. There were no backs to the benches to support & relieve us during the rough and fatiguing journey over a newly and ill made road. It would be unreasonable to expect perfection in the arrangements of a new country; but though this rude conveyance was not without its advantages, and was really more suitable to the existing state of American roads than an English stagecoach would have been, it might have been rendered more convenient in some respects without much additional expense. Thus a mere strap behind the seats would have been a great comfort, and the ponderous leather curtains, which extended the whole length of the waggon, would have been much more convenient divided into two or three parts, and with a glass, however small, in each division to give light to the passengers in bad weather, and enable them to have a glimpse of the country. The disposal of the luggage also was extremely incommodious, not only to the owner, but to his neighbors."

Although most Stage Waggons of the period held twelve passengers on four bench seats, other vehicles used for staging were smaller. The diary of Robert Hunter, Jr., Quebec to Carolina in 1785-1786, contains the following description of these smaller Stage Waggons.

"June 8, 1786 — We set off again from Smithfield (Virginia) with a fresh set of horses a quarter after four and drove to Sleepy Hole. The road is so 17 swampy and muddy in many places that I have very near fallen asleep in getting to it. Here we crossed the Nansemond River, which empties itself into the James River. We waited some time at Kammel 's for the Edenton (North Carolina) stage. Here Mr. Story and Mr. Cuthbert got into the Portsmouth stage, and we in one of (Nathaniel) Twining 's new ones, for Suffolk. They are upon a different construction from the northward stages, being much lighter, smaller and upon excellent springs, which renders the traveling infinitely more agreeable. There are only three seats, which holds six people with the driver, two in each."

RR038003Illustration 3. Sketch of Stage Waggon near Trenton, New Jersey by Pavel Svinin, ca. 1810.

Some have taken Hunter's description of Twining's Stage Waggon as justification to conclude that Southern Stage Waggons were generally smaller than those used in the more northern areas. In general that conclusion may be correct; however, smaller Stage Waggons 18 were used in Massachusetts as evidenced by the following quote from Brissot de Warville's New Travels in the United States of America, of his travels through Spencer, Massachusetts in 1788.

"At this place a new proprietor, and a new carriage. A small light carriage, well suspended and drawn by two horses took (the) place of our heavy wagon. We could not conceive how five of us could fit in this little Parisian chariot, and demanded another. The conductor said he had no other; that there were so few travellers in this part of the road, that he could not afford to run with more than two hoarse; that most of the travellers from New York stopped in Connecticut, and most of those from Boston at Worchester. We were obliged to submit. We started like lightning; and arrived in an hour and a quarter, at Springfield, ten miles."

RR038004Illustration 4. Original sketch by Paul Downing of Stage Waggon for Colonial Williamsburg.

From the previous statement, it appears smaller Stage Waggons were used in those areas where there were fewer passengers, and larger vehicles used where there were more passengers. 19 In many less-populated areas of the South, the smaller Stage Waggon may have been more economical in transporting fewer passengers, while in the more populated North the larger vehicles proved to be more profitable.

RR038005Illustration 5. Reproduction Stage Waggon at Colonial Williamsburg.

Many writers of the period commented on the lack of doors in these eighteenth century Stage Waggons. However, an advertisement by Coachmaker, Conrad Scnider of Philadelphia in The Pennsylvania Gazette for February 23, 1764 shows this feature was available at an early date. He offered for sale:

"A compleat, neat new Waggon, ornamented with Brass Nails, finished after the fashion of a coach, with the Door in the side thereof and leather curtains all round, except in the front, also a neat Coach Harness for a Pair of Horses. "
20 This new, light Stage Waggon designed for transporting passengers required horses capable of greater speeds. The large draft horses used with the lumbering road wagons were replaced with smaller, swifter horses. Brissot de Warville wrote in 1788,"The horses used in these carriages (Stage Waggons) are neither handsome nor strong; but they travel very well." Although these animals were sometimes referred to as "small" and "spirited", few specifics of their character are known. Certainly they were agile and swift but they were not the quality and breeding of fine coach horses. The lighter, improved Stage Waggon of the late eighteenth century was typically drawn by two or four horse teams with the larger vehicles using four horses and the smaller ones using two horses. Harness for these small, spirited horses is believed to be lighter than that used on earlier, heavier wagons, but not as fine and highly decorated as that seen on the better carriages of the period. For both horse and harness, the emphasis was on function and economy rather than style and elegance.

RR038006Illustration 6. Stage Waggon, ca. 1810.


As mentioned previously, John Woolfolk and Richard Towns operated the Petersburg & Portsmouth Stage as early as 1787. A ledger for this line, contained in the Woolfolk Papers held by the Swem Library at the College of William and Mary, lists purchase of a new stage wagon. On December 24, 1788, payment of £30 for "a new stage wagon from Philadelphia" is recorded. John Hoomes, a partner in the Petersburg and Portsmouth Stage who later purchased this route for £369, also bought two stage wagons in March 1791. The ledger entry shows £60 paid for the two stage wagons.

The Day Book of Amos Stiles, Carriage Maker of Morrestown, New Jersey, is in the collections of the Pennsylvania Historical Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This account book contains the following estimate, dated July 1817, provided to Paul Lanning for building a Stage Waggon.

"Paul Lanning
To a Stage Waggon except ironwork to run on wooden springs in the common way, would cost $80.00
Spring inside3.00
Ruff back5.00
Three cushions11.00
Back to Seat3.75
Baggage behind4.50
Putting on inside curtains3.00
Two Braces2.50
Swelled sides to Body1.50


Stage Travel

Any journey of significant length involved long hours of travel over inferior roads interrupted only by short stops for food and rest. John Quincy Adams wrote the following of his trip from Boston to New York in 1770.

"We generally reached our resting place for the night if no accidents intervened at ten o'clock and after a frugal supper, went to bed with a notice that we should be called at three in the morning which generally proved to be half past two, and then whether it snowed or rained the traveler must rise and make ready, by the help of a horned lantern and a farthing candle and proceed on his way over bad road sometime getting out to help the coachman out of a quagmire or rut. Finally arriving at New York after a hard weeks' travel wondering at the ease and the expedition with which our journey was affected."(19)

The New York Coachmaker's Magazine of August, 1869 included the reprint of an unidentified writer's comments on early stage travel:

"The term, stages, is associated with a long catalogue of calamities, inconveniences and horrors, almost insupportable. A stage is a heavy, unwieldy vehicle, generally drawn by four jaded horses, urged along by a vulgar, insolent driver. There are some exceptions, some drivers being respectable, and some stages are mere lumber wagons.

In stage-riding it is peculiarly true that it is the first night that costs. It is more intolerable than the succeeding half-dozen, were the journey prolonged for a week; the breaking-in is fearful, the prolongation is bearable. The air gets cold; the road grows dusty and chokes, or rough and alarms you; the legs gets stiff and numb; the temper edges; everybody is overcome with sleep, but can stay asleep — the struggle of contending nature racks every nerve, fires every feeling; everybody flounders and knocks about against everybody else in helpless despair; perhaps the biggest man in the stage will really get asleep, which doing, he involuntarily and with irresistible momentum spreads himself legs, boots, arms and head, over the whole inside of the coach; the girls screech; the profane swear, some lady wants a smelling-bottle out of her bag, and her bag is somewhere on the floor — nobody knows where — but found it must be; everybody's back hair comes down, and what is nature and what is art in costume and character revealed — and then, hardest trial of all, 23 morning breaks upon the scene and the feelings — everybody dirty, grim, faint, 'all to pieces ", cross — such a disenchanting exhibition!"(20)

Passengers of all positions in life were found on Stage Waggons, as Brissot de Warville wrote of his travels in 1788:

"You find in these stages men of all positions. They succeed each other with rapidity. One who goes but twenty miles, yields his place to one who goes farther. The mother and daughter mount the stage to go ten miles to dine; another stage brings them back. At every instance, then, you are making many new acquaintances. The frequency of these carriages, the facility of finding places in them and the low and fixed price, invite the Americans to travel. These carriages have another advantage, they keep up the idea of equality. The member of Congress is placed by the side of the shoemaker who elected him; they fraternize together and converse with familiarity. You see no person here taking upon himself those important airs, which you often meet with in France. In that country, a man of condition would blush to travel in a diligence, it is an ignoble carriage; one knows not with whom he may find himself. Besides, it is in style to 'run post'; this style serves to humiliate those who are condemned to a sad mediocrity." (21)

Charles William Janson wrote of the poor roads he encountered during his travels in New Jersey in 1793.

"Several miles before you enter Trenton, the road is so very bad in some places that the driver, with whom I chose to sit, the better to view the country, told me that the last time he passed, his horses stalled, that is, they were for some time unable to drag the waggon through the worst places. He also said, that the road there had not been repaired in his memory, and he did not cease cursing and swearing till we entered the city of Trenton, which was late in the evening, a distance of sixty-six miles. This day's journey was rendered more disagreeable by a heavy rain falling in the very worst part of the road, and being myself as I have already observed, in front, I was wet to the skin, which threw me into a fever on my arrival in Philadelphia. Those seated farther back were in a situation not much better; the leather sides being an indifferent shelter."(22)


Crossing rivers and streams could be a hazardous adventure, especially when the water was high due to recent heavy rains. Stage Waggons were often upset while attempting to ford a swollen stream, and where bridges were available, crossing them was also quite risky. The earliest bridges were generally constructed by laying loose poles across two or three logs that had been thrown across the stream. They were usually intended to serve only in cases of high water. Consequently, they were often neglected and therefore out of repair when high water came. A stage driver would often have to halt to rearrange or replace the poles before he could take his team and wagon across. Passengers usually preferred to get out and walk while the driver cautiously led his team across, fearful that one of the sixteen hooves might get caught between the treacherous poles. Even when planks came to be used as bridge floors, they were often left un-nailed and floated away with the first flood unless they had been previously removed. James Silk Buckingham mentioned, in his America, that as late as 1838 in traveling through Vermont, his coach came to many bridges from which the loose planks had been removed, "but the driver, with great humour and alacrity, set to work himself to place the planks across again in their proper places." (23)

Another form of bridge was the floating bridge. Thomas Twining describes this type of bridge in the following manner.

"We soon reached he Schuylkyl (River), a small river which descends from the Kittatany mountains, in the back part of Pennsylvania, and enters the Delaware river miles below Philadelphia, after a course of about 120 miles. We crossed it upon a floating bridge, constructed of logs of wood placed by the side of each other upon the surface of the water, and the planks nailed across them. Although this bridge floated when not charged, or charged lightly, the weight of our wagon depressed it several inches below the surface, the horses splashing through the water, so that a 25 foot passenger passing at the same time would have been exposed to serious inconvenience."(24)

RR038007Illustration 7. "The Floating Bridge Across the Schuylkill" by Edward L. Henry from the cover of The Carriage Journal, Volume 15, Number 3.

The above illustration depicts such a floating bridge over the Schuylkill River. The Stage Wagon in this illustration was taken from a drawing in "Mellish's Travels in North America", an illustrated early nineteenth century work. This bridge over the Skuylkill River near Philadelphia was made of logs floating on the river, covered with wooden planks, being anchored to prevent it moving with the current. Generally it sank somewhat when a heavy weight, such as a Stage 26 Wagon, passed over it, causing the water to run over the bridge and the rims of the wheels. When vessels wished to pass up or down the river, the bridge was unfastened at one end and allowed to drift downstream with the current, afterwards it was hauled back into position and secured. (25)

Traveling during this period was difficult at best. Long hours were spent on roads which were not well maintained, in stage wagons providing little comfort. There was limited time for passengers to rest and stretch their limbs during stops. Stages on the well-established routes were usually between ten and fourteen miles, but farther apart in the less populated areas. Food at taverns was often poor and expensive, and the rooms dirty and crowded. It was a welcome relief to finally reach one's destination.


Stage Drivers

Drivers of Stage Waggons were true American originals -- colorful characters of the road who exuded an air of daring, bravery, and authority. English travelers soon discovered the American Stage Waggon driver was quite different than the "coachman" of England, who tended to be viewed as a lackey or servant. Here, the driver ruled -- it was his vehicle, his route, and his passengers. Many Englishmen, accustomed to the servility of their coachmen, considered these American drivers to be astonishingly independent and sometimes even surly. One factor that contributed to the independent attitude of the American driver was the common practice of not accepting tips or gratuities from passengers.

An English traveler, Richard Parkinson, in his book entitled A Tour of America in 1798,1799 and 1800 made certain remarks concerning stage drivers. He wrote:

"The drivers of coaches (Stage Waggons) are in general sober men, and it is not usual for the passengers to give the coachman money at the end of the stage, as in England. Indeed he considers himself equal to any one, and seemingly, it would be an offense to offer him money. He will drink a glass with you as a companion, but in no other way. The coachman drive but one stage, from fourteen to twenty miles, and take care of their own horses, which is one cause of their good appearance."

Though he may have been sometimes careless in his dress and inattentive to his passengers, the American driver won nothing but praise for his driving skills. Bad roads only served to highlight this skill. Writing of the road from Saratoga to Lake George, J. R. Godley wrote:

"the road is execrable, nothing but the most wonderful dexterity on the part of the driver, and the strength and steadiness of a team, that would 28 have done no dishonor to the Tantivy in the days when England was a coach country, could have brought us through."

An Englishman's view of the American Stage Waggon driver was contained in the popular, Retrospections of America, written by John Bernard who traveled here from 1797 to 1811. After describing the stout, well-bundled and muffled, reticent driver of his native England, he went on to say:

"The very opposite of all this was the New England 'driver'. He was usually a thin, wiry, long-backed, leather-skinned fellow, sharing the front seat with the company, and flying in and out of the vehicle. No one more abhorred a superfluity of clothes...Placed upon their level, he sympathized with all his company, yet not intrusively. He was a general book of reference, almanac, market list, and farmer 's journal; a daily paper published every morning, a focus; which by some peculiar centralpetality, (attraction) drew all things toward it."(26)

Many foreign travelers commented on the hair-raising custom of the American driver in giving rein to his horses going down hill. G. Combe wrote, "The youth who drove us ascended the numerous hills which we traversed very leisurely, but dashed down the other side with extraordinary rapidity." Thomas Twining wrote, after mentioning that the stage was not provided with a drag, that:

"at first our rapidity on these occasions, with a steep declivity, without rail or fence of any sort on one side, seemed to be attended with no trifling degree of danger; but I soon found that the driver managed his four active little horses with all the skill of an English coachman, although he had little appearance of one."

Mechanical brakes were not yet in existence. A driver using a drag was required to get down from the vehicle to lock his rear wheels with a chain or place a drag under them, but it was 29 tedious in hilly country and the act of descending from the box to do so was not in itself unaccompanied by danger, especially if the team was a spirited one. Such driving was surprisingly common on the long descents of the Allegheny ridges in Maryland and Pennsylvania. One passenger wrote of driving in this area:

"The practice is for the team to be put on a run the moment they gain the summit of a hill, and if all things hold out, this is kept up until the bottom is reached: the horses are excellent, and rarely fail. On my asking the coachman, -- by whom I rode as much as possible, -- what he did in the event the wheel-horse coming down in a steep pass, he replied 'Why, I keep driving ahead, and drag him along,' — an accident which he assured me had occurred more than once to himself when the roads were encrusted with ice and snow."

The Stage Driver is further described by James O. Lyford in his History of Concord, New Hampshire. He wrote:

"Along the countryside the 'stageman' was regarded as holding a good place among worthies of the time. He could tell to loitering villagers news and gossip from taverns firesides in the larger lower towns. Perhaps Daniel Webster, Jeremiah Mason, Ichabod Bartlett or George Sullivan had sometime been passengers in his coach, and he had spoken with familiarity with those great men, or he had exchanged polite salutations with Dudley Leavitt, Professor Edwin D. Sanborn or the governor of the state. Judges going up to hold court sat beside him and held the reins while baggage was landed at wayside inns. Perchance he had clinked the social glass with Philip Carigain, Esquire, and wished him success in his errand at Hanover. On the slightly highest seat of his yellow coach rustic beauties, going home from service or from school, with handsomer faces than those depicted by the skillful hand of the Concord painter on the panels of the coach, perched where the long whiplash made its surprising whirl past their sun bonnets before it shot forward to make its still more surprising crack behind the ears of the leaders on the six-horse team. School-boys by the roadside swung their caps to the driver, and echoed his cheery whistle to the horses. The village blacksmith and saddler came to the fore wheel to take his orders when he drew rein. All the countrymen deemed it worth while to be on good terms with him, because he knew about their horses, and from his opinion as to what a likely animal would bring at Concord or Portsmouth there was no appeal. 30 Tact, patience and endurance were necessary (for the stage driver). So was punctuality. Sandeman Marden went over his route to Portsmouth so regularly that people set their clocks when he drove past. Exposure to rude winters on bleak roads was a condition not to be lightly regarded. The mid-winter defenses of the driver were a long, buffalo-skin coat with a girdle at the waist, deep boots, a thick, knit woolen hood drawn closely over his ears and neck, and 'leggins' of the same material and make. What kept his gloved hands from freezing is one of the mysteries of history."

Although there were several variations, drivers usually worked in one of two different ways. Those drivers who worked for the larger companies, drove for several stages with the horses changed at most stops. By 1800, some companies set limits for the distances and number of stages a driver could drive. One of the lines between Boston and New York limited the mileage a driver could drive in a given day to forty miles in the winter and sixty in the summer. With the drivers usually driving three or four stages a day, each stage might cover from 10 to 20 miles. Drivers for these larger lines drove teams provided to them at each "relay station." In this mode of operation, a driver would drive a number of teams in a given day. Also, because these drivers incurred lodging costs, they were usually paid the highest wages.

Some drivers preferred to drive only one stage of 10 to 20 miles, rest their horses, and drive back to their home station with passengers from a stage wagon coming from the opposite direction, thus driving 20 to 40 miles each day. In this case, drivers did not have to spend the night away from home and pay lodging expense. Another advantage of this method of operation was that each driver was made wholly responsible for the care of his team and his vehicle. However in this situation, passengers had to change vehicles after each stage. .


Travel Perils

During the period of rapid development in American staging, there were serious hazards involved with travel. Principally, these perils consisted of breakdowns, accidents, robberies and the weather.

The breakdown most frequently faced by stage travelers was the breaking of one of the thoroughbraces. The thoroughbrace was one of the heavy, layered, leather straps that passed under the bottom of the Stage Waggon body, supporting it and providing some degree of springing. An English traveler wrote that the experience of riding on these thoroughbraces made the carriage "dance in the air like a balloon," swinging forward or backward or sideways as the wheels passed over obstructions or dropped in ruts. The thoroughbraces permitted the body of the carriage to swing to counteract the jolting of the undercarriage, but in performing this function on the notoriously rough American roads, they were subjected to continuous stresses, which varied according to the weight of the driver, passengers, and baggage. Even though the thoroughbraces were made of many layers of heavy leather, they eventually wore, and on occasion they broke from a sudden or unusual stress. (28)

There was a remedy that seemed common to drivers when a thoroughbrace gave way. John Melish, an English traveler writing in 1812, wrote that:

"The defect was supplied by breaking down an honest man's fence, and thrusting a rail under the body of the carriage, while the passengers stood almost up to the ankles in the mud, holding it up."
Another English traveler in 1819, John Duncan, described this remedy as follows: 32
"The road through which we drove (it was literally through) had shaken our wagon, that after nine hours of jolting one of the straps gave way, and we were brought to a stand by the carriage sinking down upon the pole. Americans are not easily disconcerted. There was a rail fence by the road side, from which the driver selected a stout rafter long enough to reach from the footboard in front to the after axle, the body of the wagon was hove up by our united efforts, and the wooden substitute was thrust under it. We then resumed our seats and jolted on, quite unconscious of any additional inconvenience from riding on a rail."

When such a problem occurred in a remote area where no suitable rails were available, a variation to the remedy was often used. This method was described by Tyrone Power in 1836.

"We broke (a thoroughbrace) by a sudden plump, into a hole, that would have shaken a broad-wheeled wagon into shavings. Our driver did not approve of any of the fence-rails in the vicinity, so plunged into the wood, accompanied by one of my western companions; and in ten minutes they returned, bearing a young hickory pole, that the driver assured us was 'as tough as Andrew Jackson himself and as hard to break, though it might give a little under a heavy load.' This was shoved under the body of the carriage, and rested on the fore and hind axles; it was lashed fast, and the spare part of the spar was left sticking out behind, like the end of the main boom of a smack. The coach body when rested upon this, was found to have a considerable list to port...[but] the driver was enabled by this ingenious substitute for a carriage spring to 'go ahead '. "

Fence-rails and the muscles of passengers were also called into service when the "king bolt" in the front axle-tree broke, provided the driver was fortunate enough to have a substitute. The rails were thrust under the body, which was then raised off its bolster so that the spare bolt could be inserted.

Next to the thoroughbraces, the wheels were subjected to the greatest stress. The constant jolting sometimes loosened the iron tyres until the entire woodwork collapsed, often 33 causing extremely dangerous accidents. Charles J. Latrobe related an instance in 1835 where at the top of a hill:

"a fore-wheel broke, and an instant overturn followed, at the head of a fearful chasm...[passengers) had toes, ribs, and noses damaged, and one poor fellow a fearful wound in the forehead."

Captain Frederick Marryat wrote that the Americans possessed great resourcefulness in making temporary repairs to wheels:

"...the Americans are never at a loss when they are in a 'The fix'. The passengers borrowed an axe; and in a short time wedges were cut from one of the trees at the road-side, and the wheel was so well repaired that it lasted us the remainder of the journey'. "
Despite such ingenuity, stage drivers were not always able to repair all types of breakdowns, and on occasion the passengers had to walk to the next town.

Apparently few persons who traveled to any extent went through life without meeting with one or more stage overturnings, and few also went on any long journey without some such experience. In 1828, Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, recorded being overturned eight times in two years of travel in this country, though his stage journeys did not exceed four thousand miles. Another traveler in that same year protested publicly in a New York newspaper against the nine upsets he had received in a journey from New York to Cincinnati and back to Philadelphia. Six of these were on the way to Cincinnati, a trip of scarcely a thousand miles. A fellow passenger in Ohio informed the geologist Sir Charles Lyell during the 1840s that "in the course of the last three years he had been overturned thirteen times between Cincinnati and Cleveland."


Perhaps the primary reason for these accidents was the extremely poor condition of all but the best roads over which the stages traveled. Captain Marryat, quoted earlier, wrote that:

"The drivers are very skillful... and if you are upset, it is generally more the fault of the road than the driver. No one thinks anything of an upset in America...these mischances must be expected in a new country. "
The roadways of the day were narrow and hilly with many sharp curves, soft-bottomed and without proper drainage, and with dangerous stream crossings. Stages were frequently overturned after dark by striking stumps and ends of fallen logs either on or close to the edge of the road. Even skillful drivers could hardly expect to take a heavy stage with four horses, day in and day out, in all seasons, over such roads without occasional accidents.

Another cause of accidents was racing between stages of opposition lines. Drivers usually shared their employers' bitter antagonisms, especially when a route was not likely to support two competing lines and one was doomed to fail. Drivers' jobs depended on victory for their line. If one believed the rival advertisements in the newspapers, the stages of each line arrived at their destination before those of the other. To fit into the elaborate connection arrangements for cross lines and continuing lines, starting times for rival stages had to be at about the same hour, thus bringing them into competition along the wage. One stage was not likely to be permitted to pass another without a dangerous race on the narrow roads. Occasionally, locked wheels resulted, and instances occurred where wheels were knocked off one of the fast-traveling stages. Sometimes the driver of the winning stage, as it drew ahead, 35 swung too rapidly into the single-tracked road, whether deliberately or in his eagerness to gain safer ground, thus forced the losing stage to the side of the road and into a ditch. (29)

Races between rival stages sometimes took place on city streets, to the great danger of other persons as well as to the passengers on the vehicles. Frequently, public indignation was aired in the newspapers, while some states found it necessary to enact laws against such racing. Eventually, proprietors found it necessary to reassure the public in their advertisements. An advertisement in 1825 by the Exchange Line operating between New York and Philadelphia read:

"On account of the contention between the Union and Exchange Lines, the proprietors are induced to change the hour of leaving the city to 5:30, in order to avoid that opposition, so disagreeable to passengers."

Robberies of stages were more rare than accidents, but posed a more serious threat. One of the lesser types of robberies of the day was the petty theft of baggage from the rear of the stage. There was comparatively little danger of detection if a robber crept up behind a coach as it was proceeding slowly through sand or climbing a hill and quickly cut the straps that held a trunk or two on the small rear platform. The ordinary rumble of a vehicle moving over the road usually covered any small noise the robber made, and the discovery that the baggage was missing often did not occur until the stage halted at the next station. Very rarely were the perpetrators of this crime caught. Since the mail was seldom involved, the power of the federal government was not thrown into the chase. Only if there were repeated robberies along some stretch of road would efforts be made to discover the thieves. (31)


Since large sums of money regularly passed over the road in unprotected stages, it is surprising that there were relatively few holdups. The "great Mail" pouches often contained between $50,000 and $100,000 in bank notes and other transferable paper, particularly on roads that led into important commercial and financial centers. In addition, the passengers usually carried substantial sums. There were no modern facilities where passengers could renew their supplies of cash or credit at intervals along the way. The amount of money necessary for the entire trip had to be carried from the beginning. Most passengers, too, were businessmen — merchants, attorneys, land buyers, speculators -- who had with them funds needed for their activities. A Cincinnati businessman, Gorham Worth, wrote about setting off in a stage for Pittsburgh in 1817:

"I had with me a large sum of money, too large indeed to be mentioned with prudence even now, and which in those days, when human habitations and mile stones were wide apart, it was desirable to keep as much in the shade and as for from the eye of suspicion as possible."

The harsh Post Office law was possibly a deterrent to stage holdups. The Act of 1792 made robbery of the mail punishable by death. The Act of 1799 modified the sentence to forty lashes plus imprisonment not exceeding ten years for the first offense but retained the death penalty either for a second offense or for cases where, in effecting the robbery, the life of the driver was jeopardized by the use of dangerous weapons. Actually, only few highway robberies could be committed without the display of weapons since such threats were necessary to bring the stage to a stop. (33)

One or two spectacular robberies each year along the lines in the East continued to furnish excitement until the railroads replaced the stages as carriers of mail. The full course of a 37 cycle had been run in the fifty years since it had been argued that a stage and passengers would provide greater security for carrying the mail than would the long post-rider on his horse. Nevertheless, the Post Office Department established an excellent record in capturing highwaymen who robbed the stages. The Postmaster General from 1814 to 1823, a gentleman with the unusual name of Return J. Meigs, Jr., was able to boast in 1818 that:

"Since I have been at the head of this Department not one instance of a violent robbery of the mail has occurred, where the perpetrators have escaped apprehension, conviction, and punishment."(34)



As previously stated, vehicles used for public transportation began to change dramatically about 1820. The Stage Waggon of the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century evolved into an oval-bodied, rounded top Stagecoach with at least one door on the side. This body was suspended by thoroughbraces on a three-perch running gear. The driver sat on a seat outside the body. This initial oval-body Stagecoach further evolved into the American RR038008Illustration 8. Oval-bodied Stagecoach, ca. 1820. Mail Coach known as the Concord, Albany or Troy Coach. This general style known as the Stagecoach was described in the Boston American Traveller in 1825 as follows:

"The finest vehicles in the world without any dispute, are stage-coaches. Your sulkys were made for physicians or single gentlemen; your carriage for old maids (or, to be fashionable, 'for single ladies advanced',) and old women; your carioles for young children and their nurses; and your gigs, your landaus, and your curricles for fops, dandies and exquisites of both sexes; but your stage-coaches — your downright, modern, well-built stagecoaches — were made for no particular class in society, but for the young, old, the rich and the poor, the great and the small, male and female, of all ranks, and conditions; and whether we ride for health, for pleasure, or for business, we almost invariably prefer one of these carry-alls to any other travelling machine now in vogue."
(35) 39 (The corrected reference to "old maids" shows "political correctness" was alive and well in 1825.)

Concord Coaches were built by the Abbot, Downing Company of Concord, New Hampshire, who referred to them as Mail Coaches. The first of this type was built by J. Stephens Abbot — then an employee of Lewis Downing, but later he became a partner. Production of this style continued until early in the twentieth century. Abbot has been credited with design of this style vehicle, yet there is evidence the style actually developed somewhat earlier in both Albany and Troy, New York and known as the Albany or Troy Coach. Although made famous by Abbot, Downing, this style was copied by several other carriage makers. (36)

The Concord Coach was built in six, nine, and twelve passenger sizes, though company records reveal that a few four passenger and sixteen passengers sizes were built between 1858 and 1864. Passengers were seated on two transverse, facing seats, in the usual coach fashion, and on one or two additional benches between the fixed seats. Suspended on the three-perch, thoroughbrace running gear, the body could accommodate a large amount of baggage, for there was a rack on top, another at the rear, and space in the front boot for that purpose. These Stagecoaches were painted in bright colors, and then highly decorated with painted scrollwork, oil paintings, ornate lettering, and gold leaf. The most common color was a red body on a pale yellow running gear, but varied combinations of green, red, orange, white, blue, yellow, olive, black maroon, etc., were also used. The last named colors were more commonly used on Hotel Coaches, while the red-yellow combination was fairly standard for Stagecoaches made for the 40 road. Concord Coaches were widely used, not only in most parts of the United States, but in South America, South Africa, and Australia. (37)

Less expensive types of passenger carrying vehicles were made by the firm of Abbot, Dowing, but these should not properly be called Concord stagecoaches. The bodies of these lesser vehicles were most often square-box in shape, many having no doors, but open sides, with curtains to roll down in bad weather. Nearly all had luggage racks on the rear, but only the heavier ones had racks on top. Such terms as Passenger Wagon, Overland Wagon, Mud Wagon and Mountain Wagon were generally applied to these cheaper vehicles. (38)

The Albany coach, manufactured by James Goold and Company of Albany, New York was introduced in the 1820s, and soon became widely known. Goold, a native of Connecticut, established his factory in 1813 and later took Walter R. Bush and J.N. Cutler as partners. He specialized in heavy work, and Stagecoaches became a featured product of his factory. By 1830 Albany coaches were found as far south as Baltimore and Washington where they were known as the "Splendid Red Coaches" of the Union line. Albany coaches were soon eclipsed in fame by those made in the neighboring city of Troy, where manufacturers adopted whatever improvements the Albany coaches offered and added others of their own. In pattern, the two coaches were basically the same, so that in distant parts of the country no distinction between them was made. In 1827, the Troy Sentinel contrasted "our light, elegant and convenient stagecoaches, with spring seats and easy motion" with "the lumbering vehicle which were in use for the purpose some twelve or fifteen years ago." (39)


RR038009Illustration 9. American Stagecoach, ca. 1830.

The Troy Coach was a popular style of Stagecoach built by several different firms in Troy, New York. This type Stagecoach was apparently nearly identical to the Concord Coach, and seems to predate the Concord. The Troy Coach is known to have been built as early as May 1827, while the earliest Concord is documented later that year. Two Troy companies, operated by Charles Veazie and Orsamus Eaton competed in manufacturing Troy Stagecoaches. It appears Veazie of Troy made the first improvements to the style by including a roof railing for luggage, while Eaton later added a roof seat. In 1830 these two Troy factories together employed about sixty men and turned out about fifty Stagecoaches. (40)


An item in the United States Gazette in 1831 described a "splendid" coach owned by Mr. Reeside, made in Troy, New York by Messrs. Eaton and Gilbert, & Charles Veasie. It read:

The coach was painted red, and beautifully lined with red morocco. The whole appliances of the carriage were suited to the elegance of the body, and bespoke the liberality of the enterprising owner. Mr. Reeside ordered a number of these carriages to be built for the new line that is to commence running between Baltimore and Pittsburgh, by the way of Chambersburg, on the 1st of October.

Troy Stagecoaches were soon used throughout the South. In 1825, the line from Wythe Court House, Virginia to Greensboro, North Carolina boasted, "The coaches are made at Troy, N. Y, good and comfortable." The line between Georgetown and Charleston, South Carolina gave notice in 1837 that they "have placed upon their route an entire new set of Troy built coaches," and the following year the routes from Augusta, Georgia, via Macon and Columbus to Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama were "furnished with the best Troy built coaches." In 1838, the line from Nashville to the Mississippi River advertised they had "selected superior Troy coaches," and the lines between Vicksburg and Jackson and between Jackson and Grand Gulf were stocked with coaches "of the best Troy manufacture." (42)

Available information suggests the firm of Eaton & Gilbert built more of these Stagecoaches than Abbot, Downing & Company, but the former gave up their construction much earlier, in order to concentrate on manufacture of railway cars. (43)


Operating Costs

The Woolfolk Family Papers held by the Swem Library at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia offer limited but valuable information concerning costs of operating a stage line during the late eighteenth century. An account book, covering the period June 1794 to August 1796, lists general expenses for the operation at Cross Roads, which was located near Bowling Green, Caroline County, Virginia. Pages for March and April 1796 are missing, and only wage costs are found for August 1794. This particular line operated between Cross Roads and Portsmouth, Virginia, by way of Richmond, Petersburg and Suffolk.

Feed constituted the major portion of expenditures. Specifically, items of feed for horses included corn, oats, bran, fodder and hay. Monthly expenses for feed vary significantly, which may suggest items of feed were purchased in quantity, perhaps when prices were lower. Also, payment of a specific account for feed was often made in part over several months. This practice contributed to the variation in monthly expensed recorded in the ledgers.

Wages seem to be primarily for drivers, but some wages appear to be for those who manned the various stations along the route.

Repair costs include expenses incurred for the stage wagon and harness for the horses. During 1795 and 1796 the coachmaking firm of Badger and Atkins in Petersburg performed significant repair service for the Cross Roads stage operation. Specific repair items listed in the account book include axle and wheel work, curtains for the body, and harness repair.


Driver's expenses include food and board for drivers at the various stops.

Miscellaneous items include grease for axles, oil for harness, rope, and clothing, to include shoes, for what appears to be slave stage drivers.

During the time frame covered by the account books, at least 12 horses were purchased at costs which varied from £6 to £26. As with feed, horse expenses were not always paid in full at the time of purchase, therefore smaller sums are listed for various months.

Significant amounts of money were listed as paid during certain months but the reasons for these payments are not explained. Following are examples of these payments:

July 1794Willis Everett£40.19,00
May 1795 Jamison Johnson £68.02.08
May 1795 Willis Everett £91.07.09
May 1795 Levis Caffery £81.12.00
May 1795 Richard Taylor £30.00.00
November 1795 Peter Innis £50.08.11
December 1795 Everett Wilkinson £46.11.10
December 1795 Jeremiah Stokes £23.04.00
December 1795 Alexander McRae £24.00.00


Cross Roads Stage


Driver's Expense0.
1794October November December
Feed £29.05.00 £41.04.00 £10.01.00
Wages 9.17.00 13.09.00 13.00.00
Repairs 0.08.00 0.03.00 0.12.00
Driver's Expense 1.15.09 0.13.00 1.00.00
Misc. 1.15.09 0.13.00 0.08.06
Horses 9.01.09 6.00.00 21.00.04
1795 January February March April
Feed £29.08.02 £37.05.00 £36.08.00 £45.00.00
Wages 12.05.00 10.10.00 7.16.00 4.16.00
Repairs 2.14.00 1.07.00 0.12.00 0.12.00
Driver's Expense 1.07.00 1.02.00 0.15.00 8.14.06
Misc. 1.01.00 6.16.00 --0.12.00
Horses25.00.00 7.00.00
1795 May June July August
Feed £25.12.06 £47.08.00 £29.10.06 £ 16.15.00
Wages 18.01.04 3.03.00 10.00.02 1.04.00
Repairs 0.07.06 0.10.00 1.10.00 1.16.00
Driver's Expense0.08.00 37.09.07 9.08.00 0.17.00
Misc. 0.18.00 0.12.05 0.16.06 0.02.00
Horses 38.07.06 76.10.00 26.00.00
1795 September October November December
Feed £57.04.02 £53.11.07 £63.11.06 £77.08.04
Wages 0.12.00 13.10.03 6.14.08 48.10.00
Repairs 1.16.00 1.07.00 1.12.06 1.10.09
Driver's Expense 0.17.00 1.08.02 0.12.06 1.04.02
Misc. 0.17.00 3.02.07 1.00.03 --
Horses 6.05.1136.11.08
1796 January February March April
Feed £43.18.08 £23.10.01 ----
Wages 6.13.05 1.16.09 ----
Repairs 1.11.02 1.07.09 ----
Driver's Expense 1.04.00 1.16.09 ----
Misc. 3.13.01 25.02.05----
Horses--6.12.00 ----
1796May June July August
Feed £ 19.09.08 £37.08.09 £28.06.04 £81.14.02
Wages ----2.09.00 --
Repairs 2.15.06 4.04.00 5.05.02 3.00.00
Driver's Expense0.05.00 3.07.00 0.10.06 2.04.06
Misc. 7.18.04 13.07.07 0.14.06 7.08.00



By mid-eighteenth century, the goal of lightening draft had long been a goal of vehicle makers. Reducing the effort of draft animals provided improved efficiency in that heavier loads could be moved faster or greater distances. The Boston News-Letter of January 25, 1753 contained the following quotation from The Pennsylvania Gazette.

"For the Encouragement of Industry in the counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex in the Territories of Pennsylvania; the following Premiums will be given by the Subscriber, the Person that makes the neatest and lightest wagon in Draught, Six Pounds...The Persons entitled to any of the above Premiums, will receive them the first Tuesday in November 1754, that being the time appointed to decide who deserves them and a Free Entertainment given by the Subscribers and the Premiums will be increased in the future years, according to the Improvements made in the different things proposed. (43)

Light Waggons, which were commonly used as Stage Waggons, also were used as Family Waggons. They were comparatively light, plain, low in cost, and could be used as a light carrier of merchandise. Unlike more elaborate carriages such as Coaches and Chariots, they required no servants as coachman or attendants. The term, waggon, originally implied only a work vehicle, but, by this time in America, came to denote a combination vehicle that carried both goods and passengers. This terminology is significant, in that a most important family of American pleasure carriages were called waggons. It is this association of the Light Waggon with carrying passengers that resulted in this incongruous but popular misuse of the generic English term. An interesting fact is that all of these vehicles had bodies much like earlier wagons, even those made by our most fashionable coach makers. (44)


Popularity of the Light Waggon is clearly indicated by the number of advertisements in which they were mentioned. William Cooper, Coach Maker of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, advertised on April 21, 1763 that he make "new fashioned light Waggons." Another advertisement illustrating improvements in the design is from The Pennsylvania Gazette, dated February 23, 1764, by Conrad Scnider, Coach Maker of Philadelphia. He offered:

"A compleat, neat new Waggon, ornamented with Brass Nails, finished after the fashion of a coach, with the door in the side thereof the Leather Curtains all round, except in the Front.
(45) On November 1, 1764 the following advertisement appeared in The Pennsylvania Gazette.
"To be SOLD, A light covered Waggon, that will carry twelve People, and should answer for a Stage or private Family…For Terms apply to John Buckingham, at the Sign of the Coach and Horse, in Race Street, the corner of Third Street, Philadelphia."

These new, light wagons were referred to by a variety of terms. A "New Model…Light Travelling Waggon" was advertised in New Jersey in 1767. The South Carolina Gazette carried an advertisement in 1773 for "a Caravan or Family Waggon, very light and runs easy." A "Genteel Waggon" was offered for sale in New Jersey in 1779. George Bringhurst, coach maker from Philadelphia advertised he had "two Family Waggons entirely new, and of the newest fashion" for sale. Robert Sutcliff wrote of "open carriages... called wagons... the best of then Jersey wagons." The term, "coachee" is seen in Maryland by 1789. (47)

The Light Wagon and Coachee are described by Isaac Weld, an Englishman who traveled in this country and Canada during 1795-1797. He wrote: 49

"The coachee is a carriage peculiar, I believe, to America: The body of it is rather longer than that of a coach, but of the same shape. In the front it is left quite open down to the bottom, and the driver sits on a bench under the roof of the carriage. There are two seats in it for the passengers, who sit with their faces towards the horses. The roof is supported by small props, which are placed at the corners. On each side of the doors, above the pannels, it is quite open, and to guard against bad weather there are curtains, which are made to let down from the roof and fasten to buttons placed for the purpose on the outside. There is also a leathern curtain to hang occasionally between the driver and passengers.

The light waggons are on the same construction, and are calculated to accommodate from four to twelve people. The only difference between the small (light) waggon and a coachee is that the latter is better finished, has varnished pannels, and doors at the side. The former has no doors, but the passengers scramble in the best way they can, over the seat of the driver. These waggons are use universally as stage Carriers.(48)

Another writer, John Harriott, described the coachee in the following manner.
"Some of these coachees are tolerably convenient for warm climates but there is a material difference in them. The best are like covered wagons, shaped a little, and painted to look like a coach, having double curtains of leather & woolen to furl or let down at pleasure. Some are hung on springs & travel easily, others quite the reverse. They have more, or fewer benches, according to the number of passengers they engage to carry."(49)
Paul Downing wrote of this new, light, dual-purpose vehicle:
"Toward the end of the (eighteenth) century these public carriers appear to have gradually divided into three types — the main group continuing to become more coach-like, emerged as the efficient Stage of the 19 century. The smaller form which assumed springs, and which had come to be used as family carriages, developed into the Coachee. The third group, shed their tops and became the one and two-seated Pleasure Wagon or the Dearborn Wagon.(50)



The following descriptions and definitions of the various forms of light waggons may be helpful in distinguishing the most important characteristics of each.

The Boulster Wagon is an unidentified type of wagon built by Amos Stiles, a carriage builder from Morristown, New Jersey from 1812 to 1821. There is no reason, however, to believe he was the only builder. The Boulster wagon was evidently a specialty of Stiles, for his daybooks mentions 140 of them during these years. It appears to have been a light passenger wagon, with as many as three seats, and equipped with shafts or pole. It had a standing top, and was frequently "paneled up behind," sometimes with glass in the rear, either sliding or fixed. A few had a rear door, but most appear to have had none. Generally the inside was trimmed to some extent, and some were almost entirely trimmed. Seats were made both with and without cushions, and frequently, though not always, with backs. Bodies were sometimes made with swelled sides, and moldings, and in some instances varnished. Most often the vehicles were plainly and simply trimmed and finished. They were equipped with curtains, and often an apron was provided. In no case do the entries in Stiles' daybook indicate the vehicle was mounted on springs or braces, and the name seems to indicate the body sat on bolsters. Otherwise, the vehicle appears to have been very much like the Coachee or Jersey Wagon.

Another style of wagon built by Stiles was the Jack Wagon. The main distinguishing feature between the Boulster and Jack Waggons is that the latter was mounted on braces suspended from upright jacks. Otherwise, it was quite similar to the Boulster Wagon. (51)


After study of the Amos Stiles Accounts in 1991, Richard E. Powell, Jr. offered the following comments on the Boulster Wagons made by Stiles.

"The most conspicuous vehicles in the Stiles account are "boulster wagons," a name apparently unique to this carriage maker. Between 1812 and 1821, one hundred twenty-eight boulster wagon entries occur, including at least eighty-eight citations for vehicles sold new and complete. The cheapest of this kind sold for $90.67 in July of 1812, and the most expensive were two sold for $155 each in October of 1817: the average price for the eighty-eight wagons was $116.50. In most cases the more expensive examples are described in greater detail, suggesting added costs for optional features. Review of all entries indicates that the wagons were light, as three were built for a single horse and six were supplied with shafts and a tongue, while only ten specify pair equipment only: Nothing suggests a larger equipage. Boulster wagons were at least partially enclosed with tops, curtains or glass, and in one case with a rear door. Eight wagons are listed with one seat `only' and seem to be the exception in that regard. Twenty-one have double springs inside, however external suspensions or sprung bodies are not implied. About twenty percent of the entries mention painting and striping. The axles noted are about equally divided between those of iron and those of wood or wood with sheathings of skeins or clouts.

The boulster wagon is clearly a light passenger vehicle finished with relatively modest features that include some decoration and provisions for passenger comfort. Ironically, the cost of this four-wheeled style is less than that of most two-wheeled vehicles in the account. Boulster wagons do not seem to be in a class of the coachee at $495 (p. 227), the C-spring carriage at $339 (p. 244), or the Chariotee at $285 (p. 156); as to stage wagons, one cost a comparable $114.25 (p. 194), the other $250 (p. 156). It is probable that the term, "boulster wagon ", was Stiles's name for a vehicle we call differently, perhaps the carryall, which was typically a one-horse carriage; a pleasure wagon, which would agree with the swelled sides and painting but not the enclosure; or Jersey Wagons, which were a lighter two-horse version of the coachee.(52)


The Caravan is a type of family wagon used in the American colonies late in the eighteenth century. It was drawn by either two or four horses. There is the possibility this little-known carriage may have been similar, if not identical, to the Coachee, and the name is nothing more than a regional term used to denote the same vehicle. (53)


The Coachee is an American vehicle, generally used as a family carriage that appears to have developed late in the eighteenth century. Several surviving Coachees of the early nineteenth century correspond with Isaac Weld's description, and some of these differ by having a single door in the rear. Suspension is on thoroughbraces secured to jacks in several instances, while the example at the Smithsonian Institution employs thoroughbraces and wooden C-shaped springs. Other references have been found which seem to indicate a rather broad usage of the term Coachee. Several early nineteenth documents in the Smithsonian reference collection indicate such features as a hammercloth and a front boot, neither of which apply to the type of vehicle Weld described, but seem to suggest a vehicle that was more nearly line the coach, but probably lighter in weight.

There is evidence indicating a number of terms were used rather synonymously to describe the same type of vehicle. The descriptions of Amos Stile's Boulster Wagons in New Jersey seem to agree, somewhat, with that of the Coachee. Robert Sutcliff describes and illustrates vehicles that must be nearly identical to the Coachee, yet he refers to them as Jersey Wagons. A Dictionary of American English quotes early references which indicate the terms Jersey, Dearborn and Carryall were used synonymously, assigning the various words to different sections of the country, yet no descriptions have been found to justify that synonymous usage of the last two terms with Coachee. Thus, while similarity undoubtedly existed between the Coachee and Jersey Wagon, and also between the latter and the Dearborn and Carryall, it seems likely that the Coachee differed too greatly from the Dearborn and Carryall to warrant use of theses terms synonymously.


RR038010Illustration 10. Coachee at the Smithsonian Institution, ca. 1810.

By mid-nineteenth century the term was being applied to a vehicle that might be compared to a light-weight, curtain-quarter coach. Some of these had a detached driver's seat while others had a seat framed to the body. The upper quarters were closed by leather or fabric curtains. Suspension was variously on c-springs and braces, or on elliptic springs. These carriages were used throughout the East, but were especially popular in the Southern states until about 1860, when their use began to decline. (See The World on Wheels, by Ezra Stratton, pages 434 and 441.)


Due to the fact that the driver and passengers were under the same roof, many consider the Coachee the ancestor of the Rockaway. (54)

The Dearborn Wagon is a light square-box wagon with two seats and a standing top. It was often drawn by a single horse. This carriage was developed early in the nineteenth century, and is said to have acquired its name because General Henry Dearborn used one in the field. During the 1820s a number of Dearborns were used to carry freight over the Santa Fe Trail. Their adaptability to this use seems questionable due to their small size. No accurate description of the early Dearborns has been found, but it is believed they were heavier than the later types.

Later Dearborns had a body about six feet in length, suspended on two elliptic springs. The standing top was supported by eight slender pillars, except for one variety in which the two front pillars were omitted to give the vehicle a lighter appearance. Each side was closed by three curtains, while a single curtain closed the rear. The rear end-gate was sometimes hinged, and the seats were often made to slide in either direction, making the Dearborn useful for carrying both passengers and baggage.

In the nineteenth century the terms, Dearborn Wagon, Jersey Wagon and Carryall were often used somewhat synonymously. (55)

The Germantown, or Germantown Rockaway, is a style carriage believed to have been first built in 1816 by C.J. Junkurth, of Germantown (now a part of Philadelphia). A very marked influence of the Coachee, also a product of the Philadelphia area, can be seen in the 55 Germantown. This vehicle appears to be the successor to the Coachee. The body displays nearly identical lines, having side doors, and pillars supporting the roof that provides protection to passengers and driver alike. Seating for six passengers differs slightly from the Coachee, the seats arranged with the center seat facing toward the rear. The Germantown frequently had a storm hood attached to the front of the roof to assist in protecting those passengers on the front seat. (56)

The Jersey Wagon is a type of traveling wagon used in America during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the term apparently being almost synonymous with the earlier form of Coachee. Most common in the New Jersey-Philadelphia area, though it later migrated to more distant parts. They are made very light, hung on springs with leather braces, and travel very pleasantly. They are covered at the top with painted canvas. On the sides, there are three rows of curtains and those in the outer rows are likewise of painted canvas. Those in the middle row are of linen, and the inside curtains are generally green baize. Numerous references indicate this was a very popular type of carriage. (57)

The Pleasure Wagon is a light carriage common to New England, developed during the early nineteenth century from the light work-wagon. It had a modified square-box body with raved-side construction, and a slightly curved bottom line. In some instances the body was mounted directly on the running gear, but in other cases was suspended on either thoroughbraces or springs. The seat, usually untrimmed, was mounted on wooden cantilevered supports which provided most of the riding comfort. The entire seat-unit could be readily lifted out, so that the 56 wagon could be used to transport light items. These carriages were generally painted bright colors, and panels were frequently decorated with floral designs. (58)

The Rockaway is a four-wheeled, covered carriage with either paneled or curtained sides, having a driver's seat that is included in the body proper (and on a level with the other seats), and a common roof that projects over the driver's seat. The carriage was drawn by either one or two horses, depending on its size and weight.

The Rockaway is a distinctive American style of carriage which is believed descended from the late eighteenth-century Coachee, through the Germantown. Gradual improvements, such as the addition of curtains, panels, doors, windows, and better suspension resulted by mid-century in the fully developed Rockaway, though continued styling changes frequently altered its appearance. They were built in a profusion of styles, and a variety of names was applied to them. (59)

Although efforts to lighten draft and construction were made in England and Europe, the greatest advances in this area were found in the work of American coach makers. Continuing the pursuit of lightness in construction and resulting lower cost, the Rockaway, and to a lesser extent the Pleasure Wagon, gave way to the wide array of light, owner-driven vehicles of the mid to late-nineteenth century called Buggies. Thus, the American development of light-waggons, led to further development of a wide assortment of vehicle styles including the improved Stage Waggon, Stage Coach, Family Waggon, Coachee, Dearborn, Germantown, Jersey Wagon, Pleasure Wagon, Rockaway, and finally the American Buggy.


The Wilkinson Coachee

The Wilkinson Coachee was owned by Jemima Wilkinson (1707-1818), who founded the Universal Friend religious society in Western New York. The carriage is owned by the Ontario County Historical Society and on loan to The Granger Homestead Carriage Museum in Canandaigua, New York where it is on exhibition. This coachee was built for Jemima Wilkinson by a coach maker in Canandaigua about 1810.

RR038011Illustration 11. Wilkinson Coachee Showing Door on Left Side. Date Unknown.

Carriage authorities who have examined this carriage include Don Berkebile, Merri Ferrell, Tom Ryder and George Isles. These authorities have not challenged the date of ca. 1810 58 for the vehicle, but some have suggested the undercarriage might be older than the body. A brake assembly was added to the undercarriage at some later date.

The coachee has two passenger seats lined with tan fabric in addition to the wooden driver's seat. The coach-shaped body has a fixed top is supported with eight pillars and a door on the left side. The interior of the top is covered with light-weight blue floral fabric, and the interior of the sides are lined with blue velvet, which may not be original. The body appears to be painted blue, with a six-pointed star and cross painted on the side and end panels.

RR038012Illustration 12. Wilkinson Coachee, ca. 1985.


RR038013Illustration 13. Right Side of Body Showing Star.

If glasses in the doors £ 7.10.0
If blinds & glasses 10.10.0
Of a boot on the fore part of the carriage 3.0.0
If paneled up behind with a glass 5.0.0
A step for the footman & holders 1.17.6
Ornaments on the doors 1.10.0
The body close before & a coachman seat & hammercloth with fringes, etc. 15.0.0
If a circular seat 1.10.0
Pannel & glasses in the fore part 12.0.0
Open quarters & blinds 27.0.0
If the mouldings are gilded 4.10.0

On May 16, 1803, George Lewis, Esq. ordered a coachee from John Feneyhough, Coachmaker of Fredericksburg, Virginia described as follows:

To a new coachee with one door £75.0.0
Additional expense of one door and step 5.0.0
To a sett of steel springs instead of jacks 6.0.0
To a new boot to forepart of carriage covered with neats leather 4.10.0
Total £90.10.0

Judge St. George Tucker of Williamsburg ordered a Coachee from N. & J. Tichenor, Coach Makers of Richmond, and delivered on May 27, 1818. The Tichenor Shop was located on "the south side of H Street, near the theatre," where they not only manufactured Coachees, but offered for sale those made by Thomas Ogle of Philadelphia. Judge Tucker's carriage is described as follows:

"Estimate of a Coachee for Judge Tucker
The Body Upper back pannel with Glass
Glass in the Doors partition front with Glasses
Venetian blinds in the Quarters With upper curtains for
Winter, the linings best Blue Morrocco, Lace Trimmings &c. best Quality


Coachees in Virginia

Personal Property Tax Records for Virginia indicate Coachees became very popular after the early 1790s. The earliest found to date is 1791, owned by Beverly Randolph in Henrico County. By 1810, a total of 60 coachees were taxed in Henrico County.

Makers of the extremely popular coachee and related styles were numerous in Virginia. Alexander Quarrier, Coachmaker of Richmond, Virginia offered "Light Waggons for families" in his advertisement in the January 23, 1788 issue of The Virginia Independent Chronicle. On June 5, 1794, Flemming Russell, Coachmaker of Richmond, offered "A nice Family Carriage" for sale, and on May 30, 1797, he offered Coachees for sale. An inventory, dated December 11, 1794, of the estate of Francis Brown, Coachmaker of Petersburg, Virginia listed an unfinished Coachee undercarriage valued at 90 shillings and an unfinished Coachee body valued at 60 shillings. Also, Joshua West , Coachmaker of Richmond offered Coachees for sale in December 1808.

Alexander Penman, Coachmaker of Philadelphia, sent an estimate of costs for a Coachee to Samuel Love, Esq. of Newgate, Virginia. The copy in the Smithsonian Institution is undated; however, Penman built the Chew Coach in 1788 and is listed in the Philadelphia city Directory as late as 1793. This Coachee is described as follows:

A neat light Coachee hung on warranted steel springs, lined with cloth at 22/6 per yard, and suitable laces, painted any color and clear varnished, the mouldings picked out fashionably with harness, bridles and reins complete for a pair of horses £100.0.0
The Carriage part, Boot & Arms (?), the perch plated on the Sides with Iron, hung on Slings (thoroughbraces) Woodwork of the body$100.00
Carriage and Wheels50.00
Iron Work, Perch plated on the Sides130.00
Body Locks (loops?)12.00
Slings, pole pieces, Whippletree Straps & Steady Do 20.00
Stuffing pole3.00
4 Quarter Venitian blinds40.00
1 pair of 3 fold steps20.00
Leather for Do6.00
Leather for covering rackes (?)2.00
Leather for roof12.00
Leather for trimming front of body 6.00
11½ yds Bombazette5.75
20 "Fringe4.00
60 " Narrow Lace12.00
25 "Broad "25.00
11 Tassels5.50
18 Skins of Morrocco75.00
Curled hair and Moss12.00
Inside lining, Tacks, tread & c 8.00
5 Glasses (of the very first Quality)12.00
2 ½yrds Ca______(?) for covering glass frames7.50
Labour lining the body35.00
Plated Door and Commode (?) Handles13.00
18 feet of be(a)ding round roof5.00
18 " round Waist4.00
3 Doz. Knobs2.00
1 pair plated footman's staples0.50
2 pair Glass string rollers2.00
1 Sett plated bands8.00
2 pair of check Turrets4.00


In Philadelphia, the Account Book of William Hunter contains an order, dated June 16, 1790, for a Coachee to be built for Major William Ward Burrows. The order reads:

"Major Wm. Ward Burrows
To a new Coachee hung on Steel springs, screwed axles, double folding steps, glasses in door &front, with spring Curtain.
A coachman's seat & harness for a pair of horses£120.00.0
To a new cover for Coachee1.10.0
£ 121.10.0



^1. Holmes, Oliver W. and Rohrbach, Peter T, Stagecoach East, Washington, D.C., 1983, p. 1
^2. Holmes, p. 2.
^3. Holmes, p.4.
^4. Holmes, p.6.
^5. Horses and Vehicles in Virginia, 1788-1800, Ron Vineyard, Unpublished Research Report, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, 1994.
^6. Holmes, p. 7
^7. Holmes, p. 10.
^8. William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 4, Series, w, 1924, p. 81-84.
^9. Henning, William W., The Statutes at Large, Vol. XI, 1823, p. 395-396, 467-468.
^10. Henning, Vol. XII, 1823, p. 618-619, 623-624.
^11. Henning, Vol XIII, 1823, p. 106-107, 194-196.
^12. Bridenbaugh, Carl, The Colonial Craftsman, New York, 1950, p.90, 158-160.
^13. Berkebile, Don H., Carriage Terminology, Smithsonian Institution Press and Liberty Cap Books, 1978, p. 258; Tan, Laszlo, The History of the Cariage, New York, 1969, p. 256.
^14. Smith, D.J.M., A Dictionary of Horse-Drawn Vehicles, London, 1988, p.153.
^15. Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey, New Jersey Archives, p. 521.
^16. Carriage Journal, Volume 6, Number. 4.
^17. Berkebile, p. 258-259.
^18. Amos Stiles day Book, 1812-1821, Pennsylvania Historical Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, p. 194.
^19. Carriage Journal, Volume Number 4, p. 398.
^20. Carriage Journal, Volume 15, Number 4, p. 399.
^21. Carriage Journal, Volume 6, Number 4, p. 155.
^22. Carriage Journal, Volume 6, Number 4, p. 159
^23. Holmes, p. 54-55.
^24. Carriage Journal, Volume 6, Number 4, p. 160.
^25. Carriage Journal, Volume Number 3, Cover Caption.
^26. Holmes, p. 61-63.
^27. Holmes, p. 64-66.
^28. Barclay, Robert, Agricultural Tour in the United States and Upper Canada, 1842, p. 29.
^29. Holmes, p. 51-51.
^30. Holmes, p. 51.
^31. Holmes, p. 56.
^32. Holmes, p. 57.
^33. Holmes, p. 57.
^34. Holmes, p. 59.
^35. Holmes, p. 46.
^36. Berkebile, p. 258.
^37. Berkebile, p. 104.
^38. Berkebile, p. 211.
^39. Holmes, p. 132.
^40. Berkebile, p. 258
^41. Holmes, p. 134.
^42. Berkebile, p. 280.
^43. Carriage Journal, Volume 6, Number 4, p. 152.
^44. Carriage Journal, Volume 6, Number 4, p. 152.
^45. Carriage Journal, Volume 6, Number 4, p. 150.
^46. Carriage Journal, Volume 7, Number 1, p. 28-29.
^47. Carriage Journal, Volume 7, Number 1, p. 29.
^48. Carriage Journal, Volume 7, Number 1, p. 29.
^49. Carriage Journal, Volume 7, Number 1, p. 29.
^50. Berkebile, p. 36.
^51. Letter, Richard E. Powell, jr. to author, July 2, 1989.
^52. Berkebile, p. 69
^53. Berkebile, p. 97.
^54. Berkebile, p. 121.
^55. Berkebile, p. 151.
^56. Berkebile, p. 177.
^57. Berkebile, p. 229.
^58. Berkebile, p. 239.
^59. Horses and Vehicles in Virginia.
^60. Tucker-Coleman Papers. MSS, CW Archives.
^61. Account Book of William Hunter, Pennsylvania Historical Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Abbot, Downing Company,
Abbot, J. Stephens,
22, 31, 33, 34, 35
Accomack County, Virginia,
3, 7
Adams, John,
Adams, Samuel,
Albany Coach,
Alexandria, Virginia,
5, 6
3, 4, 5, 9, 11, 12, 15, 16, 18, 24, 25, 27, 28, 34, 40, 47, 49, 55
Annapolis, Maryland,
Augusta, Georgia,
Bailey, Francis,
Ben Franklin,
Berkebile, Don,
9, 39, 40, 41, 42, 55, 56, 57, 64, 65, 66
4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 18, 22, 30, 38, 47
Boston Committee,
Boulster Wagon,
50, 51, 52
Bowling Green, Virginia,
Brass Nails,
19, 48
31, 33
24, 25
Bringhurst, George,
Brissot de Warville,
Bristol, Rhode Island,
Brown, Francis,
Buckingham, James Silk,
Buckingham, John,
Burrows, William W.,
Bush, Walter,
Canandaigua, New York,
Canvas Cover,
Cape Fear, North Carolina,
48, 51
52, 54
Castle William,
Charleston, South Carolina,
5, 6, 42
Coach Harness,
48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 60, 61, 63
Coachees in Virginia,
Columbus, Georgia,
Combe, G.,
Concord Coach,
1, 14, 29, 38, 39, 40, 41
Congress, Member,
18, 40
Cooper, William,
9, 48
9, 11, 15, 25, 30, 63
Cross Roads,
43, 45
14, 15, 16, 19, 21, 40, 43, 49, 50, 51, 53, 54, 55, 56, 61
Cutler, J.N.,
Dawes, Thomas,
Dearborn Wagon,
49, 54
Dearborn, Henry,
19, 57, 62
14, 15, 19, 40, 49, 55, 56, 61
Downing, Lewis,
Downing, Paul,
18, 49
Draft Pole,
Early Stage Waggons,
Early Travel,
Eastern Shore,
3, 7
Eastman, Ralph,
Eaton, Orsamus,
Edenton, North Carolina,
5, 17
Elizabethtown, New Jersey,
Exchange Line,
Family Carriage,
Family Waggons,
47, 48
Farm Waggon,
43, 44
Feneyhough, John,
Ferrell, Merri,
Forbes, Allan,
Freight Waggon,
9, 12
General Assembly of Virginia,
Genteel Waggon,
5, 42
Germantown Wagon,
54, 56
16, 27, 29, 50, 51, 61, 62
Goold, James,
Granger Homestead,
Greensboro, North Carolina,
Hancock, John,
15, 20, 43, 44, 60, 63
Henrico County, Virginia,
History of Concord, New Hampshire,
Hog Island Ferry,
Hoomes, John,
6, 21
1, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 34, 43, 44, 49, 51, 56, 60, 63
Horses, Wheel,
Huddy, Hugh,
Hunter, Robert,
Isles, George,
Jack Wagon,
Jackson, Mississippi,
32, 42
Janson, Charles,
15, 23
Jersey Waggon,
48, 50, 51, 52, 54, 55, 56
Junkurth, C.J.,
Lake George,
Lamberton, New Jersey,
Lanning, Paul,
Later Stage Waggons,
Latrobe, Charles,
Lewis, George,
Light Waggons,
47, 49, 50, 60
Love, Samuel,
16, 40, 41
Lyford, James,
Macon, Georgia,
1, 8, 35, 36, 37
Marryat, Frederick,
5, 7, 29, 48
Meigs, Return J., Jr.,
Melish, John,
Mount Vernon, Virginia,
Mountain Wagon,
Mud Wagon,
N. & J. Tichenor,
Nansemond River,
Nasemond County, Virginia,
5, 17
Nashville, Tennessee,
New Brunswick, New Jersey,
New England,
5, 7, 8, 28, 55
New Jersey,
4, 14, 17, 21, 23, 48, 50, 52, 55, 64
New York,
4, 5, 7, 18, 22, 30, 33, 35, 39, 40, 41, 42, 57, 64
Newenham, Edward,
Newport, Rhode Island,
Northampton County, Virginia,
Ogle, Thomas,
Ontario County Historical Society,
Operating Costs,
Overland Wagon,
Paddock, Adino,
8, 9
Passenger Wagon,
Penman, Alexander,
Pennock, William,
Personal Property Tax Records,
3, 60
Perth Amboy,
Petersburg, Virginia,
6, 7, 21, 43, 60
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
4, 5, 15, 19, 21, 23, 24, 25, 33, 35, 48, 54, 55, 60, 61, 63, 6465, 66
14, 16, 54, 55, 58
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
36, 42
Pleasure Waggon,
49, 55, 56
Portsmouth stage,
Portsmouth, New Hampshire,
6, 7, 17, 21, 29, 30, 43
Post Master,
Post Office,
1, 4, 5, 36, 37
Potomac River,
Powell, Richard E., Jr.,
Power, Tyrone,
Quarrier, Alexander,
Quebec to Carolina,
Randolph, Beverly,
Repair Costs,
Retrospections of America,
Richmond Virginia,
5, 6, 7, 43, 60, 61
4, 24, 34
Road Waggon,
10, 11
31, 35, 36
54, 56
Rockaway, Germantown,
Rowe, John,
Russell, Flemming,
10, 22, 31
Ryder, Tom,
Schuylkill River,
Scnider, Conrad,
19, 48
Scollay, John,
11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 32, 39, 40, 49, 50, 54, 55, 56, 58
Seats, Bench,
11, 16
Seats, Passenger's,
14, 58
12, 50, 51
Shenandoah Valley,
Sleepy Hole,
Smithfield, Virginia,
South Africa,
South America,
Southern Stage Waggons,
Spencer, Massachusetts,
Spotswood, Alexander,
4, 5
Springfield, Massachusetts,
9, 11, 14, 15, 17, 21, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 60, 61, 63
St. John's Masonic Grand Lodge,
1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 31, 38, 45, 47, 48, 49, 56
Stage Coaches,
1, 7, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42
Stage Driver,
27, 28, 29, 44, 45, 46
Stage Drivers,
Stage Travel,
Stage Waggons,
1, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 27, 47
Stayers, Bartholomew,
7, 8
Stiles, Amos,
21, 50, 51, 64
Stratton, Ezra,
Sutcliff, Robert,
48, 52
Taverns and Stagecoaches of New England,
Team, Lead,
11, 12
The Boston News-Letter,
The Carriage Journal,
25, 47, 48
The Pennsylvania Gazette,
19, 47, 48
The South Carolina Gazette,
The Virginia Independent Chronicle,
The World on Wheels,
9, 11, 14, 31, 32, 38, 52, 55, 62
Tidewater, Virginia,
Towns, Richard,
6, 7, 21
Travel Perils,
Trenton, New Jersey,
11, 17, 23
Troy Coach,
1, 14, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42
Tucker, St. George,
Twining, Nathaniel,
Universal Friend,
Veasie, Charles,
41, 42
Vicksburg, Mississippi,
3, 4, 5, 6, 16, 42, 43, 60, 61, 64, 66
Washington, George,
Webster, Daniel,
Weld, Isaac,
13, 48, 52
Wilkinson Coachee,
57, 58
Williamsburg, Virginia,
5, 18, 19, 43, 61, 64
Wilmington, North Carolina,
Wilsey, Joseph,
Woolfolk Family Papers,
Worth, Gorham,
Wythe Court House, Virginia,