1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Carriage
CARRIAGE, a term which in its widest signification is used, as its derivation permits, for any form of “carrying”; thus, a person’s “carriage” is still spoken of in the sense of the way he bears himself. But it is more specifically the general term for all vehicular structures employed for the purposes of transport of merchandise and movable goods and of human beings. Such vehicles are generally mounted on wheels, but the sledge and the litter are types of the exception to this rule. Within this definition a vast variety of forms is included, ranging from the coster’s barrow and rude farm-cart up to the luxuriously appointed sleeping-cars of railways and the state carriages of royal personages. A narrower application, however, limits the term to such vehicles as are used for the conveyance of persons and are drawn by horses, and it is with carriages in this restricted sense that we are here concerned. Tramcars, railway carriages and motor-cars are dealt with in other articles.
History.—A wheeled carriage appears to have been in very general use in Egypt at an early period, called a car or chariot (q.v.); in the Bible the word is usually translated “chariot.” The bodies of these chariots were small, usually containing only two persons standing upright. They were very light, and could be driven at great speed. They were narrow, and therefore suitable to Eastern cities, in which the streets were very narrow, and to mountainous roads, which were often only 4 ft. wide. From Egypt the use of chariots spread into other countries, and they were used in war in large numbers on the great plains of Asia. We read of the 900 chariots of Jabin, king of Canaan; how David took 700 chariots from the kings of Syria and 1000 from the king of Zobah. Solomon had 1400 chariots, and his merchants supplied northern Syria and the surrounding countries with chariots brought out of Egypt at 600 shekels (about £50) apiece. From the ancient sculptures preserved from Nineveh and Babylon, some of which are in the British Museum, we observe the use of chariots continued for the purpose of hunting as well as for war. Homer describes the chief warriors on both sides at the siege of Troy as going into battle and fighting from their chariots. The Roman nation as it increased in power adopted the car, though chiefly for purposes of show and state. A beautiful marble model of one of these still exists at the Vatican in Rome: a copy of it and the horses drawing it is in the museum at South Kensington. The war chariots used by the Persians were larger; the idea seems to have been to form a sort of turret upon the car, from which several warriors might shoot or throw their spears. These chariots were provided with curved blades projecting from the axle-trees. Alexander the Great, king of Macedon, invading Asia was met upon the banks of the river Indus by King Porus, in whose army were a number of elephants and also several thousand chariots. On Alexander’s return from India towards Persia, he travelled in a chariot drawn by eight horses, followed by an innumerable number of others covered with rich carpets and purple coverlets. After Alexander’s death a funeral car was prepared to convey his body from Babylon to Alexandria in Egypt, and this car has perhaps never been excelled in the annals of coach-building. It was designed by the celebrated architect Hieronymus, and took two years to build. It was 18 ft. long and 12 ft. wide, on four massive wheels, and drawn by sixty-four mules, eight abreast. The car was composed of a platform, with a lofty roof, supported by eighteen columns, and was profusely adorned with drapery, gold and jewels; round the edge of the roof was a row of golden bells; in the centre was a throne, and before it the coffin; around were placed the weapons of war and the armour that Alexander had used.
The Romans established the use of carriages as a private means of conveyance, and with them carriages attained great variety of form as well as richness of ornamentation. In all times the employment of carriages depended greatly on the condition of the roads over which they had to be driven, and the establishment of good roads, such as the Appian Way, constructed 331 B.C., and others, greatly facilitated the development of carriage travelling among the Romans. In Rome itself, and probably also in other large towns, it was necessary to restrict travelling in carriages to a few persons of high rank, owing to the narrowness and crowded state of the streets. For the same reason the transport of goods along the streets was forbidden between sunrise and sunset. For long journeys and to convey large parties the reda and carruca appear to have been mostly used, but what their construction and arrangements were is not known. During the empire the carriage which appears in representations of public ceremonials is the carpentum. It is very slight, with two wheels, sometimes covered, and generally drawn by two horses. If a carriage had four horses they were yoked abreast, among the Greeks and Romans, not in two pairs as now. From the carruca are traced the modern European names,—the English carriage, the French carrosse and the Italian carrozza. The sirpea was a very ancient form of vehicle, the body of which was of osier basket-work. It originated with the Gauls, by whom it was named lenna, and by them it was employed for the conveyance of persons and goods in time of peace, and baggage during war. With its name are connected the modern French banne, banneton, vannerie and panier,—all indicating basket-work.
The ancient Britons used a car for warlike purposes which was evidently new to the Romans. It was open in front, instead of at the back as in their cars; and the pole, which went straight out between the horses, was broad, so that the driver could walk along, and if needful drive from the end. Above all, it possessed a seat, and was called essedum from this peculiarity. For war purposes this car was provided with scythes projecting from the ends of the axle-trees. Cicero, writing to a friend in Britain, remarks “that there appeared to be very little worth bringing away from Britain except the chariots, of which he wished his friend to bring him one as a pattern.”
The Roman vehicles were sometimes very splendidly ornamented with gold and precious stones; and covered carriages seem more and more to have become appendages of Roman pomp and magnificence. Sumptuary laws were enacted on account of the public extravagance, but they were little regarded, and were altogether abrogated by the emperor Alexander Severus. Suetonius states that Nero took with him on his travels no less than a thousand carriages.
On the introduction of the feudal system the use of carriages was for some time prohibited, as tending to render the vassals less fit for military service. Men of all grades and professions rode on horses or mules, and sometimes the monks and women on she-asses. Horseback was the general mode of travelling; and hence the members of the council, who at the diet and on other occasions were employed as ambassadors, were called Rittmeister. In this manner also great lords made their public entry into cities.
Covered carriages (see Coach) were known in the beginning of the 15th century, but their use was confined to ladies of the first rank; and as it was accounted a reproach for men to ride in them, the electors and princes sometimes excused their non-attendance at meetings of the state by the plea that their health would not permit them to ride on horseback. Covered carriages were for a long time forbidden even to women; but about the end of the 15th century they began to be employed by the emperor, kings and princes in journeys, and afterwards on state occasions. In 1474 the emperor Frederick III. visited Frankfort in a close carriage, and again in the following year in a very magnificent covered carriage. Shortly afterwards carriages began to be splendidly decorated; that, for instance, of the electress of Brandenburg at the tournament held at Ruppin in 1509 was gilded all over, and that of the duchess of Mecklenburg was hung with red satin. When Cardinal Dietrichstein made his entrance into Vienna in 1611, forty carriages went to meet him; and in the same year the consort of the emperor Matthias made her public entrance on her marriage in a carriage covered with perfumed leather. The wedding carriage of the first wife of the emperor Leopold, who was a Spanish princess, cost, together with the harness, 38,000 florins. Those of the emperor are thus described: “In the imperial coaches no great magnificence was to be seen; they were covered over with red cloth and black nails. The harness was black, and in the whole work there was no gold. The panels were of glass, and on this account they were called the imperial glass coaches. On festivals the harness was ornamented with red silk fringes. The imperial coaches were distinguished only by their having leather traces; but the ladies in the imperial suite were obliged to be contented with carriages the traces of which were made of ropes.” At the magnificent court of Duke Ernest Augustus at Hanover, in 1681, there were fifty gilt coaches with six horses each. The first time that ambassadors appeared in coaches on a public solemnity was at the imperial commission held at Erfurt in 1613. Soon after this time coaches became common all over Germany, notwithstanding various orders and admonitions to deter vassals from using them. These vehicles appear to have been of very rude construction. Beckmann describes a view he had seen of Bremen, painted by John Landwehr in 1661, in which was represented a long quadrangular carriage, apparently not suspended by straps, and covered with a canopy supported by four pillars, but without curtains. In the side was a small door, and in front a low seat or box; the coachman sat upon the horses; and the dress of the persons within proved them to be burgomasters. At Paris in the 14th, 15th and even 16th centuries, the French monarchs rode commonly on horses, the servants of the court on mules, and the princesses and principal ladies sometimes on asses. Persons even of the highest rank sometimes sat behind their equerry on the same horse. Carriages, however, were used at a very early period in France; for there is still extant an ordinance of Philip the Fair, issued in 1294, by which citizens’ wives are prohibited from using them. It appears, however, that about 1550 there were only three carriages at Paris,—one belonging to the queen, another to Diana of Poitiers, and the third to René de Laval, a very corpulent nobleman who was unable to ride on horseback. The coaches used in the time of Henry IV. were not suspended by straps (an improvement referred to the time of Louis XIV.), though they were provided with a canopy supported by four ornamental pillars, and with curtains of stuff or leather.
Occasional allusion is made to the use of some kinds of vehicles in England during the middle ages. In The Squyr of Low Degree, a poem of a period anterior to Chaucer, a description of a sumptuous carriage occurs:
“To-morrow ye shall on hunting fare
And ride, my daughter, in a chare.
It shall be cover’d with velvet red,
And cloth of fine gold all about your head,
With damask white and azure blue
Well diaper’d with lilies new.”
Chaucer himself describes a chare as
“With gold wrought and pierrie.”
When Richard II. of England, towards the end of the 14th century, was obliged to fly before his rebellious subjects, he and all his followers were on horseback, while his mother alone used a carriage. The oldest carriages used in England were known as chares, cars, chariots, caroches and whirlicotes; but these became less fashionable when Ann, the wife of Riehard II., showed the English ladies how gracefully she could ride on the side-saddle, Stow, in his Survey of London, remarking, “so was riding in those whirlicotes and chariots forsaken except at coronations and such like spectacles.”
There were curious sumptuary laws enacted during the 16th century in various Italian cities against the excessive use of silk, velvet, embroidery and gilding, on the coverings of coaches and the trappings of horses. In 1564 Pope Pius IV. exhorted the cardinals and bishops not to ride in coaches, according to the fashion of the times, but to leave such things to women, and themselves ride on horseback. The use of coaches in Germany in the 16th century was not less common than in Italy. The current of trade, especially from the East, had for a long time poured into those two countries towards Holland, enriching all the cities in its progress. Macpherson, in his History of Commerce, says that Antwerp possessed 500 coaches in 1560. France and England appear to have been behind the rest of Europe at this period.
The first coach in England was made in 1555 for the earl of Rutland by Walter Rippon, who also made a coach in 1556 for Queen Mary, and in 1564 a state coach for Queen Elizabeth. That one of the carriages used by Queen Elizabeth could be opened and closed at pleasure may be inferred from her causing at Warwick during one of her progresses—“every part and side of her coach to be opened that all her subjects present might behold her, which most gladly they desired.”
Coaches of the type now properly so-called were first known in England about the year 1580, and were introduced, according to Stow, from Germany by Henry Fitzalan, 12th earl of Arundel. By the beginning of the 17th century the use of coaches had become so prevalent in England that in 1601 the attention of parliament was drawn to the subject, and a bill “to restrain the excessive use of coaches” was introduced, which, however, was rejected on the second reading. Their use told severely on the occupation of the Thames watermen, and Taylor the poet and waterman complained bitterly both in prose and verse against the new-fangled practice:—
“Carroaches, coaches, jades, and Flanders mares
The sneers of wits and watermen notwithstanding, coaches became so common, that in the early part of the 17th century they were estimated to number more than 6000 in London and its surrounding country.
We now arrive gradually at the modern conception of carriage-building. No trace of glass windows or complete doors for coaches seems to have existed up to 1650. But plain and rude as was the first coach of Louis XIV., it was in his reign, which lasted till 1715, that the most rapid progress was made. The credit for this is equally due to Germany, Italy, France and England. There is very little mention made by historians of steel springs, but they were first applied to wheel carriages about 1670, prior to which bodies were suspended by long straps from the four corners to pillars erected upon the under carriage. The great advantage of the introduction of springs was speedily recognized as reducing vibration, enabling carriages to be built much lighter and lessening the draught for the horses. In the diary of Samuel Pepys there are many amusing and interesting references to the art of coach-building, which was beginning to attract much attention at that period.
In the French Encyclopédie (1772) by Diderot there are elaborate descriptions of the art of coach-building, the workshops and tools used, and plates of the different carriages in use. The 18th century is remarkable for the rapid development which took place, more especially in the manufacture of state carriages of a sumptuous and ornate character, which were largely in demand by the various courts of Europe. One of the most beautiful of these is that belonging to the imperial family of Vienna, which was built in 1696, and is shaped with all the curves that are familiar to us in cabinets and furniture of the style of Louis XIV. The panels are beautifully painted with nymphs in the style of Rubens. There is an unusual quantity of plate glass in the panels, and on the centre of the roof is a large imperial crown. In 1757 was built the elaborate state coach of the city of London, and in 1761 the royal state coach of England, built for King George III. (see Coach). During the reigns of George II. and George III. all English manufactures had received an immense impulse from the energy of the men of the time, in which they were much encouraged by the action of the Society of Arts in offering money prizes for improvements; and in these coach-builders largely participated.
In the year 1804 Obadiah Elliot patented his plan for hanging vehicles upon elliptical springs, thus dispensing with the heavy wood and iron perch and cross beds, invariably used in four-wheeled carriages up to that time. Elliot was rewarded by the grant of a gold medal by the Society of Arts, and extensive orders for the carriages of a lighter character, which he was thus enabled to produce.
Of carriages much in fashion and characteristic of this period may be mentioned the “curricle,” a cabriolet (see below) on two wheels, driven with a pair of horses, the balance being secured by an ornamental bar across the horses’ backs, connected by a leather brace to a spring under the pole. For lack of perfect safety this was gradually superseded by the “gentleman’s cabriolet,” for one horse, on C springs, fitted with folding leather hood and platform behind, on which stood a youthful trim servant in top-boots, popularly termed a “tiger.” To produce this satisfactorily, the best coach-building talent was required, and to work it a horse of exceptional strength and breeding was needful, but when complete this equipage had a distinction never surpassed. During this period the pair-horse “mail phaeton” was introduced, and has enjoyed a long period of popularity. As a travelling carriage with the needful appointments the “britzska,” having a straight body with ogee curves at front and back, with single folding hood, and hung on C springs, was a distinctive and popular feature among carriages of the period from 1824 until after 1840. Of two-wheeled vehicles the “stanhope” and “tilbury” gigs, the “dog cart” and “tandem cart,” came into use during these years, and have afforded facilities of agreeable locomotion to many thousands of people at a moderate cost. But the greatest improvement of this period was the introduction of the “brougham.” Several attempts had been made to arrive at a light carriage of this description, but it was not until 1839 that a carriage was produced to a design adopted by Lord Brougham, and called after him. The “victoria” was known as a carriage for public hire in continental cities for several years before being adopted as a fashionable carriage by the wealthy classes. In 1869 the prince of Wales brought one from Paris of the cab shape, and Baron Rothschild brought one from Vienna of the square shape, examples speedily followed. In various elegant and artistic forms, either as an elliptic or C spring, it has since become a most popular and convenient carriage.
Public carriages for hire, or hackney (q.v.) coaches, were first established in London in 1625. In 1635 the number was restricted to fifty. Still they increased, notwithstanding the opposition of the court and king, who thought they would break up the roads, till in 1650 there were as many as 300. In Paris they were introduced during the minority of Louis XIV. by Nicholas Sauvage, who lived in the rue St Martin at the sign of St Fiacre, from which circumstance hackney carriages in Paris have since been called fiacres. In 1694 the number in London had increased to 700. Many of these were old private coaches of the nobility and gentry, and it was not until 1790 that coaches on a smaller scale were built specially for hackney purposes (see Coach).
We are told that in 1673 there were stage coaches from London to York, to Chester and to Exeter, having each forty horses on the road, and carrying each six inside-passengers. The coach occupied eight days travelling to Exeter. In 1706 a coach went from London to York every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, performing the journey in four days. In the same year there was a coach from London to Birmingham starting on Monday and arriving on Wednesday. In 1754 a coach was started from Manchester called the flying coach, which was advertised to reach London in four days and a half. In 1784 coaches became universal at the speed of 8 m. an hour.
In the year 1786 the prince of Wales, afterwards George IV., began to erect the pavilion at Brighton, and this led to a great increase of traffic, so that in 1820 no less than 70 coaches daily visited and left Brighton. The number continued to increase, until in 1835 there were as many as 700 mail coaches throughout Great Britain and Ireland. The system of road construction introduced by Mr McAdam during this time was of great value in facilitating this development.
Notwithstanding the competition of the sedan-chair (q.v.), the hackney-coach held its place and grew in importance, till it was supplanted about 1820 by the cabriolet de place, now shortened into “cab” (q.v.), which had previously held a most important place in Paris. In that city the cabriolet came into great public favour about the middle of the 18th century, and in the year 1813 there were 1150 such vehicles plying in the Parisian streets. The original cabriolet was a kind of hooded gig, inside which the driver sat, besides whom there was only room left for a single passenger. For hackney purposes Mr Boulnois introduced a four-wheeled cab to carry two persons, which was followed by one to carry four persons, introduced by Mr Harvey, the prototype of the London “four-wheeler.”
The hansom patent safety cab (1834) owes its invention to J. A. Hansom (q.v.), the architect of the Birmingham town-hall. This has passed through many stages of improvement with which the name of Forder of Wolverhampton is conspicuously associated.
The prototype of the modern “omnibus” first began plying in the streets of Paris on the 18th of March 1662, going at fixed hours, at a stated fare of five sous. Soldiers, lackeys, pages and livery servants were forbidden to enter such conveyances, which were announced to be pour la plus grande commodité et liberté des personnes de mérite. In the time of Charles X. the omnibus system in reality was established; for no exclusion of any class or condition of person who tendered the proper fare was permitted in the vehicles then put on various routes, and the fact of the carriages being thus “at the service of all” gave rise to the present name. The first London omnibus was started in July 1829 by the enterprising Mr Shillibeer. The first omnibuses were drawn by three horses abreast and carried twenty-two passengers, all inside. Though appearing unwieldy they were light of draught and travelled speedily. They were, however, too large for the convenience of street traffic, and were superseded by others carrying twelve passengers inside. In 1849 an outside seat along the centre of the roof was added. The London General Omnibus Company was founded in 1856; since then continual improvements in this system of public conveyance have been introduced.
Modern Private Carriages.—At the accession of Queen Victoria the means of travelling by road and horse-power, in the case of public coaches, had reached in England its utmost limits of speed and convenience, and the travelling-carriages of the nobility and the wealthy were equipped with the completest and most elaborate contrivances to secure personal comfort and safety. More particularly was this the case as regards continental tours, which had become indispensable to all who had at their command the means for this costly educational and pleasurable experience. Concurrently with this development the style and character of court equipages had also reached a consummate degree of splendour and artistic excellence. Not only was this the case in points of decoration, in which livery colour and heraldic devices were effectively employed, but also in the beauty of outline and skilful structural adaptation, in which respect carriages of that period made greater demands upon the capacity of the builder and the skill of the workman than do those of the present day. For this attainment the art of coachmaking was indebted to a very few leading men, whose genius has left its impress upon the art, and is still jealously cherished by those who in early life had experience of their achievements. The early portion of Queen Victoria’s reign was an age of much emulation; the best-equipped carriages of that period, distinctive of noble families and foreign embassies, with their graceful outline and superb appointments, and harnessed to a splendid breed of horses—all harmoniously blended, perfect in symmetry and adaptation—gave to the London season, more especially on drawing-room days, and at other times in Hyde Park, an attractiveness unequalled in any other capital. After the death of the prince consort, the pageantry of that period very much declined and, except as an appendage of royalty, full-dress carriages have since been comparatively few, though there are hopes of a revival in this direction. Meanwhile, owing to the rapid development of railways and the wide extension of commerce, the demand for carriages greatly increased. The larger types gave place to others of a lighter build and more general utility, in which in some cases an infusion of American ideas made its appearance. In accordance with the universal rule of supply meeting the demand, Mr Stenson, an ironmaster of Northampton, was successful in producing a mild forging steel, which proved for some years, until the manufacture ceased, very conducive to the object of securing lightness with strength. In the early ’seventies the eminent mechanician, Sir Joseph Whitworth, in the course of his scientific studies in the perfecting of artillery, succeeded in manufacturing a steel of great purity, perfectly homogeneous and possessing marvellous tenacity and strength, known as “fluid compressed steel.” Incidentally carriage-building was able to participate in the results of this discovery. Two firms well known to Sir Joseph were asked to test its merits as a material applicable to this industry. In this test much difficulty was experienced, the nature of the steel not being favourable to welding, of which so much is required in the making of coach ironwork; but after much perseverance by skilful hands this was at length accomplished, and for some years there existed not a little rivalry in the use of this material, more especially in the case of carriages on the C and under-spring principle, which for lightness, elegance and luxurious riding left nothing to be desired. Many of these carriages may be referred to to-day as rare examples of constructive skill. Unfortunately, the original cost of the material, still more of the labour to be expended upon it, and the difficulty of educating men into the art of working it, were effectual barriers to its general adoption. The idea, however, had taken hold, and attention was given by other firms to the manufacture of the steel now in general use, admitting of easier application, with approximate, if not equal, results.
From C and under-spring carriages there arose another application of springs which was very prominently before the public during this period, by means of which it was professed that two drawbacks recognized in the C and under-spring carriages were obviated, which were caused by the perch or bar which passes under the body holding the front and hind parts in rigid connexion, and yet making use of a form of spring to which the same terms may be applied. These objections are the weight of the perch, and the limitation which it causes to the facility of turning, which in narrow roads and crowded thoroughfares is an inconvenience. The objection to weight is, however, minimized by the introduction of steel, and as the more advanced builders almost always construct the perch with a forked arch in front, allowing the wheels to pass under, the difficulty of a limited lock is in a great measure overcome (fig. 1). It must be noted, however (and this cannot be too emphatically stated), that the so-called C springs above referred to are not at all the same in action as the C spring proper; they are but an elongation of the ordinary elliptic spring in the form of the letter C (fig. 2), without adding anything to, but rather lessening their elasticity, and entirely ignoring the principle of suspension by leather braces over the C spring proper, by which alone the advantage of superior ease is to be obtained.
Another improvement which stamps the period under review is the introduction of indiarubber for the tires of wheels. To produce a carriage as nearly as possible free from noise and rattle has always been the aim of high-class coachmaking. A structure composed of wood, iron and glass, with axle-trees, doors, windows, lamps and other parts, in use upon the road in all weathers, must from time to time require some attention with this object. To meet this difficulty, the introduction of indiarubber has been received by carriage-users as a great boon. It was about the year 1852 that Mr Reading, who at that time was known as a builder of invalid carriages, conceived the idea of encircling wheels with that material, but his method only admitted of its use on vehicles travelling slowly over good roads. This was improved upon at a later date by Uriah Scott, who, taking advantage of the tempering capacity of indiarubber by the chemical action of sulphur, produced an inner rim of such density as to hold bolts, by which it could be secured through the felloe, forming a base for the outer covering of soft pliable rubber. This system was attended with satisfactory results, and was in favour for some years with persons whose health needed such provision. Another method, originated by Mr Mulliner of Liverpool in the early ’seventies, was to screw on iron flanges to the outer and inner sides of the felloes, having a kind of lip to press into the indiarubber filling the intervening space; but the cost of this—£36 per set—rendered its adoption prohibitive. Meanwhile another invention by Uriah Scott, afterwards improved upon by an American patentee, came into use; this was known as the “rubber-cushioned axle,” cylindrical rings being introduced between the axle-box and hub of the wheel, thus insulating the body of the carriage from the concussion of the road. This, however, necessitated the cutting away of so much of the timber of the hub as to impair its durability, and had, therefore, after a few years’ experience, to be abandoned in favour of an invention by a Parisian builder, who introduced indiarubber bearings between the spring and axle-tree. This was
Fig. 3. thoroughly practicable, and met with general acceptance, and it is still used in conjunction with iron and steel tires. In 1890 the pneumatic tire was first applied to road carriages. Its bulky appearance is a great drawback, contrasting strongly with the qualities which distinguish a graceful equipage; and in spite of its practical advantages it never became popular in England or America. In Paris and its neighbourhood and many parts of France, pneumatic tires are to be seen in frequent use both on public and private conveyances. In another form the indiarubber tire has become of almost universal application. Owing to an ingenious invention of Mr Carment, what appeared to be an insuperable difficulty in rolling a grooved tire was overcome (fig. 3). This so simplified the application as to bring the cost within practicable limits. The grooved tire is now made in several sections, in some of which the inward projection for securing the rubber is dispensed with, this being kept in position by wires running through the whole length, and electrically welded at the point of contact. Whatever be the method chosen for securing the tire, the best tires, both for durability and ease, are those in which the rubber provided is most resilient in its nature.
For the lifting and lowering of the hoods of victorias and other such carriages, and the opening and closing of landaus, there are now many automatic contrivances, of which the simplest are the most to be preferred. The quarter-light or five-glass landau is a carriage which has been greatly improved. The complicated adjustments of pillars, windows and roof have been replaced by one simple parallel movement. The first public exhibition of a finished carriage on this principle was by an English firm at the Paris Exhibition of 1876 (fig. 4).
In the matter of style certain types of carriages have passed through marked changes. Extreme lightness was at one time considered by many the one desideratum both as to appearance and actual weight, in providing which ease of movement and comfortable seating of the occupants became secondary considerations—though to these extremes builders of repute were always opposed. Still, when at the International Exhibition of Paris 1889, it was seen that the Parisian builders had suddenly gone in the opposite direction, the world of fashion in carriages was taken by surprise. From being built upon easy, flowing, graceful lines, it was seen, with some revulsion of feeling, that these were to be displaced by the deep, full-bodied victoria, brougham and landau. Only by slow degrees did this characteristic find acceptance with English connoisseurs, and then only in a modified form, though eventually in a greater or less degree it is now the prevailing style.
While the better types of English carriages are still pre-eminent in their constructive qualities, and represent the well-known characteristics of individual firms, some emulation may be excited by the elegant taste and careful workmanship which French builders display in points of finish, both internally and externally. Of the various types of carriages now in vogue, the victoria, in its many varieties of form, is the most popular, accompanied, as of necessity, by the double victoria, sociable, brougham, landaulet and landau. Four-in-hand coaches for private use, as well as the “road” coaches, are built on a smaller scale than formerly; 6 ft. 8 in. may now be taken as the standard height of the roof from the ground. Owing to the encouragement given by the Four-in-hand and Coaching Clubs, the ascendancy of this style of driving is still preserved to Great Britain; and in association with it the char-à-banc, mail phaeton, wagonette, and four-wheel dog-cart retain their popularity. Of two-wheeled vehicles the polo-cart and ralli-cart are most in favour, to which may be added the governess-car, which is found convenient for many purposes not implied by its name. For a few years an effort was made, but with very indifferent success, to bring into fashion the tandem-cart, which may again be considered almost obsolete in England.
America has long held a prominent position in connexion with the carriage industry. In all the chief cities manufactories on a colossal scale are to be found, producing thousands of vehicles annually and equipped with the most perfect labour-saving machinery; and as vehicles of any particular pattern—many of small value—are required, not singly, but in large numbers, much economy is exercised in their manufacture. It is remarkable that, as a contrast to the popular buggy, wagon and rockaway of the United States, which are to be found in infinite variety, carriage establishments of the wealthy are not considered complete unless furnished with some of a European character, selected from the most eminent firms of London or Paris, in addition to others of their own manufacture. In Paris preference is given to an excess of bulk, with elaborate scroll ornamentation and diminutive windows, forming indeed, by reason of its exaggeration, a distinctive class. In respect of workmanship and finish, carriages by the best-known American builders leave nothing to be desired.
The International Exhibition of Paris 1900 brought together examples from various continental countries, in some of which a preference for curvilinear outline was displayed, but the best examples followed very closely the well-known English styles. In the French section it was interesting to find a revival of the once all-prevailing chariot, barouche and britzska, suspended on C and under-springs, with perch, but with ideas of lightness somewhat out of proportion to their general character.
Coach-making, or the carriage-manufacturing industry, is a combination of crafts rarely united in one trade, embracing as it does work in such divers materials as wood, iron, steel, brass, cloth, silk, leather, oils and colours, glass, ivory, hair, indiarubber, &c. Many divisions of labour and numerous highly-skilled artisans are consequently employed in the various stages in the construction of a high-class carriage. The workmen include body-makers, who build up the parts in which persons sit; carriage-makers, who make and fit together all the under parts of the vehicle on which the body rests; wheelwrights, joiners and fitters; several classes of smiths, for special work connected with the strengthening of the body framework by means of long edge plates, the construction of under works, tiring and wheels, manufacture of springs, axle-trees, &c. Painting is an important part of the business, those professing it being divided into body, carriage and heraldry painters. Trimmers are needed who fit up the upholstery of the interior, and budget trimmers who sew on the patent leather covering to dasher wings, &c.
A very great deal in the coach-making industry depends upon the selection of materials. Ash is the kind of wood required in the framework both of body and carriage. The quality best suited for the body is that of full-grown mild and free nature; for the carriage that which is strong and robust; that for carriage-poles should be of younger growth, straight and tough in quality. An important consideration is the seasoning of this timber. Planks of various thicknesses are required, varying from 11 in. to 6 in., the time required for seasoning being one year for every inch of thickness. After the framework is made, the body is panelled with 1 in. mild Honduras mahogany, plain and free from grain, every joint and groove carefully coated with ground white lead to exclude water. The roof is covered with 1 in. wide pine boards, unless when superseded by an American invention, by which, in order to obtain the needful width frequently of 5 ft. or upwards, boards are cut from the circumference of the tree, instead of through its diameter; three thicknesses of very thin wood are then glued together under pressure, the grain of the centre running across the outer plies, the whole forming a solid covering without joints. Birch and elm of 1 in. thickness also enter into the construction in many carriages; for floor and lining boards pine is the material used.
Wheel-making is a very important branch of the business, in which, owing to the increased lightness now required, many modern improvements have been introduced. The timber used in an ordinary carriage wheel is wych elm for the naves, heart of oak for the spokes, and ash for the felloes. American hickory has of late years been also largely used for spokes in exceptionally light wheels, as well as the American method of making the rim in two sections of straight-grained ash or hickory bent to the required circle. This method has much to recommend it, more especially for wheels with indiarubber tires, in which the wood felloes are not required to be nearly so deep as for steel tires. One well-known feature in light wheels is the “Warner nave,” which is a solid iron casting with mortices to receive the spokes, and being of small diameter gives the wheel a light appearance.
For springs the finest quality of steel is made from Swedish ore, but the ordinary English spring steel by the best makers leaves nothing to be desired. To secure the most perfect elasticity it is important that the tapering down of the ends of each plate should be done by hand labour on the anvil, and that the plates should not be more than 1 in. in thickness. To obtain cheapness wholesale spring-makers adopt the method of squeezing the ends of spring plates between eccentric rollers, and so produce the tapered form, which, however, is too short and gives a lumpy and unsightly appearance to the spring when put together, so that by this they lose much of their pliability.
The iron mounting of coach work requires the skill of experienced smiths, and gives scope for much taste and judgment in shaping the work, and providing strength suited to the relative strain to which it will be subjected. Axle-trees are not made by coach-builders, but by firms who make it their special business. They are of two kinds, the “mail,” which are secured to the wheel by three bolts passing through the nave, and the “collinge” (invented in 1792), the latter made secure by gun-metal cone-shaped collets and nuts. The axle boxes which are wedged into the nave are of three kinds, cast, chilled and wrought iron, in all cases case-hardened, the first being the cheapest and the last the most costly. Many attempts have been made to improve upon the collinge axle-tree, but none of them has got far beyond the experimental stage.
No branch of coach-building contributes more to the elegance of the vehicle than that of painting. To obtain the needful perfection the work has to pass through several stages before reaching the finishing colour, which must be of the finest quality. The varnish used is copal, of which there are two kinds, the one for finishing the body, the other the carriage. In first-class work as many as eighteen or twenty coats will be required to complete the various stages. After a carriage has been in use about twelve months, it is practicable to revive the brilliant gloss on the panels by hand-polishing with the aid of rottenstone and oil, a process which requires a specially trained man to do successfully.
The trimming of the interior of a carriage requires much skill and judgment on the part of the workmen in providing really comfortable, well-fitted seats and neatness of workmanship. In the middle of the 19th century figured tabaret or satin were much used, but for many years past morocco has been almost universally preferred. Silk lutestring spring curtains, Brussels or velvet pile carpet, complete the interior, unless are added neat morocco covered trays with mirror, &c., for ladies’ convenience. Electric light is now frequently used for the interior, and can be applied with much neatness and efficiency. Road lamps, door handles, polished silver or brass furniture, are supplied to the coach-builder by firms whose special business it is to make them. Lever brakes are now a very ordinary requirement. Much judgment is needful to make them efficient, and careful workmanship to prevent rattle. Indiarubber is the best material for blocks applied to steel tires, and cast iron for indiarubber tires. The “Bowden wire” recently introduced is in some cases a convenient and light alternative to the long bar connecting the handle with the hind cross levers, and has the advantage of passing out of sight through the interior of the body. (J. A. M‘N.)