Q) I’m doing a bit of research regarding the Brougham carriage and am wondering if you could answer a question for me? How would passengers get the attention of the driver in an enclosed Brougham? Would they knock on the glass or was there some mechanism built in? And is the glass separating the passenger from the driver called a windshield?
A) There were the following different ways of communicating with the driver from inside a Brougham:
1) A cord passed through a hole in the framework of the front window and tied round the left arm of the driver.
2) A flexible “speaking” tube; the passenger could blow into this tube to sound a whistle. The driver then could take out the whistle and put the tube to his ear.
3) A similar tube arrangement which could be used with a code, e.g., take the left turn; two whistles: right turn; three whistles: stop.
The front glass would not be called a windshield: it would simply be called a front glass.
Q. I am restoring a Brougham and the top is no longer waterproof. It is covered with some material that has been thickly painted but what the material is I cannnot determine. I have read somewhere that leather was used, stretched on wet. This might be difficult to replace, was any other kind of material used?
A. Although English carriage makers continued to cover carriage roofs with leather, in America cotton fabrics were used at least as early as 1880. This is how it was done. The roof was covered with boards of whitewood or pine and, on the best work, these boards had canvas or burlap glued tightly to them on the inside to prevent splitting. This was done with most carriage panels. When fixed in place the top surface of the roof was leveled and sand-papered smooth.
For low-priced work, the surface of the wood was then given two coats of primer paint and covered with rubber-coated cloth, the edges of which were secured with wood molding.
For the better class of carriages, the sand-papered surface was covered with glue and fine muslin, also soaked in glue, was stretched over. When dry, this surface was sand-papered and given two coats of white lead paint. Another heavy coat of paint was then applied and, while wet, sail cloth or canvas was laid on and stretched and rubbed into place. The canvas was secured round the edges with wood molding, and then filled with roughstuff, or filler, and painted like other parts of the carriage.
If your carriage has been covered with rubber-coated cloth this should be easy to remove as it is not likely to have been heavily glued. If it has been covered with muslin and sail cloth, and then painted several times, you must first remove the moldings, then take off all the cloth and paint. This might be done with a blow torch with may soften both the glue and the paint all together.
When you have got all the covering material off the wood, you should examine it carefully both inside and out. If water has been leaking in for some times, then parts may be rotted. It is likely that the boards will have shrunk and the joints will have opened. All this has to be made good; part or all of some boards may have to be replaced and you may have to rabbet strips of wood along the joints when the woodwork has been made sound and smoothed off with sand-paper, you can proceed to apply muslin and duck or canvas as described above. If you prefer to use a modern waterproof plastic coat cloth, you must be certain that it can be stretched down tight. It would also be best if ti would take paint.
From The Carriage Journal, Vol 31, No 3, Winter 1984
The Brougham (pronounced “brooam”, “broom” or “brohm”) is a familiar sight in Victorian era movies and books. The four-wheeled, one-horse carriage was very popular during the 1800s, owing its name and design to Lord Chancellor Brougham, a fashion forward gentleman. The Lord Chancellor wanted a vehicle for a gentleman, built along the lines of a cab, while stressing that it be light enough for a single horse to pull. With his plans he went off to see his coachbuilders Messrs Sharp and Bland of South Audley Street, London, England. They proved to be too conservative, and so Lord Brougham took his commission to Messrs Robinson and Cook. In the spring of 1838 or 1839 the first Brougham was completed!
Prior to its construction there was no enclosed carriage designed to be pulled by one horse. This carriage also claims the distinction of being the first to have elliptical springs.
The Brougham generally falls into the coach classification. We, however, have tried to make a distinction between servant driven vehicles and other coaches that might have been driven by their owners. In America, this vehicle is often referred to as a Coupe. In Europe, however, the Coupe is generally considered to have a swelled body and a rounded front panel. Notice the straight side and front panel on this coach. Many carriage manufacturing companies built Broughams and most of them produced varying styles and sizes of the vehicle that would accommodate from two to four passengers. Small two-seat Broughams, are sometimes called ‘Pill Boxes’, as they were favored by doctors. They were also called Bachelor Broughams.
In the late 1890’s it was claimed that the Brougham was the lightest of the closed carriages, weighing only 17 cwt (1,904 pounds). At the time, a single horse and Brougham could be hired from a London jobmaster for £200 a year if the hirer promised to keep within a seven-mile radius. This was to prevent horses from being driven for long distances at a fast pace.
The September 1885 edition of Saddlers, Harness Makers, Carriage Builders’ Gazette refers to the lamps as being black in color and square in shape with round heads.
The Brougham was very adaptable to fit circumstances. A luggage rack could be added to the top to become a Station Brougham. Safety features included an opera board. The purpose of an opera board, when raised, was to protect the rear panel of the vehicle from the pole of a carriage following too closely in the rear. When the board was let down it acted as a footboard for servants. A sword case could be added. Sir Walter Gilbey even devised a means of overhead ventilation so that tobacco smoke could escape without the windows being opened.
This Brougham was built by Brewster & Co. of New York. Brewster was one of the most respected carriage makers of their time and when they closed they donated many of their records to the New York Public Library and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This donation has saved what is arguably the most complete set of carriage maker records in the world. The CAA has a copy of the NYPL records that are available to researchers and CAA members.
By looking at the Brewster records we can learn about the type of springs used, their length, and the weight of the vehicle as well as information about the trim and paint.
Resources: The Encyclopedia of Driving by Sallie Walrond and Carriage Terminology: An Historical Dictionary by Berkebile
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