Q. Why, since we drive on the right of the road in this country, do American drivers insist on sitting on the right-hand side just as the English do? I can understand the English sitting on that side to get the best view of oncoming traffic, but for the same sensible reason should not American drivers sit on the left?
A. In fact there was no “rule” on the subject, people simply did what seemed the most practical to them. The whip is usually carried in the right hand and, if someone is sitting beside you, it can only be used effectively if you sit on the right. When a driver sat alone, as on an omnibus, some commercial vehicles, Hansom cabs, etc., he often sat in the middle. In England some delivery men sat on the left because then they could step off at the side of the road to make deliveries. Some French carriages were fitted with a driver’s wedge-shaped cushion that could be placed on the right-side or in the middle and held there by a short post that fitted into an appropriately placed hole in the underside of the cushion. If you look at old prints or photographs of street scenes in America you will see that here, too, some coachmen sat in the middle when they had no groom beside them. This kept the carriage on an even keel.
From The Carriage Journal, Vol. 21, NO 2, Autumn 1983
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
If you’ve ever tried Googling for the history of the Meadowbrook Cart you’ve probably found a distinct lack of information. This dearth of information is because Meadowbrooks used to be classified as a Road Cart and/or Long Island Cart. So where did it all start?
Gigs, two-wheeled carts that were fast and light, were being used in Europe as early as 1791. They were particularly popular with fashionable young men, who viewed them as the sports cars of the day. In America, gigs were also used but there was a need for a lower hung vehicle that was a bit more practical for everyday use. In 1885, Charles A. Ellison of Mineola, Long Island, New York, filed a patent for a cart that would be comfortable for everyday use. His design wasn’t perfect though and it continued to evolve until in 1891 he began advertising the Mineola Cart. Structurally it was a pretty simple cart and was advertised as such:
Your attention is called to the following features of the Mineola which make it the most desirable cart on the market: it carries two passengers; it has an equalizing spring under the front bar that positively prevents any horse motion; one-half of the seat opens out, making it a very easy cart to get out of or into; and does away with the serious objection of having to climb over the shafts or bars; it is in increasing demand for Ladies’ Driving as there is ample protection for their dresses, and the cart is as easy to get into and out of as a phaeton.
The quirky part – this advertisement ran in the Queen County Sentinel on Long Island but the carts were advertised as being built in Whitney Point, NY, some 200+ miles away.
With the basic concept provided by the Mineola Cart, there were several vehicles which followed – Henry M. Willis’ East Williston Cart (1891), the Maplewood Cart from the catalog of J.T. Clarkson & Co (1912) and the Hempstead Cart (1900). Robert H. Nostrand’s Hempstead Cart was originally advertised in The Hempstead Sentinel as ‘the new Meadow Brook Cart’ but due to a feud between Nostrand and fellow Hempstead-based carriage maker David B. Tod, Nostrand’s cart became known as the Hempstead Cart. And then there was Plate No. 30, The Beauty, an ‘ easy-riding road cart’ that came in five different styles from the East Williston Cart Co. The style of theses carts collectively became know as “Long Island.” They rode well over rough ground, were very suitable for use by ladies and they were appropriate for business or pleasure.
Where then did the name Meadowbrook come from? It has been suggested that Long Island Carts became known as Meadowbrook Carts because they were often used to follow the famous Meadowbrook Hounds (NY) through the countryside. The name was certainly established by the time Francis M. Ware wrote “Driving” in 1903, which includes a picture of a early Meadowbrook being driven by a young lady.
What is primary difference between the Meadowbrooks of today and those of the past? The overall design has stayed the same – low-hung, entered via a hinged seat, usually made of natural wood with large fenders – but the shafts have changed. Today’s shafts typically do not absorb as much motion of the horse, lacking the flat or horizontal springs that made the original carts so smooth.