“A more uncouth, clumsy machine can scarcely be imagined. In the front is a cabriolet, fixed to the body of the coach, for the accommodation of three passengers, who are protected from the rain above by the projecting roof of the coach and in the front by two heavy curtains of leather, well-oiled and smelling somewhat offensively, fastened to the roof. The inside, which is capacious and lofty, will hold six people in great comfort. It is lined with padded leather and surrounded with little pockets in which travelers deposit their bread, snuff, night caps, and pocket handkerchiefs, which generally enjoy each others' company in the same delicate depository. From the roof is suspended a large net for storing hats, swords, and bandboxes. Upon the roof, on the outside, is the imperial, which is generally occupied by six or seven persons. It is also loaded with a heap of luggage that also occupies the basket and generally presents a pile, half as high as the coach, secured by ropes and chains and tightened by a large iron windlass, constituting another appendage of this moving mass. The body of the carriage rests upon large thongs of leather fastened to heavy blocks of wood instead of springs, and the whole is drawn by seven horses.” (Based on a European tourist’s description of a stagecoach in the early 19th century).
By the time the United States came into existence, wagons were a tried-and-true method of transportation. Driven by oxen, horses, or mules, wagons and stagecoaches allowed people to traverse long distances much faster than walking. Although this form of travel remained relatively slow and perilous, the journey was often considered worth the risk. Some saw the potential profits in moving to the frontier, and as the nation expanded, enterprising individuals sought to form companies dedicated to stagecoach travel.
In fact, trails would be forged across the country to help spread settlers, and the westward movement of Americans in the 19th century became one of the largest and most consequential migrations in history. Among the paths that blazed west, the most well-known is the Oregon Trail, which was not a single trail but a network of paths that began at one of the four jumping-off points.The stagecoaches and wagons were the vehicles carrying the supplies and people, making them crucial in shaping the nation.
Stagecoaches and Wagons: The History of Overland Transportation Companies and Methods in 19th Century America looks at the vehicles that helped Americans travel across the young country. With an entertaining narration about important people, places, and events, you will learn about stagecoaches and wagons like never before!