As a person born in the latter half of the twentieth-century, I entered the modern world with its motorized cars, having no experience of transportation modes in earlier centuries. Later I married a man who reads car magazines, like Road and Track, with voracious interest. Yet, as a woman intrigued by history, it’s an exciting find to walk into a place like the Old West Museum in Cheyenne, Wyoming over New Year’s and discover several rooms filled with carriages from the nineteenth century.
It turns out that the Old West Museum has one of the largest collections of carriages in the country, some they still use in Cheyenne’s annual Frontier Days usually held in July. Among the many carriages, two appear in my newest novel A Song of Deliverance—the Brougham and the Victoria. Though I had researched these carriages and viewed pictures, my eyes danced with delight to see the carriages in person.
If you’ve watched period movies, most likely you’ve seen at least one Brougham being driven down the road. Commissioned by the English gentleman, Lord Chancellor Brougham, his carriage makers were instructed to create a lighter conveyance that was both stylish and practical, requiring only one horse. Thus, within a short period of time after its appearance in 1838/1839, it became one of the most popular carriages by English gentlemen and cabbies alike for its versatility and adaptability in various circumstances. The carriage also came with black square lamps and an opera board—a safety feature used to protect the back of the carriage and used as a footboard for servants.
In the United States, the carriage was made by Brewster and Company, New York. Certainly, this Cadillac of carriages would have been a good choice for my characters–Mayor Henley and his wife Virginia–in Georgetown, Colorado to drive over steep mountains and to transport guests around the geography.
Named after Queen Victoria by a carriage builder in France during the mid-nineteenth century, the Victoria was known as one of the most elegant and graceful carriages of its time. The Prince of Wales had it imported to England in 1869, and it soon became one of the more popular carriages owned by the gentry. Pulled by one or two horses, the Victoria was low to the ground, light, four-wheeled, and had no door. It also provided a forward-facing seat for two people and had a calash (folding top) and a removable, elevated coachman’s seat above the front axle. The Grand Victoria consisted of a backward-facing rumble seat, which allowed for two guests to accompany its owners–a carriage in which Queen Victoria often would be seen. The Panel-foot version was also known as a cabriolet (convertible).
The Victoria carriage would have been a grand choice for a man of Stefan Maier’s stature, having descended from German nobility and hob-knobbed with English royals in his younger days before coming to Georgetown. The carriage had already found a home, particularly with western American cattlemen and mining barons, so that it would not have been out of line to see this outstanding Aston Martin DB11 convertible of carriages among the crowd.
Though we may be a couple of centuries beyond either the Brougham or the Victoria, it would seem nothing much has changed where our desire for a good ride is concerned. For some, all we want or need is an efficient vehicle to get us from here to there, while for others it’s the sport and style that count. It seems the old adage is true: some things never change.