I recently wrote about events at the Genealogy and Family Heritage Jamboree held in St. George, Utah. In that article, I mentioned David Woods' original Concord Coach. Mr. Woods exhibited his beautifully restored Maine Stagecoach at the conference. You can read that article at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2006/02/genealogy_and_f.html
Judging by the e-mail that I have received since, it looks like many people are interested in these old stagecoaches. In the 1800s and very early 1900s, the Abbot-Downing Company of Concord, New Hampshire, built more than 3,000 of these stagecoaches and then sold them all over the United States. Properly called Abbot-Downing Coaches, a few were even shipped to New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.
Lewis Downing started a carriage-building business in Concord, New Hampshire, on August 3, 1813. By 1826, feeling the need of an expert carriage maker, Downing engaged the services of J. Stephens Abbot, and the men entered into partnership in the next year.
Abbot-Downing became known the world over for its Concord Stagecoach, but the company actually manufactured over 40 different types of carriages and wagons at their wagon factory in Concord. The Concord Stagecoaches were built as solid as the Abbot-Downing Company's reputation and became known as coaches that didn't break down.
Most of the time, the Abbot-Downing Company employed about 300 people. All were men except for one: from 1865 to 1895 Marie F. Putnam stitched leather seats and trim for every stagecoach that rolled out of the Concord factory, including those purchased by Wells Fargo & Company. For the entire 30 years, she was the company's only female employee.
Each coach was given a number by the Abbot-Downing factory, and each has its own story. The Concord Coaches had a reputation for being sturdy, roomy, and comfortable. Having seen several Concord Coaches, I have to say the mid-1800s definitions of "roomy" and "comfortable" were far different from today's definitions.
Buffalo Bill used Concord Coaches in his Wild West Shows. Old western movies filmed in the 1930s or 1940s usually used authentic, old Concord Coaches in their scenes. In fact, you can watch some of the older westerns to see crashes in which the movie studios filmed these antique coaches running off cliffs and smashing into the canyons below. You won't see that in modern westerns as the original coaches are now worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each!
- pulled by 6 horses
- 1st class: $7.00 (rode all the way)
- 2nd class: had to walk at bad places on the road
- 3rd class: same as above, but also had to push at hills
Based upon the interest expressed in e-mail, I considered writing an article about Concord Coaches. I have a casual knowledge of the topic, having seen quite a few of the Abbot-Downing coaches in the past thirty years or so. However, as I began to research the topic, I found numerous web sites owned and written by true experts. I decided to refer you to the excellent articles already available.
If you are not familiar with these delightful remnants of Americana, I suggest that you look at the pictures on these web sites. Then try to imagine your ancestor riding for hours in these cramped, uncomfortable seats in a back and forth rocking motion as the stagecoaches lurched along over unpaved roads, bouncing in and out of wagon ruts, at speeds typically of 8 to 10 miles per hour. He or she may have had to get out and walk in places, or perhaps even place a shoulder against a wheel on the steeper hills. It was an exhausting and usually dirty ride!
If Mr. Woods ever exhibits his beautifully restored Concord Coach at a future genealogy conference, I will certainly mention it in this newsletter. That way, you can see the coach and attend a genealogy conference at the same time.
Here is a list of other web sites that describe the historic Concord Coaches:
The Concord Coach: http://www.over-land.com/ccoach.html and the many links at http://www.over-land.com/coach.html
Wells Fargo Company's stagecoaches: http://www.wellsfargohistory.com/stagecoach/index.html
Tips for Stagecoach Travelers, 1877, from Wells Fargo ("Spit on the leeward side of the coach."): https://www.wellsfargo.com/about/stories/ch1.jhtml
1849 L. Downing Concord Stagecoach in the collection of the Owls Head Transportation Museum, Owls Head, Maine: http://www.ohtm.org/1849concord.html
History of the Abbot-Downing factory: http://theconcordcoach.tripod.com/abbotdowning/
The Abbot and Downing Company: http://www.linecamp.com/museums/americanwest/western_clubs/abbott_downing_company/abbott_downing_company.html
Many of these stagecoaches carried the U.S. Mail so the National Postal Museum has a web page devoted to the Concord Coaches at http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/museum/1d_Concord_Mail_Coach.html
Concord Coach that traveled through Franconia Notch, NH: http://www.flumegorge.com/concordcoach.html
Ballad of the Concord Coach with words and music by The Shaw Brothers: http://www.csd.k12.nh.us/~charm/ConcordCoach.htm
Abbot-Downing coaches in San Diego, California: http://www.sandiegohistory.org/curatorial/transport/transport.htm
The story of coach #80, built in 1850, survived three fires (!) and is now on display at the Concord Group Insurance Company, in Concord, NH (I have seen this coach many times): http://www.concordgroupinsurance.com/history_coach.htm
Journey to Medicine Lodge: http://www.thestagecoachjourney.com
Stagecoaches in New Zealand: http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~tonyf/cobb/cobbco.html
If you find other web pages that describe the Abbot-Downing Concord Coaches, please add them to the end of this list by entering the URL (address) in a comment below.