Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Stagecoach in America

See also: www.old-picture.com/.../Stagecoach-Travel.htm

] Concord stagecoaches
The first Concord stagecoach was built in 1827. Abbot Downing Company employed leather strap braces under their stagecoaches which gave a swinging motion instead of the jolting up and down of a spring suspension. The company manufactured over forty different types of carriages and wagons at the wagon factory in
Concord, New Hampshire. The Concord Stagecoaches were built so solidly that it became known that they didn't break down but just wore out. The Concord stagecoach sold throughout South America, Australia, and Africa. Over 700 Concord stagecoaches were built by the original Abbot Downing Company before it disbanded in 1847. Mark Twain stated in his 1861 book Roughing It that the Concord Stagecoach was like "a cradle on wheels".
The term "stage" originally referred to the distance between stations on a route, the coach traveling the entire route in "stages," but through constant misuse it came to apply to the coach. A stagecoach could be any four wheeled vehicle pulled by horses or mules - the primary requirement being that it was used as a public conveyance, running on an established route and schedule. Vehicles included buckboards and dead axle wagons, surplus Army ambulances, celerity [or mud] coaches, and the deluxe Concord. Selection of the vehicle was made by the owner of the stage line, and he would choose the most efficient vehicle based upon the load to be carried, the road conditions, and the weather; and used a two, four or six-horse team based upon those factors and the type of car.

See also: George Chorpenning; Central Nevada Route; Pony Express; Wells Fargo; Butterfield Overland Mail
At a time when sectional tensions were tearing the United States apart, stagecoaches provided regular transportation and communication between St. Louis, Missouri, in the Midwest along the Mississippi River, and San Francisco, California, in the West. Although the Pony Express is often credited with being the first fast mail line across the North American continent from the Missouri River to the Pacific Coast, stagecoach lines operated by George Chorpenning and the Butterfield Stage predated the Pony Express by nearly three years.
Butterfield Overland Stage began rolling on September 15, 1858, when the twice-weekly mail service began. A Butterfield Overland Concord Stagecoach was started in San Francisco and another Overland Stage in Tipton, Missouri, they ran over the better roads. As the going got rougher, the passengers and mail were transferred to "celerity wagons" designed for the roughest conditions. Each run encompassed 2,812 miles and had to be completed in 25 days or less in order to qualify for the $600,000 government grant for mail service.
In March 1860, John Butterfield was forced out because of debt. The beginning of the American Civil War forced the Stage Company to stop using the ox bow route and to use the central overland road instead. The Eastern end of the central route, St. Louis to Denver, Colorado was taken over by Ben Holladay. Ben Holladay is characterized as a devoted, diligent, enterprising man who became known as the Stagecoach King. At the western end, Denver to San Francisco, the Stage Company was taken over by Wells Fargo due to large debts that Butterfield owed. Wells Fargo commandeered the monopoly over long-distance overland stage coach and mail service with a massive web of relay stations, forts, livestock, men, and stage coaches by 1866. Transcontinental stage-coaching came to an end with the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869.

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