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Getting Around In The Days Of Yore - Part 2

Horse riders and drivers weren't the only ones to lose their jobs when the automobile came on the scene. Horse handlers, drafthorse breakers, horse trainers, and nagsmen all found themselves dispensable.

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Prepared by: Bob Brooke
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Horse riders and drivers weren't the only ones to lose their jobs when the automobile came on the scene. Horse handlers, drafthorse breakers, horse trainers, and nagsmen all found themselves dispensable.

No horse was ready to be ridden or for pulling a wagon or carriage at the outset. Each had to be trained by skilled men adept at making the horse obey certain commands. While most people recall the bronco riders of the Old West—riding wild horses into submission—in fact, training horses required time and patience, especially for those destined to pull carriages and wagons.

The horse trader or chanter, known commonly as a deceitful and slippery sort, would cheat his own mother-in-law. He became another casualty, as also happened to the knacker, who operated a horse ambulance and took care of old horses and disposed of dead horses.

The barn boss and barnhand also found themselves looking for other work as large companies replaced their work horses with trucks. The liveryman or hitch stable owner gradually lost his tenants and his customers. His employees–the currier, who, after the tanning process, dressed, finished and colored the leather, the hostler, the groom or stableman, and the horse baiter or feeder—all gradually lost their jobs.

The farrier or blacksmith, stayed in business only to make shoes for saddle horses for riding academies, race tracks, and country gentlemen.

The effect on the economy of the community, following the disappearance of the horse, was as severe as if society were suddenly to stop using automobiles and trucks, and all the chauffeurs, garages, gas stations, car dealerships, car washers, tire retail stores, mechanics, and such were forced out of business.

There were two types of coaches: the stagecoach, which corresponded to the intercity bus of today, and the private coach, which served the same purpose as a limousine or sedan.

The stagecoach carried passengers on a regular route from town to town and back again, pausing at inns and taverns along the way for meals and to discharge and pick up passengers, and stopping overnight on longer trips. The crew typically consisted of a stagecoach driver and sometimes a rifleman, also called a shotgun, who acted as a guard. Teams of four to six horses, changed at relay stations, pulled the stagecoaches on longer routes.

Private coaches were far more luxurious and comfortable vehicles, driven by a liveried coachman, or whip, who had beside him an assistant known as a man-on-the-box, who served as a relief driver and as a footman to open the doors for passengers, help them in and out of the coach, load luggage, and so on.

When necessary, a postillion rode on the back of one of the coach horses to serve as a guide, and there might be one or more outriders or outrunners for protection from highwaymen. When traveling on a dark night in strange territory, the well-appointed coach had at least one linkman or linkboy who carried a torch out front to light the way. Any of these individuals might also act as a harbinger, forerunner, or precursor, who ran ahead and arranged for lodgings at an inn or tavern or perhaps at a private home.

The veteran coachman took great pride in his four-in-hand outfit, known also as a coach-and-four or coach-and-six, depending on the number of horses being used.

The arrival of a coach at a tavern was a busy time, especially if the passengers and horses were to remain overnight. In that case, the hostlers would care for the horses, and the porters would tend to the baggage, while the host would serve food and drink in the taproom, where he kept the liquor, and assign beds to the patrons. In those days, more than one person, usually strangers, shared a bed and paid for it rather than the room.

Also gone are the hackmen or jarveys, who drove carriages for hire, and the horsecar drivers who preceded motormen on the trolleys in the cities.

Source Information: Everyday Genealogy, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2011.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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