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Stagecoach Travel

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In part:


"The fatigue of uninterrupted traveling by day and night in a crowded coach, and in the most uncomfortable positions, was beginning to tell seriously upon all the passengers, and was producing in me a condition bordering on insanity..."

Watterman L. Ormsby, a reporter for the New York Herald and the only through passenger on the Butterfield’s maiden westbound trip, in 1858, reported that a run up the east side of the Pecos River to a crossing passed over a trail "along the edge of the plain, thumping and bumping at a rate which threatened not to leave a whole bone in my body. What with the dust and the sun pouring directly on our heads...I found that day’s ride quite unpleasant..."

The English cleric Tallack, his coach stopped for a change of teams at a way station in southern Arizona, said that, "Today, on having a relay of mustangs, they reared up and plunged worse than usual, broke the pole-chain, stood up nearly perpendicularly, and, finally, one fell and got underneath the body of the waggon, which movement, together with the threatening kicks and jerks of the animal, caused our speedy evacuation of the vehicle..."

The New York Herald reporter, Ormsby, his coach ascending the rugged trail westward up to the pass at the south end of Texas’ Guadalupe Mountains, said, "We were obliged actually to beat our mules with rocks to make them go the remaining five miles to the [way] station, which is called the Pinery..." The correspondent, his coach approaching the Guadalupe Pass from the west on a cold November said, "...we were informed by the driver that we were near a lay of sand four miles in length, and that we must walk through if we expected ever to arrive at our next station...the Pinery... Scarcely had we commenced our tramp on foot, before the young moon was veiled in a fleecy mist, which came down upon us poor devils and continued to play away upon our dusty hats and blankets until we had plodded our weary way four miles through the deep and heavy sand..."

"Meals (at extra charge) are provided for the passengers twice a day," said Tallack. "The fare, though rough, is better than could be expected so far from civilized districts, and consists of bread, tea, and fried steaks of bacon, venison, antelope, or mule flesh—the latter tough enough. "

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9 hours ago, Pat Riot, SASS #13748 said:

From everything I have ever read on Stagecoaches I would not have purposely traveled on one. 

Thanks Joe. :)


I have taken a couple short rides in a stagecoach at various events, just for the experience. Traveling a great distance in one would not have been enjoyable under hot and crowded conditions, cold wintery conditions,  wet conditions or windy and dusty conditions.  That said, possibly it was slightly better than traveling horseback for a good many people.


I'd imagine traveling by train would have been exponentially better than overland stage journeying. 


I'm happy with the modern SUV. ;)


We certainly don't have the same travel concerns that once existed. :D

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The coaches were tall and wide, custom made and individually numbered, weighing 2,500 pounds each. The big fitted wheels had spokes long enough to get through the mud and rutted roads of the young Republic.  What made the coach particularly popular was its suspension, a pair of leather strips called “throughbraces” that held up the coach bodies and provided a characteristic rocking motion, far less jarring than coaches with steel springs.

Mark Twain, the author and humorist, described his coach trip west in the 1870 book Roughing it:

“Our coach was a great swinging and swaying stage, of the most sumptuous description – an imposing cradle on wheels. It was drawn by six handsome horses, and by the side of the driver sat the ‘conductor,’ the legitimate captain of the craft; for it was his business to take charge and care of the mails, baggage, express matter, and passengers. We sat on the back seat, inside. About all the rest of the coach was full of mail bags – for we had three days’ delayed mails with us… We changed horses every ten miles, all day long, and fairly flew over the hard, level road.”

The cost was between $1,000 and $1,500 apiece, a lavish sum when a worker considered a dollar a day a good wage. Coaches had separate models to carry six, nine and 12 passengers. Abbot-Downing’s biggest customer was Wells, Fargo & Co., although institutions such as hotels would buy one to carry guests back and forth from a railroad station.

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I noticed that in the Have Gun Will Travel series, the stagecoaches usually only had two, maybe three passengers. 

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6 hours ago, Marshal Mo Hare, SASS #45984 said:

Did anyone besides Concord Coach make stagecoaches?


I saw a photo of several train flatcars with 34 coaches bound for San Francisco then to be shipped to Australia.


In poking around looking for a picture of a Celerity I found references that other companies made coaches that resembled the Concord coaches. However Concord was easily the biggest manufacturer.

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Link to pictures of Celerity coaches. They were also known as mud wagons as the open design and wider wheels tended to throw mud on the passengers


Rare Stagecoaches and Army Wagons


Hard to make out the front row as it appears that they sat under the drivers seat and had limited headroom. this was offset by being a little more protected from the elements as those seats had side walls.

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Stagecoach or Celerity Wagon?
A primer for those who write about the history of Butterfield's Overland Mail Company.


Picture of an actual Butterfield wagon





How to tell a Butterfield wagon from those made by the Abbot, Downing Co.


The biggest manufacturer of both types of wagons was the Abbot, Downing Co., which was started in 1827 by J. Stephens Abbot and Lewis Downing in Concord, N.H. (thus the brand name of one of their coach types).

Butterfield Trail historian Kirby Sanders notes that Butterfield's Overland Mail Co. wouldn't have used this coach because it has only two passenger benches. Butterfield required three. It must have been used by a different express company.

Gerald Ahnert adds: "(This wagon) is distinctly different from Butterfield's design in many ways. The most important, for identifying a Butterfield stage wagon, is that the driver and conductor's seat are on the same level as the passenger's seats. As you can see (in this photograph), the driver's seat is well above the passenger seats. Also, Butterfield's stage wagons weren't capable of carrying any luggage on the top, as it was merely a thin canvas supported by wooden staves."

Also, according to Sanders, the trunk seen on the roof wasn't standard issue for either Abbot, Downing or for its chief competitor, Troy Coach of Troy, N.Y. It would have been added by the coach operator.



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On 8/23/2021 at 5:30 AM, Marshal Mo Hare, SASS #45984 said:

The cost was between $1,000 and $1,500 apiece, a lavish sum when a worker considered a dollar a day a good wage.

Was that the cost of the coach or the price of a ticket?  If so, those who are shocked by the price of a ticket on a Virgin Galactic suborbital spacecraft ($250,000 or more) would be in the same league! :o  

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3 hours ago, Trailrider #896 said:

Was that the cost of the coach or the price of a ticket?  If so, those who are shocked by the price of a ticket on a Virgin Galactic suborbital spacecraft ($250,000 or more) would be in the same league! :o  


From the link in the OP, about Butterfield's route:


"A through passenger paid two hundred dollars (equivalent to about three thousand dollars today) for a ticket. He expected to arrive at his destination after some twenty five days of ceaseless travel. A modern passenger, by contrast, can buy an airline ticket for transportation from St. Louis to San Francisco for three hundred dollars, and can expect to make the journey in as little as four hours or so"

Read more: https://www.desertusa.com/desert-activity/stagecoach-service.html#ixzz74bUiIvDH

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A very interesting series.  A bold journey for a group of young adults.















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