The Post-chaise & the Chariot
Posted by P. Bingham on September 16, 1998 at 14:22:47:
A long time back, Laura and I were stalled on the precise definition of post-chaise, given that most of the information that has been received of it is only half there.
Laura maintained that the post chaise was a 'specific' type of vehicle, just like the landau is a specific vehicle, and the name was the same whether the post chaise was privately owned or rented out.
Patricia maintained that, like a hackney, the post chaise could essentially be a number of different types of vehicles (thought the body type was similar), as these rented types were often cast-off carriages. The chariot, very instance, was often used as a post-chaise, and it appeared as if, in this case, the driver's box was simply removed and voila! you have a post-chaise.
I have been waiting for a particular book to come in which would hopefully solve this problem and give us more information on these two carriages. Carriage Terminology: An Historical Dictionary by Don H. Berkebile did come in a while back but I've had trouble copying and pasting (and still am) and so hesitated to post this.
Basically, Laura and I were both right. The post-chaise was a specific type of vehicle, however the rented versions were often "chariots" and so were properly termed post-chariots, though contemporaries often referred to them with the same name.
CARRIAGE TERMINOLOGY, AN HISTORICAL DICTIONARY by Don H. Berkebile
including the 1796 Glossary of William Fenton
' a member of the coach family. The term 'chariot' is believed to have been applied about the middle of the 17c to the French Coupe, which had just come into common use in England. It was probably so named because of the fashion at the time of asigning classical titles to many things. The chariot was a sort of half-coach, while a similar body that was cut off just in front of the doors, the front being closed by a panel below and glass above. The carriaege was like that of the coach, but shorter. The single seat inside held two or three passengers, and some had a small folding seat in front to accomodate children. A detached driver's seat was ornamented with a hammercloth, and the vehicle was attended by footmen.
(Patricia - in these earlier posts, there was a movie scene in which some girl's were riding post chaise but the passengers were facing each other. And so it was assumed that the vehicle could not be a post-chaise. This folding chair solves this problem. It could very well have been a postchaise, provided the rest of the vehicle did fit the proper descriptions (I myself did not see this seen, or rather, did not go back and review it). If a child could sit in this seat, so can a small young woman, and as many passengers as possible would have been put in the vehicle considering it was an expensive mode of transportation.)
'Chariots were somewhat more popular than coaches, particularly when greater seating capacity was not essential, as they were slightly less expensive, lighter in weight, more manoeverable, and because of the glass in front, more light and airy. It was also considered to be the most attractive of carriages. The carriage was gradually superseded by the Brougham, and the modern coupe, yet even in the 1890s it was frequently seen in London at such functions as drawing-room receptions and court levees. It was, in fact, still built at the time, with the modifications of later inventions and mechanical improvements, by the leading builders of London, Paris and New York, and used as a court or dress carriage.
'A state carriage, characterised by a high degree of ornamentation, common in Europe from the 17c to 19c.
'Upright posts were found to be convenient places to post news, or public notices. Other derivitives came to be applied to the riders who carried messages between posts or stations along a route, later to the communications they carried, and finally to the entire system of for carrying the mails. Late in the 17c the French were employing two-wheeled carriages that not only carried mail, but also accomodated one or two paying passengers. The door of the French chaise de post was hung on the front of the carriage, and was hinged at the bottom so that it fell forward between the shafts. The body was hung by braces extending from whip-springs in the rear, and was supported by elbow springs in front. This carriage was driven by a postillion.
In 1743 this system of post-travelling was introduced into England by John Trull, an artillery officer, who obtained a patent for renting out travelling carriages. At first the post-chaise used in England was very similar to the French vehicle, but within a short time they became four wheel carriages - in reality, chariots - minus the coach-box, and driven by postillions. For a time the four-wheel post-chasie retained an undesireable feature of its two-wheel predecessor, being equipped with shafts for the off-horse, while the near horse was harnessed to an outrigger singletree. This arrangement was shortly replaced with a single pole and the conventional paired-draught. Either two or four horses were employed, as occasion demanded. Post-chaises were not only operated as public vehicles, but were also frequently kept as private carriages.
The post chaise is believed to have arrived in America by mid-18c, where it became most popular, as in England. It is doubtful, however, that it carried much mail, serving rather in the capacity of a public or private carriage. Post-chaises customarily carreid two passengers, yet some accomodated only one, while others carried a third passenger on a moveable inside seat. For long distance travelling, the carriage usually had a trunk in the rear, a trunk boot in front, and sometimes an imperial on the roof. Some chariots were so constructed that they could be converted into a post-chasise by the removal of the coach-box. These vehicles were generally termed post-chariots. Post chaises and post-chariots continued in use into the middle of the 19c.
'a chariot contructed with a removeable coach-box, so that it could be used as either a chariot or a post-chaise.
Here is a discription of a travelling post chaise from Fenton's Treatise of Carriages, 1796:
'Body, black with sliver plating moldings; venetian blinds, yellow; gearing, dark green striped with yellow; trunks and imperial, brown; The springs are wrapped with cord, and the equipment includes a drag-staff and chain'
From what I have read of other sources, most of the post-chaises for rent were cast-off chariots which were converted into post-chariots by removing the driver's box.
If anyone has any questions regarding any other vehicle, this book is huge and does not leave out much information. Just ask.
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