The first Concord stagecoach was built in 1827. Costing $1200 - $1500, these coaches weighed more than two thousand
pounds. 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 40 different types of
carriages and wagons at the wagon factory in Concord, New Hampshire. Abbot Downing Company disbanded in 1847. They
merged again in 1865, when Lewis Downing, Jr., and J.S. and E.A. Abbott Company formed the Abbott-Downing Company.
They continued to manufacture coaches, wagons, and carriages under that company's name until 1919. 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. The Concord Coaches had a reputation for being sturdy,
roomy, and comfortable. At the front and back of the stagecoach were leather 'boots' where baggage, mail and valuables
were stored during the journey, with the remainder of the luggage being placed on top of the coach. Sometimes,
even passengers sat atop the coach, but most chose to endure the rugged trip inside, if it wasn't too crowded.
If it was, a single stagecoach would hold nine passengers inside, and a dozen or more on the roof. The windows
of a stagecoach had leather roll-down curtains, and three leather-covered seats that offered little legroom. Most
travellers had about fifteen inches to squeeze themselves into if the coach carried a capacity of nine passengers.
The one stuck in the middle usually had the worst of it, because there was no back support. Instead, they had to
hold onto leather straps that hung from the ceiling. The average speed was only eight miles an hour.
A sample fare schedule posted at Lincoln, New Hampshire:
- 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
During the Civil War, when sectional tensions were tearing the United States apart, stagecoaches provided regular
transportation and communication between St. Louis, Missouri in the East 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, 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 where 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.
The last American chapter in the use of the stage coaches took place between 1890 and about 1915. In the end, it
was the motor bus, not the train, that caused the final disuse of these horse-drawn vehicles. After the main railroad
lines were established, it was frequently not practical to go to a place of higher elevation by rail lines if the
distance was short. By 1918 stage coaches were only operating in a few mountain resorts or western National Parks
as part of the "old west" romance for tourists.
[Source: Excerpted from Wikipedia.org and other various sources