Henry Ford’s first Model T rolled off the assembly line in 1909. That rang the death knell of the carriage industry. Soon the mass produced automobile replaced the horse as America’s primary mode of transportation. These days it’s more common to see a car pulling a trailer with a horse inside rather than the other way around. However, there is still a small market for horse drawn carriages. I’ve seen them downtown. I’ve seen them at weddings. Where do the Amish get their wagons? I’d ask them directly, but there don’t seem to be too many Amish online.
Based on my research, a lot of them have been restored from originals made at the turn of the twentieth century. If you happen to have one lying around in the barn somewhere, there are a number of people around the country specializing in stripping down old horse drawn carriages and rebuilding them like new. I was surprised a restored twenty year old car probably costs more than a restored hundred and twenty year old wagon. To be fair, that’s just the cost of the carriage. The horse (of course) is extra.
I don’t have a spare carriage lying around in the garage… at least I don’t think I do (our garage is a bit of a mess). However, I found a couple of carriage works online that build brand new ones. They offer new models with lots of glass and regular rubber tires and suspensions. They don’t even need to be drawn by horses; I found one designed to be hauled behind a motorcycle. I don’t know how well these sell; I would think the average horse drawn carriage buyer is probably more of a traditionalist. Carriage works also offer new versions of classic carriages and wagons. When I say classic, I mean classic. I found a Roman style chariot for sale, straight out of Ben Hur. The offerings seemed reasonably priced to me. I could either buy a Smart ForTwo or pick up a stagecoach that seats six on the inside. Seriously, which one would look cooler parked in the driveway? There are some differences in buying a horse carriage as opposed to the horseless variety. A lot of features found in the most basic car are options on a carriage; headlights and brakes, for example.
With high priced gas and two of the Big Three auto makers in bankruptcy, many hear the death knell of the American auto industry. However I found nary an “I told you so” on all the carriage websites I checked. In fact, one carriage works in Michigan has a deal: if you’ve purchased a new GM or Chrysler product, they’ll take ten percent off the price of a new four wheel carriage. I did note Ford cars were not eligible; after a hundred years maybe a few hard feelings still linger.