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December 15, 2009

Highways and Horses: Travel and transport by horse-drawn vehicles

Highways and Horses: Travel and Transport by Horse-drawn Vehicles focuses on the development of transportation systems that relied upon the horse and carriage to carry mail, parcels, passengers and freight. The second annual International Carriage Symposium will be held Jan. 27-30, 2010, at the Williamsburg Lodge and is co-sponsored by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and the Carriage Association of America (CAA).

The program consists of national and international speakers. Richard Nicoll, Colonial Williamsburg’s Bill and Jean Lane Director of Coach and Livestock, will deliver a presentation on Travel by Horse-drawn Vehicles in 18th-century North America. Wealthy gentry imported coaches and carriages from England while Virginia was still a colony. Later immigrant coach makers designed and built their own coaches and carriages based on European designs. American carriage designs evolved in part by the nature of the American road and the need to travel in the back country. He will discuss the rise of American carriage building and the carriages found in 18th-century America.

Additional speakers include:

  • Richard James (England), editor of Carriage Driving magazine, News Travels Fast: The Trafalgar Dispatch. After the victory of Lord Nelson at Trafalgar in May 1805, the news was almost instantly relayed to London by mail coach and four horses, an event widely celebrated in prints and legend. That very historic trip from Falmouth to London was re-created in 2005 using a newly built Post Chaise and pair of “posting” horses. James will give an account of that re-created event.
  • William B. Bushong (United States), staff historian and webmaster of the White House Historical Association in Washington, D.C., Presidential Travel and the White House Stables. U.S. presidents were expected to provide their own transportation, and most brought their own carriages and horses to Washington, D.C., for their personal use. Eventually stables were built to house the horses and a carriage house erected for the presidential carriages. This talk will recount the history of the presidential carriages and the Washington Stables.
  • Merri Ferrell (United States), former curator of carriages and the carriage library at the Museums of Stony Brook, Long Island, Knickerbocker Sport: The New York Coaching Club and the Gilded Age. In 1877, wealthy Americans took up the sport of coaching, driving four horses to road coaches and private drags. Eventually, they formed exclusive clubs, the most prestigious of which was the Coaching Club (New York). This talk will explore the formation of that club and its importance in New York society affairs.
  • Andres Furger (Switzerland), former curator and deputy director of the History Museum in Basel, Switzerland, and director of the Swiss National Museum in Zürich, The Advent of Swiss Traveling Carriages and Coaches. Travel in Central Europe necessarily involved a journey over the Alps. Both transportation and delivery of mails in Switzerland depended upon a well-run and efficient coach system. When continental travel became a fashionable part of a gentleman's education, travel into Italy was through the famous passes of Switzerland through the Alps. This talk will explore the development of the Swiss Mail Coach system.
  • Maria Stolk (The Netherlands) of Firma Stolk, a carriage and coach restoration business in Balkbrug, the Netherlands, The Professional Restoration of Historic Carriages and Coaches. Many private carriage collectors and Royal Houses still using carriages and horses require that carriages and coaches be professionally restored and maintained. Stolk has been at the forefront of such restoration and responsible for work on major European carriages and several American vehicles and will document her work.
  • Kenneth Wheeling (United States), associate editor of The Carriage Journal, Creating an American Icon: Abbot-Downing and the Concord Coach. Mail delivery in the United States was coupled with passenger traffic and used the stagecoach as the primary vehicle. The most prominent and enduring manufacturers were Lewis Downing and Joseph S. Abbot, who developed the Concord Coach in Concord, N.H. It became the American icon of western transportation. This talk will discuss the formation of the famous Abbot-Downing Company.
  • Astrid Tydén-Jordan (Sweden), former curator at the Royal Armoury in Stockholm, Sweden, French Elegance Along the Baltic: Carriages of 18th- and 19th-century Sweden. While much of European carriage travels centered in middle and southern Europe, there also was a very lively carriage market in northern Europe. The Swedish court was quick to capitalize on the French manufacture of state coaches, buying many there and developing several new styles based on French designs. This talk will discuss the major Swedish state coaches and their conservation.
  • Deborah Tranter (Australia), director of the Cobb & Co. Museum in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, and director of regional services for the Queensland Museum, Coaching Down Under: Freeman Cobb and His Legacy. Freeman Cobb, born in Massachusetts, transplanted the American stagecoach system to Australia and built coaches there based on designs he took from the Abbot-Downing Concord Coaches. He was responsible for the development of Australian coaching and the building of Cobb & Co. in Queensland. His coaches and stagecoach operations will be the focus of this talk.
  • Monica Kurzel-Runtscheiner (Austria), director of collections at the Kunsthistorisches Museum,Wagenburg, the Royal Carriages of the Hapsburgs at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, as well as at the Monturdepot, The Princes of Thurn and Taxis: Imperial Postmasters’ Carriages. Mail delivery and transportation in Central Europe, throughout the Hapsburg Empire and the German States, was in the hands of the Princes of Thurn and Taxis. Their headquarters was in Regensburg, where they amassed much wealth and assembled a fleet of outstanding carriages and coaches. This talk will provide a glimpse of these spectacular vehicles.
  • Nicolass W. Conijn (The Netherlands), curator of the Royal Stables at Het Loo in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, Outward Show: The Turnout as a Means of Communication. The display of one’s equipage – the carriage and harness, the horses and the attendants – was a part of an ostentatious way of life of aristocrats and wealthy burghers. A whole catalog of rules and regulations regarding one's turnout was drawn up and exemplified in the elegant uniforms, harness and vehicles needed for such conspicuous display. The interplay of all these elements, as exemplified by the Dutch aristocracy and royal court, will be the subject of this talk.
  • Michael Sanborn (United States), director of the Banning Residence Museum in Wilmington, Calif., Phineas Banning: Southern California Freighting and Stagecoach Empire. Phineas Banning developed a huge freighting empire and stagecoach enterprise in Southern California, based in Wilmington. The whole of this part of California and Arizona and beyond depended upon the Banning Company freighters and stagecoaches. His location prompted the development of the major Port of Los Angeles at San Pedro, Calif. This talk will detail the growth and development of the Banning Empire and its contributions to transportation in California.
  • John Ford (England), former director of Arthur Ackermann & Son, Fine Art Dealers on Bond Street, London, John Palmer and the Mail Coach Revolution. The development of the stagecoach mail system began in England in 1787 with the “invention” of the mail coach system by John Palmer. The system developed there set the bar for all subsequent mail coach systems. This talk will tell the story of the creation and development of that system.
  • Lt. Gen. Mertil Melin, (Sweden), Crown Equerry to His Majesty Carl XIV Gustaf, in charge of the Hovstallet, the Royal Stables, in Stockholm, Sweden, His Majesty’s Ceremonial: Royal Travel in the 21st Century. There are five European Royal Houses still using horses and carriages as part of their court ceremonies. One of these, the Hovstallet in Stockholm, Sweden, is responsible for turning out the carriages and coaches for the ceremonial events of the court of Carl XVI Gustaf. Lt. Gen. Melin is in charge of those stables and coach houses, and will speak about turning out such equipages in the 21st century.

    On Saturday, Jan. 30, symposium attendees will have the opportunity to choose from a variety of activities, including a behind-the-scenes tour of Colonial Williamsburg’s stables and demonstrations from artisans from the Foundation’s Historic Trade shops.

    The Carriage Association of America (CAA) was founded in 1960 and is the oldest and largest international organization devoted to the preservation and restoration of horse-drawn carriages. The symposium is open to the public. For more information or reservations, contact the CAA at (859) 231-0971 or at

    Registration for the symposium is $295 before Jan. 1, 2010, and $325 after Jan. 1, 2010. Guests also can register for the daily fee of $95 per person per day. To register, visit or write CAA , 3915 Jay Trump Road, Lexington, Ky. 40511. For more information, call the CAA at 859-231-0971.

    Special hotel rates are available at the Williamsburg Lodge and at the Williamsburg Inn for CAA symposium registrants. Hotel rates are for single or double occupancy, per night and do not include applicable taxes. For room reservations call 1-800-261-9530, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. (ET).

    Distinctive dining options are offered throughout the Colonial Williamsburg’s restaurants and taverns. From a classically elegant setting to a more casual atmosphere to signature tavern dining experiences, each of Colonial Williamsburg’s restaurants and taverns is within steps of the conference facilities. Dining reservations can be made by calling 1-800-261-9530, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.

    The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg offers a full menu of services. A team of world-renowned experts have collaborated to create a spa that exudes southern charm, harmonizes with its historical surroundings, reflects its colonial heritage, and honors traditions of health and wellness throughout American culture. To make your reservation, please call 1-800-688-6479.

    Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

    Media Contact:
    Penna Rogers
    (757) 220-7121

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