By our standards, transportation in the 19th Century
was often extremely slow, uncomfortable, and even
dangerous. In some areas there were no hotels, so
travelers had to camp out or hope to find a
hospitable family. The traveler faced danger from
weather, wild animals, and (in some areas) hostile
The earliest settlers often chose to travel by water,
either in a canoe or raft. Either of these could be
made using natural materials. In the South, a dugout
canoe might be made by burning out a portion of a
large log. Other men made simple rafts by lashing
logs together. With more tools, the man might build
a flatboat or "ark" that he might use to float
downriver to his new home.
Steamboats became common in the 2nd quarter of
the 19th century and made river travel much quicker
and easier. They allowed more goods to be brought
into some isolated areas, thus lowering prices on
consumer goods. Steamboats could be extremely
dangerous, however. Their boilers frequently
exploded and their decks, sometimes loaded with
cotton and decorated with ornamental woodwork,
made them susceptible to fire.
The simplest way to travel by land was on foot, and
for some settlers this was the only means of land
transportation that they had. A person on foot was
limited, however, by how much he could carry either
in personal possessions or in inventory to sale.
If the homesteader wanted to travel any other way
than on foot, he needed certain equipment. If he
traveled by horse or mule, he needed a bridle and
probably a saddle of some type. Even a pack-horse
needed a halter and a pack-saddle, but a horse
enabled a person to travel more quickly and carry
more merchandise or goods.
A slightly more affluent homesteader might want a
wagon, which required harness, for his horse or
mule. (The harness for pulling a wagon is usually
somewhat different from the simple harness used
for plowing.) An even more affluent farmer might
keep a light buggy for trips to town. Wheeled
vehicles allowed the farmer to easily carry large
loads of goods to market, and to bring supplies
home, but they could not run over the rough terrain in
Some farmers used oxen both to pull plows and to
pull carts. Oxen required a wooden yoke, which
could be made by a skilled woodworker, but the iron
ring was usually made by a blacksmith. Oxen were
extremely strong, and less likely to spook than a
horse, but they were tediously slow and had to rest
from time to time.
Trains, of course, provided and even faster way to
travel and move large quantities of goods. Riding on
a train cost money, however, trains were not
convenient in some areas.
The bicycle, that ubiquitous human-powered
machine, was not popular until the 1880s.
|Transportation and Price
Transportation directly affects the price of
goods. If transportation is efficient and quick,
then goods cost less.
|There were many types of carts,
from the chaise. This word is
pronounced "shay" and
immortalized in the poem "The
Incredible One-Horse Shay."
Below is a hansom cab, in which
the driver sat behind the cab.
In general, we might say that a buggy was
a four-wheeled horse-drawn vehicle in
which the person drove himself.
|Above: People drove for health and recreation as well
as for transportation. A well-to-do family goes out for a
drive, with the daughter driving her pony and the father
riding his saddlehorse. From Moseman's Illustrated Guide
Carriages were four-wheeled vehicles in which
a driver usually drove the passengers. Below
are a vis-a-vis in which the passengers faced
each other, the very popular Victoria Phaeton,
named for the Queen of England, and another
|The Check Rein
If you have read Black Beauty, then you know
how the check rein was abused in the 19th
Century. This rein was often used in connection
with a very strong bit to force a horse to keep its
head extremely high.
At its best, the check rein can prevent a horse
grazing along the way or getting its head down to
buck. Some casual drivers today do not use it at
all, but it is required in some shows.
|COACH AND CARRIAGE
Coaches are usually defined as
public transportation vehicles (i.e.
a "stage coach") or a carriage for a
wealthy or noble person.
|SADDLES came in many different types. Today, most saddles in
the U.S. are either English-style or Western style, but in the 19th
century there were other types of saddles as well.
|This is an English-Type
Saddle, small and light and
suited for pleasure riding,
hunting, and jumping.
Basic Parts of the Saddle
Front = Pommel
Back = Cantle
You sit on the seat.
Your foot goes in the
The girth or cinch holds the
saddle on the horse.
|This is a Western-type
saddle, descended from
the saddles of the Spanish
heavy saddles were
designed for hard riding,
long days of work, and
|This a McClellan-type
saddle, named after a
Union General in the Civil
saddles were used by the
army, and some civilians
rode them as well.
|Riding Habits Godey's Feb. 1865.
The long skirt was later replaced
by a safer "apron" skirt less likely
to be caught on the saddle-horns.