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The Carriage Trade

, 400 pages

15 halftones, 12 line drawings

September 2004



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The Carriage Trade

Making Horse-Drawn Vehicles in America

Co-Winner of the 2005 Hagley Business History Book Prize given by the Busines History Conference.

In 1926, the Carriage Builders' National Association met for the last time, signaling the automobile's final triumph over the horse-drawn carriage. Only a decade earlier, carriages and wagons were still a common sight on every Main Street in America. In the previous century, carriage-building had been one of the largest and most dynamic industries in the country. In this sweeping study of a forgotten trade, Thomas A. Kinney extends our understanding of nineteenth-century American industrialization far beyond the steel mill and railroad. The legendary Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company in 1880 produced a hundred wagons a day—one every six minutes. Across the country, smaller factories fashioned vast quantities of buggies, farm wagons, and luxury carriages. Today, if we think of carriage and wagon at all, we assume it merely foreshadowed the automobile industry. Yet., the carriage industry epitomized a batch-work approach to production that flourished for decades. Contradicting the model of industrial development in which hand tools, small firms, and individual craftsmanship simply gave way to mechanized factories, the carriage industry successfully employed small-scale business and manufacturing practices throughout its history.

The Carriage Trade traces the rise and fall of this heterogeneous industry, from the pre-industrial shop system to the coming of the automobile, using as case studies Studebaker, the New York–based luxury carriage-maker Brewsters, and dozens of smallerfirms from around the country. Kinney also explores the experiences of the carriage and wagon worker over the life of the industry. Deeply researched and strikingly original, this study contributes a vivid chapter to the story of America's industrial revolution.

Thomas A. Kinney is an associate professor of history at Bluefield College in Virginia.

"A work of great value... Kinney offers a sophisticated analysis of the growth and eventual collapse of this mostly forgotten major US enterprise, and he presents his findings in a readable fashion."

"An indispensable resource for anyone interested in the manufacture of horse-drawn vehicles... An important read for transport historians."

"Contrary to popular perception, it was... the low-cost horse-drawn vehicle that introduced Americans to personal transportation."

"A significant work that brings fresh insights to the study of industrialization."

"A valuable resource that does much to advance our understanding of how industrialization affected work processes, labor relations, business organization, and consumption."

"With these well-organized tools, clear explanations, and absorbing narratives, Kinney provides Indiana and United States historians with an erudite and insightful contribution to the history of transportation technology."

"Kinney has completed an outstanding history of the American carriage industry. This volume belongs on the bookshelf of any serious student of 19th century industry, technology, and labor."

"Kinney reconstructs this once vibrant yet largely forgotten industry."

"An important book, of size, depth and scope well beyond what else has been written about the American nineteenth-century carriage and wagon industry."

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