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Abbot-Downing Concord Coach

Home | The Concord Coach | Buffalo Bill's Wild West | Buffalo Bill - Page 2 | Miss Lucy Downing | Carriage Manufacturing in Concord, New Hampshire | Abbot-Downing Coaches You Can Visit | Additional Information on Concord Coaches | Abbot-Downing Stagecoaches - Updates | Abbot-Downing Concord Coach Updates II | Abbot-Downing Concord Coach Updates III | Abbot-Downing Concord Coach Updates IV | Abbot-Downing Concord Coach Updates V | Abbot-Downing Concord Coach Update VI | Concord Coach Update VII | Concord Coach Updates VIII | Concord Coaches Shipped Across America

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The Abbot-Downing Company made stagecoach history.  Scroll down to begin the Abbot-Downing Concord Coach story.

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This site was last updated January 13, 2009

A link to the California State Parks website was added today - Updates VIII

Students - You can print out a Concord Coach and design it your way!

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New photos of the Abbot-Downing Concord Coach decorated for the Holidays at the Wells Fargo History Museum - Phoenix - Updates VIII

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Info on Abbot-Downing Concord Coach at Barre, Massachusetts Historical Society - Updates VIII

Info on the Coach Parades in Bethlehem and North Conway, NH added today.  Click on Updates VIII.

Abbot-Downing Concord Coach in the collection of the Hood Museum, Dartmouth College.  Click on Updates VIII.

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The Concord Coach Society is continually updating their site.  Click on for what's happening with the Society.

CLICK ON PHOTO FOR INFORMATION
Photo courtesy of Chuck Bourbeau
Photo courtesy of and copyrighted by Chuck Bourbeau

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Hansen Wheel & Wagon Shop - Extremely informative website.  Updates VIII

Photo of Abbot-Downing Concord Coach located at Crazy Horse Memorial posted on Updates VIII.

Abbot-Downing Concord Coach #131 finds a new home.  Updates VIII.

New London, NH Historical Society Abbot-Downing vehicles.

Happy 147th Birthday Mount Washington, NH Auto Road.

Fantastic story of the Concord Group Insurance Concord Coach located in Concord, NH.

Also, check out the Concord Coach at Six Gun City, Jefferson, NH.

Click on Updates VIII for information on all of the above.

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Heerlen, The Netherlands Abbot-Downing Concord Coach

Original photo of 30 coaches sells on ebay for $3,608.84.

Old Sturbridge Village introduces reproduction Abbot-Downing Concord Coach - Updates VIII

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Make sure you add this to your favorites.
WELLS FARGO GUIDED BY HISTORY
 
Click on the stagecoach above for instant access.
 

FAVORITE SITE OF MINE!

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY - Wells Fargo

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Before and after photos of the Abbot-Downing Concord Coach at the Flume, with additional information on its restoration.
 
Photo of the Abbot-Downing Concord Coach in the collection of the Concord Monitor and information on its restoration.
 
View them on Updates VIII.
 
 

New publication highlights John Burgum, chief ornamental painter for the Abbot-Downing Company.  See Updates VIII for info.

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   ABBOT-DOWNING
           HISTORY

Their sturdy bodies were glowing carmine or bright vermilion and their running-gear a jaunty yellow. Their interiors were lined with sleek leather and flowered damask, and they had the pictures of famous beauties painted on their footboards. There was color and dash in every line of them, and they carried men on colorful adventures all over the world. They were the Concord Coaches, the last and finest triumph of the stagecoach era, and for fifty years they made their quiet little Merrimack Valley town a famous by-word in the world of transportation.

Their story goes back to a mild May morning in 1813 when a young man from Lexington Massachusetts, arrived in Concord, New Hampshire, with his working tools under his arm and sixty dollars in his pocket.

Lewis Downing had learned the wheelwright's trade in his father's blacksmith shop, and his grandfather had been a carriage maker in Lexington three years before the Minute Men assembled on its green. He was bred to the trade, unusually well endowed with the courage and optimism of his time, firm in the belief that "honesty, industry, perseverance, and economy will ensure any person with ordinary health, a good living, and something for a rainy day." By August 3 of the same year he was established and ready with an announcement.

'Lewis Downing respectfully informs the inhabitants of Concord that he has commenced the wheelwright's business in Concord near Mr. William Austin's store, where he flatters himself that by strict and constant attention to business, and the correct and faithful manner in which his work will be executed, to merit the patronage of the public. N. B. Carriages of all kinds repaired on short notice."

By November he had produced his first vehicle, a "Concord" wagon, sold to a prosperous local merchant, Mr. Benjamin Kimball, and the beginnings of his coach-building business was well underway.

Three years later, the young craftsman purchased land and erected a small factory, where he employed twelve or fourteen men in the manufacture of wagons and chaises. His workers produced all the wooden parts, including the bodies, and these were then delivered to the State Prison, where the inmates forged and hammered out the ironwork. For every two wagons Lewis Downing sent to be equipped with their metal finishing, he received one back. Later, of course, as his company grew, he employed his own blacksmiths, highly skilled men who signed their work as proudly as any portrait or landscape painter.

By 1826, feeling the need of an expert carriage maker, Downing engaged the services of J. Stephens Abbot, and the men entered into partnership in the next year. Abbot was an even younger man, a native of Maine, who had come to Salem in his boyhood and learned his trade of a Mr. Frothingham, an expert in carriage design and decoration. Lewis Downing's new partner came of rugged New England stock, and legend has it that his father walked from Ticonderoga to Boston, leading the horse that bore a sick brother. In 1827 Downing and Abbot built their first coach, and they continued for the next twenty years to run a thriving and expanding business. In 1847 their partnership was dissolved by mutual consent, and they operated separately until 1865. By this time sons were growing up, and the young men of both families joined forces in that year, becoming incorporated as the Abbot-Downing Company in 1873 and continuing so until the opening years of the twentieth century, when the automobile began to replace the horse and the great coaching days were over.

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Just what was it the Downings and Abbots contrived and built here in Concord, New Hampshire, that created for itself such a demand that sales and distribution offices had to be established in Boston and New York, Chicago, San Francisco, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa? It was a stagecoach, differing not so much in general outline and appearance from its first ancestors that carried the court gallants round about the English shires in Queen Elizabeth's time. But there were differences immediately discernible to the traveler who rode therein. They were light and durable, those Concord Coaches, and all their appointments had an air of elegance and sophistication, but, more important than that to the harassed man trying to cross the alkaline deserts of Nevada or the bogs of the African veldt in a rainy season, they were free-swinging and comfortable.

They came in three sizes, built to hold six, nine, or twelve passengers, though some of the later models could crowd twenty in, and they were usually drawn by teams of four or six horses, whose harnesses were supplied by the James R. Hill Company, also of Concord. The coaches were made of white oak and ash, blazed in the forest and transported to the works. The oak lengths were sawed to the proper measure and split for spokes; hubs were of elm; and the curved bodies of basswood took their shape from being held with clamps and carefully exposed to heat and moisture. All the metalwork - iron steps, railings on top to secure the baggage, small fittings, and door handles - were hand forged and signed by its maker. Landscapes were enscrolled on the sides, and rich fabrics lined and cushioned them within.

But the great feature of the Concord Coach was the "thorough brace." Thorough braces were strips of leather, cured to the toughness of steel and strung in pairs to support the body of the coach and enable it to swing back and forth. This cradle-like motion absorbed the shocks of the road and spared the horses as well as the passengers. It also permitted the coach to work up its own assisting momentum when it was mired in a slough of bad road and beasts and driver were struggling to free it. These thorough braces were carefully wrought and intricate in arrangement, and it usually required the hides of more than a dozen oxen to supply enough of them for a single coach.

Although more than three thousand of these coaches were produced during the years the Concord works was in operation, the basic pattern of them varied little because the design was so perfect in the first place. As the firm grew and expanded, it issued style books, but these were chiefly to introduce such late variations as the pie wagon and street sprinkler. The Concord Coaches were not mass-production jobs. They were built to order and followed carefully drawn-up specifications. Here is a description of the vehicle that the Eagle Hotel in Concord ordered for the transportation of its guests in the year that "Honest Abe" Lincoln was elected to the presidency.

June 20, 1860. E. Sawyer, Eagle Hotel, Concord, N.H. One nine passenger, French window City Hotel Coach. Very light. Deck seat. Box Footboard. Open back, Middle Seat 3 fold. Steps wide and set out well. Axle 1 3/4 and tire l 5/8 x 58. Track 5 ft. 4 1/2. Wheels good height 3 ft. 10 x 5 ft. Strap to hold wheel when at Depot with very stout hook so it will not bend out. Whiffle trees to go with springs. Paint body light olive, carriage light drab. Letter Eagle Hotel (on sides) put Eagle (on back) Plain red plush lining. Driver's boot, leather. Head lining printed, lasting. Plain woodwork very light. Not to weigh over 1500.

This was an extremely conservative model. No red or yellow striped wheels, such as some customers asked for, no request to "ornament up rich and tasty."

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Miss Marie Putnam. Photo courtesy of the N.H. Historical Society.

The Concord of the Eagle Hotel, once the Eagle Coffee House, was always a coaching town. One line ran south through Haverhill to Boston, and another carried traffic from Boston to Concord and then northward to the White Mountains and Vermont. The coach works was its leading industry, a mammoth one for those days, employing two hundred and fifty people. The days of Rosie the Riveter had not yet come, for of these two hundred and fifty employees, two hundred and forty-nine were men. In 1895 Miss Marie Putnam was tendered a gold watch and given a party on completing thirty years service, the only woman on the payroll of Abbot-Downing. She was employed because "being a woman she could operate a sewing machine better than any man could ever hope to do." It must have been Miss Marie who stitched the fringe and damask that so tastefully draped the interior of each coach.

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This 1870 vehicle is a beautiful example of a Concord Coach in its original condition. It is now in the collection of the Mount Washington Stage Company at the base of Mt. Washington, N.H. Photo courtesy and copyrighted by Chuck Bourbeau.

Labor conditions in this early Concord industry were not severe or cruel by the standards then in force throughout the country, though workers of today would hardly tolerate them. The partners worked hard, turned out good work, and gave honest value, and they expected the men they hired to observe a similar code. In the early days of the nineteenth century a fourteen-hour working day was common, and during at least half of the year much of this time was spent under the feeble light of small and dingy oil lamps in frigid quarters. Conditions changed somewhat at Abbot-Downing during the years. Most of the work was done by hand, though at one time there were two saws driven by water power to get out felloes for wheels. Horse power was made some use of by 1828, and steam power twenty years after. Gradually matters improved, but in 1882:

"Work hours are from 7-12 and 1-6. Everybody should be in his place ready to commence work precisely at these hours and to continue until the whistle sounds for leaving off. There are conveniences for washing, but it must be done outside of working hours and not at our expense."

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When visiting New Hampshire, make sure you stop at the Flume, and check out the Abbot-Downing Concord Coach.  You can find additional information on this coach on the following pages.

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The owner of this coach is the Concord Monitor. The coach was in service from Center Harbor to the White Mountains about 1866. This splendid coach is on display in the lobby of their building at One Monitor Drive, Concord, N.H.
 
Additional information is found on Updates VIII.

This site would not have been possible without the love and affection of both Ed and Barbara Rowse - they instilled in me the love of the Abbot-Downing Concord Coach.

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Sandwich, New Hampshire Concord Coach off to the fair.

Sandwich Historical Society

For membership information, click on the photo above. And while you're at it, click on Quimby Barn.

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This site is provided by Peter Anthony Adams with support from many individuals that have a love of Abbot-Downing Concord Coaches.
 
And, I expect you are one of them!  Thanks for being so interested in the Abbot-Downing Concord Coach.

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If you are into Miniature Reproductions - this is a site for you.  Unfortunately, no matter how much I love them, I can't afford them.

Click on for these great miniatures.

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