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."
Miss Marie Putnam. Photo courtesy of the N.H. Historical
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.
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."
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.
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.
|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.
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.
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.