Stagecoach
Overview
 
A stagecoach is a type of covered wagon
Covered wagon
The covered wagon, also known as a Prairie schooner, is an icon of the American Old West.Although covered wagons were commonly used for shorter moves within the United States, in the mid-nineteenth century thousands of Americans took them across the Great Plains to Oregon and California...

 for passengers and goods, strongly sprung and drawn by four horses, usually four-in-hand
Four-in-hand (carriage)
A four-in-hand is a carriage drawn by a team of four horses having the reins rigged in such a way that it can be driven by a single driver. The stagecoach and the tally-ho are usually four-in-hand coaches....

. Widely used before the introduction of railway transport
Transport
Transport or transportation is the movement of people, cattle, animals and goods from one location to another. Modes of transport include air, rail, road, water, cable, pipeline, and space. The field can be divided into infrastructure, vehicles, and operations...

, it made regular trips between stages or stations, which were places of rest provided for stagecoach travelers. The business of running stagecoaches or the act of journeying in them was known as staging.
The stagecoach was supported on the thoroughbraces, which were leather straps supporting the body of the carriage and serving as shock absorbing springs (the stagecoach itself was sometimes called a "thoroughbrace").
Encyclopedia
A stagecoach is a type of covered wagon
Covered wagon
The covered wagon, also known as a Prairie schooner, is an icon of the American Old West.Although covered wagons were commonly used for shorter moves within the United States, in the mid-nineteenth century thousands of Americans took them across the Great Plains to Oregon and California...

 for passengers and goods, strongly sprung and drawn by four horses, usually four-in-hand
Four-in-hand (carriage)
A four-in-hand is a carriage drawn by a team of four horses having the reins rigged in such a way that it can be driven by a single driver. The stagecoach and the tally-ho are usually four-in-hand coaches....

. Widely used before the introduction of railway transport
Transport
Transport or transportation is the movement of people, cattle, animals and goods from one location to another. Modes of transport include air, rail, road, water, cable, pipeline, and space. The field can be divided into infrastructure, vehicles, and operations...

, it made regular trips between stages or stations, which were places of rest provided for stagecoach travelers. The business of running stagecoaches or the act of journeying in them was known as staging.

Description

The stagecoach was supported on the thoroughbraces, which were leather straps supporting the body of the carriage and serving as shock absorbing springs (the stagecoach itself was sometimes called a "thoroughbrace"). The front or after compartment of a Continental stagecoach was called a coupé or coupe. An inside passenger or seat was an inside, while an outside passenger or seat was an outside. On the outside were two back seats facing one another, which the British called baskets. In addition to the stage driver who guided the vehicle, a shotgun messenger
Shotgun messenger
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a shotgun messenger was a private "express messenger" and guard, especially on a stagecoach but also on a train, in charge of overseeing and guarding a valuable private shipment, such as particularly the contents of a strongbox or safe...

, armed with a coach gun
Coach gun
A coach gun is a double-barrel shotgun, generally with barrels approximately 18" in length placed side by side . The name comes from the use of such shotguns on stagecoaches by shotgun messengers in the American Wild West and during the Colonial period of Australia.-History:The term "Coach gun"...

, often rode as a guard.

The term "stage" originally referred to the distance between stations on a route, the coach traveling the entire route in "stages," but through constant misuse it came to apply to the coach. A stagecoach could be any four wheeled vehicle pulled by horses or mules, the primary requirement being that it was used as a public conveyance, running on an established route and schedule. Vehicles included buckboards and dead axle wagons, surplus Army ambulances, celerity (or mud) coaches, and the deluxe Concord. Selection of the vehicle was made by the owner of the stage line, and he would choose the most efficient vehicle based upon the load to be carried, the road conditions, and the weather; and used a two, four or six-horse team based upon those factors and the type of car.

The stagecoach was also called a stage or stage carriage. Types included:
  • mail coach
    Mail coach
    In Great Britain, the mail coach or post coach was a horse-drawn carriage that carried mail deliveries, from 1784. In Ireland, the first mail coach began service from Dublin in 1789. The coach was drawn by four horses and had seating for four passengers inside. Further passengers were later allowed...

    or post coach: used for carrying mail.
  • mud coach: lighter and smaller than the Concord coach, flat sides, simpler joinery.
  • road coach: revived in the United Kingdom
    United Kingdom
    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

     during the last half of the 19th century.


A stage wagon was sometimes used as a stagecoach, especially in thinly settled areas.

Traveling speed

The stagecoach were traveling at average speeds between four and seven miles per hour with the total daily mileage covered anywhere from 70 to up to 120 miles.

Stagecoaches in Great Britain

Familiar images of the stagecoach in Great Britain are that of a Royal Mail
Royal Mail
Royal Mail is the government-owned postal service in the United Kingdom. Royal Mail Holdings plc owns Royal Mail Group Limited, which in turn operates the brands Royal Mail and Parcelforce Worldwide...

 coach passing through a turnpike
Turnpike trust
Turnpike trusts in the United Kingdom were bodies set up by individual Acts of Parliament, with powers to collect road tolls for maintaining the principal highways in Britain from the 17th but especially during the 18th and 19th centuries...

 gate, a Dickensian passenger coach covered in snow pulling up at a coaching inn
Coaching inn
In Europe, from approximately the mid-17th century for a period of about 200 years, the coaching inn, sometimes called a coaching house or staging inn, was a vital part of the inland transport infrastructure, as an inn serving coach travelers...

, and a highwayman
Highwayman
A highwayman was a thief and brigand who preyed on travellers. This type of outlaw, usually, travelled and robbed by horse, as compared to a footpad who traveled and robbed on foot. Mounted robbers were widely considered to be socially superior to footpads...

 demanding a coach to "stand and deliver". The yard of ale drinking glass is associated by legend with stagecoach drivers, though was mainly used for drinking feats and special toasts.

The first crude depiction of a coach, not necessarily a stagecoach, was in an English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 manuscript from the 13th century. The stagecoach was first developed in Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 during the 16th century and continued in use up to the early 1910s. Coaching inns opened up throughout Europe to accommodate stagecoach passengers. Shakespeare's first plays were staged at coaching inns such as The George Inn, Southwark
The George Inn, Southwark
The George, or George Inn, is a public house established in the medieval period on Borough High Street in Southwark, London. Currently owned and leased by the National Trust, it is located on the south side of the River Thames near London Bridge. It is the only surviving galleried London coaching...

. The Royal Mail stagecoach, a mail coach
Mail coach
In Great Britain, the mail coach or post coach was a horse-drawn carriage that carried mail deliveries, from 1784. In Ireland, the first mail coach began service from Dublin in 1789. The coach was drawn by four horses and had seating for four passengers inside. Further passengers were later allowed...

 introduced in 1784, hastened the improvement of the road system in the British Isles through the turnpike trust
Turnpike trust
Turnpike trusts in the United Kingdom were bodies set up by individual Acts of Parliament, with powers to collect road tolls for maintaining the principal highways in Britain from the 17th but especially during the 18th and 19th centuries...

 system.

In 1784, a mail stage did the 120-mile journey from London to Bristol in 17 hours.

Stagecoaches in Continental Europe

The diligence, though not invariably with four horses, was the continental analogue for public conveyance, especially as formerly used in France, with other minor varieties such as the Stellwagen and Eilwagen. Stagecoaches could compete with canal boats, but they were rendered obsolete in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 as the rail network expanded in the 19th century.

Stagecoaches in the United States

Beginning in the 18th century crude wagons began to be used to carry passengers between cities and towns, first within New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 in 1744, then between New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 and Philadelphia in 1756. Travel time was reduced on this later run from three days to two in 1766 with an improved coach called the Flying Machine. The first mail coaches appeared in the later 18th century carrying passengers and the mails, replacing the earlier post riders on the main roads. Coachmen carried letters, packages and money, often transacting business or delivering messages for their customers. By 1829 Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

 was the hub of 77 stagecoach lines, by 1832 there were 106.

Stagecoaches ceased operating between Boston and New York after steamships began running between New York and Providence
Providence, Rhode Island
Providence is the capital and most populous city of Rhode Island and was one of the first cities established in the United States. Located in Providence County, it is the third largest city in the New England region...

. However, the Boston to Providence highway was still one of the busiest in the nation with the stagecoach companies carrying passengers six hours from Boston to meet the steamboats. Once the railroads began being built between cities in the 1830s, the stagecoach companies began running from the rails to other cities and towns.

Concord stagecoaches

The first Concord stagecoach was built in 1827. Abbot Downing Company employed leather strap braces under their stagecoaches which gave a swinging motion instead of the jolting up and down of a spring suspension. The company manufactured over forty different types of carriages and wagons at the wagon factory in Concord
Concord, New Hampshire
The city of Concord is the capital of the state of New Hampshire in the United States. It is also the county seat of Merrimack County. As of the 2010 census, its population was 42,695....

, New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

. Concord stagecoaches were built so solidly it became known they didn't break down but just wore out. The Concord stagecoach sold throughout South America, Australia, and Africa. Over 700 Concord stagecoaches were built by the original Abbot Downing Company before it disbanded in 1847. The company was still building coaches, wagons, and carriages according to their business card of 1898. In his 1861 book Roughing It
Roughing It
Roughing It is a book of semi-autobiographical travel literature written by American humorist Mark Twain. It was written during 1870–71 and published in 1872 as a prequel to his first book Innocents Abroad...

, Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

 described the Concord stage's ride as like "a cradle on wheels".

Passenger service

The ballad "The California Stage Company" only slightly exaggerates the travel conditions of the stagecoach passengers on the bad roads of the California Gold Rush
California Gold Rush
The California Gold Rush began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. The first to hear confirmed information of the gold rush were the people in Oregon, the Sandwich Islands , and Latin America, who were the first to start flocking to...

. In coaches with three bench seats, the passengers rode three abreast squeezed into a space of 15 inches apiece. Back and middle rows, both faced forward, and a forward row, faced rearward. Those in the forward and middle rows had to ride with their knees dovetailed. On the center seat passengers had only a leather strap to support their backs on a long journey. Passengers rode with baggage on their laps and sometimes mail pouches beneath their feet. Some travelers suffered from motion sickness due to the motion of the coaches, aggravated when the coach traveled over a section of rough road, adding the torment of bouncing on the hard seat, against the roof, or against the side of the coach.

Stagecoaches employed for use in the Butterfield Overland Mail
Butterfield Overland Mail
The Butterfield Overland Mail Trail was a stagecoach route in the United States, operating from 1857 to 1861. It was a conduit for the U.S. mail from two eastern termini, Memphis, Tennessee and St. Louis, Missouri, meeting Fort Smith, Arkansas, and continuing through Indian Territory, New Mexico,...

 traveled across the country continuously for twenty two days, often traveling at night whenever possible, from Saint Louis, Missouri to San Francisco California often involving harsh weather, hostile indians as well as outlaws. Overland Stagecoaches would make only brief stops at way stations to change teams. Passengers often had poor food and no rest. If a passenger got off the stage to rest, he might be stuck in that place for a week or more, or longer if the next stage had no available seats. Passengers were sometimes compelled to walk to relieve the fatigued teams, or when the coach had to be lightened to make it over a stretch of sand, or to help push coaches uphill or extricate them when bogged down in mud or sand. Passengers crowded into coaches caused conditions that prompted Wells Fargo to post these rules in each coach for passenger behavior:

  • Abstinence from liquor is requested, but if you must drink share the bottle. To do otherwise makes you appear selfish and unneighborly.
  • If ladies are present, gentlemen are urged to forego smoking cigars and pipes as the odor of same is repugnant to the gentler sex. Chewing tobacco is permitted, but spit with the wind, not against it.
  • Gentlemen must refrain from the use of rough language in the presence of ladies and children.
  • Buffalo robes are provided for your comfort in cold weather. Hogging robes will not be tolerated and the offender will be made to ride with the driver.
  • Don't snore loudly while sleeping or use your fellow passenger's shoulder for a pillow; he or she may not understand and friction may result.
  • Firearms may be kept on your person for use in emergencies. Do not fire them for pleasure or shoot at wild animals as the sound riles the horses.
  • In the event of runaway horses remain calm. Leaping from the coach in panic will leave you injured, at the mercy of the elements, hostile Indians and hungry coyotes.
  • Forbidden topics of conversation are: stagecoach robberies and Indian uprisings.
  • Gents guilty of unchivalrous behavior toward lady passengers will be put off the stage. It's a long walk back. A word to the wise is sufficient.



Passengers for the long haul overland coaches were given recommendations of equipment to be taken. For the earliest line that traveled through New Mexico Territory
New Mexico Territory
thumb|right|240px|Proposed boundaries for State of New Mexico, 1850The Territory of New Mexico was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from September 9, 1850, until January 6, 1912, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of...

, the Jackass Mail, a San Diego newspaper suggested "[o]ne Sharps rifle
Sharps Rifle
Sharps rifles were those of a series begun with a design by Christian Sharps. Sharps rifles were renowned for long range and high accuracy in their day.-History:Sharps's initial rifle was patented September 17, 1848 and manufactured by A. S...

 and 100 rounds, a Colt [revolver] and two pounds of lead, a knife, a pair of thick wool pants, a half dozen pairs of thick socks, six undershirts, three overshirts, a wide-awake hat, a cheap sack coat, an overcoat, one pair of blankets in summer and two in winter, gauntlets, needles, pins, a sponge, hair brush, comb, soap, two pairs of thick drawers, and three or four towels." The later Butterfield line suggested passengers take a pistol or a knife.

A real danger for stagecoach travellers on local or long haul lines was the risk of robbery
Robbery
Robbery is the crime of taking or attempting to take something of value by force or threat of force or by putting the victim in fear. At common law, robbery is defined as taking the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property, by means of force or fear....

 by highwaymen
Highwayman
A highwayman was a thief and brigand who preyed on travellers. This type of outlaw, usually, travelled and robbed by horse, as compared to a footpad who traveled and robbed on foot. Mounted robbers were widely considered to be socially superior to footpads...

, road agent
Road agent
A road agent can mean:* Another name for highwayman, a criminal engaged in stagecoach robbery in the mid to late 19th century American West. * Road Agent , a professional wrestling liaison between the wrestlers and management...

s, or bandits, right up into the early 20th Century. Cash payroll
Payroll
In a company, payroll is the sum of all financial records of salaries for an employee, wages, bonuses and deductions. In accounting, payroll refers to the amount paid to employees for services they provided during a certain period of time. Payroll plays a major role in a company for several reasons...

s and bank transfers were regularly carried by these scheduled stage lines. California saw the first stagecoach robbery in the United States in April 1852, when a Nevada City stage was robbed outside Illinoistown
Colfax, California
Colfax is a city in Placer County, California, at the crossroads of Interstate 80 and State Route 174. It is part of the Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 1,963 at the 2010 census...

 by a gang led by Reelfoot Williams. Tom Bell
Tom Bell (outlaw)
Tom Bell was a western outlaw and physician known as the "Outlaw Doc". He is the first outlaw to organize a stagecoach robbery in the United States.-Biography:...

 led the earliest well-organized stagecoach robbery gang, using informants to alert them when a stagecoach had a shipment of gold or rich passengers aboard. His gang began and ended in 1856, but was followed by others, like Rattlesnake Dick
Richard H. Bartar
Richard H. Barter , known as "Rattlesnake Dick", was born in Quebec, Canada. Around 1850 he came to California and tried his luck at mining. Turning outlaw during the California Gold Rush, he joined a gang that was known for stagecoach robbery from 1855-1856...

, who used Bell's methods. One of the more successful individual road agents was Charles Bolles
Charles Bolles
Charles Earl Bowles , better known as Black Bart, was an English-born American Old West outlaw noted for his poetic messages left after two of his robberies. Also known as Charles Bolton, C.E...

 a.k.a. "Black Bart", known to have robbed California stages from 1875 to 1883. As gold mining
Gold mining
Gold mining is the removal of gold from the ground. There are several techniques and processes by which gold may be extracted from the earth.-History:...

 spread across the West, so did the stagecoach robbers.

Stagecoach passengers also faced the danger of Indian attack on coaches or at way stations. There were some Indian attacks on coaches and on the stations of the central overland route and Pony Express stations. The worst attack was in New Mexico Territory in 1861. Until the February Bascom Affair
Bascom Affair
The Bascom Affair is considered to be the key event in triggering the 1860s Apache War. The Apache Wars were fought during the nineteenth century between the U.S. military and many tribes in what is now the southwestern United States...

, relations of the Giddings Line (successor of the San Antonio and San Diego Line) with the Apache
Apache
Apache is the collective term for several culturally related groups of Native Americans in the United States originally from the Southwest United States. These indigenous peoples of North America speak a Southern Athabaskan language, which is related linguistically to the languages of Athabaskan...

 in New Mexico Territory
New Mexico Territory
thumb|right|240px|Proposed boundaries for State of New Mexico, 1850The Territory of New Mexico was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from September 9, 1850, until January 6, 1912, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of...

 were good. The Apache provided most of the hay for their stations between Mesilla, New Mexico
Mesilla, New Mexico
Mesilla is a town in Doña Ana County, New Mexico, United States. The population was 2,180 at the 2000 census...

 and Tucson, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
Tucson is a city in and the county seat of Pima County, Arizona, United States. The city is located 118 miles southeast of Phoenix and 60 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. The 2010 United States Census puts the city's population at 520,116 with a metropolitan area population at 1,020,200...

. Afterward, Cochise
Cochise
Cochise was a chief of the Chokonen band of the Chiricahua Apache and the leader of an uprising that began in 1861. Cochise County, Arizona is named after him.-Biography:...

 began his war to drive all the Americans out of Apache lands. This resulted in the deaths of the crews and passengers of six coaches (which were then burned) and destruction of all but one of the way stations and their station keepers. An attempt to find and pacify Cochise by James Giddings, brother of the general manager, resulted in the death of Giddings and a dozen more men. This loss and the beginning of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 ended overland stagecoach service on the southern overland route.

Mail service

At a time when sectional tensions were tearing the United States apart, stagecoaches provided regular transportation and communication between St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

, in the Midwest along the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

, and San Francisco, California
San Francisco, California
San Francisco , officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the financial, cultural, and transportation center of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.15 million people which includes San Jose and Oakland...

, in the West. Although the Pony Express
Pony Express
The Pony Express was a fast mail service crossing the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the High Sierra from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, from April 3, 1860 to October 1861...

 is often credited with being the first fast mail line across the North American continent to the Pacific coast, it was preceded by the San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line
San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line
The San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line, also known as the Jackass Mail, was the earliest overland stagecoach and mail operation from the eastern United States to California. It was the creation of organized and financed by James E. Birch the head of the California Stage Company. Birch was awarded the...

, known as the "Jackass Mail" (for the last 180 miles between Fort Yuma
Fort Yuma
Fort Yuma is a fort in California that is located in Imperial County, across the Colorado River from Yuma, Arizona. It was on the Butterfield Overland Mail route from 1858 until 1861 and was abandoned May 16, 1883, and transferred to the Department of the Interior. The Fort Yuma Indian School and a...

 and San Diego accomplished on mule
Mule
A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. Horses and donkeys are different species, with different numbers of chromosomes. Of the two F1 hybrids between these two species, a mule is easier to obtain than a hinny...

 back instead of stagecoach), which ran on a bi-monthly basis, 1500 miles between San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is the seventh-largest city in the United States of America and the second-largest city within the state of Texas, with a population of 1.33 million. Located in the American Southwest and the south–central part of Texas, the city serves as the seat of Bexar County. In 2011,...

 and San Diego, California
San Diego, California
San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the United States and second-largest city in California. The city is located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, immediately adjacent to the Mexican border. The birthplace of California, San Diego is known for its mild year-round...

, from July 9, 1857 to December 1858; and by the Butterfield Overland Mail
Butterfield Overland Mail
The Butterfield Overland Mail Trail was a stagecoach route in the United States, operating from 1857 to 1861. It was a conduit for the U.S. mail from two eastern termini, Memphis, Tennessee and St. Louis, Missouri, meeting Fort Smith, Arkansas, and continuing through Indian Territory, New Mexico,...

 of George Chorpenning
George Chorpenning
George W. Chorpenning Jr. was a pioneer in the transportation of mail, freight, and passengers through the arid and undeveloped western regions of the United States...

 that predated the Pony Express by nearly three years.

Butterfield Overland Stage
Butterfield Overland Mail
The Butterfield Overland Mail Trail was a stagecoach route in the United States, operating from 1857 to 1861. It was a conduit for the U.S. mail from two eastern termini, Memphis, Tennessee and St. Louis, Missouri, meeting Fort Smith, Arkansas, and continuing through Indian Territory, New Mexico,...

 began rolling on September 15, 1858, when the twice-weekly mail service began. A Butterfield Overland Concord stagecoach would start from San Francisco and another overland stage from Tipton, Missouri
Tipton, Missouri
Tipton is a city in Moniteau County, Missouri, United States. The population was 3,261 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Jefferson City, Missouri Metropolitan Statistical Area.-Geography:Tipton is located at ....

, over the better roads. As the going got rougher, the passengers and mail were transferred to "celerity
Celerity
Celerity may refer to:* Speed, quickness* Celerity BBS, a computer bulletin board system popular in the 1990s* Celerity Computing Inc., defunct San Diego, California vendor of Unix-based "supermini" computers...

 wagons" designed for the roughest conditions. Each run encompassed 2,812 miles and had to be completed in 25 days or fewer in order to qualify for the $600,000 government grant for mail service.

In March 1860, John Butterfield was forced out because of debt. The beginning of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 forced the Stage Company to stop using the Oxbow Route and to use the Central Overland Route instead. The eastern end of the central route, St. Louis to Denver, Colorado
Denver, Colorado
The City and County of Denver is the capital and the most populous city of the U.S. state of Colorado. Denver is a consolidated city-county, located in the South Platte River Valley on the western edge of the High Plains just east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains...

, was taken over by Ben Holladay. Ben Holladay is characterized as a devoted, diligent, enterprising man who became known as the Stagecoach King. At the western end, Denver to San Francisco, the stage company was taken over by Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo & Company is an American multinational diversified financial services company with operations around the world. Wells Fargo is the fourth largest bank in the U.S. by assets and the largest bank by market capitalization. Wells Fargo is the second largest bank in deposits, home...

 due to large debts that Butterfield owed. Wells Fargo commandeered the monopoly over long-distance overland stage coach and mail service with a massive web of relay stations, forts, livestock, men, and stage coaches by 1866. Transcontinental stagecoaching came to an end with the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869.

Final American use: Short haul

The last American chapter in the use of the stagecoaches took place between 1890 and the late 1920s, when the road to Young, Arizona
Young, Arizona
Young is a census-designated place in Gila County, Arizona, United States. The population was 561 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Young is located at , along Arizona State Route 288 . SR 288 is paved within and north of the town, totaling about ten miles of pavement...

 was paved and the stagecoach was replaced with a Ford motorcar. In the end, it was the motor bus, not the train, that caused the final disuse of these horse-drawn vehicle
Horse-drawn vehicle
A horse-drawn vehicle is a mechanized piece of equipment pulled by one horse or by a team of horses. These vehicles typically had two or four wheels and were used to carry passengers and/or a load...

s, and many "automobile stage companies" were established in the early 20th century. After the main railroad lines were established, it was frequently not practical to go to a place of higher elevation by rail lines if the distance was short.

A town 10 to 25 miles off the mail rail trunk, if it were 1000 or more feet higher, would be very difficult and expensive to serve by rail due to the grade incline. This final portion of the trip, during that 25-year period, was usually served by local stage lines, with a ride of less than a half day being typical. Once the mainline rail grid was in service, the railroad actually stimulated stage line operations well into the 20th century. These were eventually replaced by motorbuses, and so many local private bus lines were early called motor-stage lines. By 1918 stage coaches were only operating in a few mountain resorts or western National Parks as part of the "old west" romance for tourists.

Some bus lines still have the word "stage" in their names, though it is difficult to say whether such usages come from actual corporate descent from predecessor stagecoach operators, or is just a marketing strategy.

See also

  • Carriage
    Carriage
    A carriage is a wheeled vehicle for people, usually horse-drawn; litters and sedan chairs are excluded, since they are wheelless vehicles. The carriage is especially designed for private passenger use and for comfort or elegance, though some are also used to transport goods. It may be light,...

  • Charley Parkhurst
    Charley Parkhurst
    Charley Darkey Parkhurst, often Charlie/Charlene/Charlotte or Parkurst, born Mary Parkhurst , was an American stagecoach driver and early California settler...

    , celebrated stage driver
  • Coach (carriage)
    Coach (carriage)
    A coach was originally a large, usually closed, four-wheeled carriage with two or more horses harnessed as a team, controlled by a coachman and/or one or more postilions. It had doors in the sides, with generally a front and a back seat inside and, for the driver, a small, usually elevated seat in...

  • Coaching inn
    Coaching inn
    In Europe, from approximately the mid-17th century for a period of about 200 years, the coaching inn, sometimes called a coaching house or staging inn, was a vital part of the inland transport infrastructure, as an inn serving coach travelers...

  • Cobb and Co
    Cobb and Co
    Cobb and Co is the name of a transportation company in Australia. It was prominent in the late 19th century when it operated stagecoaches to many areas in the outback and at one point in several other countries, as well....

  • Cobb & Co. (New Zealand)
    Cobb & Co. (New Zealand)
    Cobb and Co is the name of a company that operated a fleet of stagecoaches in Australia in the late 19th century. Cobb & Co themselves did not operate in New Zealand officially but their name was used by many private stage coach operators.-History:...

  • Highwayman
    Highwayman
    A highwayman was a thief and brigand who preyed on travellers. This type of outlaw, usually, travelled and robbed by horse, as compared to a footpad who traveled and robbed on foot. Mounted robbers were widely considered to be socially superior to footpads...

  • Jesse James
    Jesse James
    Jesse Woodson James was an American outlaw, gang leader, bank robber, train robber, and murderer from the state of Missouri and the most famous member of the James-Younger Gang. He also faked his own death and was known as J.M James. Already a celebrity when he was alive, he became a legendary...

  • Mail coach
    Mail coach
    In Great Britain, the mail coach or post coach was a horse-drawn carriage that carried mail deliveries, from 1784. In Ireland, the first mail coach began service from Dublin in 1789. The coach was drawn by four horses and had seating for four passengers inside. Further passengers were later allowed...

  • Riding shotgun
  • Stage Coaches Act 1788
    Stage Coaches Act 1788
    The Stage Coaches Act 1788 was an Act of Parliament of the Parliament of Great Britain to regulate the use of stagecoaches. It came into force from the 1st November 1788. It stipulated that no more than six people were permitted to ride upon the roof, and no more than two upon the box, of any...

  • Stage Coaches Act 1790
    Stage Coaches Act 1790
    The Stage Coaches Act 1790 was an Act of Parliament of the Parliament of Great Britain to regulate the use of stagecoaches. The Act built upon the provisions of the Stage Coaches Act 1788, reducing the permitted number of passengers, clarifying the type of vehicles to which it applied, and...

  • Turnpike road
  • Wagonette
    Wagonette
    A wagonette or an omnibus is a horse-drawn wagon for passenger transport. Two wooden benches along the right and left side of the wagon platform can hold several sitting people facing each other. The driver sits on a separate, front-facing bench.The term carried over to motorized vehicles...

  • Wickenburg massacre
    Wickenburg massacre
    The Wickenburg Massacre was the November 5, 1871, murder of six stagecoach passengers en route from Wickenburg, Arizona Territory, westbound for San Bernardino, California, on the La Paz road.-Massacre:...

     of November 5, 1871

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