...the more they stay the same!
We’re in the middle of a whopping snowstorm here in
. The driving conditions were pretty wild yesterday – lots of fender-benders in town as people slid their way through stop signs and around curves. Maine
Now, consider this – from a newspaper in 1899:
“Monday morning the sleighs slewed badly and in several instances it certainly looked as though an accident could not be averted. A man and woman were driving up
Water street at a fair rate of speed and when a little past the Evans House they turned out for a team. Then it was that the sleigh commenced to go around and it kept turning until it was completely turned, and the horse with a comical expression in his eye was gazing down the street instead of the other way as he had expected.”
} Gardiner, Maine
The sleigh at the top is a
Portland Cutter, perhaps the most popular form of transportation in at the time – this one was advertised in the 1902 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog. The copy assures us it was “made of...solid panels, guaranteed not to split, warp or crack...second growth hickory...braces, bolts and clips best grade Norway iron...spring back and spring cushion...body, black, neatly striped...nickel plated arm rails and dash rail...” Maine
It sold for $16.95.
If you had a big family, a
Cutter wouldn’t provide enough seating for you, your spouse, and your children. A large family would need the equivalent of today’s station wagon, and Sears had just the vehicle – a Russian Bob Sleigh for only $46.90. Portland
“Our Russian beauty combines elegance and comfort,” the advertisement claims. “Wide, roomy, comfortable body...double sweep easy back, shaped for comfort and elegance...spring backs and cushion, richly upholstered with imported English broadcloth...body panels green, gear dark Brewster green, striped to harmonize with the body...”
See the curved front on both of those sleighs? My grandfather told me that curved panel is called the dash, and it protected the people in the sleighs from the snow and ice (and other unpleasant substances!) tossed backwards into the air by the horses’ feet as they trotted down the street -- the dash is the precursor to the front instrument panel we call the dashboard.
I can’t imagine doing the errands in these things – sometimes we take for granted the ease and convenience of our lives today.
It’s nice to know, though, that the more some things change, the more they stay the same: bad driving conditions in 1899 are still bad driving conditions in 2013.
There’s an odd sense of security in that.