Stagecoaches are iconic western symbols. This one carried mail and passengers across Kansas in the late 1800s.
The Southwestern Stage Company purchased this wagon in 1868 from Abbot, Downing & Company. Southwestern Stage was operated by Henry Tisdale of Lawrence and J.W. Parker of Atchison, and it controlled most of the stage lines in the state after 1867.
The wagon was used to carry mail and passengers along a Kansas-Colorado route which paralleled the present-day main line of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway. The coach was in use from 1868 until 1900.
Abbot, Downing & Company was a partnership between carriage designer J. Stephen Abbot and wheelwright Lewis Downing of Concord, New Hampshire. Started in 1813, the company had several branch offices in American cities and Australia by the mid-1870s. The company remained in business into the 20th century, although it stopped making wagons just after the turn of the century.
This wagon retains much of its original paint and features, although its thoroughbraces (the leather straps which serve as springs and shock absorbers) have been replaced. The wagon is not exhibited with its boot due to space limitations.
Drawn by four horses and designed to carry nine passengers, the vehicle is sometimes referred to as a mud wagon due to its ability to roll over muddy roads with ease. Author Mark Twain, who passed through northeast Kansas in a similar wagon in the 1860s, referred to it as a "cradle on wheels." An account of the trip can be found in Twain's book, Roughing It.
This Abbot-Downing stagecoach was presented to the Society by the Betty Washington Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Lawrence, in 1917. It is on display in the main gallery of the Kansas Museum of History.
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: November 1997
Date Modified: December 2014
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