Ruth and I just got back from more than a week on the road in Washington, Idaho, and Montana. We visited attractions daily. Our biggest disappointment was the closing of Glacier National Park earlier than expected. One of our best finds was a carriage museum in a small Washington town.
This type of museum is far more popular in Europe where it has been a bigger part of the cultural landscape than in America. This popular attraction in the state of Washington started in 2002 with the donation of 21 carriages owned by the Dennis family. These conveyances were used around the country especially from the late 1800s to the early 1900s and were a common sight. The railroad caused their demise. Horse-drawn, they were messy in cities and often went through messy terrain.
This collection has grown to more than 60 vehicles of every type. One of my favorites was a French type of carriage known as a vis-a-vis. Passengers in these vehicles faced each other, and many of them were used for taxis. A common conveyance was the chuck wagon used on cattle drives. It was led by a trail boss commonly known as Cookie who doubled as a barber and doctor. Almost always a man, he had other functions. This museum has one of these vehicles on display. A landau was how the wealthy got around. They were luxury vehicles.
Studebaker Company began as a wagon manufacturer. It produced lots of conveyances for farmers before making cars. This museum has far more than carriages. It also has lots of period clothing and tools on display. Among it artifacts are many sleighs.
Perhaps its biggest draw is several last-century carriages used in films. On display to be seen are Belle Watling’s landau from Gone with the Wind and Shirley Temple’s lady’s carriage used in The Little Princess. This special carriage is this museum’s youngest vehicle.
I learned a lot about getting around before cars were plentiful. I did not know that wagon trains had a wagon in back of it full of replacement wheels as it started out.