Thick snow made traveling in a sleigh a smoother ride than traveling in a wagon. But most sleighs were not covered, so the ride could be very cold. People kept warm by covering themselves with fur blankets and with heavy coverlets called “lap robes.” Lap robes (which were designed to cover a rider’s legs, lap, and feet) came in many kinds of designs and could be surprisingly bright and colorful. They often featured pictures of flowers, horses, dogs, or other sporting scenes.
People also used foot warmers to keep warm in a sleigh or carriage. These were metal boxes that were filled with hot coals and placed on the floor inside the vehicle.
Sleigh bells were fastened to horses to signal the approach of someone important (the affluent ornamentally wore bells as a symbol of wealth and status) or to warn pedestrians of an approaching vehicle. Sleighs were unable to stop quickly enough so they needed a warning sound. To the right are shaft bells. Below, are another type of bells.
Other essentials include:Fur muff - below left
Plumes - below right
Above, an all-original and fully restored Grand Victoria Sleigh or Hudson Valley Sleigh by Brewster & Co. of New York City. Built around 1890, this sleigh seats a driver plus one on the driver’s seat and can carry up to four passengers. Drawn by a team of four horses.
Above, an all-original and fully restored Portland bobsled. Built around 1890, it seats a driver plus one on the driver’s seat and can carry up to two passengers or grooms. Drawn by a team of two or four horses.
Clothing for Sleighs
Bundling up in layers of wool, fur, cotton and linen was the first line of defense. The following passage of people entering an inn describes how they removed their outerwear when traveling:
Passengers were busy taking off coats – one, two and three in succession. Those were the days of bona fide great coats. Nowadays, they have become lessened and merely overcoats. Chins appeared out of their many wrappages of silk, and fur caps are bundled into pockets.
People wore layered clothing made of wool, flannel, or fur. Typical winter outerwear included hooded capes, great coats, scarves, cloaks, shawls, scarves, muffs, gloves, mittens, thick socks, stockings, long wraps, caps, hats, and ear muffs.
Sitting in open sleighs, carts, and carriages, people would tuck comforters, quilts, or blankets around the, and bring umbrellas to protect them from freezing rain. Fur sets and fur trimming made of beaver, fox, bear, and marten were common. Seal skin cots prevented wind and rain from penetrating to the skin, and swans down muffs kept delicate hands warm and protected. A foot warmer heated with coal would complete the traveling ensemble.
Above is a Rein Rail.
Modern times with an antique Portland Cutter, pulled by Barney, (an Appaloosa), and driven by Victorian Roses Ladies Riding Society’s Priscilla Rose.
An antique Portland Cutter, pulled by Barney, (an Appaloosa), and driven by Victorian Roses Ladies Riding Society’s Priscilla Rose, with Misty Rose as her passenger. A custom frame with wheels was made so that the sleigh could be pulled when there was no snow.
View from the sleigh…it glides silently in the freshly fallen snow.
This Portland Cutter style pony sleigh has wheels attached to the runners so it can be in parades with the Victorian Roses Ladies Riding Society. Zak is pulling it while Priscilla Rose is driving it.
Submitted by Priscilla Rose