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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Moving From The Horse To The Automobile In Ohio

Dallas Bogan on 14 September 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Domestication of animals was the division point between the savages and civilization. It was one of the great steps of man- kind. The horse, which seems to be the last step in the evolving of man versus beast on the North American continent, meant not only a means of transportation, but it served as a tool for clearing and farming the pioneer lands.
When Ohio became a State in 1803, the only modes of transportation were either on foot or by horse. There were very few wagons and it is thought not a single carriage was in the territory. The horse was used extensively; the farmer took his grain to the mill, and the wife went to the market or visited distant friends on horseback. Lawyers and judges rode the circuit of their courts, doctors visited their patients, and preachers visited their stations, all by horseback.
There were many obstacles in the way of the roving professionals, but one stood out more than any other, the waterways. Bridges across the Miamis and other waterways were virtually nil. When one would purchase a horse for these deeds, it was asked, "Is he a good swimmer?" for swimming was indeed a priority in a good horse. Francis Dunlevy, of Lebanon, was the first president judge of a circuit enclosing several counties. He never missed a court and many times swam his horse over swollen rivers rather than be absent.
Well-constructed roads in Ohio were long in coming. Teaming in the new State became an eminent business during the early stages of statehood. Because of the long road building process, teaming was more business-like in the city rather than in the country.
Cincinnati, in 1809, was a village of 2300, and was the largest town in the State. The number of persons involved in the numerous occupations were as follows: wagoners and draymen, 51; carpenters and cabinet makers, 35; store keepers, 24; tavern keepers, 23; shoemakers, 18; stone and brick masons, 16; and brick makers, 15.
The preceding statistics find the wagoners and draymen more numerous than the other trades, the fact being that transportation was needed for the many businesses, which extensively included hauling merchandise from the river to the awaiting merchants. Perhaps in this latter instance, the most needed product was building material for the construction of stores, shops, warehouses, etc.
As time went by need for carriages was overwhelming. Farm and market wagons were in demand. Wagon making was soon to be an important business. Between the War of 1812 and 1839, Lebanon had four wagon making shops, which employed 37 men.
Passenger carriages were slow to progress. Being called pleasure carriages, rural users, being the most abundant owners, were looked upon as one of "aristocracy."
The Ohio legislature regarded the carriages as "luxury items," and they were soon instilled (in 1825) as taxable items. At this time they were the only "wheeled vehicles" taxed in Ohio, eliminating the ox-cart, the dray (a low sturdy cart with detachable sides), and the stagecoach. The so-called rich man's carriage was taxed of the value of $100 or more.
Ohio was the third state in which carriages were taxable. In 1825 the tax assessors found in all 73 counties (total number at that time), only one-third had carriages, some had only one or two. In Warren County only three were to be taxed and the total taxable value was $715. The total taxable number for the state was 113, the average value being $185. Statistics show that more than half of the number were in four counties, which had the large towns of Cincinnati, Chillicothe, Columbus and Zanesville.
As time passed the wealthy and their carriages became more common. By the middle of the 19th century breeding and training of fast carriage teams had become an important business.
Because of poor road conditions, the height of carriage making did not reach its full extent until the latter half of the 19th century.
The vehicle was becoming more advanced as to its construction. Elliptical springs (invented in England in 1804) had now become commonplace as did rubber tires.
A taste of fashion was now being built into the carriages. Different names were being used for the different styles, most of which are now forgotten. The most common buggy was the one-horse carriage, although there were many two-horse carriages.
Most common among the vehicles used by the general public were the stagecoach, omnibus (a large coach), and the hack. The English called a carriage kept standing for hire a hackney carriage; in the United States it was called a hack.
Livery stable businesses and hire of horses in the latter part of the last century was one of high standing. Horses kept in these stables were primarily driving horses. The value of the horse, regardless of the condition of the roads, did not decrease in worth. The coming of the railroads seemed to increase its price rather than decrease it.
Introduction of the automobile in the 20th century appeared to diminish the number of livery stables in Cincinnati. At its peak, in 1880, the stables numbered 103. In 1900 there were 100; in 1910 about 75; in 1915, 50; in 1920 only 15.
Also due to the automobile, from 1909 to 1920, the number of establishments in Ohio for making wagons and carriages was reduced from 407 to 152, and the number of wage earners employed in them from 8,815 to 2,213.
The new "horseless carriage" had done more toward the decline of the horse and horse drawn vehicle in the cities than fifty years of the locomotion age.

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This page created 14 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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