I came across this fine colored post card of a Woods Electric Carriage. It obviously looks very much like what it is, a horseless carriage driven by a couple of small electric motors powered by a battery bank in the floor. It didn’t have a date, so with a wee bit if searching I found the full 1903 Woods brochure, or catalog. It feature no less than 32 body styles, all very much in the traditional carriage style of the late 19th century. I’m going to show you a good number of them below, and the nomenclature gives us a bit of insight into how names like “brougham”, “victoria”, “landau” and other evolved into more modern automobiles.
Woods was one of the pioneers of electric carriages, starting in Chicago in 1899. That ended in 1916, but not before they built a rather remarkable gas-electric hybrid in 1915, the Woods Dual Power Model 44 Coach. I’m going to cover that in its own post, as it’s quite fascinating.
Top speed on the lighter styles was around 15 mph, less for the heavy wagons.
So here’s a healthy sample of the Woods offering of body styles; if you want to see them all, head here.
This Country Club wagon appears the same as the one at the top, in color.
With that kind of range of body styles, obviously the ‘production line’ of the Woods Motor Vehicle Company was a very respectable version of the Jeremy Clarkson “two men in a shed”. One work space per automobile, completely hand built, and the process starts with dropping (or building) the chassis on the delineated workspace where it stays until the completed automobile is driven off.
Probably doable in 1903 (but already rendered obsolete by Oldsmobile, at least), but by 1916 way too costly.
It is clear that center of gravity had not yet made it into the design criteria when these were built. I think all decent carriage building companies had a wide selection of styles, and almost all of them were probably capable of being converted to electric power.
Unfortunately, I don’t think any of the big carriage firms of that time had the imagination to be a leader in autos, even though they probably had the kind of infrastructure that could have made them successful.
The Durant-Dort Carriage Company was said to be the largest manufacturer of horse-drawn vehicles in the country in 1900. Both Durant and Dort did pretty well in the auto business. 😉
Yeah, I would not want to be a footman perched on one of those seats eight or ten feet off the ground even if it was accepted horse-drawn carriage practice.
The ranking thing is interesting. One source calls Studebaker the largest manufacturer of horse drawn vehicles in the world, but that might have been a different time period. And we can’t discount old fashioned hucksterism in making corporate boasts on either side.
The term ‘Studebaker’ comes to mind 😉 , but I think they did more basic wagons rather than carriages.
Studebaker was a case study on how not to do it. Other than a few early electrics, they partnered with other companies and didn’t really get serious until after around 1910, after many others had established themselves. Had the ownership taken autos seriously from the start, their reputation and national distribution network should have vaulted them to the top of the industry.
Neat stuff — it’s fascinating to see now nomenclature comes and goes.
I believe that in those days, the term “victoria” was used to denote a larger, open-bodied carriage – I guess sort of an open version of a brougham. I’m not sure when the term faded out of use, but (aside from Ford’s Crown Victoria), it never re-emerged.
The cab drivers for those brougham and hansom cabs had quite a perch up there. Those with fear of falling need not apply.
Ford used Victoria pretty extensively, starting with a 1930-31 Model A Victoria, a 4/5 psgr car that split the difference between the regular coupe and the Tudor sedan. Then they resurrected the name for their first hardtop in 1951.
Ah – I didn’t know about the Model A’s. I suppose in that regard that “victoria” was similar to “suburban,” which went from being a generic name for a type of car, to being associated specifically with one model.
Does it say anywhere the range (miles) for the electrics?
Incidentally, in addition to being amazingly advanced, the Woods Dual Power cars had a great emblem (or seal, whatever you’d call it):
Lovely period illustrations and vehicles. I also like the virtually unpopulated street scenes, which appear less retouched than the images of the vehicles. Fascinating post.
OMG! Can I breath now?
What an amazing collection of early 20th century wagon design.
I bookmarked this and I’m going to study every image.
Thanks a million, Paul!
Agree! Where else can you find this sort of material?
+1, and +1.
Could someone explain to me the purpose of the “game trap” body style and how it worked?
Based on a worker’s horse or dog cart. The dictionary says: dogcart having four wheels and seats set back to back. From the French dos-à-dos. Or in square dancing dosido!
Dosido? Well, Ma, since it ain’t awful clear which is front and which is back, why, I guess the contraption can turn about on itself as necess’ry.
Styling looks like they just deleted the horse installed a DC motor and some batteries.
Took me a while to figure out why the driver was WAY UP THERE amid the tree branches and telegraph wires and overpasses.
The answer would have been obvious in the horse era: Reins. The driver needs a clear line of sight to each horse, and his reins can’t be sliding over the top of the hansom cab.
Hehehe! And I have a notion that a misjudgment on his part would LEAVE him up there, while the carriage rolled merrily away.
These must have moved at a snails pace in reality. And God help you if there was a hill.
The first electric car produced in significant numbers was for the world’s first motorized TAXI FLEET, in Paris, ca 1888, with suitable steam powered generator for recharge located in their garage. During l’occupation Nazi, 1940 to 1945, petroleum was largely unavailable for civilian use, so Ye Olde Lead-acid DC system was revived for taxi services. Grandma Duck never gave up her impeccably-depicted Detroit Electric. In 1950s-’60s Melbourne, horsedrawn CBD deliveries were progressively replaced by Lead-acid + DC motor vehicles – Carlton United Breweries iconic teams of Clydesdales drawing flatbeds of beer barrels being a notable and beloved exception. Stables were in Swanston Street north, near the National Gallery. Well into the 1920s, C.U.B’s Managing Director got around in a beautiful Abbot Buggy, with two highstepping thoroughbreds. When I was a kid, my friend Brian W bought it, his chestnut (U.S. “Sorrel”) T.B.”Scarlet” & my grey Anglo-Arabian showjumper “Bluegrass” drew it. Nicer than stinky I.C. & soulless electrics, eh fellas!
Truly fascinating collection. Most, I haven’t seen. The landau seems to have a vestigial folding hardtop. I wonder where some of the terminology comes from (Brear, Top Road wagon).
Does anyone know what the extraordinary glass building is in the pics of the Top Road wagon and the Stanhope?