carriage, wheeled vehicle, in modern usage restricted to passenger vehicles that are drawn or pushed, especially by animals. Carriages date from the Bronze Age; early forms included the two-wheeled cart and four-wheeled wagon for transporting goods. An early passenger carriage was the chariot, but Roman road-building activity encouraged the development of other forms. The coach, a closed four-wheeled carriage with two inside seats and an elevated outside seat for the driver, is believed to have been developed in Hungary and to have spread among the royalty and nobility of Europe in the 16th cent. The hackney coach, which was any carriage for hire, was introduced in London c.1605. During the 17th cent. coaches became lighter and less ornate and in England the public stagecoach became common. In the 18th cent., as roads improved, carriage-building became a major industry. The hansom cab, patented by J. A. Hansom in 1834, was a closed carriage with an elevated driver's seat in back. Lord Brougham based the carriage known by his name on the hansom. In the United States the most distinctive type of carriage was a light four-wheeled buggy with open sides and a folding top. The term carriage was also used to refer to railroad passenger cars, which in England began as strings of separate compartments. With the introduction of the automobile, the carriage trade collapsed, except where carriage builders such as the Fisher Company adapted to auto body building.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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