Posts Tagged ‘George Templeton Strong sleigh’

The sleighs and sleds of snowy old New York

January 6, 2014

Rapid transit in early to mid-19th century New York consisted of horse-pulled “omnibuses” that could seat a dozen or more passengers and followed fixed routes up, down, and across the city.

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And after a winter snowfall, omnibus lines often used sleighs to navigate snowy or icy streets. This illustration depicts some jovial riders on an omnibus sleigh heading downtown on a Broadway line.

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Maybe a sleigh ride through freezing-cold Manhattan wasn’t always so cheery.

In his diary, lawyer George Templeton Strong described commuter sleighs as “insane vehicles” that “carry each its hundred sufferers, of whom about half have to stand in the wet straw with their feet freezing and occasionally stamped on by their fellow travelers, their ears and noses tingling in the bitter wind, their hats always on the point of being blown off.”

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Having your hat blown off—not much fun. A sleigh ride was a form of winter recreation too, especially on a vehicle that that glided through Central Park or flew through semi-rural Harlem.

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Speed freaks liked to race each other’s sleighs as well, as the above Currier and Ives image of a part of the park then called McGowan’s Pass, near East 106th Street, shows.

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On snowy days, city parks were also filled with kids soaring down hills on sleds . . . or enjoying being pulled along a flat snowy surface, like these little ones.

[Images: New York Public Library Digital Collection; last image MCNY]