Built by the L-Downing Company of Concord, New Hampshire and used at Atlantic House in Scarborough, Maine, this coach, with two bench seats and a jump seat inside, represents the finest coaches of the mid-1800s.

It accommodated nine passengers on three seats inside, and as many outside as could cling to the roof. Its purpose was to transport people from the railroad station to the resort hotel in Scarborough. Heavy front-to-rear leather suspension straps gave it an easy riding motion, allowing it to travel at the high speed of 8-10 miles per hour on rough roads. Extra straps, “thoroughbraces,” were carried so that on-the-road repairs could be made. Other features of Concord coaches are the large, curved panels and wrought-iron hardware. This coach is unrestored.

“The story of the Concord Coach is one of the great romances in American history. It began with the love of a lad for a lass and evolved into one of the major technological innovations in the development of transportation. Born in Lexington, Massachusetts on June 23, 1792, Lewis Downing learned the wheelwright trade from his father and became highly skilled in the use of woodworking tools. At the age of 21, he traveled to New Hampshire to see his fiancee, Lucy Wheelock, who was visiting an aunt in Concord. He decided to stay and before long established himself in the wagon manufacturing business. By 1825, Concord had become the hub of northern New England’s stage transportation. It was therefore natural for Downing to perceive the need for a better stage coach for the multitudes of travelers and volume of mail contracts stretching forever away from the coach. He met this challenge with the help of J. Stephens Abbot, and after 1828 the firm bearing the names of these two gentlemen blazed a trail around the world with the finest of travel facilities—the Concord Coach. ‘No American product ever gained a wider patronage, ever gave a better service or redounded more magnificently to the credit of its native state than the Concord Coach. The name Abbot-Downing on such a vehicle not only meant that the eye of its maker had never left it from its inception to its delivery, but that out of the paint pots and design books in his factory there emerged a thing of such splendor that it required no other trademark to give it a world-reputation for almost a full century.’” From liner notes of The Ballad of the Concord Coach by the Shaw Brothers: “The history and expansion of the United States was directly related to the Concord coach and its predecessors. After 1827, when our country was still geographically east of the Mississippi river, the Abbot-Downing Company of Concord, NH, became the springboard for travel to the Pacific Ocean with their building of ‘wheels that crossed America.’ Their contribution was equal in scope to the invention of the telegraph and the development of the railways.” Edward Rowse, Founder, Concord Coach Society, Inc.

Time and Use

Look carefully at the 1850s Concord Coach. Here you see the story of time and use and the question of restoration. The stagecoach has been cleaned. Its 20 layers of varnish have turned black. Underneath are the original colors. Thousands of rutty, muddy and horse-drawn miles in Maine and 140 years have created this exhibit. Do you see the history? Where has it been? Whom did it carry? Here is a workhorse vehicle that was in use before and after the Civil War and proudly wears its scars. It is to remain unrestored at the donor’s request.

Accession no. 1991G23

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