Coach Stop on the Place de Passy, and change of horses, by Edmond Georges Grandjean
The stagecoach was a four-wheeled
vehicle pulled by
mules. The primary requirement was that it was used as a public conveyance, running on an established route and schedule. Vehicles that were used included buckboards and dead axle wagons, surplus Army
ambulances and celerity (or mud) coaches. On the outside were two back seats facing one another, which the British called 'baskets'. In addition to the 'stage driver' who guided the vehicle, a '
shotgun messenger', armed with a
coach gun, often rode as a guard beside him.
The stagecoach traveled at an average speed of about five miles per hour, with the total daily mileage covered being around 60 or 70 miles.
The term 'stage' originally referred to the distance between stations on a route, the coach traveling the entire route in 'stages', but through
metonymy it came to apply to the coach. A fresh set of horses would be staged at the next station, so the coach could continue after a quick stop to re-hitch the new team of horses. Under this staging system, the resting, watering and feeding of the spent horses would not delay the coach. This system based on making fresh horses regularly available along a route had been in use by a number of different civilisations, going back at least as far as the
The stagecoach was also called a stage or stage carriage. Varieties included:
mail coach or post coach: used for carrying mail, as well as passengers.
- mud coach: lighter and smaller, with flat sides and simpler joinery.
- road coach: revived in
Great Britain and Ireland during the second half of the 19th century.