Another look back at buggies
The word “buggy” was first used in England in the 18th century to describe a road wagon with a folding top and two wheels, pulled by one horse.
By the mid-19th century, the buggy – as it was identified in the U.S. – was still pulled by one horse, but it had four wheels and seated two passengers. Hence the “courting buggy.”
Until Henry Ford’s assembly line made mass production of the automobile feasible, buggies were used to meet people’s basic transportation needs in getting from place to place – for example, Apple Grove to Hartselle and Brindlee Mountain to Whitesburg.
Buggies generally sold for $25-50 and could easily be hitched and then driven by men such as John and William, mentioned below, who had no previous experience with horses. Even children could drive them safely.
Buggies were called the “Model T’s of their day” before the real Model T came along.
The widespread use of buggies stimulated the grading and graveling of rural roads and even the paving of streets.
By the early 1910s, however, the horse and buggy were no longer the main way people got from town to town. There were more autos on the roads, whatever their condition, than horses and buggies.
In time, “horse and buggy” would come to be used critically to describes ways of doing things that were old-fashioned, especially ideas that were shopworn and outmoded. But for John Abney’s and William Allen’s Christmas 1920, nothing could have pleased them more than to get “courting buggies” as the greatest gifts they had ever received.
Dec. 30, 1920—Both John Abney and William Allen received “courting buggies” from their pretty well–off parents Christmas morning. John’s buggy is a runabout with a standing (or “Janny Lind”) top. It uses solid rubber tires. William’s is a pianobox with pneumatic tires, axles with ball-bearings and side-spring suspension.
Both buggies came with buggy whips to spur on recalcitrant horses when they were on their way to evening worship or to the popcorn social held each first Sunday after the evening service – this year’s coming January 3l.
July 13, 1906—Sheriff O. B. Hill was notified over long-distance telephone this afternoon that the buggy and horse stolen May 14 from W. D. Martin, the East Florence liveryman, had been found near Cullman. The Cullman officer is close on the track of the thief, who is believed to be a well-known Florence boy.
Jan. 25, 1907—Joe Williams has purchased a new buggy. Look out girls; he is coming with his hat off.
May 26, 1908—A wedding out of the ordinary took place at the home of Morgan County Probate Judge William E. Skeggs tonight. The groom was John F. Berry, and the bride was Mrs. Charles M. Lindsey.
The romantic part of the story is that the bride and groom had driven in an open buggy through drenching rain. A fire was soon kindled, and the bride and groom dried their clothes before the ceremony took place.
Judge Skeggs offered to loan them his surrey, but they said they didn’t care for it, as they were already about as wet as it was possible for them to be.
Sept. 18, 1908—Flora Stephens has told friends that her beau, George Looney, has the prettiest buggy out. Della Giles says it is just like her beau’s, George Kelley’s.
April 6, 1910—Considerable excitement prevails in this section of country on account of the prevalence of mad dogs. Yesterday evening, while Charlie Hardwick was out in the country looking for beef cattle, he came upon some parties who informed him they were going to a nearby house to kill a mad dog. Hardwick and his companion went with them and stopped near the house.
The shot was fired at the dog, which was under the house, but it failed to hit him. The dog made directly toward the buggy where Hardwick and his companion were seated. Arriving at the buggy, the dog gave a spring, landed squarely up in the buggy and succeeded in biting Hardwick in two places.
His companion was more fortunate and succeeded in escaping unhurt.
Hardwick, in company with Dr. W. M. Booth, left today for Montgomery for treatment.
Hardwick is a well-to-do planter and lives near Priceville. He is the son of tax collector George C. Hardwick.