Getting Carried Away

The National Sporting Library & Museum recently hosted a very successful first ever “Carriage Day” exhibition Saturday, July 23, of antique, vintage and modern carriages graciously provided by Carl and Caroline Cox, Doug and Queenie Kemmerer, members of the Piedmont Driving Club, and Colonial Williamsburg.

Parked on the museum’s lawn were an English Beer Dray to quench the town’s thirst; a c-spring bob sleigh complete with bear skin to keep you warm on a moonlit winter’s night; an early Standardbred racing sulky painted in the original owner’s colors; a high-sided children’s tub cart for the family’s sheltland; a pony size wicker governness cart with room for several little ones; a very rare Thoroughbrace gig to visit your neighbor over the glen; a stylish wicker phaeton for a single horse to carry a couple of guests and groom to pour the libations; an elegant auto top surrey for the wedding party and special occasions; an all purpose wagonette for everyday use; and a handful of other carriages, all beautifully presented and lovingly cared for.

Impressive in size and design were three open top carriage breaks: a beautiful pine and oak shooting break (forerunner to today’s SUV) for the fowl and game sportsman and once owned by Robert E. Lee’s granddaughter; a Grand Vis-a-vis used for elegant family Sunday outings down the boulevard to impress your peers and the masses (being roofless allowed for the tallest of milady’s hats); and a beautiful roof seat break to entertain friends at the races or the neighbor’s polo match with caviar and chilled Kriter, and it comes with a Dalmation!

Highlighting the collection on display were two beautiful chariots or demi-landaus used for ceremonial and state functions, recently restorred by Colonial Williamsburg. Each carriage was attended by a coachman in period attire eager to answer questions and talk about the coach and its design.

Paul Bennett, Director of Coach and Livestock at Colonial Williamsburg, gave a lively and informative talk and slide show describing how the carriage changed the world to a packed audience. A world class driver, he shared a couple of stories about his adventures of driving in the dark and descending steep hills.

Watching the world go by at a leisurely 7 mph to the rhythmic clip-clop of the horses’ shoes and tinkling of champagne glasses is a spiritual experience — put it on your bucket list. And here’s a hint to keep the bubbly from spilling: put an ice cube in your flute!