HORSE POWER -- the Canadian History Museum


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North America » Canada » Quebec » Gatineau
June 11th 2016
Published: June 11th 2016
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In the early days of New France in the 1600s, most traveling was done by canoe, but as more settlers arrived and opened up the wilderness, and especially after New France became British North America, they needed better ways to travel on ever-present snow during the long winters, and on elementary roadways the rest of the year. In other words, conveyances both elementary and advanced, large and small, pulled by horses, became the standard means of travel. As cities emerged and commerce grew, people needed to travel in all kinds of weather, and in groups large and small. Quebec thus developed a flourishing industry with over 30 major companies engaged in sleigh- and carriage-making.

Mr. Paul Bienvenu, a well-known horse breeder in Bromont, Quebec, began some 50 years ago to collect, document and restore as needed every type of horse-drawn conveyance used in Quebec from the 17th to the 20th centuries, including sleighs, carts, carriages, cabs, calèches, and more, used by ordinary folk all the way up to the wealthy and high-ranking. Today there are over 200 in his priceless collection, which he has generously donated to Quebec's Museum of Civilization.

Recently I had the pleasure to view 18 of them handcrafted from 1770 to 1940, lent to the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, within Canada's National Capital Region. Here are photos of some of them, and I've tried to present the most important information about each one right after it; but to savour the entire experience and ambiance, you should visit the museum before 17 April 2017. For more info go to http://www.historymuseum.ca/horsepower/ . As usual, to see any photo full size, click on its thumbnail.


Additional photos below
Photos: 30, Displayed: 23


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the collector-ownerthe collector-owner
the collector-owner

Mr. Bienvenu now has more than 200 carriages, sleighs, and other conveyances in his collection, which he has assembled and whose backgrounds he has researched.
Park Drag CoachPark Drag Coach
Park Drag Coach

This was a four-horse carriage popular among the wealthy for important trips, sporting events, and family outings.
the ''cardinal's Landau''the ''cardinal's Landau''
the ''cardinal's Landau''

It was named for the German city of Landau, and was originally built for the Cardinal of Quebec. A convertible vehicle, it has long been popular for state occasions in Britain and around the world, since it makes for maximum viewing by crowds.
the landau infothe landau info
the landau info

Canada's Governor General travels by open landau (weather permitting) to open each new session of Parliament. The Commissioner of the RCMP and his official guests still travel by landau to the annual Sunset Ceremony.
early Calècheearly Calèche
early Calèche

This is the sort of conveyance the early habitants would have used around their farm and village.
1700s calèche data1700s calèche data
1700s calèche data

This classic Quebec vehicle has undergone many changes, and the current large version is now a main tourist transportation in Old Quebec City.
in 1800s Quebec Cityin 1800s Quebec City
in 1800s Quebec City

The scene is near the Cathedral and the site of the present Chateau Frontenac, which had not yet been built.
a Capucine omnibusa Capucine omnibus
a Capucine omnibus

The "capucine" is a retractable hood used to protect the driver from the elements.
omnibus infoomnibus info
omnibus info

A typical omnibus might carry up to seven passengers.
Vis-à-vis carriageVis-à-vis carriage
Vis-à-vis carriage

This one was built in Paris in the late 1800s
a Hansom caba Hansom cab
a Hansom cab

It was named after the English architect who invented this particular model.
cab and drivercab and driver
cab and driver

Doesn't this just look like a scene out of a Dickens or Sherlock Holmes movie set in 19th century England?


14th June 2016

Canadian Museum History
Good morning Fred - This article certainly enlightens us to the form of travel and its beauty that was used back then. The talent these gentlemen possessed is remarkable. Very, very interesting, as both Fern & I were there last Thurs. evening as our twin granddaughters had their graduation ceremony there & of course pictures were taken outside. To be able to visit such beauty in these times is very heartwarming.......and to be able to sit in one of the carriages would be a dream come true. Very well written Fred.....keep up the wonderful, informative pieces.
15th June 2016
'snowshoe sleigh' info

Fascinating Collection
Thanks Fred. What a fascinating collection of horse drawn vehicles. Who would have thought there were so many different carriages. Many of them look pretty open and muddy!!!! From today's perspective we think of them as romantic, but I bet they were cold and uncomfortable... and then we have the vehicles of today. What changes have occurred over the years.

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