Friday, January 13, 2012

Doing Business with Horses -- 1870s - 1900s

"Doing business with horses" -- a phrase that can be interpreted in several ways: using horses to conduct one's business; the businesses of buying, selling, or training horses; or working in a business that supplies the equipment and tools required by those who own horses for any reason. The end of the nineteenth century to the start of the twentieth was the period just before the beginning of the end for horses as a part of everyday life in both rural and urban areas. Although the automobile powered by an internal combustion engine had made its practical appearance in the 1880s, ownership was still limited and sightings even in Annapolis were rare until the early twentieth century.

When Boyd's Business Directory of the State of Maryland was published in 1875, horsepower for moving people and goods was still provided by horses, not cars. Of the businesses in towns that catered to the needs of horses, the directory listed one blacksmith, Gottlieb Feldmeyer, at 16 Carroll Street (in the area where the James Senate Office Building and other state agencies are now located). Joseph Hayes's harness making business occupied space nearby at 25 Cathedral Street and Arthur Carter's wheelwright shop was not much farther away at 64 Tabernacle Street (now College Avenue). With West Street providing the only land access to Annapolis, businesses catering to horses located on the perimeter of the city near West. Benjamin Martin's Hotel at 67 West and Moses Sellmon at 55 West both offered livery services and stabling for horses.

The term "livery" has several definitions, but the one most appropriate here is "a stable that boards horses and that keeps horses and carriages for hire." The dictionary definition encompasses both boarding and hiring, but the advertisements that appear in the diretories separate the two. Martin's Hotel offered horses and vehicles for hire but also provided a place to stable horses for travelers and perhaps for townspeople who owned a horse but didn't have a stable.

The Maryland Directory, published two years later in 1878, listed three blacksmiths in Annapolis. Gottlieb Feldmeyer was still in business, and two additional firms, Martin & Meyers and Peterson, Stites, & Co., also offered services in this line. Blacksmiths could not only shoe horses but also did the metal work for wooden carriage and cart wheels, repaired traces, and could fabricate or mend the metal parts of harnesses and riding gear.

By the publication of the 1882 edition of this directory, the number of city blacksmiths had increased to six: Feldmeyer, W. W. Martin on his own, Peterson, without Stites, as Peterson & Co., Arthur Carter, Ferdinand Hogan, and Jacob Niehl. The portion of the 1885 Sanborn Insurance Co. map of Annapolis shown above identifies the Feldmeyer blacksmith shop in the middle of the Carroll Street block, with a wheelwright shop next door.

Jumping ahead fourteen years to 1896-97, there were again six blacksmiths in Annapolis, but the personnel had changed once more. W. H. Feldmeyer now did business at 20 Carroll Street, Samuel Peterson was located on the waterfront at Medford Wharf and A. A. Stites served customers at City Dock. Newcomers included W. W. Morris at 117 West Street, J. F. Stevens at 167 West, and F. E. Stevens at 51 Prince George Street. The same 1896 directory listed thirty blacksmiths in the rest of the county, serving customers in twenty-five different towns or neighborhoods.

The three later directories show the same patterns of continuity and change in the other businesses related to horses. Joseph Hays appears as a harness maker again in 1878 but not in subsequent years. Theodore G. Friemel was the harness maker in Annapolis in 1882, perhaps in association with Gottlieb Feldmeyer. By 1896, his business was in the hands of C. A. Friemel and located at 53 West Street, and J. B. Martin, at 71 West, also made saddles and harnesses. In 1878, the directory had an entry for Martin & Myers (also listed as blacksmiths) under the wheelwright heading; they were the only wheelwrights listed that year. In 1896-97, according to the directory, there were no wheelwrights in town, but the city had one wagonmaker, F. E. Stevens (also listed as a blacksmith) at 51 Prince George Street.

Benjamin Martin remained in the hotel and livery business for the entire twenty-year period covered by the early directories. He was listed only as B. C. Martin under the category heading of "Livery/Stable" in 1878 and 1882 but reappeared as Martin's Hotel, at 73-75 West Street, in 1896-1897. James H. Vansant also operated a livery/stable business in 1878 and 1882, and 1882's listing included F. W. Duvall as well. In 1896-97, in addition to Martin's Hotel, there were two establishments in town: Richard G. Chaney at 121 West Street, near the railroad depot and the Annapolis & Bay Ridge Stables, at 61-63 West (established in 1870, according to their advertisement), with a Vansant family member as manager.

Two other categories of business related to horses appear in the directories published in 1875 and 1896-97. James Vansant's first directory listing, in 1875, was as the agent for Adams Express Company at 7 West Street. Adams was still in business twenty years later, but now had a competitor, the United States Express Company at State Circle and Francis Street. The advertisements of the livery and express businesses point to the mutually beneficial relationship between the steamboat lines and railroads on the one hand and the livery companies on the other. Freight arriving by boat and rail had to be transported to businesses, farms, and homes, just as passengers had to be brought to and from the wharves and depots. Livery companies were the taxis and rental trucks of the pre-combustion-engine era.

And just as later directories contain listings for gasoline stations, so too the 1896-97 directory included among its entries two businesses that provided fuel for horse power. John H. Rawlings, at 77 West Street, and Henry B. Myers, at 29 West, advertised hay and feed among their many products for home and farm.

Henry B. Myers opened his business on West Street in the late 1880s and Henry Myers & Co. continued to occupy the site until the early 1970s. In its earliest years, the company catered to a horse-powered agricultural economy, selling harnesses and hardware on West Street and advertising the availability of coal, lumber, flour, feed, and hay behind the store in buildings that lined Cathedral Street, as shown below in the 1891 Sanborn map (buildings have been renumbered since 1891). As cars replaced horses, harnesses, hay, and feed gave way to paints and oils, china, GE appliances, and housewares. The family business first occupied 47 and 49 West and later expanded into 45. Between 1908 and 1913, the company added a third story and gave the original 18th century buildings a uniform facade with a modern, 20th century look.

In the Sanborn map below, Cathedral Street runs along the left side of the block shown and West Street runs diagonally along the right. The supplies of hay and feed were stored in the sheds along Cathedral.

Looking down the first block of West Street toward St. Anne's Church (after 1908), horse-drawn vehicles still dominate the street's traffic although they no longer have exclusive use of the roadway. The remodeled buildings at 45-49 can be seen as the three-story structure on the right side of the street.

By 1928, the company advertised trucks as well as hardware, stoves, and household goods, but hay and feed could still be purchased.

A c.1930 photograph shows the remodeled storefront while the last photograph below captures the recent businesses occupying 45-49 West Street in 2008 as well as the modern color palette. And the internal combustion engine appears to have won the battle for the street.


Monday, January 2, 2012

The White Horse

A couple of weeks ago, I was in New York for the weekend and took a break from a walk around Central Park to visit The Frick Collection. While in the museum, my eye was caught by a Constable landscape labelled "The White Horse." The horse in question is standing in the bow of a flatboat getting underway on the left side of the canvas. One man is busy coiling up an anchor line while two men are pushing the boat away from shore using long poles. A fourth man, smoking a pipe, sits in the stern with the tiller at hand. The catalog description of the painting describes it as showing "a tow-horse being ferried across the river Stour near Dedham."

The tow-horse will eventually be pulling a narrow boat on a nearby canal. His connection to the ferry is only as a passenger. The horse stands in a well between the bow and a low raised deck area that runs almost the length of the boat. Three of the ferrymen are standing on this raised deck while the fourth appears to be sitting on the side of a similar small well at the stern end. It is difficult to see how this vessel could carry much in the way of cargo except on calm days when passengers and baggage could rest securely on the elevated deck. Only the use of planking to cover the recessed space would allow the boat to carry any kind of wheeled vehicle.

What is certain, however, is that there is no cable, no provision for sails, and no arrangement for rowing. Is the river shallow enough at this point to pole the boat across? Does it drift with the current, steered by the tiller? That would seem to make crossings "on demand" unlikely and complicate the shuttle design of having a matched pair of ferry landings. Short of a time machine, an account by a very observant and obsessively detailed traveller, a manual for ferry operators, or some other contemporary description, the details remain unclear.