Vehicle Titles, Origins, and Descriptions of the 1700 and 1800s, S-Z

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there were a huge variety of vehicles. Because there were so many, it sometimes became confusing as to their names, where they originated from, and the differences between vehicles. Thus, to help people understand vehicle titles, origins, and descriptions of the 1700 and 1800s vehicles, here is a list from S to Z.

Savanilla Phaeton – This was the name given a variety of Phaetons used in Bangkok, Siam.
Sedan Cab – A type of Cab invented and patented by Chauncey Thomas of Boston, Massachusetts. It was so named because it resembled the outlines of the Sedan Chair. These chairs were first introduced in England in 1635 and soon became popular in London. The intention was to “interfere with the too-frequent use of coaches, to the hindrance of the carts and carriage employed in the necessary provision of the city and suburbs of London.”[1]
Sedan-Chair – One of the various types of Chaise-á-Porteurs that were popular in Europe between the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries. The Sedan-Chair was supposedly named after the Italian town of Sedan and introduced there in 1490.

vehicle titles, origins, and descriptions of the 1700 and 1800s

Sedan Chair with painted panels attributed to Charles Antoine Coypel. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Shay, One-Hoss – This was a type of New England Chaise that became famous because of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes‘s poem, “The Wonderful One-hoss Shay.” See also Chaise.
Shifter – This was used to describe a single-horse sleigh with shafts so hung that the near runner would follow the horse, thereby permitting the horse to use the track from a pair-horse sleigh when a country road was only “partially broken.”
Side-Bar Wagon – This wagon was a version of the road-wagon but had side-bar suspension.
Skeleton-Wagon – Any four-wheel vehicle that had light construction and was intended for track use.
Sled – A vehicle with runners that slid over the snow and ice. Same as a Sledge or Sleigh.
Sledge – This term was synonymous in England as the term for sleigh.
Sleigh – In English known as a sledge, in France as a traineau, and in Germany as Schlitten. This term was used in the United States to describe any vehicle that was used on the snow that was supplied with runners instead of wheels.
Sleigh, Follow – See Shifter.
Sleigh, Hub-Runner – See Bob-Sleigh.
Sociable – This was a cross between a Barouche and a Victoria and had two double seats that faced each other. This was also the title of the second public coach used for street service in New York. It was introduced by Abraham Brower in 1829 as a companion to the Accommodation and was followed by the Omnibus.
Spar-Wagon – The old name for a Side-Bar Wagon.
Spider-Phaeton – A lightweight phaeton of any pattern but usually had spindle seats and spindle sides instead of panels. There was also a ladies version of this vehicle.
Spindle-Wagon – A wagon or buggy that had a body divided longitudinally with the lower section being paneled and the upper section filled with spindles, thus giving a light appearance to the vehicle, emphasized by a spindle seat.
Spring Wagon – This was a four-wheel, square-box vehicle with two or four movable seat boards that was used to transport goods or passengers in nineteenth century America. It was hung on platform springs and was also sometimes called a platform wagon or platform spring wagon.
Sprinkler – This was either a cart or wagon that was used for watering streets.
Stage – This was the general term used for any public traveling coach. It was strongly sprung and generally drawn by four horses.
Stage-Boat – An old name used for Ferry-boats and used in connection with Stage-Wagons on post routes.
Stanhope-Gig – See Gig.
Stolkjaerre – A variation of a two-wheeled cart peculiar to Norway that seated two persons and generally did not have springs.
Studebaker-Wagon – A type of Farm Wagon by the Studebaker Brothers that was introduced in newly settled regions of the Western United States and its territories.
Suicide – This was an Irish term applied to eccentric vehicles common in Great Britain in the nineteenth century. One person described the Suicide in this way: “Perhaps this name for a very high Gig, with a groom mounted on something like a stool, three feet above the driver.”[2]
Sulky – Two French carriage makers cut the full Coach into the Coupé and Vis-à-vis forms. Then they halved these again thereby creating a one-passenger closed vehicle that was called a “Desobligeant” or “Disobliger.” This was apparently the prototype for the original English Sulky. It was described in the following manner:

“[A] light carriage built exactly in the form of a Post-Chaise, Chariot, or Demi-Landau; but, like the Vis-à-vis, is contracted on the seat so that only one person can sit thereon, and is called a Sulky from the proprietor’s desire of riding alone.”[3]

However, the Sulky of the late 1800s retained only the single-passenger characteristic and had a two-wheel skeleton wheel for track use.
Sulky-Plough – A plough (or plow) that had a sulky seat attached for the driver.
Surrey-Cart – A English form of the Dog-Cart with a Whitechapel body surmounted by a railing supported by spindles.

Tally-Ho – This was what Americans called the Four-in-Hand Coach, derived from the individual name of the public coach introduced in 1876 by Colonel Kane of New York City.
Tapcu – A French term that meant literally “seat-thumper.” It was applied to various carts in certain parts of France.
Tarantass – This was a version of the Russian traveling carriage.
Tar-Wagon – A wagon provided with a furnace that was used to heat tar that was then applied as asphalt pavement.
T-Cart – This was a member of the Phaeton Family and a modification of the Stanhope-Phaeton. A description of it follows:

“[T]he T-cart seated only one groom behind, and was much affected by sporting men among the military. … we are led … to infer that it was from the resemblance of the ground plan of the vehicle … described to the letter T.”[4]

Mechanically the T-Cart had four wheels, a squared-open body, and accommodated four passengers. It was hung on four elliptic springs and had a cut under, which distinguished it from the Stanhope-Phaeton.
Telegraph – This term was applied to one vehicle of the Chaise Family in England in the early part of the 1800s. It was a “two-wheeled Chaise or Whiskey, with a body resembling a Salisbury boot … and with a seat resembling that of the Barouche, the latter having been imported into England from Germany.”[5] It was also applied to an early English Mail-Coach because of the coach’s speed. It also antedates the invention of the electrical telegraph probably because of its being used a “posting vehicle.”
Tilbury – The Tilbury was named for the English carriage builder who invented it to solve various mechanical problems with two-wheel suspension. This vehicle was considered “unsightly” with the only advantage being its lightness. However, in reality, it was the heaviest two-wheeled vehicle, except for the Cabriolet. It had a paneled body and a transverse iron frame, surmounted by a cross-spring, from which the body hung by the means of two braces fastened to two elbow-springs. In addition, it seated two passengers.

Tilbury. Public domain.

Tilt-Cart – This was a Scottish vehicle.
Tip-Cart – Same as a Dump-Cart and constructed so that it could be inclined backwards to empty loads.
To-Cart – A Corruption of the French word for Dog-Cart.
Tram or Tram-Car – An abbreviation of the Outram that was named for the inventor of the “Outram-way” or railway. The English equivalent was Street-Car and the American equivalent, Horse-Car.
Trap – A colloquial term used in England for any light pleasure vehicle.
Tray-Body Buggy – A Buggy perfected as early as 1840 and exhibited at the first World’s Fair, The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations. The buggy received its name because it resembled the shape of “the body proper to the old-fashioned servant’s tray.”[6] It had a leather-covered boot and the hanging bars and back bed were elaborately carved. Its successor was the Yacht Buggy.
Trevithick’s Steam CarriageMadame Tussaud moved to London in 1802 and a year later a steam-powered vehicle was constructed by Richard Trevithick. It was the world’s first self-propelled passenger-carrying vehicle and was assembled at Felton’s at Leather Lane in London. The carriage had 8-foot diameter wheels and the forked piston rods reduced the distance between the single cylinder and the crankshaft. In addition, a spring-operated valve gear minimized the weight of the flywheel, thereby overcoming one of the major drawbacks of industrial steam engines. The engine had a single horizontal cylinder, and there was a boiler and firebox. The carriage could chug along at about 4-9 miles per hour.
Tribus – This was a variety of a two-wheeled public cab invented by a Mr. Harvey of London and introduced in the spring of 1844.
Triolet – A two-wheeled vehicle modeled after the Coupé that was invented by a M. Avril of Paris on 6 December 1826, the same year that Jacques-Louis David’s painting of Madame Récamier entered the Louvre. The Triolet carried three people and the driver, who sat on the front seat over the step. It was “suspended on a single half-elliptic spring, the center of which, resting on, was secured to the axle, with the raised ends protruding at the sides. To these ends were attached two upright standards, reaching higher than the roof, and connected by a cross-bar extending across the roof.”[7]

Unfinished portrait of socialite Madame Récamier by Jacques-Louis David that entered the Louvre in 1826. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Trolly or Trully – An English version of a heavy truck.
Truck – A heavy freighting vehicle that had a platform body, no side panels, and either two or four wheels.
Tub Phaeton – A phaeton that had a tub body and was characterized by a short, curved bottom line and a deep heavy quarter.
Tumbler – Allied to the Tumbrel. A Scottish and provincial English term for a type of cart.
Tumbrel or Tumbril – From the French word Tomberel. This was used during the French Revolution to convey condemned prisoners to the guillotine, including Marie Antoinette. At one point it was also used as an army cart to convey ammunition, tools, etc. Additionally, it was used in the 1700s in England and was said to be a synonym for Dung-cart.
Two-wheeler – The American synonym for Cart.

Van – A derivation of Caravan in the same manner that Bus comes from Omnibus or Cab from Cabriolet. A Van referred to any large, covered wagon, either for the road or railway, that conveyed freight.
Van, Luggage – An English term with the American equivalent being Baggage-Car and the  French term Fourgon.
Van, Prison – Known colloquially as Black-Maria, this was a paneled wagon with a driver’s seat in front and the rear portion of the Wagonet designed for the safe conveyance of prisoners.
Van, Laundry Delivery – English term for a laundry van.
Vehicle – General term used for any type of carriage.
Victoria – Called the same in French or German. This vehicle was created by the French in honor of Queen Victoria and was a member of the Coach Family. It was a four-wheeled vehicle with a Cabriolet body and hood. It also had a skeleton boot that was usually movable, generally suspended on elliptic and C-springs, and statelier than a Cabriolet. In addition, it was driven with postillions.

wagon - Victoria carriage

Victoria Carriage, 1906 version. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Viniagrette – A rolling-chair used in Paris in the 1700s. It was also called a Roulette and Brouette. It was drawn by a man and had a body like a Sedan Chair but rested on springs and two wheels.
Vis-a-Vis – This was a derivation of the French vis-à-vis. It was a member of the Coach Family and applied to all vehicles whose seats were arranged crosswise so that occupants sat face to face, as noted:

“The French, in the course of cutting down the Coach in various forms, halved the Coach longitudinally, and called the resulting vehicle, which accommodated two persons only, sitting face to face, a Vis-à-vis.”[8]

Since the time of the Vis-à-vis, the term was applied to various other vehicles that had the same manner of seating.
Voiture de Bains or Bath-Wagon – This was a wagon used to convey a bathtub with hot water, etc., to private residents. It was in common use in France in the 1800s, and it could be drawn by one horse or by hand.
Volante – A two-wheeled vehicle peculiar to Cuba and characterized by a Chaise body, hung forward of the axles, and drive by a postillion.

Wagon – Derivation of the German wagen. It was applied to primitive forms of conveyance and a four-wheeled vehicle, with or without springs. There are many members of the Wagon Family, including the Bath-wagon, Beach-wagon, Bullock-wagon, Doughterty-wagon, Britton-wagon, Lawrence-wagon, Mountain-wagon, Road-wagon, Runabout-wagon, Whitechapel-wagon, Windsor-wagon, etc.
Wagon, Turn-Over-Seat – This was the same as a Jump-Seat Wagon.
Wagons, Miscellaneous – Wagons were usually compound words that more or less described the type of wagon and included such vehicles as the Butcher-wagon, Coal-wagon, Fire-patrol wagon, Hay-wagon, Undertaker’s-wagon. See Wagon.
Wagonet – The term Wagonet was applied to all vehicles with two longitudinal seat boards where passengers sat face to face and where they entered from the rear. There were infinite styles, shapes, and sizes but a true Wagonet retained the previous-named characteristics. Moreover, the French term Char-á-bancs was literally a carriage with bench seats and was the equivalent of the English term Wagonet.
Wagonet-Omnibus – A vehicle with a coach driving-seat, wagonet body, and with or without a top.
Whiskey – This vehicle was named as such because of its ability to turn around easily. It was an early form of a Chaise that was a light two-wheeled vehicle hung on grasshopper springs, without a hood or top, and very similar to the Sulky in its appearance.

wagon - whiskey

A drive in a Whiskey in 1797. Public domain.

Whitechapel or Whitechapel Cart – The English Dog-Cart used by gentlemen and characterized by a deep, square-box body and bracket front. The name was derived from a butcher’s cart known as the “Whitechapel” that was afterwards modified and intended for gentlemen. The first Whitechapel-Cart was introduced in America in about 1867 in New York and built by Peters & Sons of London.
Whitechapel, Wagon – This was an American modification of the English Whitechapel-Cart having the body adapted to fit a four-wheel Road Wagon and first introduced by Brewster & Co. in New York City about 1870.
Windsor Wagon – This was applied to a certain form of American square-box Buggy that was hung on cross-springs and side-bars.
Wourst – This term was a derivation of the German sausage called a wurst and was a long, sinuous Hunting Wagon that resembled a sausage. It had four wheels, a long perch, and an extended seat or saddle that followed the perch where hunters sat astride. The shape supposedly allowed quicker movement through the woods.

Yacht Buggy – This was adopted from marine vocabulary and had several other titles, Boat-Sleigh, Barge, Canoe-Landau, Gondola-Landau, Monitor Buggy, etc. It meant a swift pleasure boat and was derived from the Dutch jagt, formerly spelt jacht, from jagten, formerly jachten, which meant to speed or to hunt. A modified form of its predecessor was the “Tray-Body Buggy” that attempted to follow the lines of the modern yacht. The leather boot, as used on the Tray-Buggy, was supplanted by a paneled boot. It was designed in 1839 by Brewster & Co., of New York City, and it was succeeded by the Coal-Box Buggy.


  • [1] The Automotive Manufacturer, Volume 28, 1887, p. 708
  • [2] Ibid., p. 709.
  • [3] Ibid.
  • [4] Ibid.
  • [5] Ibid.
  • [6] Ibid.
  • [7] Ibid.
  • [8] Ibid., p. 781.

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