Friday, February 03, 2017

Mark Twain, commenting on stage coach travel

Mark Twain described the stagecoach as “an imposing cradle on wheels.” As was the norm of travel, in 1861 he took stages from St. Joseph, Missouri to Carson City, Nevada. He recorded his impressions of the trip in his 1872 book “Roughing It.” He lived in Nevada until 1864.

His brother Orion had been appointed by President Abe Lincoln as the Secretary of the Nevada Territory on and despite a generous salary, no funds to relocate to Nevada were provided and without the means himself he struck up a deal that if Mark paid for their journey he would serve as Orion's private secretary.

He hated working for his brother, and went out trying to find a silver lode. That failed, and he ended up began working in a quartz mill shoveling tailings for small wages and hated it. Soon after he talked his way into a job as a newspaper editor, later he took a couple trips to San Francisco and became a writer for a literary journal there.

Then there was the “forty memorable miles of bottomless sand, into which the coach wheels sunk from six inches to a foot. We worked our passage most of the way across. That is to say, we got out and walked.”

And then there was the food, when it was available. According to Mark Twain, a meal consisted of “last week’s bread…condemned army bacon…a beverage which pretended to be tea, but there was too much dish-rag, and sand, and old bacon-rind in it to deceive the intelligent traveler.”

he said after the cross country trip,which was so bouncy, that he needed an unabridged dictionary to find the proper words to describe his joy the ordeal was over

The Old Santa Susana Stage Road was carved out of the rock face of the hills.

Mark Twain visited 5 continents, crossed the Atlantic Ocean 29 times and toured the world seeing the usual places, France, Italy, Greece, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, India, South Africa, Germany, and England of course

“Following the popular success of The Innocents Abroad, Twain wrote his second travel book, Roughing It

Twain wrote A Tramp Abroad in 1880, and Following the Equator in 1897, an account of a round-the-world lecture tour he took of British Empire countries — Pacific islands, Australia, India and South Africa — in 1895 at age 60.

The famous author had gone bankrupt the year before after investing in a typesetting machine, and the lecture tour and ensuing book’s success enabled him to pay off his debts.

Stagecoaches started around 1815, but the familiar looking Concord Coach wasn't made until 1827.

this list of rules Wells Fargo posted in their stagecoaches:

Abstinence from liquor is requested, but if you must drink share the bottle. To do otherwise makes you appear selfish and unneighborly.

If ladies are present, gentlemen are urged to forgo smoking cigars and pipes as the odor of same is repugnant to the gentler sex. Chewing tobacco is permitted, but spit with the wind, not against it.

Gentlemen must refrain from the use of rough language in the presence of ladies and children.

Buffalo robes are provided for your comfort in cold weather. Hogging robes will not be tolerated and the offender will be made to ride with the driver.

Don’t snore loudly while sleeping or use your fellow passenger’s shoulder for a pillow; he or she may not understand and friction may result.

Firearms may be kept on your person for use in emergencies. Do not fire them for pleasure or shoot at wild animals as the sound riles the horses.

In the event of runaway horses remain calm. Leaping from the coach in panic will leave you injured, at the mercy of the elements, hostile Indians and hungry coyotes.

Forbidden topics of conversation are: stagecoach robberies and Indian uprisings.

Gents guilty of unchivalrous behavior toward lady passengers will be put off the stage. It’s a long walk back. A word to the wise is sufficient


  1. Well, it was wheels-related, but if you find more stuff as entertaining as this - wheels or no wheels - just post it.

    Btw, what was the name of the 4-cyl. ohc car, used for the banner a few days ago?

    1. it was quite wheels related, more about stage coaches than I've ever posted before... I think they are beautiful. In the past though, I've only posted photos of them, but this was the 1st I'd learned about them, from the point of view of a writer that had extensively traveled in them.... and the rules from Wells Fargo? Fantastic. The banner? I don't know which one you refer to, so I'll post the January banners, as I forgot to, and normally I post them each month

  2. I know it was wheels related, but Mark Twain's comments and the WF rules what was I loved. As for the banner picture, it must have been a February one then. Black and white picture, low slung car facing to the right, with no body, men standing behind it, four cylinder engine with exposed valve gear.

    1. I know the banner now, and have no idea what car... it could be anything