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formed on horseback. The absence of numerous compact groups of population, coupled with the physical roughness of the country and the distances to be traversed, were conditions which necessarily postponed the introduction of travel periodicity in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
The earliest stages that made through trips from Boston to New York were more than a week on the way.” Their introduction was delayed both by the condition of the roads and the greater physical comfort that attended a trip by water. Sailboats could be depended on to convey their passengers between the two cities as quickly as wagons, save under exceptional weather conditions. One of the few early descriptions of a journey from Boston to New York in a primitive stage-coach is that of President Josiah Quincy, of Harvard College. He tells of it thus: Those were the conditions under which a man was transported between the two cities in the early years of periodic travel. He spent nineteen hours a day either bouncing in or pushing his own conveyance, and was then allowed four hours in which to obtain sleep before setting forth again, without any breakfast, on another day of similar exertion. At the end of a week of like experiences the traveller “wondered at the ease as well as the expedition" with which he had reached his journey's end.
"I set out from Boston in the line of stages of an enterprising Yankee, Pease by name;" considered a method of transportation of wonderful expedition. The journey to New York took up a week. The carriages were old and shackling, and much of the harness of ropes. We reached our resting place for the night, if no accident intervened, at 10 o'clock, and, after a frugal supper, went to bed with a notice that we should be called at three which generally proved to be half-past two, and then, whether it snowed or rained, the traveller must rise and make ready, by the help of a horn lantern and a farthing candle, and proceed on his way over bad roads, sometimes getting out to help the coachman lift the coach out of a quagmire or rut, and arrived in New York after a week's hard travelling, wondering at the ease, as well as the expedition, with which our journey was effected." The fare was about two pounds and a half.
1 When Daniel Webster came to Massachusetts to attend school in 1796 he made the trip from New Hampshire on horseback.
Webster, in speaking of travel conditions in New England in 1805, said: "Stages then no more ran into the center of New Hampshire than they ran to Baffins Bay."
2 It took Washington twelve days to go from Philadelphia to Boston in 1775, on his way to assume command of the Continental army.
3 The Boston and Providence newspapers published between 1780 and 1790 contained advertisements of passenger sailboats plying between those cities and New York. The fare on them was usually 20 or 24 shillings. Meals were 10 or 12 shillings extra.
* Pease was one of the prominent stage-coach proprietors of the time, and established numerous lines between many towns.
But things improved on that road, just as they did over the route to Philadelphia, and by 1793 the ordinary man could journey from Boston to New York in four days, along smoother highways, and at a cost of three pence (six cents) a mile. He could, in fact, do even better than that. The demand for speed had become so urgent that an express line existed for the accommodation of those whose business admitted of no delay, and which whirled the traveller to New York in three days and a half. An advertisement announcing the creation of these unusual facilities was printed in the Columbian Sentinel of April 24, and read:
Boston and New York Stages. The subscriber informs his friends and the public that he, in company with the other proprietors of the old line of stages, has established a new line from Boston to New York for the more rapid conveyance of the mails. The stage carriages of this new line will be small, genteel and easy, in which but four inside passengers will be admitted, with smart, good horses, and experienced and careful drivers. They will start from Boston and New York on the first Monday in May, and continue to run three times a week until the first of November, and will leave Boston every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at four oclock a. m. and arrive at New York in three days and a half from their departure. They will leave New York on the same days at one oclock P. M. ... The proprietors have been at such great expense to erect this line, they hope their exertions will give satisfaction and receive the public patronage." For this express service the fare was four pence (eigh:
50.—Travel between widely separated towns on the Atlantic coast was under
taken by water when possible. The method was preferable to jolting over the bad roads. Regular lines of sailing packets were established to accommodate the business, and even after the general adoption of steamboats they successfully fought, for a time, the competition of the new mechanical vessels. Advertisement of a packet line in 1825.
cents) a mile, with fourteen pounds of baggage carried free.
Still another much travelled road on which periodic movement became important at an early day, and whereon an unusual condition prevailed, was that between Phil. adelphia and Baltimore. The early stage wagons along this route were the familiar vehicles with straight sides and tunnel-shaped canvas tops, and they made the journey in two days. One line between the two towns was called "The Philadelphia, Baltimore and Eastern Shore Line of Post-Coach Carriages," and in the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer of 1788 its running schedule and rates of fare for passengers were thus stated : "From Philadelphia to Chester, 15 miles..
£o. 55. od. "From Chester to Queen of France, 7 miles.
£o. 2s. 6d. "Queen of France to Wilmington, 6 miles.
£o. 2s. 6d. "Wilmington to Christiana Bridge, 10 miles.
£o. 35. 4d. "Christiana Bridge to Elk, 12 miles....
£o. 45. 2d. "Elk to Susquehanna, 16 miles...
£o. 7s. 6d. “Philadelphia to Susquehanna, 66 miles...
21. 55. od. “Susquehanna to Baltimore, 37 miles, gratis.”
So the traveller paid about six dollars and twenty-five cents for his passage, and bought his meals and lodging besides. The uncommon feature revealed in the operation of these wagons lay in the fact that for a part of the distance they encountered the competition of sailboats and other passenger-carrying water craft, and for that part of their land journey they charged no fare whatever.
It should not be understood that any uniformity of travel conditions existed throughout the northern colonies during the two generations which witnessed the introduction and first slow growth of periodic movement as an element of progress. The contrary was true. Local circumstances, the weather, and the state of the roads still ruled traffic with almost arbitrary power. Between a few of the chief centers of population there took place, from year to year, a slight and steady improvement, but elsewhere the former conditions still prevailed without much alteration. It was a time of change, and of contrast and contradiction. The old order of things was giving way in places, and the need of betterment in methods of locomotion received a more general recognition. But over a large portion of the territory then firmly in the grasp of white men the physical obstacles to travel were still too great for any rapid progress to be made. The chronicles of the time show that occasionally there was even a lapse in the tendency toward better things, and a retrogression. In discussing traffic between Philadelphia and Baltimore at as late a date as 1797 a publication of the day said:
"The roads from Philadelphia to Baltimore exhibit, for the greater part of the way, an aspect of savage desolation. Chasms to the depth of six, eight, or ten feet occur at numerous intervals. A stage-coach which left Philadelphia on the 5th of February, 1796, took five days to go to Baltimore. The weather for the first four days was good. The roads are in fearful condition. Coaches are overturned, passengers killed, and horses destroyed by the overwork put upon them. In winter sometimes no stage sets out for two weeks."
Such a state of affairs as here described portrays, in substance, the whole aspect of human movement from place to place during the later part of the eighteenth century. The traveller never knew what to expect or what adventure he might encounter. Yet on the whole advancement was apparent, and if the state of the country and the absence of any engineering knowledge held the people back, there had nevertheless been born within them an impatience that in time was to work the marvels then unconceived.
1 "The American Annual Register" for 1797.