Hold Your Horses!

Posting has slowed down, I know.  Our move is on hiatus while the historic newspapers collection is inventoried and then wrapped in acid free paper for storage.  Meanwhile, I’m cataloging my way into our backlog.  I’m working mostly with our pamphlet volumes, which are primarily from the 19th century but include some late 18th and early 20th century materials.  It’s always surprising when I have to create a new bibliographic record in OCLC for one of these items. How could we possibly be the first library to record this item?

Another section of the backlog that I’m delving into are the legal treatises.  These also reveal a surprising breadth in age and topic (although in this case they are pretty much all legal topics).  And while much of the legal reading is tough going for a non-lawyer, sometimes I happen across things that I find fascinating.

For example . . . from the 1st American edition of “Remarks on the Present System of Road-Making; with Observations Deduced form [sic] Practice and Experience, with a View to a Revision of the Existing Law [etc., etc.] by John Loudon M’Adam, esq. (Baltimore: Printed by J. Robinson 1821) come these little facts about horses and the mail system in England:

in 1819 the ‘Select Committee on the Highways of the Kingdom’ took several days of evidence.  They asked William Waterhouse, the coachman at the Swan-with-two-Necks in Lad-lane, how many horses he kept to move his mail and stage coaches around. Answer: “About four-hundred.” (p.87)

They questioned William Horne, who kept the Golden Cross Inn, Charing Cross and also was “proprietor of many mail and stage coaches,” “Do you find that your horses that are employed in the stages near London, wear out sooner than those at a greater distance? — Much sooner, I should think. I employ about four hundred horses myself, and I am sure I buy one hundred and fifty a year [t]o support the number, and keep the stock in order. I consider that my stock wears out fully in three years.” (pp. 89-90).

Here in the automobile age, we simply have no idea what it took to move people and goods around by true horsepower.

Published in: on 23 April 2008 at 10:20 am  Leave a Comment  

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