Siteseen Logo

The Horse Car

John Quincy Adams

The Horse Car: John Quincy Adams was the 6th American President who served in office from March 4, 1825 to March 4, 1829.

One of the innovations in transportation during his presidency was the introduction of the Horse car.

Definition of the Horse car

Definition: What was a Horse car? The Horse car was an early form of streetcar that was drawn by horses that ran on iron tracks laid in city streets and used for public transport.

Other forms of Public Transport
What was an omnibus? An omnibus was a horse-pulled vehicle (large city version of a stagecoach) which was also used for public transport but ran on dirt, stone or gravel roads. The Horse car followed on from the omnibus. The trolley car, streetcar or tram were  wheeled vehicles that ran on rails and were propelled by electricity instead of horses.

The Horse Car for kids: First came the Omnibus
The horse car (and trains) began as horse-drawn stage coaches, wagons or carts that carried heavy loads. The old west stage coaches were generally used for long distance travel but for shorter distances, in the towns and cities, they developed into the omnibus which appeared in America in the 1820's.
 For additional facts refer to the History of Urbanization in America

The Horse Car is developed
The problem with the omnibus was that roads were invariably rough and bumpy. It then occurred to someone that it would be better to lay down flat, wooden rails and then to place a rim, or flange, on the wheels that would keep the vehicle on the rails - the idea of the horse car and the rail track was born. Rails reduced friction and increased efficiency and comfort. Strips of iron were then laid on top of the wooden rail tracks for durability. The horse car first appeared in America in the early 1830's.

The Horse Car for kids: John G. Stephenson
John G. Stephenson was an American omnibus builder who worked in New York City. John G. Stephenson started his own business in May 1831, that he called the John Stephenson Company. His omnibus building business was successful and his vehicles were used on the streets of New York.

The Horse Car: The New York and Harlem Railroad
It was an exciting time, the era of the US Industrial Revolution. The steam locomotive had been invented by George Stephenson and the American Railroads and rail networks were just being established. The New York and Harlem Railroad was one of the first railroads in the United States. The New York and Harlem Railroad company wanted to introduce a street carriage on rails (pulled by horses) to New York City. John Mason was a bank president and also the president of the company. In 1832 John Mason gave an order to John G. Stephenson to build the first horse car.

The First Horse Car for kids: The "John Mason"
The New York and Harlem Railroad company had been granted a charter authorizing a route for a horse car line from Fourth Avenue and the Bowery north in Lower Manhattan to the Harlem River. John Mason had envisioned a new kind of omnibus, one that run on rails like a railroad, but laid in the street. John G. Stephenson started to work on a design for the first horse car - he would name it the "John Mason".

The First Horse Car for kids: The "John Mason" Design
As can be seen in the above drawing, the "John Mason" horse car were divided into three compartments. Each compartment was designed to carry 10 passengers. The compartments looked a bit like three stage coaches fastened together! John Stephenson built the body and constructed the floors as drop wells between the wheels. He was issued a patent for his idea in April 1833.

The First Horse Car for kids: The "John Mason" Design
The New York and Harlem Railroad was formally opened on 26 November 1832 and the first horse car started the public transport service running on the iron tracks that had been laid in the streets.

The Horse Car is a Success
The Horse Car was an immediate success and soon spread to other large cities such as Philadelphia, Boston and New Orleans. News of the horse car spread to Europe and they appeared in London and Paris. Smaller towns and cities in the United States also liked the idea and horse car lines appeared across the country.

The Horse Car Boom
The design of the horse car developed and gradually became to look like a horse-drawn railway carriage that was pulled by horses.  At the height of its success in the 1880s there were approximately 18,000 horse cars in operation in the United States.

The Decline of the Horse Car
The popularity of the horse car declined as new technology was developed. The old horse cars were first converted to use steam engines and then electricity, using a battery-powered Julien electric traction car. The wheeled public transport vehicles, that ran on rails and were propelled by electricity instead of horses, came to be known by a variety of names - the streetcar, the trolleybus and the tram.

US American History
1801-1828: Evolution Era
Inventions & Inventors Timeline
Facts on Industrial Revolution Inventions

ⓒ 2017 Siteseen Limited

First Published

Cookies Policy


Updated 2018-01-01

Publisher Siteseen Limited

Privacy Statement