FREMONT – It seems men always have had a love affair with vehicles – even before the advent of cars.
Rutherford B. Hayes was no exception. Soon after becoming America’s 19th President, Hayes bought a new carriage. It was made by Brewster & Co. of New York and, according to an article in the January issue of The Carriage Journal, it was top-of-the-line.
“Brewsters were the highest quality vehicles made in America. The company became Rolls Royce in later years,” said Roger Murray of Tiffin, who along with his wife Sue penned the article titled, “The President’s Turnout.”
The Murrays owned and rode horses for years until Roger experienced orthopedic-health issues. Unable to ride, he turned to “coaching” as a hobby. He and Sue explore the world traveling by horse-drawn carriages and coaches. They also own and restore sleighs and carriages, an aspect of the hobby that rekindled Roger’s life-long interest in history.
“I was a history major in college. I have visited the Brewster at the Hayes Presidential Center several times and always wanted to do a story about it. It is a significant vehicle in American History,” said Roger.
President Hayes used his elegant carriage for daily travel, often inviting Civil War friends and fellow politicians along for a ride. Among his passengers were Presidents Grant, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, and McKinley, as well as Generals Sherman, Sheridan, Scofield, and Hancock.
At the time Hayes was elected, presidents not only were responsible for paying their White House staff, but also had to provide their own transportation. The 19th President paid $1,150 for his Brewster. Purchase date was March 22, 1877. He also spent $1,700 for two pairs of black horses and $300 for harnesses.
The research the Murrays did for their article reflects their membership in the Carriage Association of America. The international organization promotes preservation of antique horse-drawn vehicles and uses its magazine The Carriage Journal as an educational tool. CAA also endeavors to provide financial support to historical societies and museums.
“Museums are the best because much of what they have is in original condition,” said Roger.
President Hayes’ original Brewster carriage is on permanent display in the Hayes Museum at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. The Museum is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $6/adult, $5/senior citizen, $2/children 6-12. The Hayes Presidential Center is located at the corner of Hayes and Buckland avenues in Fremont. For information call 800-998-PRES or visit www.rbhayes.org.