Monday, October 26, 2009

Secret Life of Objects: Duffy Stagecoach

By: Erin Crissman, Curator
This is one of a series of posts about the "other life" many objects had before they arrived at The Farmers' Museum.
If you participated in this week's Facebook Poll, the following may look familiar to you.
On which of the following occasions would you don a fake beard and top hat?
President's Day
A visit to Ford's Theater
The last ride of Duffy's Tally-Ho Stagecoach
They are part of my every-day attire
If you were inspired by the first choice - you win!
In September 1953, between 14 and 16 men piled (and I do mean piled) atop Duffy's Tally-Ho Stagecoach for its official last ride. The ride began at Todd's General Store, inside The Farmers' Museum where the stage picked up "actual mail." Then, the coach left the museum grounds and travelled into Cooperstown, where it delivered the mail to the Post Office. After a long dinner at the Tunicliff Inn, the stage was officially gifted to The Farmers' Museum by owner George Duffy. Afterwards, the coach travelled back to The Farmers' Museum filled with local children who had piled in while the coach was parked outside the Inn during dinner.
Stagecoach in front of the Dr. Jackson's Office at The Farmers' Museum.
Since then, the stage has remained parked inside The Farmers Museum's main barn. I was surprised when museum friend (and daughter of one of the coaches' last riders) brought in this photograph and news articles chronicling this event. I had no idea that it went out of service with such fanfare!
In use in a local parade in the 1930s.
Although we call this vehicle Duffy's Tally-Ho Stagecoach, it was only referred to by that moniker for the last few decades of its service. The stagecoach was built about 1870 by Abbot, Downing and Company of Concord, New Hampshire. After its first trip from the factory to Cooperstown, it remained in Otsego County. Captain Abaithar H. Watkins, the original owner, inherited a mail-delivery contract from his father. Watkins began driving stagecoaches at age 14 and eventually owned portions of several transportation businesses throughout New York State.
The Duffys purchased the vehicle in 1908 and used it in a variety of parades in Fort Plain, NY, and in other locations around the county, for the next 45 years. Mr. Duffy invited a number of gentlemen to participate in the last ride events, and since he through the coach had been made in the 1820s, he required that they wear "Civil War Era" attire. The Abe Lincoln get-ups don't seem as out of place now that I know it was a requirement of all participants!
Delivering "actual mail" to the Cooperstown Post Office.


Le Loup said...

Great looking carriage, I would love to own one.
Looking forward to the rest of the series.
Le Loup.

Chris M said...

love the post,Erin = always interested in the past lives of objects, can't wait to see what other stories you post

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