Transition of horses to autos in urban areas

Before the invention of the automobile, horses and carriages were the norm in the city. At some point horses completely disappeared (with the exception of mounted police, or quaint carriage rides as a novelty).

Was the transition natural and unmanaged, like the gradual disappearance of hats from men’s heads? Or was there a legal mandate, like with digital TV, that after 1940 (or whenever) that no more horses were allowed without some sort of special permit?

Along a similar vein, were there any type of license fees or taxes levied for horses/buggies/carriages prior to automobiles?

I don’t know too much about this part of history, but the impression I get from period movies and books :wink: is that mostly it was unregulated. There was a wide overlap when you might have horsed and ‘horseless carriages’ sharing the road, and a sort of sliding scale of economic and social factors determining the choices. At first, the automobiles were expensive and status symbols, then as more and more economies of scale came into play, there was probably a time when they became cheaper and keeping up horses was the sign of wealth.

In most cities there could well have been bylaws passed at a certain point that horse-drawn vehicles were no longer allowed on the road as a safety concern, simply because they don’t ‘drive’ the same way automobiles do and make the traffic pattern more complicated

Hope that this helps. Mind the WAG.

I’ve never heard of any mandated switch. For my grandfather in rural Minnesota, it was a logical progression and matter of economics. My dad worked the fields with horses when he was young. Then his dad wound up buying some tractors, etc. because they could work more efficiently than horses. More pasture, economics of scale and all that. (Actually, some of the more expensive equipment was owned and shared among neighbors.) Without the need for horses in the field it made sense to buy an automobile. Keeping horses was a bit expensive and an added chore.

Even there it wasn’t quite that simple. Grandpa liked the new technology and bought the car as soon as he could justify it. He also liked the horses and so pastured them until they died a natural death, sort of as a reward for their hard work. But, one element was the desire to advance.

I do remember hearing about a few people around the farm area who still had horse drawn carriages into the 1950s. But the difficulty of keeping a horse and carriage/wagon pushed people towards the newer technology without any government mandates. I don’t know of license fees for wagons or carriages. I’ve never heard of it and confess that I don’t know. I would doubt it though.

I’m also sure it was unregulated.

Does anyone remember a link to a very early film clip(1900-1910) in the last year or so on here, showing a camera crew on an early streetcar, running down a wide street, with all kinds of cars and horse vehicles sometimes getting in the way? Was it a link from this board, or another I inhabit?

I found it by searching the Library of Congress films.

San Francisco before the fire. While some of the film is dark, it shows you just how chaotic it must have been with a mix of autos, horse-drawn, and street cars.

The auto traffic in that film was apparently staged.

As a matter of interest, I lived in NYC as a kid during the 30s, and there were still a lot of horse-drawn vehicles. Used-clothes dealers, ice wagons, and all milk was deliverd by horse-drawn wagons. It was kind of amazing about the milk wagons. The horses seemed to have learned the route, as the milkman would step off the moving wagon, carry the milk up to the door and leave the bottles on the stoop. The horse would start by itself and move up and stop at the next house where milk would go, while the milkman would follow it, get in the wagon, fill his wire basket with bottles, and so on.

Probably few remember, but there was no homogenized milk then, so the cream always rose to the top of the bottle. The bottle has a little round cardboard cap, and when it was freezing in winter, the milk froze, expanded, and a column of cream rose up, with the little cap on top. It looked like a top hat.

The ice wagons were always followed by kids who grabbed little slivers of ice to suck on while the iceman delivered. In the summer, of course. :smiley: Why ice? Because nobody I ever knew in those days had a refrigerator. We all had iceboxes. The block of ice went in the upper comartment, while the larger lower one was for the food. The ice melted, water went down a tube to a big pan under the thing. We had to empty the pan a couple of times a day.

Ah, the good old days.

As I moved from the city in around 1938, I have no idea when all these horse-drawn wagons disappeared.

While I was a kid, I lived briefly in Canada during the early 60s. They were still using horse drawn milk delivery wagons. The fact that the horse would plod along to the next house while the delivery guy was shuttling bottles back and forth was one reason they kept them.

I don’t think the use of horses for certain deliveries was any regional anomaly, either. It was that way in many places in the US before WW2.

My aunt’s house, built in the 1950s, had that special little door by the driveway where the milkman could place the milk. My parents’ house, built in the early 1960s, did not.

OT: the San Francisco film. WTF? Seemed like a form of Chicken was a favorite game among drivers and pedestrians alike at the time.

The transion from horses followed a natural course. At one time most cities had laws requiring someone to walk infront of the car with a red falg worning people that a car was coming. Also the speed limits for cars in cities was 3 to 5 mph. As the car became more usefull and more on the road cities began to change these laws, that allowed more cars on the streets. There was no mandated switch.

I didn’t watch the clip linked but I’ve seen either the same footage or one very similar to it at work, and none of the cars looked like they are traveling at a speed that would really hurt someone if they happened to be hit.

My great-grandfather worked in a dairy around this time, and similar stories have been passed down through the family.
Since the horses knew their routes, any milkman could substitute for another. But if a horse was sick or lame, running a “substitute” horse was always a huge headache. The horses would either try to do “their route” in an unfamiliar area, or just give up and go back to the barn.

Can you ride a horse on a road legally now? We used to have 2 local guys who would ride on the side of local roads - on the grass next to the road. One of them was very popular with women because he had the Fabio type of look. About a year ago I saw 2 guys on horses in front of a local store, not sure where they came from or how far they rode.

I think some London breweries have returned to delivering unpressurised beer barrels on a traditional dray because it can negotiate the traffic easier than a lorry. You still see ‘Traveller’ carts running on motor tyres in Dublin occasionally and they are more common out of town. This must be the only capital city in the western world where it’s possible to be nearly knocked down right in the middle of town by a couple of very small boys riding bareback on very big horses that I don’t think you could honestly say they had under control.

My Dad in the central Bronx was born in '36 and had a few horses in his life–the milkman and the junkman (buying scrap metal) with their wagons bouncing over the belgian block streets. Horses knew the routes and all. When he was a child most cars in the neighborhood were up on blocks “for the duration” of the war so they wouldn’t use gas and rubber; no hardship since everybody took the subways and trolleys to work.

He said the horses were gone by 1948 or so, and they were missed in a way but everybody understood that Progress Was Good and nobody missed the huge messes horses left behind.

That’s another thing I was going to ask about: at some point cities quit having regular street sweepers clean up the muck. I imagine for awhile it was a matter of scaling back (fewer sweepers covering more road), but at some point it had to be canceled altogether.

In nineteenth century Britain, carriages were heavily taxed on the theory that they were mainly owned by the uppercrust who could afford them. Sort of like having a special tax on stretch limos. :slight_smile:

Good thread! I was interested in the problem of pollution from horses-from manure! A horse produces 10-20 lbs. of crap a day, and with millions of them, keeping the streets clean must have employed a lot of workers.
People complain about the exhaust of cars and trucks-horse pollution must have been much worse. I can certainly see city officials moving to motor vehicles-it was a lot cleaner and less smelly.