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Stagecoach - Part 2 - The rules!

October 21, 2012
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

Rules for stagecoach travel varied from company. After they were firmly established, and with as many as nine passengers inside each coach, Wells-Fargo (the most dominate line) focused on etiquette. Some drivers strictly enforced the rules, while others looked the other way, or could be bribed to do so.

First class passengers were allowed to ride in the coach the whole trip. Second class rode on top of the coach, alongside the luggage, and could also be made to walk in rough places, narrow trails, or muddy fields. Third class passengers had the added burden of having to push the stagecoach uphill if necessary.

Passengers were asked to refrain from drinking alcohol during the trip, but if they chose to drink they were expected to share. That same sharing rule applied to the buffalo hide blankets provided for warmth. Anyone caught hogging the robe could be forced to ride on top of the coach, or up front with the driver. Huddling together under the blankets was acceptable, but passengers were instructed not to snore loudly or lean on their neighbors shoulder as a pillow.

Men were held in high standard when it came to personal conduct. They were requested not to swear in front of women or children, and to surrender smoking cigars and pipes in the presence of women. They were allowed to chew tobacco, but could only spit with the wind and not against it. It was also ungentlemanly for a man not to help a woman into and out of the carriage, or by not surrendering his seat when necessary.

Passengers were also forbidden to discuss certain topics while traveling, including stagecoach robberies, murder sites along the trail and the possibility of violent skirmishes. The rule was much more keenly enforced if women or children were on board.

Passengers were permitted to carry firearms on their person and expected to use them in certain emergencies. They were not allowed to hunt wild animals from the comfort of the coach, or fire weapons simply for fun or celebration. Such activities could scare the horses, causing them to bolt. In the event of a runaway stage, passengers were encouraged not to jump from the coach, because they could be injured or stranded.



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