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Coach Lace for Passenger Vehicles by Susan Green

Coach Lace at one time was a notable American industry, being listed with early manufacturing societies as a trade that they wanted to promote in the early colonies, but now it is a lost art in American. So for some thirty years Susan Green has been documenting this trade to make a 500 page manuscript on the subject.

In going through old newspapers of the 18th century the term that is more commonly used is livery lace for this carriage and coach trim. This early term of livery lace leads to a lot of confusion, as this has several different meanings. An earlier use of the term livery lace was a gold or silver braid used to trim military uniforms and servants uniforms known as liveries. We think sometime around 1700-1740 it became fashionable to trim servants uniforms with a new kind of lace also called livery lace that was woven with a loop pile surface and often times had the master’s coat-of-arms woven into it, a spin off of this type of livery lace was to have a geometric design with the colors that were found in a coat-of-arms. We know from William Felton’s book A Treatise on Carriages, published in 1794 that coaches could be trimmed with lace using coat-of-arms or other designs. Felton uses just the word laces to describe this trim as do other invoices for coaches of the 18th century. The word lace also makes it very confusing to do research and communicate with people, as it has two different meanings. There is the fancy lace with open ornamental work, and then there is woven lace such as used for trimming coaches. Other words found used to describe this trim are chaise lace, Orrice or Orris (believed to be of Scottish origin), and there was a fashion for caffoy lace and lining (also spelled caufoy/cafoy/cuffoy/cafa). In the18th century newspaper the person who makes such woven trims is referred to as "laceman," (also found as lace manufacturer) as is the other kind of lace making of open ornamental work. A person employed in making coach lace most often advertised they made a variety of trims such as: hat bands, girth webs, reins, ribbands, trims for military uniforms, and fringes.

It wasn't till about 1800s that the word coach lace becomes the common word used for describing this trim. There are three sub categories of coach lace which are broad lace that averages about 2 inches wide and the narrow trims known as seaming and pasting lace. These narrow trims are used for the edges of the upholstery to hide the tacks or sewn in the seams. Broad lace being the wider is made in a whole range of different patterns from simple to very complicated.


The making of coach lace is one of the most complicated methods of weaving. Because of the loop pile surface several sets of warp yarns are needed. In order to make the loop pile surface the tension on one set of yarns needs to be consistently let off and on while wires are inserted and withdrawn across the top to form the loop, while the other sets of warp yarns hold the loop pile surface in place. The earliest information found on the weaving of coach lace was in Denis Diderot’s L’ Encyclopedie Ou Dictionaire Raisonne des Sciences des Arts et des Metiers - Recueil De Planches, sur Les Sciences, Les Arts Liberaux, et Les Arts Mechaniques, Vol. XI, 1772. The French use the term Passementier for a person who makes all kinds of trims and Diderot shows what is known as draw-loom for weaving this trim. The earliest form of coach lace before 1830s is thought to have been with all the loops raised on the entire surface. The technology of the Jacquard loom was employed around 1825 for weaving coach lace in America. It maybe around this time that coach lace was woven with a figure of raised loops surrounded by a background of plain weft and warp yarns. Then came the more complex coach laces of raised figures and a background of silk to hide the weft and warp yarns, sometimes this background had it own design of silk diamonds or figures but not loops. At different times it was known to have been fashionable to have the loop pile figures cut. If the fancy pattern for the background was going in the weft direction sometimes more than one shuttle would have to be used. Most often coach lace was made with linen for the underside and the loop pile surface was wool, and fancy figured backgrounds were made of silk. At times it was fashionable to have coach lace largely of silk, but this did not wear as well, so it was more practical to have coach lace with a woolen loop pile surface.

It was in 1837 that Erastus B. Bigelow, father of the American carpet industry got his start by the invention of an automated loom for weaving coach that was capable of letting the tension off the warp yarns for the loop pile surface and automatically inserting and withdrawing the wires that the loops were formed over. Coach lace which formerly cost 90 cents a yard, was manufactured by the Clinton Co., (Mr. Bigelow’s coach lace company) for 2 cents a yard. All the machinery and coach lace business of the Clinton Co., was later sold to the Hortsmann Co., of Philadelphia in 1857, Mr. Bigelow continued in carpet making business. Besides the Bigelow patent for coach lace there was a later patent by James H. Murill, of Richmond, Virginia in 1853, later of Baltimore, who seemed to be machinist. Nothing is known of the coach lace woven by Murill’s looms. There were about six patents located in England for coach lace which are included in the manuscript.


The first reference in America found of a coach lace weaver was for Jonas Osborn in the Pennsylvania Gazettefor May 5, 1743 —"Jonas Osborn, Lace-Weaver, from Dublin, Makes and sells all sorts of ...Coach and Saddle Fringe, Chaise-reins, Womens Bridle reins ... Livery lace, shoulder Knots for Gentlemen’s Servants... N. B. Said Osborn may be spoke with at Mr. Price’s Cooper, in Front Street, near M’Comb’s Alley." This seems to be the extent of what we know about Jonas Osborn as he didn’t do any further advertising.

The second oldest advertiser that we found in America clearly indicates that livery lace may be used for servants or chaise furniture.–"Adino Paddock, at his shop in Common Street, near the Granary, where all sorts of traveling and town carriages are made, sells livery lace of all colours, for servants and chaises; worsted reins, brass nails, and all sorts of chaise furniture, neats foot oil." Massachusetts Gazette and Boston News Letter, April 21, 1763, April 28, 1763, May 5, 1763 and May 12, 1763. This leads to an interesting question as to how he acquired coach lace at his carriage factory, as to whether he employed a weaver at his shop to make such trim or did he acquire it from other sources. We know from a study made of the carriage factory of George and William Hunter, Philadelphia that they employed a weaver, Philip Schuman from 1788-1790 to make this trim. However James Butland, also of Philadelphia who was a coach lace weaver from Bristol 1774-1793 operated his own independent business making a variety of trims.

In searching through old newspapers and cities directories a rather complete list of coach lace weavers has been put together with coach lace weavers being located in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania (confined to Philadelphia), Virginia. Some of the more interesting coach lace weavers that information has been found are: Andrew Ray (Rae), who the editor of the Hub gave credit for founding the coach lace industry in America, although we now know there were some earlier coach lace weavers. Andrew Ray was from Scotland and in 1800 he emigrated to Newark, New Jersey along with other weavers to set up a coach lace manufactory. By the different government reports starting in 1816 Newark, was a center of coach lace making, with several establishments and 36 coach lace weavers in the 1826 census. Andrew Ray did not stay long in Newark, but traveled to New York, then Baltimore. There have been several newspaper advertisement located of coach lace businesses in Newark, but the business pretty much remains a mystery as there haven’t been any samples located and by circa 1850 most of the coach lace business is gone from Newark.

Another piece of interesting information is that coach lace was made at the Auburn Prison in New York under contract with Hayden and Letchworth where 18 -20 looms were kept and 29 convicts employed from around 1830-1857. They also had a contract with Columbus, Ohio prison for making coach lace where 11 men were employed making 32 cents a day. Who was the person that taught the prisoners to weave coach lace? What kind of coach lace did they make?


1797-1840 The earliest collection of coach lace samples that have been put together with information and a name is theWilson Marsh collection of the Quincy Historical Society, Quincy, Massachusetts. Wilson Marsh started his coach lace business in 1797 in Quincy, it is unknown how he learned the trade, as he didn’t seem to serve an apprenticeship, it is thought someone came to Quincy that taught him the trade. This was largely a self sufficient home industry. The family raised sheep and dyed the wool. Mr. Marsh had sons and daughters and family members that were employed in the business. The 60 samples of the collection show the most brilliant, and bright contrast of colors of reds and yellows, and other colors. Most are what is called "all raised" the entire surface is covered with a loop pile surface except for a narrow border on the edges of the center design. As an added bonus to this incredible collection of ledger books, papers and sample collection four carriages have been located that show the use of this coach lace for this time period; one at the Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages; another at the collections of the Henry Ford; and a third at Ventfort Hall, in Lenox, Massachusetts; and a fourth at the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. It is said Mr. Marsh went out of business by 1840 due to the invention of the power loom by Mr. Bigelow.

1837-1857 The Clinton Co., of Lancaster, later Clinton, Massachusetts was started by Erastus Bigelow and his brother Horatio, in 1837 with the invention of a power loom patented by Erastus. There was a history of the company published in 1925 titled A Century of Carpet and Rug Making in American that relates the story of Erastus Bigelow’s life and how he became one of the largest carpet manufacturers. The model loom for the patent and some samples are in the collection of Clinton Historical Society, and other coach lace samples are preserved by the Lancaster Historical Commission, Lancaster, Massachusetts and the Smithsonian Institution. It is interesting to note that the back surface of the coach lace samples show long floating yarns of the warp when not in use for forming the loop pile figure surface. Earlier samples and later samples of coach lace show a very clean surface on the back with the warp yarns being woven into the ground surface. Most of Clinton Co., samples show a loop pile figure upon a plain warp and weft ground. Two samples found made by the Clinton Co., are believed to be from the 1850s have loop pile figures with a figured weft silk ground covering the under laying ground structure. There were not any carriages located that use coach lace being made by the Clinton Co. However a carriage at the Lorenzo State Historic Site, Cazenovia, NY and a carriage of the New York State Museum, Albany, NY show this style of silk figure ground work for this time period of the 1850s early 1860s.

1837-1920s. The B. K. Mills and later Bridgeport Coach Lace Company, of Bridgeport, Connecticut was started Benjamin K. Mills who learned his trade in London, England. The first record of samples made by this company are engravings in the Coach-Makers’ International Journal in 1872 with a very plain loop pile surface and a stripe near the edges. Other engravings are shown in the Carriage Monthly from 1882 to 1886. A fire destroyed the factory in 1898, and we can probably assume that a great many historical samples were lost. However the Bridgeport Coach Lace Company, no longer making coach lace, continues today as Bridgeport Fabrics, Davidson, North Carolina. There samples from the 1900-1920s have been photographed. Samples are also preserved at the American Textile History Museum, Lowell Massachusetts. A broad lace pattern first seen in the Carriage Monthly in 1893 has been seen on many carriages and was used extensively by the Brewster companies of New York.

1836-1875. Laban Pardee made coach lace from 1836-1858 in New Haven, Connecticut and later his son Charles Pardee from 1858-1875. Three engravings of his coach lace are shown in the Hub for 1870 and 1872. No carriages have been located that use this coach lace.

1824-1855. Dean Walker first started his coach lace business in Medway, Massachusetts and later moved to outside of Baltimore, Maryland where he appears largely to be engaged in the textile machinery business. There is little information about this person. Two samples of his coach lace are illustrated in the Bulletin of the Needle and Bobbin Club in 1924. These samples appeared without a date but have been dated to circa 1851-1855 by their use on two coaches made by Thomas Goddard of Boston. One of these coaches belongs to the National American History Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

1853-circa 1902. A company called the Coach Lace Manufactory was started by William Boston in New York City, who had been an apprentice to the trade in London, England in 1831. William Boston is then found in Bridgeport, Connecticut from 1855-1869, there are also listings in New York City starting again in 1863. In 1865 he took a partner in New York City Francis J. Schmid. The company then became F. J. Schmid from 1873 to 1902 in New York City. On the death of Mr. Schmid in 1902 it was taken over by George Kellermann to become the New York Coach Lace Company. Two engravings circa 1860 show how the coach lace patterns were drawn on graph paper. These two designs show a vine with leaves an a flower and berries. A pattern made in 1903 was also made by other companies and was found on several carriages.

1888-1920s. Schaefer and Schlegel later Schlegel Manufacturing Company, of Rochester, New York. Henry A. Schaefer, who had been an apprentice to the fancy trimmings trade, started his business in 1883 with two other partners Edward Cook and Emil Renne when this broke up in 1888 he formed a partnership with Charles P. Schlegel in 1888. The Schaefer and Schlegel partnership was dissolved in 1901 to become Schlegel Manufacturing Company which continues today in Rochester, but they no longer make such trims. Mr. Schaefer took a new partner Henry Klein to be become Schaefer and Klein to 1906. There were engravings of their coach lace starting in the Carriage Monthly and The Hub in 1900 and the original sample books are maintained by Schlegel Manufacturing Company who stayed in business after the carriage era by making coach lace and trimmings for early automobiles. Most of these samples are believed to be after the 1900s. One sample of coach lace from the archives was matched to a Concord Coach built by Abbot-Downing Co., Concord, New Hampshire in 1891 now in the collection of the Henry Ford Museum. Some other patterns were also made by other companies as well and have been matched to various carriages.

1874-1920s. The Vogt Manufacturing and Coach Lace Company, started in Rochester, New York in 1874 by Haiges & Vogt (1874-1880) changed to Albrecht Vogt (1880-1882) changed its name to Vogt Manufacturing Company (1884-1886) changed it name again to Rochester Coach Lace Company (1886-1892) and in 1893 it changed its named to Vogt Manufacturing and Coach Lace Company. Albrecht Vogt was born in Germany in 1844 and at the age of twenty-four he first went to New York City and gained valuable experience before moving to Rochester to form a partnership with Frederick Haiges. This appears to be the first coach lace manufacturing in Rochester. They also made other trimmings such as: Ladies’ Dress and Upholstery Trimmings, Centres and Loops, Cords, Tassels, Gimps, and Fringes. The company was later managed by Albrecht Vogt’s son Albert who is credited with keeping the company alive and modernized with current trends. The company was merged with other plants and became a conglomerate of different companies which we are currently not able to trace. Only engravings of the coach lace from 1908 on where located. One pattern made by the company was also made by other companies and has been seen used on carriages at Henry Ford Museum.

1816-1939. William H. Horstmann learned the trade of making trimmings first as an apprentice in Germany, then he became a journeyman that traveled throughout Europe. From a company history published in 1916 we know quite a bit about this company and the later family of William H. Horstmann that would run the company. Mr. Horstmann came to Philadelphia in 1815 where he found employment with Frederick Hoeckley a fellow German, and married the boss’s daughter. The company just kept growing and growing, they moved several times over the years and built new factories and show rooms. Whereas other companies making coach lace seemed to become specialized up to the 1900s, the Horstmann Co., of Philadelphia, made a large variety of goods. They are most noted today for their sword cutler and buttons they made for military uniforms. The company had bought the coach lace looms of the Clinton Co., in 1857, so coach lace remained a major part of their business operations. The coach lace was sold under their label as "Columbia Manufactur’g Company." The first know patterns of coach lace of this company are from engravings that appeared in the New York Coach-Maker’s Magazine in 1865, with other engravings throughout the carriage era in the Carriage Monthly and Hub. A roll of coach lace was found circa 1860 that shows the long floating warp yarns on the back surface typical of this era of power looms. A catalog of circa 1885-1890 showing the broad laces is preserved at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. A pattern made by this company was also seen made by other companies, and has been found on carriages at the Studebaker National Museum, South Bend, Indiana; Long Island Museum of American Art and History and Carriages, Stony Brook, New York; and private collections.


The use of coach lace has been documented on horse-drawn vehicles with interesting examples at the collections of the Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages, Stony Brook, New York; National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont; Owls Head Transportation Museum, Owls Head, Maine; New York State Museum, Albany, New York; Collections of the Henry Ford, Dearborn, Michigan; Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, Middlebury, Vermont; Chautaqua County Historical Society, Westfield, New York; Lorenzo State Historic Site, Cazenovia, New York; other museums and private collections.

The use of coach lace on early automobiles has been largely documented through the old trade publications the Carriage Monthly and the Hub. A few cars were found with trim, with an exceptionally nice example found at the Auburn/Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, Indiana using coach lace made by the Bridgeport Coach Lace Company.

The use of coach lace on trains in America seems to be only a short lived passing fade used on the earliest trains. It is mentioned in the records of Wilson Marsh that coach lace was sold for trains, and a Mr. Hunt writes in his journal on May 10, 1836 of his trip from Ballston to Troy giving the following description - "twenty-four feet in length by eight in breadth, and sufficiently high within for the passengers to stand erect, the whole divided into three apartments: the seats of which are cushioned and backed with crimson morocco, trimmed withcoach lace: each apartment is surrounded by moveable panels, thus affording the comforts and facilities of either a close or open carriage, to suit the convenience of the passengers..." There were not any American trains located with coach lace; however coach lace was used from the earliest trains into the 1900 on European and British trains. Some actual passenger cars with this trim were located at the National Railway Museum, York, England; and paintings at NSB Jernbanemuseet, Hamar, Norway.

William Fitz-Gerald has this to say about coach laces in his 1881 Carriage Trimmer's Manual. "Laces perform an important part in carriage trimming being of a class of articles that is both ornamental and useful; they were introduced almost simultaneously with upholstering of carriages, and, though fashion has occasionally decreed their banishment, they have never gone entirely out of use since their first introduction. At times they are made in a variety of colors and of elaborate designs; then, again, they reach the minimum of plainness.

Pasting and seaming laces are the trimmers' main reliance, wherever a seam is to be corded, or a raw edge covered up; without these, strips of cloth or leather must be used. They answer fairly well for seaming, but are a total failure as a substitute for pasting lace. Heavy carriages are seldom trimmed without laces, though there is a great difference in the amount used by workmen, even on the same classes of work. Fashion, however, as a rule, regulates the amount as well as the style."

Hard cover; 515 pages; many color pages. sold out at this time. Let me know if you want to be notified if it is reprinted in the future.

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