In 1897, Francis T. Underhill published a book that went on to become an enormously popular guide to carriage driving during America’s Gilded Age. The original book, Driving for Pleasure: The Harness Stable and Its Appointments, has been out of print for many years now, but it was reprinted (at least) twice in a variety of formats in the intervening years. Now even the reprints are out of print.

But the CAA is coming to the rescue! … We have plans to reprint this well-loved, interesting, and enormously useful book sometime this year.

Here, as a glimpse of things to come, and because it’s interesting in its own right, is Chapter 2:

“The preceding chapter is designed to point out the necessity of adhering to simplicity, combined with as much symmetry of outline as is possible, in every variety of carriage.

“This simplicity should be carried out in the harness, livery, etc. The owner, if his means allow, can produce a brilliant effect by means of uncommonly good horseflesh. What can look worse than a poorly designed and gaudily painted brougham with enormous, fantastically shaped lamps resembling those used on the Lord Mayor’s coach of yore? The whole tawdry effect is generally emphasized by an elaborate harness replete with enormous monograms, and partially hiding a pair of ‘screws’ which would disgrace a street car.

“The contrast between such an equipage, and the perfectly-turned-out brougham, which is so quiet in design and treatment as to be almost unnoticeable, is very great. In this case the harness is plain but handsomely made; the servants are clad in smart, well-fitting and well-put-on liveries; they carry themselves with an air of pride, and seem to feel that the effect of their equipage depends on them — as in a great measure it does.

“With such appointments, a carriage will at least look respectable when drawn by even an ordinary pair; and when the horses are really fine and thoroughly adapted to their work, the effect produced will compel the admiration of the intelligent on-looker, although in most cases he will not know what attracts him. This, then, is the ideal which should guide those who wish to turn out really well.

“The coloring of a carriage has much to do with its general effect. Plain black, and the dark shades of green, blue, and claret, produce the best results in carriages for town use of the non-sporting class. Bright-colored wheels and undercarriages should never be attempted unless the owner be more than ordinarily well versed in the remainder of the appointments. A departure such as this requires the extreme of severity in treatment to make it pass muster.

“In England, of course, where family colors have been in use for generations, the conditions are somewhat different, but the family whose colors are quiet is to be congratulated. …

“A well-made harness is often spoiled by excessive ornamentation — gorgeous monograms or crests covering every available surface. Oftentimes the same decorations reduced one half in size would look perfectly proper. …

“Good liveries are essential to a well-appointed equipage; and yet no department is as much neglected in this country. When one has seen the same carriage, well turned out in other respects, either improved or ruined by smart or slouchy servants, he will appreciate the point.

“The very position of the servants contributes largely toward the general finish. Put a slouchy mustached coachman on the box of the best generally appointed carriage procurable, and its good points go for naught. No private coachman wears a mustache or beard, and the presence of such can invariably be considered an indication of ignorance of his calling. Such a man may be a good strapper [groom], and in a general-utility place might be satisfactory; but he should never be employed as a coachman.

“The town coachman must be a man of experience, and reasonable wages paid to such a man will often save a large expenditure in paint and repairs. The thorough coachman can be distinguished at a glance, and it is unfortunate that they are so few and far between.”