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The Stanford Family Carriage

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Brewster C- Spring Landau carriage
Brewster C-Spring Landau

This Brewster C-Spring Landau was the most formal of the three coaches owned by the Stanford family. Brewster & Co., New York, its builder, was an American company known for creating coaches of exceptional quality that were purchased by royalty and in demand worldwide. This vehicle was built circa 1889 as a Landau, a coach-building term for convertible. It was a technical marvel in its time, with its newly minted and complicated system of thick leather traces, which support the main coach from all four corners, and for an inventive elliptical spring system that provided a more comfortable ride.

This is the same horse-drawn carriage in which the U.S. Senator Leland Stanford and Mrs. Jane Stanford rode with U.S. President Benjamin Harrison and Mrs. Caroline Harrison. The President was on an official tour of the West Coast, and while in the Bay Area, visited the Stanfords’ home and toured the grounds of the university. The photograph above (dated April 30, 1891) depicts President & Mrs. Harrison (seated on the left) with Senator and Mrs. Stanford at the station in Menlo Park.

Even today, the Brewster C-Spring Landau is sought after by collectors around the world. The original interior trim, unfortunately, was stripped out in 1979, but fragments of it were retained to show the beautiful broad lace, the most expensive and elegant feature of this company’s coaches. The lace was woven on a Jacquard loom (Joseph Marie Jacquard, 1752-1834, France), whose invention played an important role in the development of manufactured textiles with complex patterns and the future of programmable machines, such as the computer, due to its implementation of punch cards to control a sequence of operations.

The Landau, as well as two other coaches, the Rockaway and the Clarence, was discovered in 1964 in a sealed room of the university’s Anatomy Building basement. It is thought they had been stored sometime before 1906, when that area was the back wing of the Stanford Museum. In 1969, University President Kenneth Pitzer appointed a committee to see that the carriages were restored.

Carriage maker Elam B. Riehl of Pennsylvania initially restored the Landau. To this day, portions of these coaches continue to undergo restoration by specialists in antique carriage and restoration work.

Special thanks: To the late Bill Lane and his family for support given in preserving and storing this special vehicle over the past 20 years.
Sources: The San Francisco Chronicle, April 1891; Special Supplement of the Stanford Faculty and Staff Newsletter, 1964; Stanford University Campus Report, August 1991; Notes from Dr. Peter Bullock who currently houses the carriage, September 2012.