The one that got away…

> In every rare book librarian’s life, there are those items that slip through the fingers, no matter how much you want them. I saw this gem at the Boston Book Fair in November, and it would have been an ideal addition to our Rhode Island Collection. It’s a hand-colored lithographed image which was used to advertise stage coach lines in the 1840s, just before the railroads came in and replaced them. You could paste in the name of whatever line you were promoting, and this one was the Warren-Bristol-Newport line.

This line sent 9am coaches from the Manufacturer’s Hotel (in Warren) and Townsend’s coffee house (in Newport), which travelled to the Bristol and Portsmouth sides of the Bristol Ferry, respectively, the occupants crossing and continuing on their way (this was, of course, long before the Mount Hope Bridge was built). According to an old history of Bristol, “The route was along the east or main road; when within four miles of the ferry the stage passed through an archway which was known as the toll-house [where the driver would pay a toll–and from 1789 to 1844 it was 8 cents/person] . . . when the ferry was reached the passengers left the stage and went aboard a small scow or barge, called a horse-boat, the craft being propelled by horse power, four horses, two on either side of the boat, treading on a revolving surface which by the application of cogs turned small wooden wheels or paddles. When the sea was rough one wheel would be entirely out of the water while the other was completely under. The scheduled time of passage across was thirty minutes and the little waiting-room on one part of the deck called ‘ladies’ cabin’ was utilized for lunch on the passage over. On the Bristol side another stage coach met the boat and the passengers continued on their journey. The fare from the ferry to the village (Bristol) was 25 cents.”

I was not able to secure funding to acquire this piece, and as of this writing it is still for sale (at a respected print dealer’s shop,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.