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  • Jerry King Musser

Mifflin's Bachelor Brougham

Updated: 6 days ago

It was the late 19th century. Lloyd Mifflin was very interested in a lovely Columbia lady by name of Barbara Peart. A bright, sober-thinking, young woman from a good family. She also liked her fun and was very happy to galavant with Lloyd on his adventures around the wilds of Columbia—precisely Lloyd's type. Being the gentleman he was, he needed a carriage that afforded them a quiet ride and a bit of privacy. He chose a Brougham.

Designed in England in 1838 by Lord Henry Peter Brougham (pronounced 'brohm' or 'broom'). It represented a major change in horse-drawn transport. It was the sporty hatchback of its time. Light and compact, the cozy carriage had space for two passengers in the cab, and a third beside the driver. Uniquely, it offered a cut-glass window at the front so passengers could actually see where they were headed. The forewheels were capable of making sharper turns than other carriages due to the clever turning mechanism housed below the driver. England's Robinson & Cook built the first carriages for Lord Brougham. By the time Lloyd was in the market for one decades later, it was more likely that Lloyd Mifflin's was built by the Brewster & Company of New York City. Yes, the carriage's popularity reached across the pond by then. Indeed, Teddy Roosevelt owned almost the precise model. Even the famous Tom Thumb had one built for himself (in a much smaller version, of course). The elites were drawn to Brougham's agility and ease of use. But, let's be clear, privacy and discretion was paramount. A pull-blind could be lowered over the front glazing from inside, the door's windows could be cleverly blocked out by pulling a panel out from the hollowed bottom half of the doors. And, the small hatchway window at the back could be blocked with flick of a finger. Playfully, it was often called 'the Bachelor Brougham,' or 'the Courting Carriage.' Lloyd had to have one.

Touch the image to begin slideshow. To advance, use arrows on computer, or finger slide on phone.

Some how or other, his carriage still exists. A few caring Columbia citizens over the years felt strongly that Lloyd's Brougham had to remain in Columbia. There's one thing about Columbia's townfolk: they hold a deep and geniune pride in their town. It's in their DNA. It's a small town with a huge history.

Recently, I was invited to view Lloyd's carriage up close and personal. "Oh, I'm in!" I arrived at the storage location and walked in to greet the owner. He was more than pleased to show me around when he realized we shared a passion for old, beautiful things—especially things owned by Lloyd Mifflin, a true Columbian. Not surprisingly, the carriage was dusty, had a good share of spider webs, and some elements were tattered. But, there, tucked away in the corner, setting on blocks, it sat, oozing glamour and class. At 140-years of age, it remains an elegant specimen of the Victorian lifestyle. For a moment, the owner and I stopped talking, finding ourselves standing and gazing at this beautiful object. I can't speak for him, but I caught myself transported back to 1890 London accompanying Sherlock Holmes as he chased Moriarty down dark, wet streets as the sound of horse hooves echoed off buildings.

The carriage with horses photographed during Lloyd's day.

When I snapped out of it, I began wondering what would become of this architype of its kind. The owner is elderly. What happens to this four-wheeled work of art and industry when he can no longer care for and protect it? He bought it because he didn't want it to leave town. Even if he finds no buyer and decides to donate it, where would it go—and, to whom? As much as they'd love having it, our own historical society has no space for something this size. Will it remain sitting in a dusty, spider-webbed room in a corner of Columbia, forgotten for another 140 years as it simply falls apart and discarded like so much of our history?

I hope we can do better.

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