About the carriage at Amesbury City Hall...

Canopy Beach Wagon as it appears at Amesbury City Hall.

Canopy Beach Wagon as it appears at Amesbury City Hall.

A similar Canopy Beach Wagon featured in the Bird and Schofield catalog about 1909.

A similar Canopy Beach Wagon featured in the Bird and Schofield catalog about 1909.

Anyone who visits Amesbury City Hall or watches meetings from the auditorium broadcast on television has probably seen this part of the Amesbury Carriage Museum's collection. The Bird & Schofield beach wagon has been on view for several years.

This carriage serves as a symbol of the industrial heritage of Amesbury and a time when the city was known as the Carriage Making Capitol of the United States. At the peak of this era in the 1880's, Amesbury was home to many shops and factories making entire vehicles or parts for them, with a work force in the thousands. In 1889 the Amesbury workers made nearly 17,000 carriages.

The beach wagon at City Hall was made around 1908 by workers at the Bird & Schofield Company, then located in the lower millyard near the Boston & Maine terminal (now home of Crave restaurant). Also called a “surrey” with the fabric top open on all sides (and yes, there is a fringe!) this vehicle symbolizes the place of carriage making in the city.

The automobile began to replace carriage driving – and soon the industry would be gone. The T. W. Lane company made the last carriage in Amesbury in 1926.

Bird and Schofield manufactured a general line of light-weight carriages from 1895-1913. The company was typical of many of Amesbury’s small shops – with a small workforce and a general line of carriages.

The canopy beach wagon, or surrey, was a popular family vehicle, often used for excursions in the country. This model has two seats, and a fringed canopy-top, popularized in the Oscar Hammerstein song “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top.”

The surrey was owned and used by a family who originally lived on a farm in Hampton, NH. In 1986, the surrey, along with a buggy and a sleigh, was donated to the Amesbury Carriage Museum by the son of the original owner. In 1988, the surrey was restored to its present condition by Frederick Worrall, Jr., of Ipswich, MA.