S.R. Bailey Sleighs: Artistic Beauty in Style, Workmanship and Finish
by Susan Koso
Editor’s note: Susan Koso has enthusiastically supported the carriage museum for many years. She explains why: “I am intensely interested in the carriage industry in general and the production of Amesbury vehicles in particular. As a board member of the Amesbury Carriage Museum, owner of an antique carriage, sleigh and almost antique horse, and now being a resident of Amesbury, it all fits neatly into writing for the website.”
The first sleigh built by Samuel Robinson Bailey (known as S.R.) was made in S.R.’s father’s wagon shed in 1856 in East Pittston, Maine. It was the beginning of what was to become one of the most successful sleigh, and later, carriage businesses in Amesbury.
Initially, S.R. only made sleighs: his were sturdy, comfortable and necessary in a state with no turnpikes or other maintained roads. New England rivers on freezing winter nights became smooth, icy highways and so become the ideal way to travel.
By 1866 the S.R. Bailey Company had grown and moved to Bath, Maine, then in 1872 to Boston and in 1882 to Amesbury. He established his factory and in 1888 leased space in the new building built by the Babcock Company on Carriage Hill.
The Carriage Monthly of July 1886 recognized the super design of Bailey’s sleighs. Referring to Bailey’s Gentlemen’s Driving Sleigh, the Carriage Monthly wrote:
Mr. S.R. Bailey of Amesbury, Mass. makes a specialty of this style of sleigh, which possesses artistic beauty in style, workmanship and finish.
The article goes on to note:
Because all parts of the sleigh are made alike, in shape and finish, all runners have the same graceful sweep, and one piece can be substituted for another which is not only a great advantage for the builder…but also to the consumer; in case of accidental breakage the broken parts can be repaired in a very short time.
Again, in August 1887 The Carriage Monthly recognized the superiority of the S.R. Bailey sleigh.
This cutter (Portland Cutter) is designed and constructed according to the rules practiced by the well-known sleigh builder, Mr. S.R. Bailey of Amesbury, Mass. who is considered one of the best builder of Portland cutters carrying two persons.
Then, rather amazingly, the article gives printed plans for making the vehicle, so complete that any other manufacturer with the appropriate work bending machinery (made and patented by S.R. Bailey) could duplicate the design.
Today there are few known examples of Bailey sleighs. Maybe someone will look in their barn and find a rare and excellent piece of Amesbury history.
Rice, Margaret, Sun on the River, Rumford Press, 1955.
The Carriage Monthly, Vol 23, July 1886.
The Carriage Monthly, Vol 24, August 1887.