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America on the Move
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Hansom cab, right side

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Hansom cab, right side
Smithsonian Institution


This object appears in the following sections:

A  Streetcar City: Washington, D.C., 1900
A Streetcar City: Washington, D.C., 1900 — City Streetscapes

Alice Parmalee in her hansom cab

Hansom Cab
Catalog #: 310391, Accession #: 117780
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection

This hansom cab was made by D.P. Nichols Company (New York, Chicago and Boston) and purchased by Mrs. Alice Maury Parmelee of Washington, D. C. She lived on an estate large enough to keep her horses and carriages. She used this carriage well into the 1920s. In 1931, Mrs. Parmalee gave it to the Smithsonian Institution.

Physical Description

Artifact. Size: 13'L x 6'1"W x 8'8"H; shaft 5' L. Material: Wood, leather, fabric. Color: Black exterior; gray interior. The hansom cab is a two wheeled, two passenger carriage. It has a black body with silver mountings and gray upholstery. The body is low to the ground so passengers can easily board the cab. The driver's seat is mounted high on the rear of the cab enabling the driver to control and see his horse as well as traffic.

Date Made:
about 1900
Dates Used:
1890 - 1929
Dist of Columbia
Gift of Alice Maury Parmelee
The hansom cab was patented by Joseph Hansom of England in 1834. It was improved upon throughout the 19th Century. Hansom cabs were used in the United States in the late nineteenth century and were commonly found in New York City. It was primarily used as a vehicle for hire to get around the city, much like taxis are used today, but some were made for private use. As road surfaces improved and more people were able to buy automobiles, the hansom cab and other horse-drawn vehicles began disappearing from city streets in the early part of the 20th century.

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