Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Taunting the Tantivy Coach on its Way to Pelham: 1886

On June 9, 2005, I published to the Historic Pelham Blog an item entitled "Coaching to Pelham: Colonel Delancey Astor Kane Did Not Operate the Only Coach to Pelham". In it I noted that although Col. Delancey Astor Kane operated the Pelham Coach (known as the "Tally-Ho") between Hotel Brunswick in New York City and Pelham for many years, his was not the only coach that ran between New York City and Pelham. Among others were the Greyhound and the Tantivy as noted in the posting.

By the mid-1880s, the hoi polloi of New York City seemed to have tired of the upper class spectacle of the four-in-hand coach wheeling along Fifth Avenue on its way to the wealthy enclave north of the City known as Pelham. In fact, some have said that Colonel Delancey Kane's famous Tally-Ho may ultimately have ended its runs due to the taunting machinations of an early advertising executive who created a "soap coach" in 1883 to advertise soap. It trailed along behind the Tally-Ho pulled by circus horses. This, it has been said, brought laughter to the masses and broke Col. Kane's heart.

It seems that Colonel Kane's Tally-Ho was not the only Pelham Coach to suffer the indignities of such insult. The Tantivy, described in my June 9 posting also experienced its own such embarrasment. The following article, published in 1886, details that embarrassment.


The coaching season was opened yesterday, when the red-bodied coach Tantivy was driven by Frederic Bronson from the Hotel Brunswick to the Country Club in Pelham. Prescott Lawrence and a party of friends were the only passengers. Besides Mr. Lawrence there were on the coach when it started up Fifth-avenue at 11 o'clock, Mrs. Frederic Bronson, Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Roosevelt, the Misses Bulkley, and Messrs. Louis Rutherford, Woodbury Kane, Philip Allen, Reginald Rivers, Hugo Fritsch, and Brockholst Cutting. Mr. Bronson, who bandied the lines over the four bays which started the drag on its way to Pelham, wore the customary white topcoat and white hat, but the rest of the party, including the ladies were in ordinary street costume. The guard with his long horn was resplendent in white hat, green coat, red waistcoat, corduory breeches, and tiger's boots. His lungs were powerful and his efforts to rival Levy in snatches from the 'Whirlwind' polka evoked shouts of admiration from the urchins and smiles from the pedestrians who had assembled to see the 'gentleman' coachman try to outdo the ordinary Fifth-avenue bus driver in handling the lines and collecting the fares. Leaving the Brunswick promptly at 11 o'clock the party bowled merrily along through the Park and thence through Harlem, Mott Haven, Fox's Corners, and Union Port, where a stop was made to change horses. Thence on they drove, enjoying a delightful breeze, its coolness modified by the warm rays of the sun, through West Chester and Middle-town and landed at the Country Club's house, in Pelham, just before 1 o'clock. There a 'jolly' lunch was enjoyed and many a toast was drank to the success of the coaching season, which will last for about two months.

At 3:45 the party left the clubhouse for the return trip, which was made without particular incident until the drag had passed through Central Park and started down Fifth-avenue. Then the Tantivy's glory departed. The guard blew one merry blast and fell back on his perch horrified. J. R. Roosevelt, who was proudly handling the lines, blushed a little as he heard the shouts of laughter which took the place of the plaudits which should have greeted the party. The ladies laughed irreverently. So did some of their escorts. Every one on the avenue joined in the laughter which made the finish of the Tantivy's first trip rather farcical. Edward G. Gilmore, the manager of Niblo's Garden, and a notorious practical joker, was at the bottom of the scheme which made Fifth-avenue roar, and led all the dudes had had gathered at the Brunswick to look upon him as little short of sacreligious.

Trotting behind the swell Tantivy on its course down the avenue were four mules -- mules with extraordinary ears; mules closely clipped and with shining coats; mules meek and lowly, but arrayed in heavily plated harness, and hitched in the most improved four-in-hand fashion to a most thoroughly English break. 'Ned' Gilmore held the lines, and flourished a most gorgeously decorated coachman's whip. Two colored grooms had seats of honor behind him, and Gilmore had as his only passenger, W. H. Ripley, of Chicago, who had picked up the team of mules out in Pennsylvania for aqueduct contractor W. R. Howard, who is to use them as a fancy team at his country residence this Summer. Gilmore looked proud as he drove and Ripley looked as if he would rather be on the sidewalk. Being a party to such a practical joke didn't appear to be wholly to his taste. But he had to grin and bear it, and Gilmore had to explain to him that it wasn't his fault that the Tantivy should get ahead of him and keep directly in his way until the Brunswick was reached. Ripley is still a trifle skeptical regarding that explanation.

'Why don't you get horses, Ned?' shouted an irreverent broker standing in front of the Windsor.

'Ten to five you can't pass the swell bus,' cried another who had not that respect for coaching that every well regulated Fifth-avenue frequenter is expected to have.

Gilmore paid no attention to these rude people, but drove on, modestly accepting the applause bestowed. He seemed at home in his triumphal procession and perfectly happy.

The Tantivy drove up to the Brunswick at precisely 5:30. Two grooms sprang out and led the horses in front of the main entrance. An instant later four mules halted in the rear, with their colored grooms at their heads. The Anglo-maniacs wondered. The American contingent enjoyed the burlesque immensely. The coaching party sought the seclusion of the Brunswick parlors as quickly as they could gracefully do so. So did Gilmore and his friends, but the parlor they found had a long bar and a free lunch in it.

'The only thing I regret about my first coaching trip this season,' explained Gilmore as he wiped his lips, 'is that it didn't take place last week. If the season had only opened then I could have had a party of 'The Black Crook' chorus girls as passengers, and then I could have knocked out anything on the avenue for style.'

The Tantivy will continue its trips to Pelham daily for two months to come. Gilmore's coaching season has ended, for Mr. Ripley won't let him drive the mules again."

Source: Eclipsed by Four Mules, N.Y. Times, Apr. 27, 1886, p. 8.

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