GALVESTON — At the turn of the 20th century, mass-produced motor vehicles began sending the horse and buggy the way of, well, the horse and buggy. Although many of the animal-powered vehicles have since been lost to time and decay, others have ended up in unusual places, including the attic of the Rosenberg Library.
Curators at the library’s history museum recently uncovered a carriage in its storage area. They said the carriage dates to the late 1800s and may have belonged to Mollie Rosenberg, the wife of the library’s founder and namesake, Henry Rosenberg.
The carriage is sitting, in pieces, in the rare books room at the library.
The library plans to eventually put the carriage on display, along with historic photos and newspaper clippings that feature it and its notable owner, museum curator Eleanor Barton said.
To reach that goal, the library brought Brian Howard, a conservation expert from Pennsylvania-based B.R. Howard and Associates, to assess the carriage and see whether it could be put back together and displayed in the library’s museum.
“I’ve seen a lot worse,” said Howard as he walked into the room to get his first impression. “I haven’t seen any quite this disassembled before.”
Howard said the carriage appeared to be in good condition. Within minutes of seeing it for the first time, he could tell it had been painted at least once but still had many of its original parts.
“I can see that it’s been repainted once, but what typically happens is that it gets stripped and that we lose all evidence and that’s not what happened here,” Howard said.
While he did not recognize the make or model of the vehicle, Howard said it was probably a luxury vehicle for its time, with rubber wheels for a smooth ride, an extra seat for a footman and ornate design fixtures.
Howard said the goal of the project would not be to restore the carriage to make it look like new but to conserve it in a way that reflects its age and history.
Howard’s company has restored several carriages, including one that was believed to have been used by Abraham Lincoln on the way to Ford Theater the night he was assassinated.
Among the other projects he is working on are a restoration on a car that belonged to Thomas Edison’s son and an ornate clock, found in Detroit that was destroyed by a person who thought it was a “doomsday device.”
Barton said there is no timeline for completing the project. One thing that won’t be happening, however, is horse-drawn rides in the carriage.
Howard recommended that when the project is completed, the carriage be put on a raised stand to prevent damage to the wheels.