For the 1939 John Wayne movie see: Stagecoach (movie)
A stagecoach is a type of four-wheeled enclosed passenger and/or mail coach, strongly sprung and drawn by four horses, widely used before the introduction of railway transport. A stagecoach would stop periodically at staging posts to take on fresh horses. They were also convenient places to exchange mail, and to allow the passengers and crew food and rest breaks.
The stagecoach, with seats outside and in, was a public conveyance which was known in England from the 16th century. Until the railway systems of Europe drove the stagecoaches out of business they had regular routes (stages) all over Britain and the Continent. In Britain their carrying the mails from 1784 generated the term "mail coach." In France the turgotines, big mail coaches named for their originator, Louis XVI's economist minister Turgot, and improved roads, where a coach could travel at full gallop across levels, combined with more staging posts at shorter intervals, cutr the time required to travel across the country sometimes by half, between 1765 and 1780 (Braudel 1984 fig. 32).
Today the most familiar image of the stagecoach is that seen in film Westerns, but they were also used throughout eastern North America and Europe. The diligence, though not invariably with four horses, was the Continental analogue for public conveyance, with other minor varieties such as the Stellwagen and Eilwagen. Stagecoaches could compete with canal boats, but they were rendered obsolete as the rail network expanded.
A constant danger for stagecoach travellers was the threat of robbery by highwaymen or bandits.
- Braudel, Fernand, The Perspective of the World, vol. III of Civilization and Capitalism 1979 (in English 1984)