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Chauffeurs' Uniforms and Butlers' Liveries


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Some of us here like many aspects of the vehicles we admire and collect. I particularly like the era from WWI to WWII.

One of the car related items I have is a small booklet with 36pages that was issued sometime in the 1920s , at least before the Lincoln Tunnel was built under the Hudson River. It was issued by a uniform company in N.Y. City named Dornan. Their location was prime territory for automobile dealerships and coach builders in that era. It was given to chauffeurs and lists places that they would have been directed to drive to for their employer. Here is the cover and an inside page.  You may find it interesting that there were : 1 tunnel - the Holland tunnel, 24 Ferries, 8 baseball fields, 18 aviation fields, 58 steamship piers ( note steam ship) 7 postal telegraph offices 5 Western union telegraph offices. Area covered is the NY - NJ metropolitan area.

This would make a great article - it also lists Private Chauffeur's clubs and their addresses there were 11 of them!  Most were by  heritage : Irish, German, Swedish etc.

I have to much stuff....................................

DORNANcover1929001.jpg

DORNANinsidepage1929001.jpg

DornanchauffeursCLUBS001.jpg

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What a marvelous topic!😁

 

Walt, as long as you can dig up information like this, you don't have too much stuff.

 

There weren't many chauffeurs here, but a great-great uncle was groundskeeper and chauffeur to the Carlton family of Imperial Leaf Tobacco Company. Daresay Kenneth may have been outfitted at Dornan as he drove the Carltons to NYC a couple times a year, in Packards at first and later in Cadillacs.

 

My mother and her cousin Louise spent a lot of time at the Carlbrook house and both often said the wealthy but childless Carltons were the epitome of class and kindness, as wealthy people should be.

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Walt this opens the door open to chauffeur badges and all sorts of other ephemera!  Happy you are keeping history alive.  Just made me think where the heck our collection of badges is after the move....

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Very interesting and what timing? I was watching a movie on TCM the other night and of course the big old car was chauffer driven. I started to think a little about it.

In the early 20's, I figure a man of wealth (and taste) may be say in his 40's-60's, and born well before the invention of the automobile. Do you suppose that said person would never drive and maybe not even know how to? If you have a driver why would you need to learn?

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When cars first came out they were often balky and hard to manage and required frequent maintenance and repairs. I knew an old mechanic years ago who had a diploma on the garage wall from a chauffeur's and mechanic's school in Chicago, dated 1914. The very large cars of the time could be trucklike to drive and actually dangerous to start, in the days of enormous engines with no electric starters.

Those who could afford it, would employ a chauffeur just as they would a coachman if they had a horse drawn carriage. They might continue out of habit as long as they could afford it. By the late twenties and thirties the chauffeur's main job might be to wash and maintain the family's fleet of cars. In some cases the gardener doubled as chauffeur for older people who never learned to drive.

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There is a great story of the French Baron de Rothschild. At the beginning of WWI he volunteered his car, a Rolls Royce, for military service but, not knowing how to drive, brought his chauffeur with him. In the first few weeks of the war the car, with the Baron and the chauffeur, was traveling along a road and came under fire. The car swerved and landed in a ditch...undaunted, the Baron and his chauffeur hitched a ride back to Paris where he rushed to the RR dealer, bought another car, and returned to the front.

 

Then there was the Earl of Lonsdale - known as the "Yellow Earl" because all his cars were painted lemon yellow. On a motoring trip his chaffeur's arm was broken by the crank. Thereafter he always carried two chauffeurs. Lonsdale's younger brother (and his successor to the title) was a King's Messenger, one of select group of officers who the daily dispatch from Whitehall to the front.

 

Many owners of big, expensive cars never learned to drive...

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Among my collections of early motoring accessory catalogs, most of them have sections devoted to motoring clothing and accessories like masks, goggles, gauntlets, and other items of related clothing.  I've not found many though specifically devoted just to those items, but here are a few from my collection-

The first one is a very early small catalog showing just goggles and masks.  The second catalog is in French and dates from the very early 1900s, showing a wide range of motoring related clothing and accessory items.  

The last photo shows a group of small celluloid Jacob Reed and Son's motoring clothing catalogs.  These little booklets also had blank pages in them for notes.  The celluloid covers are very thin and brittle so even opening them can cause damage if not done very carefully.  I "almost" bought one is an antique shop not long ago and the dumb shop owner had stuck a price tag right on the front.  I told him if he could successfully remove the sticker I'd buy it.  He proceeded to bend the cover to grab an edge of the sticker with his thumbnail and promptly split the cover off in half!   I think it's still there.

Terry

 

Catalog - masks and goggles.jpg

Catalog - masks and goggles inside.jpg

Chauffeur uniform catalog.jpg

Catalogs Jacob Reed.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Thanks everyone! Really appreciate all of you taking the time to respond. This is a topic that is not often discussed and never written about but the chauffeur played a huge part in the operation and even the development of the automobile ( via their suggestions for improvement for ease for driving). I was given a chauffeur's complete uniform from the 1920s decades ago that fit me ( still does?) fairly well. It was quite a task to get dressed in - besides the stiff starched high collar shirt and tie, there was a vest , jacket, breeches style pants  ( only later were regular long pants worn /used) in cloth that matched the jacket and vest , plus leather chaps that were bucked in at the knee and ankle. Wearing those is horrible. Like you have a cast on both legs and totally uncomfortable.  I have tried these several times and each time I am reminded why I was so happy to get them off as quick as possible. The suits were for the most part all wool ! Imagine that on a hot summers day anyplace. I have a story told to me by a fellow who was a test car driver for the Franklin Car Company that got picked to be H.H. Franklin's chauffeur for 2 weeks while Mr. Franklin's regular chauffeur was on vacation, he liked Mr. Franklin a lot thought he was a good guy but hated the chauffeurs uniform , cap, etc. in summer heat.

So here are you putting up with yet another topic 🙄 I came up with because I found something in my archives that I thought was of interest. Thanks for your patience - I have way to many ideas about things that happened 70+ years ago. Just so many period images, photographs, information all sitting here awaiting their story to be told. All pieces of a history puzzle that if one knows how to  fit them together reflect upon an era from long ago that surround the story of the vehicles we cherish..............

 

Edited by Walt G
added text (see edit history)
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I gravitate towards old movies, one of my favorites is 'The Bank Dick'.  There is a great scene involving a Lady, her broken down car and the chauffer.

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From what I've read a trusted Chauffer was in many cases in charge of all decisions automotive for the family they served. I've always been intrigued by this -just imagine the folding money (though nominal I'm sure) that was being palmed off to these guys from dealers/coach builders/repair facilities. -When I was young I worked for a very wealthy man who explained to me one day with a grin that your best employees (in his line of work) are like the best bartenders at your club- they all steal a little from the till but they know when to stop. He was 2nd generation wealth and 80yrs old at the time- he understood the old ways.  If the walls of those old Chauffer's clubs could talk I'll bet there would be a pretty entertaining story or two!   

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At the annual custom body Automobile Salons held each year in NY, Chicago, San Francisco and LA in Nov. to early January of the year until their end in 1932 the pre opening day of the show saw the chauffeurs attend, and view all the exhibits - they would be the ones who would be driving the cars that the owners just paid for a body for that cost more then a decent house in a fine neighborhood. A decent number of owners would ask their trusted chauffeur what chassis and body they recommended would be best .

It is all part of the history of cars we never think about.

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I'd like to have a vintage chauffeur's uniform for my '41 Buick, but then I think about how hot and sweaty it must be on anything but a cool day. Those guys must have been miserable in the summer.

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Matt if you have factory heaters in your '41 Buick like I have in my '40 Buick ( under the front seat and on the inside of the firewall) and these are on and you have the chauffeurs uniform on you will MELT! And so will the plastic rim on the steering wheel and the dashboard knobs!

Walt

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A gentleman would be properly dressed anytime they left the house. I always liked ascots but are really only proper with a morning coat.

 

Back at the first post, note telephone numbers with exchanges and 5 digits. I remember when in south Florida we went from 4 numbers to 5 and then invented exchanges for the leading digit: TEmple 2-xxxx was Palm Beach and later became 832, TEmple 3-xxxx was West Palm. Think VIctor (84) was Lake Worth (no memory guaranteed from the '50s).

 

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The PBS series Downton Abby had a great number of early English cars that were chauffeur driven.  Eventually the chauffeur married one of the daughters and became part of the family.  Probably a case of artistic license in the development of the plot but still enjoyable to watch as were the cars featured in the series.

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Many years ago I drove our Pierce Arrow as the wedding car for a cousin's wedding.

His mother, my Aunt who passed away before he got married, used our Pierce in her wedding so it only seemed fitting he use the car for his.

It was a warm summer day and I was sweating like crazy in my wool suit.

Being a chauffer and putting up with that every day must have been why all the chauffers I see in old pictures and movies are so thin.

 

Walt, thanks for brining up this very important and little discussed topic of automobile history.

Edited by zepher (see edit history)
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Very cool artifacts, and thanks for posting. Wow! Protestant chauffeurs had their own benevolent association, as did those of Irish or German ancestry! 😁

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Many chauffeurs were not the tall elegant guys we picture them as from movies. the front compartment of a limousine or town car is a tight fit, most of the front seats are "fixed" with little or no movement due to the division window ( usually a dropping one not a sliding one) and the extra "jump" seats. Also all the room in the car was looked to for the comfort of the owner who sat in the back. I love big four door cars, especially if formal. I owned a 1927 Springfield RR Trouville town car for over a decade and was in denial for all those years that it was anywhere near comfortable to drive. Then bought a lovely original 1937 Packard Super 8 limousine - same situation , to tight to drive. I am 6 ft tall but long in the legs so that was the issue.

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JamesR, different times and different culture.

 

Walt G, You are right about the available space for the driver, I'm a bit shorter than you are and can be pretty comfortable driving my '39 Packard Super Eight limousine, but after ~three hours a leg-stretch in in order.

 

 

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3 hours ago, md murray said:

From what I've read a trusted Chauffer was in many cases in charge of all decisions automotive for the family they served. I've always been intrigued by this -just imagine the folding money (though nominal I'm sure) that was being palmed off to these guys from dealers/coach builders/repair facilities. -When I was young I worked for a very wealthy man who explained to me one day with a grin that your best employees (in his line of work) are like the best bartenders at your club- they all steal a little from the till but they know when to stop. He was 2nd generation wealth and 80yrs old at the time- he understood the old ways.  If the walls of those old Chauffer's clubs could talk I'll bet there would be a pretty entertaining story or two!   

This is true but more in the nature of a commission from auto dealers, garages and parts stores plus tips or gratuities especially around Christmas time.

In English tradition all servants had their "perks" or perquisites, their own little racket that went with the job. Even the boy who cleaned and filled the oil lamps and replaced the candles was allowed to keep and sell the candle stubs.

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1 hour ago, JamesR said:

Very cool artifacts, and thanks for posting. Wow! Protestant chauffeurs had their own benevolent association, as did those of Irish or German ancestry! 😁

Growing up in the hard coal region of NE PA it was quite common to find that each ethnic community had a benevolent association for things like this .  Even our Catholic Churches were somewhat segregated by the ethnic congregation they served.  As a person of mostly Irish heritage we had the Ancient Order of Hibernians as our association.  Some chapters of it still exist today.

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Henry Francis DuPont wrote over 150 letters (archived at Winterthur museum)over the span of 9 years to Brooks Brother's of New York obsessing over trifle details concerning his staff of over 200 employee's garb and uniforms. When Colonel Dupont got elected to the senate in 1906 the Dupont's set up a second household in Washington and purchased a new automobile. Letters around this period reveal that the family who had for a very long time been formally dressing their staff to drive their coaches were now a little bit puzzled about how to properly dress them to operate automobiles!   

In one letter DuPont has decided that chauffeurs would be dressed in "double breasted braided waistcoat with blazed velvet collar, overcoat of beaver or whipcord" but is uncertain how footman should be properly dressed for a motorcar. He asks whether they should be wearing "leggings or plain black trousers and how much shorter should (his) coat be then for the chauffeur"?

-We should all be so lucky to have these types of things to worry about!😄

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3 hours ago, TerryB said:

The PBS series Downton Abby had a great number of early English cars that were chauffeur driven.  Eventually the chauffeur married one of the daughters and became part of the family.  Probably a case of artistic license in the development of the plot but still enjoyable to watch as were the cars featured in the series.

 

The Downton Abbey cars are noted here. There were a few out-of-period, like the black radiator Ts in the early episodes set in 1912. The only other glaring one, at least to those that know was the big 1924 Sunbeam that was used in an episode set some years earlier than that.

 

I can't comment on the chauffeurs uniforms.

 

Doesn't time fly - I see it was ten years ago that the early episodes aired.

 

IMCDb.org: "Downton Abbey, 2010-2015": cars, bikes, trucks and other vehicles

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6 hours ago, Walt G said:

Just so many period images, photographs, information all sitting here awaiting their story to be told. 

 

I love firsthand accounts of history--from the

people who actually experienced them.  Here's an

account from an older friend of mine, from many

decades past, telling how he developed an interest

in cars that persists to this day.

 

He grew up in a large family--parents and 9 children--

in a large house out in the country.  His father was on the

board of General Motors.  At one time  the family had

3 chauffeurs due to all of the family's goings-on. 

When my friend was 6 years old, he had a nanny. 

He said that he had an interest in cars;  his nanny,

probably in her early 20's,  had an interest in chauffeurs.

So they spent a lot of time at the garage!

 

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The problem with transitioning from a coach to a limousine is where to put the footmen ?

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John I agree, I used to help host the annual former Franklin motor car company employees luncheon and the stories they could tell once together. Especially one test driver, named Howard Carey, he would roll a car over at least once a month usually on the same corner/curve on the road from Syracuse north 10 miles and back.

Even guys who worked in the early 1950s - another friend was a designer at G.M. at that time and I late interviewed him and did a tv show with him which is online of his days as a designer.

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5 minutes ago, padgett said:

The problem with transitioning from a coach to a limousine is where to put the footmen ?

The footman would sit next to the driver in the front seat or if the owner was really snooty take a look at this period photo that was in a RR publication 'during the era' Enjoy.

RRlimorumbleseat1920s001.jpg

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Interesting addition. Where did they put their steps ?

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Here are two items that belonged to a chauffeur "of the era". The Certificate of registration showed he owned a 1916 Oldsmobile and at that time was living in New York City.

By 1932 he had moved to Woodside ,Queens on Pickard Street. He was born in 1882 and was 6 ft 1 inch tall and weighed 200 lbs. he was licensed to operate a "gas" motor vehicle. He would eventually spend the end of his life in the Bayville, area, which is on the north shore of Long Island near Glen Cove.

ChauffeurCOOK1916001.jpg

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Mr Cook was a very tall man for the turn of the century standing 6 feet tall, he must have had a rough time driving cars of that era.

 

I'm a few inches under 6 foot and I need to stop and stretch my legs every hour or so driving my Pierce with the limited room in the driver's compartment.

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In the 60s a commercial driver's licence in Florida (e.g. Taxi driver) was known as a chauffeur's license.

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