The Preservation Society of Newport County announced in a press release on Tuesday that the historic road coach Pioneer, built in 1898, has been added to their collection at The Breakers Stable & Carriage House, where it will be displayed alongside Alfred G. Vanderbilt’s Venture. The Pioneer was given to the Preservation Society by the New York Historical Society, which had acquired the coach in the 1930s from The Coaching Club.
“We are grateful to The Coaching Club for facilitating this acquisition,” said Preservation Society CEO & Executive Director Trudy Coxe. “Coaching was an important part of the Gilded Age lifestyle, and the Pioneer is one of the premier vehicles of its kind from the period. We are proud to add it to our collection.”
The Pioneer was built for The Coaching Club and used for Club drives in and around New York City in the early 20th century. For several years it was also used for daily public coaching runs. From 1911 to 1921 it was used only once a year for the running of the Coaching Club Oaks at Belmont Park. After sitting unused in storage for 16 years, in 1938 the coach was loaned, along with full appointments donated by Coaching Club members, to the New York Historical Society. Under the conditions of the loan, because the Coaching Club did not reclaim the coach by 1958, it became the property of the New York Historical Society.
It remained on display until the late 1980s, when it was loaned to the Museums at Stonybrook for a carriage exhibition. In 2004, the Pioneer was once again placed in storage. With the support of The Coaching Club, it was recently de-accessioned by the Historical Society and given to the Preservation Society for display at The Breakers Stable in Newport.
Ted Eayrs, Secretary of The Coaching Club and an organizer of the triennial Coaching Weekends in Newport, says the acquisition is especially exciting because the Pioneer is in exceptionally good condition. “It’s been in a virtual time capsule since 1938,” says Eayrs. “We could not have asked for a better way to preserve this vehicle.”
According to a 1935 history of The Coaching Club by Reginald Rives, the Pioneer was the finest road coach ever constructed. Of particular importance was the development of a foot brake to supplement the traditional hand brake, allowing for quicker stops at higher speeds in traffic. The Pioneer may also have been a prototype for Alfred G. Vanderbilt’s famous Venture, built in 1904, which he used for coaching runs in England and which is now part of the Preservation Society’s permanent carriage display at The Breakers Stable & Carriage House.
The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, is a non-profit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes, decorative arts and social history. Its 11 historic properties–seven of them National Historic Landmarks–span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.