“The High Tandem Gig was a derivative of the sportsman’s ‘Cocking Cart’ which dated back to the 1800s.
Its precarious height created an impressive turn-out, but also made it notoriously unsafe.
It was fashionably driven with two horses in tandem but occasionally by one horse; no easy task for the novice!
This was a vehicle for the elite society, the ‘sports car’ of its time. It was still in use at the end of the 20th century.”
c1900 Juvenile Tandem Gig Carriage, for restoration
Pedals & chain
Coaster wagons are scaled-down farm wagons, and pedal cars are miniature automobiles: both had a production run that lasted from the late Victorian era until the present day. But the primary form of independent transportation before the automobile was the horse and carriage.
Although juvenile horse carriages started appearing in catalogues in the late 1800s and early 1900s and they were made until the 1970s, very few of the early examples have survived. The two seat model is the rarest. Adult two-wheel light carriages had various names and could be pulled by one or two horses. A gig is a generic term that covers most lightweight two-wheel styles.
I found this very rare example dismantled in a museum in Europe, and have assembled it to prepare it for restoration. At the back of the horse is a piece of metal that holds the front of the carriage together; this is purely functional and needs replacing with something that looks more in period. The original wicker seat on the front is intact, and is sewed up to keep it together. The original rear wicker seat is damaged and is in a bag; I’ve replaced it for now with an early 1900s accessory, a child’s seat that would have been fitted on the back of a bicycle.
The pedals and chain operate freely and move the carriage forward, though the framework is heavy so it would not have been easy for the two children to ride it. Instead of handles on the steerer above the horse’s head, there would be two small rings, through which the reins would pass, and the child sitting on the front seat could steer it like this. The horse would also have had a harness and hair for its mane and tail; these items are available as reproductions, though they would need to be trimmed to the correct size.
Regarding functionality, if you examine old photos of early ‘sulky’ horse tricycles you can see that many appear to be nursery decoration for kids to sit in rather than tricycles ridden around the house or garden. Some are purely push-along toys.
The carriage, wheels, horse and other parts are in good original condition, without damage or rust, so it does not require much to finish it off.
TWO SIMILAR SURVIVORS
Two friends have owned similar styles of carriage in the past, and they sent me these photos of theirs for inspiration (thanks Jan & Helen).
And here’s a picture of Jan’s after she restored it…
IS THIS CARRIAGE A GIG?
UPDATE: MISSING PART NOW FOUND
I just found a part of the tandem gig that was missing (below). Looking at the photo of a restored one sent to me by a friend (above) I can see that it will fit at the front of the carriage, behind the horse, and the reins can rest on it.
Opening quote with thanks to the Museum of the Horse – https://www.museumofthehorse.org