Stagecoach Etiquette

I thought it’d be fun to look at some of the rules that a traveler would have to abide by when riding on a stagecoach in the old west.  I’ve planned on writing a blog about this for a while, but knew I had to do research … which ended up easier than I thought.

Finding a ton of resources, to my surprise, I discovered all of it referred back to one main piece of information put out by the famous stagecoach line, Wells Fargo.  I’m not correcting terminology, including misspellings and punctuation, in order to preserve history.

WELLS FARGO RULES FOR RIDING THE STAGECOACH

Adherence to the Following Rules Will Insure a Pleasant Trip for All

  1. Abstinence from liquor is requested, but if you must drink, share the bottle. To do otherwise makes you appear selfish and unneighborly.
  2. If ladies are present, gentlemen are urged to forego smoking cigars and pipes as the odor of same is repugnant to the Gentle Sex. Chewing tobacco is permitted, but spit WITH the wind, not against it.
  3. Gentlemen must refrain from the use of rough language in the presence of ladies and children.
  4. Buffalo robes are provided for your comfort during cold weather. Hogging robes will not be tolerated and the offender will be made to ride with the driver.
  5. Don’t snore loudly while sleeping or use your fellow passenger’s shoulder for a pillow; he or she may not understand and friction may result.
  6. Firearms may be kept on your person for use in emergencies. Do not fire them for pleasure or shoot at wild animals as the sound riles the horses.
  7. In the event of runaway horses, remain calm. Leaping from the coach in panic will leave you injured, at the mercy of the elements, hostile Indians and hungry wolves.
  8. Forbidden topics of discussion are stagecoach robberies and Indian uprisings.
  9. Gents guilty of unchivalrous behavior toward lady passengers will be put off the stage. It’s a long walk back. A word to the wise is sufficient.

My second surprise was to learn that the main piece of research I use the most on stagecoach etiquette can be attributed to the Omaha Herald 1877, so I’d love to share that with you, too.

  • The best seat inside a stagecoach is the one next to the driver. You will have to ride with back to the horses, which with some people produces an illness not unlike seasickness, but in a long journey this will wear off, and you will get more rest with less than half the bumps and jars than on any other seat.. [When anyone] who traveled thousands of miles on coaches offers, through sympathy, to exchange his back or middle seat with you, don’t do it.
  • Bathe your feet before starting in cold weather and wear loose overshoes and gloves two or three sizes too large.
  • When the driver asks you to get off and walk, do it without grumbling. He will not request it unless absolutely necessary.
  • If a team runs away, sit still and take your chances; if you jump, nine times out of ten you will be hurt.
  • In very cold weather abstain entirely from liquor while on the road; a man will freeze twice as quick while under its influence.
  • Don’t growl at food at stations; stage companies generally provide the best they can get.
  • Don’t keep the stage waiting; many a virtuous man has lost his character by so doing.
  • Don’t smoke a strong pipe inside especially early in the morning; spit on the leeward side of the coach.
  • If you have anything to take in a bottle, pass it around; a man who drinks by himself in such a case is lost to all human feeling.
  • Provide stimulants before starting; ranch whiskey is not always nectar.
  • Be sure and take two heavy blankets with you; you will need them.
  • Don’t swear, nor lop over onto your neighbor when sleeping.
  • Don’t ask how far it is to the next station until you get there.
  • Take small change to pay expenses.
  • Never attempt to fire a gun or pistol while on the road; it may frighten the team and the careless handling and cocking of the weapon makes nervous people nervous.
  • Don’t discuss politics or religion, nor point out places on the road where horrible murders have been committed, if delicate women are among the passengers.
  • Don’t linger too long at the pewter washbasin at the station.
  • Don’t grease your hair before starting or dust will stick there in sufficient quantities to make a respectable “tater” patch.
  • Tie a silk handkerchief around your neck to keep out dust and prevent sunburns..
  • Don’t imagine for a moment you are going on a picnic; expect annoyance, discomfort and some hardships. 

What are some of your favorite rules?  I really like: “If you have anything to take in a bottle, pass it around; a man who drinks by himself in such a case is lost to all human feeling.”   So, tell me yours.

Fellow Filly, Linda Broday and I visited Fort Concho in San Angelo, Texas, over this last weekend.  Here are some of the Buffalo Soldiers with a Wells Fargo Stagecoach!

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A native Texan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda still believes in the Code of the Old West and loves to share her love for antiques, the lost art of quilting, and the Wild West.

Visit her at phylissmiranda.com

23 thoughts on “Stagecoach Etiquette”

  1. My favorite one is: Don’t grease your hair before starting or dust will stick there in sufficient quantities to make a respectable “tater” patch. That is hysterical. I can imagine spending hours inside of a stagecoach would be uncomfortable, but in some aspects is would also be wonderful. Just to be able to see and take in the country and all of it’s beauty instead of whizzing by cities and towns at 75 mph!
    Thanks Linda for the wonderful post. I loved it! 🙂

  2. Hi Phyliss! Such a fun post! I’m sitting here wondering what we’ll be reading in 150 years about the rules for air travel. (1) Don’t kick the seat in front of you. The person might not like it!

    On some flights, the conditions are almost as crowded as a stagecoach!

  3. Hi Jeannene, thanks for stopping by. Tammy, I thought about that one, too. I also liked the one that said not to cock your pistol because it made nervous people nervous! LOL I also have thought when the weather was right, how great it would be to ride along through fields of wildflowers with a light breeze coming through the windows. And, can you imagine the sunset and sunrises from a stagecoach? Hugs to you all, Phyliss

  4. Vicki, I think you’re right. We’ve already seen so many changes in history just during my lifetime (and I’m not ancient, just “very mature” LOL). Can you image what they’ll be writing about the rules for TSA searches? The max amount of liquid you can take. Plastic bags (they probably won’t even use plastic bags) No lipstick. No nailfile. I can see my greatgrands rolling their eyes and wondering about the old, old days of the 21st Century! Thanks for stopping by, Vicki. Hugs, Phyliss

  5. Loved this post, Phyliss, so much fun! I liked the rule about falling asleep on your neighbor’s shoulder “as friction may result.” And the one about if you don’t share the Buffalo robe you’ll have to sit with the driver (an Old West time-out). But really they were all great.

  6. Thanks, Kirsten. I like the Buffalo robe one, too. I’d think on a day that required a Buffalo robe the one place you didn’t want to be was outside sitting between a driver and the shotgun rider! LOL Windy and cold, ouch!

  7. I think my fav is the last one..
    -Don’t imagine for a moment you are going on a picnic; expect annoyance, discomfort and some hardships.
    I think this says it best about a stagecoach journey…

  8. Don’t cha just think a stagecoach would be a miserably uncomfortable way to get anywhere?
    We’re so spoiled.
    I liked this one:
    Provide stimulants before starting; ranch whiskey is not always nectar.

    What do you think this means? After about four or five readings, I’ve decided maybe…. bring your own booze because on the trail you may only be able to get ‘ranch whiskey’ and it might be BAD.

  9. Phyliss, this is great stuff. Those stage lines sure had a lot of rules. Wonder how they’d have felt if they’d had to take their shoes off and run through a scanner before boarding like we do in airports. LOL The passengers would probably have thrown the shoes at the person asking.

    My favorite was “Never attempt to fire a gun or pistol while on the road; it may frighten the team and the careless handling and cocking of the weapon makes nervous people nervous.” It sounds like if a capable gun-handler had been doing it it would’ve been okay. It was just the careless ones the passengers worried about. Too funny.

    I sure enjoyed our trip to Fort Concho. I always love going there, but I’d never been on Frontier Day before. It was a treat. But more than the sights and sounds (brother, that cannon was loud) I enjoyed the wonderful company. I’m so glad I got to go.

  10. Kathleen, I like that one, too. BTW, love your name. It’s my oldest daughter’s and my sister’s name, so I really, really like it. So old fashioned.

    Mary, I also liked the ranch whiskey one, too. Like you, not sure exactly what they meant except there was a lot of rot-gut out there, plus in this part of the country they made a lot of moonshine (white lightnin’; popskull; mule-kick; tarantula juice LOL). They also made a yucca shot called Sotol, so I’m bettin’ it wasn’t smart to drink whiskey unless it came from a bottle you recognized. LOL Thanks for stopping by today.

  11. Great blog. I kinda like don’t discuss politics or religion or point out places were horrible crimes were committed. The rules/suggestions give a whole new perspective on riding stagecoaches.

  12. I enjoyed reading this post. Who would ever thought that they would have that many rules for riding in a stagecoach. I liked: Don’t grease your hair before starting or dust will stick there in sufficient quantities to make a respectable “tater” patch. I also kinda like Don’t imagine for a moment you are going on a picnic; expect annoyance, discomfort and some hardships. I would think it would be hard to image that you were going on a picnic.

  13. Good morning, Linda. I can’t imagine anyone shooting from a stagecoach unless they knew what they were doing; however, with bandits and others along the way to hurt and rob, I’m sure it happened. Fort Concho was really a great trip. I hope one of us do a blog on it. The one thing that I’m still trying to absorb but haven’t had time to do research on is the “copying machine” where they’d copy the orders. That’s another blog and research idea, huh? I can see all kinds of plots using their version of a copying machine. We got some good pictures, so we’ll be able to share some with everyone. Big hugs and hope you have a wonderful day. P

  14. Becky, I also liked the greasing your hair reminder. Can you imagine what it would be like for says on end without washing your hair with all the dust and dirt? Yuck!

    Pat, I was raised never to discuss politics or religion, so can you imagine being on a stagecoach with someone who did? Especially after the Civil War. I don’t think I’d like to be there to hear those arguments. There were probably plenty of travelers who just decided to stay at the waystation until the next stagecoach came through. LOL

    Mary, I haven’t heard of ranch whiskey either, but presume it’s homemade of some sort. Gives me the shivers, but that’s a great description, isn’t it?

  15. Hi Phyliss!

    Awesome blog. Forbidden topics, huh? Indian raids and stick-ups? And no talking about religion or politics? Interesting that it should take this approach, since it’s well known that Americans have loved — absolutely loved talking about all the above. Perhaps airplanes should take a page out of this, however, and refrain from showing movies of airplane crashes — has happened while I was flying. 🙂

  16. Hi Kay,

    Can you imagine how boring a stagecoach trip would be if you couldn’t discuss anything you mentioned, plus the other subjects that a man and a woman would avoid? Boring!!!! Couldn’t agree more on the airplane showing crashes. Big hugs, P

  17. Thanks for an enjoyable post. Quite a few still apply if rephrased a bit. My favorites:

    “Don’t discuss politics or religion, nor point out places on the road where horrible murders have been committed, if delicate women are among the passengers.” AND THE RELATED ONE “Forbidden topics of discussion are stagecoach robberies and Indian uprisings.”
    Morbid curiosity or sensationalism tend to be the main reason these topics come up. Admittedly, it might not be comfortable to have these topic discussed, but being “delicate women” is not a good reason. Men tend to go green around the gills when we talk about childhood problems – dirty diapers, upset stomachs, pregnancy – so who is more “delicate?”

    “Don’t grease your hair before starting or dust will stick there in sufficient quantities to make a respectable “tater” patch.”
    Having ridden in open carts over dusty roads while overseas, I can assure you this is so true. You don’t have to grease your hair to have it end up the texture of straw. Brush your clothes and you will be surrounded by a cloud of dust.

    I am so glad to have our internet connection back. I missed visiting all the wonderful sites, especially P&P. One of the TN tornadoes came within 200 yards of us. We were so lucky. Other than debris in our yard and internet outage there was no damage. The neighbor’s garage and trees were destroyed. The 2 barns near us were seriously damaged. So many have lost so very much. Makes you wonder what it would have been like to deal with such an event 100 to 150 years ago. No real warning until it is upon you and not much time to seek shelter. You would certainly have neighbors helping neighbors like they are today, but it would take so much longer to get to those who needed help.

  18. So much fun, Phyliss. I can imagine how uncomfortable stage trouble must have been.
    But come to think of it, the only thing better about air travel these days is that it doesn’t last as long. Somebody needs to write a list of rules for airplanes.
    🙂

  19. Pat, I’m so glad to hear from you! Bless your heart. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your neighbors. How wonderful it is that you didn’t have any major danage. I’m happy you are back up and with us on P&P. I agree totally with you about “delicate” issues. That’s almost a book in itself! Hugs to you.

    Elizabeth, I actually loved the stage trouble! LOL Yes, rules for airlines like those for stage coaches would be nice.

    You all have a great evening. Thanks for stopping by and posting your comments. Big hugs to each of you. Phyliss

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