Abbott and Downing


Abbott-Downing Company was best known for its western market in the United States, where the mud wagon was the choice for the harsh, rocky terrain. Its lighter-weight, square body construction, which was slung lower to the ground on the thoroughbraces, was virtually impossible to overturn.

The stage body was equipped with leather-upholstered seats, uncomfortably hard. There was room for six adults on seats facing each other, and with a center jump seat it could carry an additional three. The roof, with its six-inch iron railing, held luggage too large to fit into the leather-curtained “boot.” It also accommodated those hardy passengers who chose to sit on top of the coach with legs dangling over the sides. Although designed to convey no more than 8 or 9 passengers inside, there are stories of stagecoaches transporting as many as 29 people.

The basic model of the Concord stagecoach had a twelve-foot wheelbase and weighed from 2,100 to 2,700 lbs. Stagecoach prices ranged from $775 to $1,250 ($1,500 delivered to the wharf in San Francisco).

In 1857, a mail and passenger stage line was authorized by an act of Congress. A contract was awarded to the Butterfield Overland Stage Line, which utilized the rugged Abbot –Downing Company coaches in the operation of our country’s largest overland stage company. In its heyday, Butterfield employed more than 800 men, who were paid a fee of one percent of the money they carried, to drive the company’s 250 Concord stagecoaches for as much as 24 hours straight, through every kind of weather, and through very rough and often very dangerous territory.

The Concord stagecoaches proved to be built as solid as the Abbot-Downing Company reputation, and it became known that they didn’t break down but just wore out.

It’s hard to find a good Old West stagecoach anymore; that’s why when a classic comes to the market, it tends to steal the show.

That’s what happened in San Francisco, California, on February 28 and 29, 1989 when Butterfield’s offered an arms and Western Americana auction.

The bulk of the stagecoach tally was earned by a single conveyance, described in the catalog as a “Rare Abbot & Downing Nine Passenger Concord Western Mail Stagecoach.” Estimated to bring $40,000/50,000, it set a new world record, soaring to $580,000 with buyer’s fee. Martin said the Concord-style coach is “an icon of the American West” and the type most often seen in old Western films. He said bidding from the gallery was still active until the $300,000 level. Then came a duel between a man on the floor and one on the phone. “Two people really wanted it and fought it out,” Martin said. The phone bidder, identified as an East Coast collector, took the prize.

This particular Concord was build in 1874 for the Seely & Wright company of San Diego and originally bore its name, as well as “Arizona U.S. Mail.” It later became a movie star when it was purchased in the 1920’s by MGM Studios and used in many films, including The Great Land Rush, How the West Was Won, and Support Your Local Sheriff.