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The primary mode of transportation among the
plain people is the horse and buggy.   

Depending on the religious order (sect), buggies may:

  • range in style from carts, open wagons, open or enclosed buggies.
  • range in color from gray, black, yellow, white, etc.
  • have wipers for rain and snow
  • may use reflective tape and triangles on back
  • have batteries for lights or kerosene/gas lanterns
  • have wheels made of steel or rubber

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In North America:

  • over 90 varieties of vehicles are used
  • sects using buggies may include the Amish, Mennonites--Old Order or Horse and Buggy, and the Brethren
  • in Pennsylvania - buggies may be brown, yellow, gray, black
  • in Ohio and Indiana - buggies to my knowledge are all black

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General buggy facts:

  • normal speed of  a buggy is between  5 to 8 mph
  • standard bred horses are generally used to pull the buggy and  usually cost between $600 - $2,800
  • a brand new buggy has between 6 to 7 coats of paint
  • price of buggies range from $2,250  to over $4,600 price of a surrey $2,750 to $4,800  (1997 prices)
  • driving harness - $300 (July 1999 price)
  • buggy robes - approx. $40 (September 1999 price)
  • horse blanket - approx. $46 (November 1999 price)
  • wood normally used in buggy construction -  oak, poplar, hickory
  • special features on buggies vary from settlement to settlement
  • size of the buggy varies from settlement to settlement -- sometimes the terrain traveled over determines size
  • a Formica coating on the buggy helps with the buggy longevity
  • buggies have been known to last for over 30 years

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Options - like cars, buggies have options that can be added.
The options are an additional cost.

Hydraulic brakes Cup holders
Windshield wipers Digital clocks
Halogen headlights Armrest
Fiberglass wheels Steel-reinforced rubber tires
Turn signals Plexiglas windows
Propane heaters Formica exterior coating
Variety of upholstery Velcro on interior curtains
Colored dome lights
with dimmer switch
Solar-powered battery
chargers affixed to roof

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New things to watch for:

  • pin stripping on buggies
  • assembly line construction
  • standard model - fewer option
  • fiberglass buggy tops - one sect in Michigan is  now using them

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Although, they do not own automobiles, most orders will hire a car, van, or bus if transportation is needed.  They also will use what public transportation is available to them.


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The Amish may have been one of the first groups to recycle.   When automobiles became affordable to the masses, the Amish purchased the sleighs, buggies, and carriages that were no longer wanted.  They modified them to meet their plain standards.  It is interesting that now the Amish have been restoring these long ago purchases back to their  former glory and selling them to non-Amish buyers.


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A major entertainment company in Florida purchases horses from the Amish.  The horses bought from the Amish have had excellent training and a good work ethic.

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One of the first documented use of wheeled vehicles among the plain people was in the Lancaster area.  Mr. Christian Zimmerman was allowed the privilege of wheeled travel around 1800 because he could not ride horseback with his excessive weight.  The wheeled vehicles first used did not have tops.

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The first buggies were documented as having white tops.   They changed to black tops in the 1840's.  Their is one sect in Pennsylvania still using the white tops.  Some sects did not allow storm fronts till the 1900's.

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What was the cost of a piano-box buggy in 1903? 

According to the 1903  "Catalog of the Cash Buyers' Union", it would have cost you $31.85 to purchase the buggy.  Of course if you wanted rubber tires instead of  steel, it would have cost you an additional $14.50 and 3/4 inch wheels.

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Web sites:

        Various websites



Plain Buggies by Stephen Scott

American Carriages, Sleighs, Sulkies, and Carts by Don H. Berkebile

Newstimes articles - archives from 1997




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