The Albany Cutter

In the time before all-wheel drive: An Albany company was once famous for making sleek, luxury sleighs popular during the 1800s.

The James Goold Company, located on Broadway in downtown Albany, was one of the country's most prominent manufacturers of carriages for early trains and trolleys and streetcars. But it was the design of its sleighs -- specifically the "Albany Cutter" -- that really caught 19th century eyes.

From an extensive and detailed history of the company at at the Coachbuilt website:

While a horse-drawn sleigh is generally constructed to transport a family of four (or more), a cutter is specifically designed for two passengers, sitting side-by-side - their automotive equivalents being, the touring car and the speedster. Ideally suited to courting couples, the cutter was drawn by a single steed, and it debuted sometime before 1800. Although an occasional cutter featured a small jump seat for a third occupant, typically a child, most stuck to the two-passenger ideal.
Two firms became well-known for their cutters, both of which were named for their respective cities of origin. The conservatively styled Portland cutter was originally produced near Portland, Maine by Peter Kimball & Sons (the Sons included C.P. Kimball and Boston's Kimball Bros.) while the much more stylish Albany Cutter, was manufactured by our subject, Albany, New York's James Goold Co.
The Albany Cutter was easily the more stylish of the two types, its runners carefully steam-bent to match the contours of the barrel-chested coachwork (aka swell-bodied) which was also created using steam-bent components. Goold produced a four-place version which was popularly known as the Albany Sleigh and the firm's creations were routinely exported to Russia where they were considered the best in the world.

As the article notes, "The Albany Cutter remains Goold's most important contribution to vehicle design."

James Goold Company building Albany undated
An undated photo of the Goold facility in Albany. / photo via Albany Public Library History Collection

From the description of a c. 1865 Albany Cutter that ended up in the collection of the Henry Ford Museum:

The body of this particular cutter ... is painted red and adorned with gilt scrolls, yellow floral patters and striping, and black trim. A further note of elegance is provided by two carved wooden birds' heads that project from the dash.

That's Henry's Attic: Some Fascinating Gifts to Henry Ford and His Museum and the link includes a photo of the sleigh. This part, about sleighs in general, was also interesting:

As cutters and other sleighs came into more common use during the nineteenth century, road commissioner in northern communities were charged with the important task of "snow-rolling" municipal streets. When the snow as packed down with heavy rollers, horses did not tire as quickly as when they had to break their own path through the snow. If the hard-packed surface became slippery, the horses' shoes had to be equipped with sharp calks to help them keep their footing. One disadvantage of the calks was that the horseshoes tended to clog with snow and ice, and drivers had to stop occasionally to clean them with small "snowball hammers."

It sounds like the design of the Albany Cutter sacrificed some comfort for beauty. From an early 1900s industry trade publication looking back a the history of sleigh design:

The full swell body cutter, which was evolved from the old Albany, was a sleigh built on artistic lines, but it was improved (?) until it lost the comfort-element which characterized it at the time of its introduction. It was set too high and the great bend of the runners imparted a trembling motion which contributed largely to impair its popularity. The making of the body of the Albany cutter was a piece of work that called for the utmost skill, and there were very few workmen who could build a perfect body.

But they did turn heads. The beauty of the sleighs caught the eye of other artists -- and the Albany Cutter design became "the Santa sleigh" in many illustrations during the era.

+ The Albany Muskrat posted an image of an old Goold Co. sleigh ad today from the Albany Group Archive
+ And there is, of course, an entry about Goold and the Albany sleighs at Hoxsie

+ Winter on the Hudson, a long time ago


There is one on display at the NYS Museum

very late in posting on this article...just wondering if the building on Broadway is still standing---and what may be on that same site today? (thx)

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